Designing Faction Icons

It’s been a while, but I’ll have you know that I’ve slowly but steadily been drawing random bits of art for Starfarer. Some of said bits are about the same as before (ship sprites, revised weapon graphics, UI icons) while some are top-secret prototypes and experiments which I couldn’t very well reveal because that’d ruin all the fun of the surprise when you get new presents. Sorry.

For this written interlude I shall discuss some of my thoughts around drawing Starfarer faction icons. I shall give you my lore disclaimer right now: the story & background of Starfarer is not something I make up, though I have certainly contributed thoughts to Alex and Ivaylo on occasion. Unless explicitly stated otherwise, anything I say here about the setting of Starfarer is going to be what goes on in my head while I’m drawing rather than what is any sort of canon which will appear into the game and which you should read closely for overarching literary themes.

So: the factions in Starfarer need identifying symbols, colour themes, and a sort of general ambiance – and these all must support one another. One faction may be warlike and value strength; this must be shown in how they represent themselves. Another may be peaceful and value stability; likewise, it probably wouldn’t do if their icon was a burning red skull menacing with spikes. Pirates could be into that though, because they’d like nothing more than to appear scary and ruthless. I’ll say again, each faction has a few core themes that need to be shown with both symbols and colours which support said themes as well as the setting of Starfarer in general. It’s futuristic heraldry, if you like.

Now let’s have a look at some sketches and the process of taking a faction icon to a presentable state.

(Click on any image to enlarge it.)

My faction icon sketch sheet

Here’s where I threw down some ideas and pushed them around a bit. Some more than others. We’ve got a small set of factions to start with which I think Alex gave me a list for at some point as well as some background material floating around in a shared document somewhere. And of course you’ve met a few of these factions in the game already, so those were my starting points.


Some ideas feel right the first time you draw them. I’ll have you know that this is the exception rather than the rule.

I see the Hegemony as something like a lost Roman legion (which their background story resembles) – they are practical, aggressive, and value strength due to their military origin but also aspire to the glory of a lost empire. They’re not unlike any number of European nation-states that saw themselves as successors to Rome who borrowed the symbolism of said empire to identify themselves with its strength. Hence the eagle.

The circular element? Oh, I don’t know. Maybe it looks futuristic, maybe celestial. Things divided into threes seem futuristic to me and I just realized that I used it all over the place in these faction icons. I also pulled the wings back a touch from the geometric look in the original sketch because I didn’t feel they were working very well there; too much geometric greebling (like any number of the ships I draw).

The Hegemony

So there you go. Some kind of Eagle or Falcon — oh, hey, what are the names of the cruiser hulls that the Hegemony uses all the time? Right; you see what happened there.

… and I’ll probably touch up the talons a bit …

(Why orange? No one uses orange. Except the Dutch, I guess. Someone should use orange.)


These guys are The Company from Alien, one of the zaibatsu from Neuromancer or insert-cyberpunk-title-here. The ruthless corporation, profits above people, etc.

But it should be a bit more complex than that. They’re not stupid. They are wealthy beyond imagination, for what that means in a world of chaos. They value elegance. They have taste. To harken back to that 80’s-90’s theme in fiction of eastern corporations taking over the west (see again: zaibatsu, Weyland-Yutani), they have an almost zen corporate ruthlessness (as opposed to something much more crass and American like Enron).

I looked to Japanese Mon, the clan symbols which were the equivalent of European feudal heraldry but, to my eyes, much more restrained and sophisticated in design. Some are even corporate logos to this day — see Mitsubishi. (And the symbol of the Hojo clan may be a very familiar symbol indeed to gamers.)

Tri-Tachyon Corporation

So: Simple, elegant, restrained, cool, division into three, a round element, the implication of high technology and sophistication. This took a lot of iteration and maybe I’m still not happy with it, but there you go.

Anyone else want one of these on their desk?

The Coalition

Ah, this is a new face, isn’t it.

Information is light, but these guys are basically a coalition of worlds that have joined together for mutual defense. They’re interested in trade, prosperity, trying to build something from the rubble. Maybe they can do it, maybe they’ll be torn apart from a strong enemy from without — or perhaps from fighting within, where one member puts their own interest ahead of the others to the downfall of all.

No doubt you, the player, will help determine this outcome.

The symbolism here is pretty obvious: shield, ring of celestial spheres, unifying star representing force/power/command. This design came pretty quickly. Plus rounded future-corners, of course.

The Coalition

And gold — why not? That’s what they’re all in it for.


Pirate flags are fun. And they’ve got a rich tradition of naively executed brutal imagery not so unlike metal album covers. (Not knocking them; I’ve got a few myself). Red and black are obvious colours for a threatening faction, maybe too obvious, but pirates aren’t known for subtlety.

The question boils down to how traditional do you go with a skull flag? This is space, not the high seas. So I tried for a skull-like space helmet, and oops, did the division into three again. And spikes. But not horns, that would have been too easy.

Space Pirates

I’m actually not entirely happy with this one, just something about the lines and shapes of the bits at the top, the interaction of the eyes with the cuts, and the mouth-piece seems off. I’ll give it a few more goes. (And yes, I realize that I’m sounding like a typical perfectionist artist type by saying I’m unhappy with every single design as soon as I show it.  Comes with the territory.)

And it should be said: Pirates are not known for being unified as one group. It may well be appropriate to crank out a big pile of variations on skull flags to represent all kinds of different pirates. (This will be fun!)

Cult of Lud

I’ll talk about this one even though I fully intend to revisit it.

The theme of this one gives me some trouble. I know what it’s going for, something like a faction of deep-green militaristic primitivists who want to return everyone to a state of nature — by force. Not quite the Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri Gaians, not quite the Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri expansion’s Cult of Planet, but they all probably hang out at the same coffee shop, with Lud being the creepy one that sits in the corner polishing their guns.


So with Lud I was thinking of something both natural and spacey, both hippy and Starfarer. The double-ended tree didn’t quite work (and is an existing symbol for something or other, I discovered), so that is out. I was finally taken with imagery that alludes to cosmic swirls, like galactic arms and nebulae. Though I’m sure no one particularly shares the viewpoint of Lud, I’d imagine the world as they see it being a whole interconnected being with its own greater needs whose importance outweighs the destructive hubris of human technophiles.

It needs more work to come together, probably needs to be kicked up a notch or three in aggression — hippies simply aren’t militaristic enough for these guys — and I think some of the contradictions in the faction need to be worked out in my head for a design to work.

… And then, after writing a draft of this post, I emailed Alex about all this and he said that rampant environmentalism was not an essential feature of Lud, so I’ve kinda been running with the whole idea in my head the whole time. Whoops. So for this design I’m going to take a step back, re-interpret the themes, and play up something that’s more about an apocalyptic cult lead by a charismatic messiah figure which holds the excesses of technology (and some other stuff, likely) to be the cause of the downfall of Humanity … and these are the End Times and so on and so forth.  More cult, less nature.

So that’s an artists’ work and my work is cut out for me!

Hope you enjoy seeing your favourite factions in-game (and blowing up your most hated factions, at that). I’ll make sure they’re pretty, either way.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, November 17th, 2012 at 3:24 pm and is filed under Art. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.


  1. I like the designs so far, especially the tri-tachyon logo. Looking forward to seeing how the logos get used.

    If I would make one suggestion, it would be to make a bit of an ‘x’ shape. You already have part of an x from the tusk-looking things, maybe put a couple spiky decals on the opposite side of the skull in line with the tusks (sort of like a future skull and cross bones).

    I’m also not terribly fond of the top spikes of the skull, they just seem a bit off somehow. Maybe just make the top of the skull flat or, if you prefer to have some curvature on top, make it look like a bulging trapezoid (so you can have sharp points without resorting to spikes). The trapezoid might give it more of a space helmet look.

    by naufrago
  2. I agree with Naufrago..

    To me the pirate symbol looks like a tusked humanoid that has been shot through the head twice by a railgun..

    a futuristic skull and cross bones would support their lore (they are pirates :P) and would be easy to recognize as just what it is.

    by Plasmatic
  3. I really like the Tri-Tachyon one. The pirate logo is cool too, especially if you go for a broad variation between independent pirates. Violet is sometimes associated with pirates, too. I think a space helmet theme is perfectly fine.

    The coalition one suggests that there are 5 members. Is that the case? Regardless, it looks a bit bland. Maybe a second, thinner outlining around the shield? You missed the gold color a bit btw., that’s more yellow.

    The symbol of the Hegemony looks good, roman legion is a great theme. The orange is a bit strange, though. Hegemony is represented by brown and reddish colors at the moment. Romans are known for gold and red colors(falsely, but whatever). Why not use those? (Btw., Eagle and Falcon cruisers are not utilized by the hegys)

    by Gothars
  4. Nice work!
    I especially like the Hegemony symbol. It shows strength as well tradition. The orange makes the logo resemble a Phoenix, which works well with the lore.
    The Tri-Tachyon Corporation is great, reflecting the simplicity of technology (when it’s well made).
    For the pirate, I agree it could use some work, but I really like the division into three.

    by Henry Spencer
  5. Why not use those extras and create sub-factions with those main factions like “branches” under the same faction

    I imagine ships will be having those “flags” on their hull on top of their painting

    by silentstormpt
  6. The logos are great. I think the earlier Hegemony logo seems to fit better, though- the blockiness ties in nicely with the Hegemony’s ship designs. Then again, a slightly aspirational logo probably makes more sense? They might be stuck with crude and blocky ships, but that doesn’t mean
    they want to represent themselves as crude and blocky.

    The pirate design’s great, slightly missing the cross-shape is interesting. The slight notches on the top points seem a bit odd, but only when you’re looking closely.

    Interested to see what the Cult icon changes to.

    by Toaster
  7. Rather liking the icons. A lot of the aesthetics I think should tie into the lore (I.e. Hegemony using stereotyped Roman colors or picking new ones to make themselves separate but inspired), but I did have one idea for Cult of Lud. If they’re an Apocalypse cult, why not have a simple black flag with something like a single white dot. Humanity must return to nothing after all.

    by MonsPubis
  8. nice logos, I like the tri tac one the best though. also, my friends are all asking when the next update will come out?

    by ssthehunteeer
  9. it will come out when they decide to release it. hyahyahya! 😉

    by ValkyriaL
  10. What, no-one noticed the three branches of the tree in the Lud symbol? 😀

    The pirate emblem vaguely reminds me of an Atlas’s death’s head. Certainly no complaints here about it.

    by Degraine
  11. Three words – I LOVE IT.(The best things come in three)I feel that this makes fleets come together and really feel like they’re a true fighting force. Just one addition I want to see to this faction imaging. I want to have my own image so that my fleets can be tied together and feel like a united force for whatever I want to do that day.

    by Kaleb S.
  12. All logos are great in my opinion. They do fit into it’s role. As far as I understand You will have to change Cult of Lud flag though. Pity, because current one is really good. But the next one may be even better 🙂 If I may give You an advice – look on religious symbols when dealing with it. Afther all they are a Cult 🙂 Maybe some form of catolick cross? Or maybe other well known spiritual symbol could be changed and redesigned into a nice logo for Cult of Lud 🙂

    Also in my opinion it would be nice to create few slighty diffrent logos for each faction, so it would represent personal fleet insignia. Simple example. Hegemony is using an eagle in circle. That is their main flag. But certian, more important fleets may have diffrent, yet simmilar flags. For example one fleet may use normal circle insted of hegemonian one (divided in three). Other fleet insted of having one headed eagle will have eagle with two heads (look Russian symbol). Another one will have triangle behind insted of circle… And so on. All those logos are very simmilar, but also have diffrentations which are easy to see, when You look closer. Of course no one is saying that there will be some special fleets in the game.

    As for pirates, it may be interesting to create pirate logos based on other factions logos. Those would be nice to use when dealing with pirate fleet which is splinter fleet from one of main factions.

    I hope that You liked my ideas. I also did not mean to act like all-knowing, big-headed type of guy… I hope that I was not understood in that way. If my advices and opinions have offended anyone for any reason – that was not my intention and You have my apology right hear, right now.

    by Modest
  13. I was really hoping to see another release as an update. I can’t deny this take a lot of work, but I’d rather see some features ahead of logos. Can’t wait to play.

    by Alex
  14. You gonna be selling that mug?

    by Uxion
  15. Not much to say, apart that I really like those crests, and they seem to fit really well their themes.

    The Lud reference to Alpha centaury really made me laugh 🙂

    by Troll
  16. These are great. If i were to suggest one change, it would be to make the stroke around the coalition bit all the same width. Otherwise, awesome.

    by Adc
  17. nice icons,

    will the different members of the coalition have their own flags too?

    by Kozmokrator
  18. All me an my wife could think of when we saw the Cult of Lud was the Warhammer 40k Nurgle imagery.

    It just seems…Wrong. It may be all earth colours and nature like…But its not right.Maybe the faction has an eco terrorist undertone?

    by Kalamain
  19. Will they have banners as well, assuming that these are just logos? (also, all pirates are united under one flag? or are they just a particularly large faction of raiders that call themselves The Pirates?)

  20. Yeah, about the coalition.
    The star in the middle kinda looks like an inverted star. Or, as one mighty say, resembled a pentagram pointing down. And we all know what that means…

    by Ghosti
  21. Will I be able to make my own Emblem?
    Will we able to change the colours of our ships, as I don’t understand why the Hedgeomony don’t repaint-tri-taychon ships when captured.

    by Max

    Sorry, had to 😛

    I really like your thought process in designing the logos. It’s clear that you put a lot of effort in researching the backgrounds associated with the factions, and I believe that can definitely produce better designs.

    I love the idea for Hegemony, it’s a really nice fit for them.

    I like iteration of the Tri-Tachyon logo that you describe, though I also think that the iteration that’s closest to the “Tri-Tachyon” text in the collage of logos looks really cool too; though I wonder that while it does convey power, it doesn’t so much convey technologically advanced or “elegant”.

    The Coalition logo is really creative and makes perfect sense, I really like what you came up with for that 🙂

    I can’t wait to see a release with these logos in it 🙂 If not the upcoming 0.54a, perhaps maybe a point release shortly after? 😀

    by ZeroKnight
  23. I am very excited about having new factions specifically the coalition although i feel the bottom right pentagon would look better on a space ship and better represents that they are a collection of separate powers although thats mostly just preference i think. Also lore wise why would a civilian or independent captain spend the money to get their ship emblemed, i mean i can see it for the command screen but on the ship it serves no purpose. Also if its hard to make an editor for emblems then could you give us a file location or settings folder where we can put in a jpg for an emblem nothing against the designs but customization is a wonderful thing in games. specific fleet emblems and player fleet emblems would be nice but i wouldn’t blame you for not putting them in. pirate and cult of lud both need some work aesthetically. looking forward to a full lore breakdown on all the factions (subject to change of course) to confirm of change my theories and opinions on the emblems. keep up the good work and sorry if this sounds like a lot of criticism i intend it to be somewhat useful and still think highly of the game and its design so far.

    by bretth
  24. I dont think unless it is a mod for the game you should be able to change peoples emblems. however making you own would be nice but probably complicated to do. maybe a system like the one in black ops where you buy shapes with credits( expensive to do this) and make your own. just an idea.

    Farlarzia away….

    by Farlarzia
  25. RE: Cult – how about an abstract swoop that interpolates between a galactic spiral arm and an attacking saber/scimitar?

    by Hypocee
  26. I actually really like the idea of a faction that supports a holistic worldview in which we are in contact with nature n such. Or at least a faction that is more nature than science oriented (8472 anyone?) Would be so awesome with organic ships..!!

    by Alzitar
  27. For the pirates – maybe a good ol’ classic skull-and-crossbones, but with the skull set in a space suit helmet.

    And add a third cross-bone to keep with the overarching theme.

    I really like reading these blog posts, you explain your creative/distillation thought process extremely well.

    by Shinypants
  28. Sorry didn´t want to make it sound like that just that that´s easy to controll and you can still have the same effects as the one that is now ect.

    Also sorry for asking and I don´t wanna be that guy but I guess many are wondering. Do you know anything when next patch will come? and not a date som around when. weeks month(s)?

    by Sebastian
  29. I’m going to be straight with you, I dislike the Coalition emblem. It just seems lacking. It may represent some of the lore of the faction, but it looks oversimplified and like less of a logo and more of a road sign. Seriously, the yellow and dark grey along with the simple shapes makes me wonder if I should be careful when parallel parking behind that asteroid over there. 😉 I’m not trying to be negative, but rather give my completely unasked-for opinion in hopes that it will be revisited. I also agree that the pirate logo looks okay, but the pointy bits on top look a bit silly.
    On a positive note, I absolutely love the Hegemony emblem, and think that orange is just right for them (although a slightly more subdued, brownish orange might be better?).
    Anyways, thanks for a well thought out and informative art update, and I hope to see many more in the future.

    by DelicateTask
  30. I too, dislike the Coalition emblem. The shield just seems out of place in the flag. I like the 5 points surround the star, though.

    The Lud logo also feels iffy to me. I agree that the design feels to peaceful, and the gust of air seems a bit strange to me given that this is a game about space. If you’re looking for a curvy, naturalistic feel, may I suggest the triskelion?

    by P