Reworked from BOX=ART
William Roger Dean, known as Roger Dean, is an English artist, designer, and publisher. While Roger is best known for his work on posters and album covers for musicians, his other-worldly landscapes would also leave an indelible mark on the video game industry. Roger’s name is in many ways synonymous with notable British publisher Psygnosis; he joined the company at its genesis and illustrated several of its boxes including perhaps his best known, Shadow of the Beast.
Roger began his career in graphic design and fine art through a commission from British rock trio The Gun. The band commissioned Roger to illustrate the cover art for their 1968 debut album, which led to further commissions for Roger from various jazz and rock outfits of the 1970s, with his most notable and influential covers perhaps being those he designed for English rock bands Yes and Asia.
Roger’s logo and title art are just as much a part of his album designs as his cover paintings. Roger’s distinctive typeface of flowing and organic curves would complement the exotic vistas that were often depicted. This style would catch the imagination of a young Richard Branson who would hire Roger and his brother Martyn to rebrand Virgin Records in the early 1970s. It would be Roger's first high-profile logo design and would encapsulate perfectly the hard rock and progressive scene of the decade.
Roger would start his career in video game box art design by joining Liverpool developer Psygnosis at the start of the company’s tenure in 1984. Designing the iconic owl logo and Psygnosis font, Roger would be responsible for the company’s debut box art for Brataccas. It would be a milestone in cover art design and firmly put the studio on the map, not only because of its craftsmanship but also due to the artist’s revered reputation.
Follow-ups, Deep Space (1986), Barbarian (1987), Terrorpods (1987), Chronoquest (1988), and Obliterator (1988) would all take the imagination of the home computer gamer to fantastical worlds, and help shape the gaming landscape of the 1980s.
The following year saw Roger’s highest profile box art, Shadow of the Beast released. Not only a highlight of the decade but also in box art history. Roger's artwork was reproduced in a large, glossy landscape box that showcased Roger's fantastical landscape to maximum effect. The game shipped with a sought after 'Beast t-shirt' and was Roger's most used box art to date, finding home across a multitude of gaming formats worldwide. Roger subsequently created the box art for Shadow of the Beast II in 1990, starting the decade on a lofty high that few would reach before box art duties went to David John Rowe for Shadow of the Beast III, the final box art in the series.
The year 1990 saw another logo des for developer Bullet-Proof Software, Henk Roger's company who designed early RPG, The Black Onyx. Roger would also provide the logo for Henk's follow up company, Blue-Planet Software in 2000. After designing the box art for Fatal Rewind (the remake of The Killing Game Show) for publisher Electronic Arts in 1991, Roger completed his final Psygnosis box art Aquaventura in 1992.
Roger's final box art duties would come at the end of the 1990s when Blue-Planet Software commissioned him in 1999 to rebrand Tetris. It would be Roger's last high-profile logo design in the industry, and would be seen on many Tetris titles, most notably, Tetris Worlds (2001).
In 2013, Polygon published a fantastic feature on Roger, "The art outside the box: The story of Roger Dean," exploring the artist's influences and how he fused architecture, art, music and games into one psychedelic whole.
OVGA has included below Roger Dean's full known box art catalog:
- Brataccas (Psygnosis | Amiga, Atari ST, Macintosh | 1986)
- Deep Space (Psygnosis | Amiga, Atari ST | 1986)
- Barbarian (Psygnosis | Amiga, Atari ST, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, DOS, MSX, ZX Spectrum | 1987)
- Terrorpods (Psygnosis | Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64, MSX, ZX Spectrum | 1987) With Tim White.
- Chronoquest (Psygnosis | Amiga, Atari ST | 1988)
- Obliterator (Psygnosis | Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, DOS, MSX, ZX Spectrum | 1988)
- The Super Black Onyx (Bullet-proof Software | NES| 1988)
- Shadow of the Beast (Psygnosis | Amiga, Atari ST, FM Towns, Genesis, Master System, Mega CD, PC Engine, ZX Spectrum | 1989)
- Shadow of the Beast II (Psygnosis | Amiga, Atari ST, FM Towns, Sega CD-EUR/JPN | 1990)
- Fatal Rewind (Psygnosis | Genesis | 1991)
- Aquaventura (Psygnosis | Amiga | 1992)
- The Next Tetris (Bullet-proof Software | PS1, Windows | 1999)
- Tetris Worlds (THQ Inc. | GameCube, Game Boy Advance, PS2, Windows, Xbox | 2001)
Following on from the lofty highs of both Psygnosis’ debut Brataccas and follow up Deep Space, Roger would turn from sci-fi to fantasy with Barbarian. It would be classic Dean showcasing the artist’s talent for creating beautiful far-stretching other-worlds with sunburnt vistas.
Painted on board using acrylic and coined ‘Red Dragon’, Barbarian would mimic Brataccas’ style of art whereby the foreground and background looked as though they’d been lit from different times of the day. This in turn promoted a mesmerising focus on the dragon-like creature that literally jumps of the canvas. It would be a favoured technique that the artist used again on the Shadow of the Beast box arts.
Barbarian would cement Psygnosis’ ethos of fine art selling video games, and helped open the flood gates to Europe’s classic late-80 - early-90’s box art period.
In 1986 the shear quality of Brataccas' art was startling and helped push the video game box art medium to new levels of excellence in the UK. Now promotional art would start to match the quality that film and novel cover arts had enjoyed for decades. In Europe, this was daringly new and unrehearsed and a testament to both Roger and Psygnosis’ vision to create fine art to promote games.
The first edition of Brataccas would be unique in Psygnosis’ box art portfolio, with it being released in a book style format, and laying claim to being the studio’s debut cover art. From follow-up Deep Space until the PlayStation era, most home computer cover arts would come housed in the standard thin-coloured border surrounded by black box (also true of the re-released second edition of Brataccas). Of interest, the first edition's uniquely styled logo would be changed for the second edition to look more in line with Dean’s follow up logo work for Psygnosis.
Dean staples such as dynamic fore and background light sources, along with organic mechanical characters would bring Brataccas’ acrylic finished, alien vista alive. It also set a lofty benchmark that Psygnosis over the coming years would ever try to smash by commissioning some of the UK’s finest artists.