Julia Hoffmann — EF
Graphic Designer, mother of three, living in Switzerland. Not afraid of moving around and embracing change. Currently …
I was always really interested in comics and video games. During high school, I spent more time doodling than studying. I decided to attend the School of Visual Arts to become an illustrator, but I realized halfway through my sophomore year, I didn’t have a distinct “style” when it came to drawing—I decided that this trait was more suited to graphic design, so I transferred to SVA’s Design department.
While studying graphic design, a friend of mine who studied Computer Science at Brooklyn College wanted to collaborate with me to make small games and websites. At the time, I didn’t know what UX was, so he lent me his copy of Smashing Book #4 and from that point on I was hooked.
Usually, I get up at 7 or 8 in the morning and go to the gym. I work remotely, so sometimes I’ll work out of one of the New School buildings or at a coffee shop, but I also do quite a bit of work in the corner of my bedroom. My development staff is based in Eastern Europe with a 7 hour time difference, so I’ll receive their newest builds for the game we’re developing and do extensive testing to give them feedback. Everything from the UI, game feel, speed, and difficulty will be adjusted during this feedback loop. It’s quite hard to predict how a game will feel, so extensive testing and feedback is important. I like using Trello for issuing tasks and bug reports, I find that this is the simplest product to use and fits our needs quite well.
The work can change drastically depending on which phase of the project we’re on—if I’m pitching a product to a client I’ll be spending a lot of time figuring out budgets, sketching wireframes, designing slide decks. When we’re in pre-production I spend most of my time writing out a blueprint in a Word document and lay out the necessary game assets in a spreadsheet. Once we’re in production mode my work is spent managing the developers and artists while also designing any wireframes or designs needed to communicate what the game’s look and feel should be. Post-development and launch is where I coordinate QA testing and make sure the game passes the inspection for both the App Store and Google Play storefront.
I also teach part-time at Parsons School of Design. I’ve wanted to get into teaching for a long time, and living in New York City, there’s a lot of demand for working professionals to teach classes at the art schools here. Being able to craft lesson plans and guide students on their work has made me a much stronger designer and communicator, I highly encourage it.
My workstation setup is super simple, a 2015 MacBook Pro and maybe a desk if I find one.
I enjoy working out of the New School buildings, there’s a fantastic creative energy here, and the facilities are very comfortable to work from.
I follow a ton of great designers on Twitter—seeing them post their works in progress or talk about subjects they enjoy are super influential to me. I also love collecting art books—my most recent find being the Dragon Quest Illustrations art book. I can’t get enough of Toriyama’s designs for that series.
I’m a huge fan of old-school gaming so as a result, I have a subscription to Retro Gamer Magazine. They do some fantastic deep dives into obscure classics and conduct interviews with game developers from many different console generations. As a game designer, I believe there’s a lot to learn from older titles. I have a soft spot for the look and feel of gaming magazines with their over-the-top layouts and vivid use of color and typography.
Teaching has also been a great source of inspiration for me. Visualizing and explaining design-related concepts allows me to reinforce those skills. Seeing the work my students make—what inspires them and what they’re into—has been really helpful with developing insights into my own work.
Analogue announced a new handheld product that can play all Game Boy games, has the potential to play other handheld consoles such as the Atari Lynx and the Neo Geo Pocket Color, has a built-in synthesizer, and features gorgeous product design. They make absolutely incredible products that are very finely tuned to the needs and wants of their consumer base. Every part of the product and their demographic is very carefully considered, for that I commend them.
Recently, we developed and launched a game for Capriccio Sangria. We decided to capitalize on the distinctive look of the bottles while researching their target demographic we saw a lot of overlap with the average match-three puzzle game fan. Using this information, we pitched a match-three puzzle game for mobile devices that has a live Twitter feed in-game showing what fans of the beverage are saying online.
The clients loved the game and have featured it heavily in their packaging as well as their ad campaigns.
Our first commissioned game, The Little Mermaid: Circus Escape, will always be special to me. That project had a really tight turnaround, and it was a ton of fun designing all the characters and animation and coming up with level designs that were consistent with the movie.
Our work involves making a complete game so that leaves us without a ton of time or resources for launching smaller products while we’re working. Sharing incomplete builds with clients is always a fun challenge—each client has their own preferred way of previewing media so it’s up to us to present in a way that can encourage the type of feedback we’re looking for.
Try to stay away from your comfort zone as much as possible. Collaborate with people outside your field as often as you can. Attend meetups and social events, if you’re interested in game design go to game jams. Something small and simple that’s a complete, launched product is always going to be far more enticing than conceptual images of a product you don’t have the bandwidth to make.