Work inspiration with
Nat Al-Tahhan

  • Nat Al-Tahhan

    Nat Al-Tahhan

    Designer, Art Director at Opposable Games

I’m Nat, a freelance designer, Art Director at Opposable Games and visual note-taker for events.

I've wanted to make video games since a famous blue hedgehog sprinted into my heart and lodged there at age 5. Graduating from games and illustration in the middle of a recession meant that my career took a detour through graphic design, product design, digital design and eventually circled back when I co-founded Opposable Games with a small group of insanely talented individuals in 2011. 

Something interesting had happened though - I’d fallen in love with design along the way. So when the time came to start our games studio I was freelancing on all sorts of interesting projects from designing canvas posters for a science academy to creating a load of jelly characters for a kid’s production company. My experiences in design fed into my work in games, so now I work with Opposable Games part time and freelance the rest of the time, lucky for me I quite enjoy heavy workloads!

Another facet of design and illustration that I had discovered was visual note-taking (scribing, live-drawing, sketch noting). This involves capturing the essence of a talk, conference or meeting by illustrating soundbites, ideas and themes in visual metaphors and drawings live on the day of an event - in my case in digital format. It’s quite intense, but normally an event is only on for a day, however when I was asked to draw at TED2012 it was 5 days straight with jet lag thrown in. I don’t know if I’ve recovered yet. Wouldn’t change it for the world!

© Nat Al-Tahhan

Software / hardware

I’m the hybrid people love to hate, being both a Mac and PC advocate. I was Alienware all the way until about 6 years ago, gutting and building my own gaming rigs in their cases when they got older. Then I got a MacBook Pro for travelling and Macs are a great experience out the box. I use the ASUS Designo Bang & Olufsen as my second monitor, which is face-meltingly beautiful.

Like many designers Wacom are my tablets of choice. I work on my trusty Intuos 5 for design and a Cintiq 13HD for artwork/illustration - this was a hugely worthwhile investment and really reconnects you with being able to see your hand when drawing, resulting in a more accurate line first time, I love it.

In terms of software I run the usual gamut of Photoshop, Illustrator & InDesign (and Excel for keeping necessary evils in check). Ancillary apps like Dropbox, Camtasia (screen recording) and Reflector (mirror device screen to PC/Mac) make my life easier as well.

Games count as software too, right? World of Warcraft quickly gets itself installed on any device I own that can run it.

Ideal work environment

I’m a work from home person. I need long periods of uninterrupted time to really get my head into what I’m doing, and the quieter the environment the better. I do have regular stints at the office to catch up with my artists and generally be around, but my productivity soars at home. I’m a total night owl as well, and thrive on the peace of working in the dark. Oh, and I’ve got these guys to keep me company:

Inspiration

Having had the privilege of working in different fields and industries, inspiration comes from all over the place, but the most impactful is often closer to home; I have two artists at Opposable and every day they inspire me to be the best that I can for them. Same goes for the whole team and the vast range of skills that go into making a game. These people are awesome, and it keeps me striving to do better.

There’s a distinction to be made between visual inspiration and general inspiration, though. For example I’m visually inspired by pretty much everything in my Dribbble feed, but I’ve been inspired to make games based on biomedical science, and my work and tenacity ethic comes largely from my participation in the sport of bodybuilding. I think there’s a richness of the skills you bring to the table from interests that appear on the surface to be unrelated to your work.

Admire the most

My friends Tom Waterhouse and Ben Jones are two of the most talented artists I have the pleasure to know. Richard Elson was the artist on Sonic the Comic who I tried to emulate with my kid drawings, and In terms of character design, the Oddworld Inhabitants studio has created some of my favourite concept art for games.