Before I started making dice, I made lots of other TTRPG items. This included some custom dice trays for my fellow D&D party members. They proved to be really popular among my friends and I ended up making and selling quite a few of them, so I created a name for the brand (Direwood), and a logo for them with the intent to eventually open up a shop online to make more of them. I never did do that because I eventually realized I didn’t really enjoy the process of making them much anymore, but I did still really like the branding I made for them

When I started making dice in May 2019, it was the same scenario as before, where I just wanted to make some custom dice for my D&D group. I posted them on instagram and it really blew up quickly. I was in sort of this weird situation where my dice didn’t really have a branding of their own outside being connected to my instagram handle, Yaniir. Initially I thought I could tie them into my Direwood brand, and I did try that for a while. It was this sort of weird in-between where I tried to tie the Direwood and Yaniir names together with “Direwood by Yaniir”.  It just never felt right, like I was trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Also, the dice aren’t wood, so… It double didn’t make sense. You can see the original business cards I had for it here (with VistaPrint’s world-class quality cutting job as well. Woof)  

In November 2019, I decided it was time to lean all in with “Yaniir” as the name, and build new branding from the ground up before I launched a new website. My previous dice sales had been done on a shop page extension of my design portfolio website, and I knew if I wanted to get serious about this, the brand needed its own separate space. 

As I started designing the new logo and branding, I thought about what inspires the dice designs I create in the first place: my D&D campaign. To do it justice, the mood needed to be eerie, alien, enigmatic, and vaguely threatening. A stark minimalism that feels dynamic and leaves you a little bit uncomfortable. Here is the brand mood board I put together when I was working with a musician to compose a theme song for Yaniir earlier this year. While I didn’t have all these images compiled at the time of designing the logo, the themes and mood are still very much the same today as what was in my head at the time.

The Yaniir logo itself came about rather quickly once I started exploring in Illustrator.

Figure 1: Initial Designs

I didn’t have to play with many different ideas until I was struck by something that felt right, and then it mostly came down to tweaking sizing, stroke width, small detail adjustments, and finding an arrangement that felt natural and balanced. The logo’s shape was highly inspired by these square wire kinetic toys. There is just something so alien and mesmerizing about the way they move, and I’ve always been fascinated by them. I created a similar shape by taking two capital Ys (for Yaniir), and turning them on their side toward each other.

Figure 3: Simplified Logo Variations

I played with a few different variations, some more simplified, and others with additional linework, until I landed on something that felt balanced. The shape on the inside was intended to represent a d20, but I didn’t want it to be so obviously a D20, so I left out any of the internal lines. A major part of the intent of this logo is that as you look at it, it really could be several things. A kinetic spinner-type shape, an aperture opening on the horizon to reveal a floating monolith in the distance, or a peering eye. (The eye realization came later after the logo was already mostly complete, believe it or not. It was never actually intended to be an eye from the start.) As any good writer of eldritch style horror can attest, uncertainty is one of the most effective tools to build tension and unease. Unease is definitely what I’ve always wanted my work to convey.

Figure 4: Logo with Additional Line Work

I wanted the overall branding to use texture and line more than color. In the Yaniir page on my design portfolio site, you can see what I mean where I re-use and remix this staticky brushstroke-like texture throughout (I use it on my Yaniir site too), and play with adding and removing lines in my logo to create variations and movement. This logo flexibility has allowed me to do some cool designs that play off of the logo’s ability to sort of morph into different things and still be recognizable as Yaniir, like the collaboration I did with Wyrmwood that used my logo design along the vault box in a way that looked like 7 eyes in different stages of alertness. 

Over a year and a half after designing it, I’m still so happy with the logo and feel like it really reflects what I want it to. It’s very me, and it’s very appropriate for my design style and ethos when it comes to dice making. I feel lucky that I had the extensive design training and knowledge to know exactly how to put those traits into a logo that was completely unique and mine. It’s something I know a lot of people struggle with. I’ve been contemplating opening up occasional logo design services for the community eventually. We’ll see!

Find links to all of Yaniir web presence by clicking the link below.