Case Study: Freemarket Icons and Logos

Montage of Freemarket Game Props and Merchandise
Case Study At a Glance
» Project: Create icon set for a new sci-fi RPG.
» Researched euro-futurist, modernist and post-modernist media.
» Collaborated long-distance, on-budget with regular updates.
» Produced a suite of vector icons.
» Freemarket sold out of all stock in its debut at GenCon.

Jared Sorensen and I first worked together on the layout for the new version of his game Lacuna. A few years ago, he and his partner-in-crime Luke Crane were teasing "Project Donut." A secret new game in development, with little public branding besides enigmatic blog posts and images. Jared and Luke are no johnny-come-latelies to the game business, publishing over a dozen successful indie games between the two of them.

Jared and Luke provided
these icons as examples of
what they had in mind.
Jared and Luke asked me to create a suite of icons for the project. I was eager to get started just to learn more about the game itself. The game was Freemarket, set in an overcrowded, post-scarcity, post-human space colony where social collateral is the common currency. Jared and Luke would be publish it as a full-color boxed set, with counter chips, instruction book and assorted cards. Sorencrane needed icons for wayfinding, infographics and as general spot illustrations.

• 2” Circle
• Avoid Identifiable Humans
• Avoid Body Parts
• Avoid Letters/Numbers
• Avoid Gears
Jared and Luke also requested a few additional constraints on the iconography, which you can see on the right. I'm always up for working within and around creative constraints.

Research is fun!
After learning more about the game's mechanics and the context for the icons themselves, I got to work gathering secondary research. Freemarket is not a crusty post-apocalyptic wasteland or a totalitarian dictatorship, it's a benevolent, altruistic sociocracy. This called for a clean, Eurocentric aesthetic. To get my bearings, I referenced the infographics of modernist science fiction movies (2001 and Alien) as well as later post-modernist flicks (5th Element and Minority Report). I also curated a reference library of minimalist logos from Logo Pond.

Download Freemarket icon PDF
Because the assignment called for so many icons and the project was on a tight budget, we agreed that I would provide the icons in black and white vector with some suggestions for color. For each round of creative, I provided a full PDF document of the whole icon suite. Sorencrane would return that PDF with comments. Those comments would be included in the next document, along with previous iterations of the icons for reference.

The complete suite of Freemarket icons.

You can see how the icons were implemented on the packaging and other game materials in the photos below. (Thanks to John Stavropoulos and Terry Hope Romero for the unboxing pictures.)

Case In Point: The Aggregate
In Freemarket, the space station's residents are cared for by an artificial intelligence called the Aggregate. It provides sustenance, living space, safety and essential biological needs.

This was my first attempt at an icon for the Aggregate. This icon focuses on the idea of aggregation, or many parts joining into a whole. This was Sorencrane's feedback: "The Aggregate is an AI and needs some kind of personality (even though it’s not sentient, nor does it possess a personality). Kinda like the MacOS smiley face or the Apple logo. What we need is the warm and friendly/inviting version of the Paranoia “eyeball in the monitor” image."

The second round's Aggregate icon is simply two eyes, inspired by the expressiveness Pixar achieved in the character Eve from Wall•E. I imagined the Aggregate changing its expression as it interacts with the residents of Freemarket, even though it doesn’t have a proper personality per se. It's just all part of an interface to better serve the residents.

I also mocked up examples of the Aggregate's "expressions." Here you see "Virus Detected," "Security Threat," and "Sleep Mode."

» Photos courtesy of John Stavropoulos and Terry Hope Romero
» Freemarket Unboxing
» More about Freemarket
» More about Logopond
Daniel Solis
Art Director by Day. Game Designer by Night.