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How Life Imitates Art Icons: The Story Behind Our 3D Printable Chess Set

by Dave Gandy

Got an interest in something that goes so deep it starts to get a liiiittle bit weird? We get that. That’s how we are about icons and lots of other stuff, too like 3D printable chess sets.

TLDR; Now, when you get Font Awesome Pro, we’ll throw in 3D printable plans so you can make your own chess pieces that exactly resemble our chess icons!

Nerdery Goes Deep at Font Awesome 

Did you know our very own Travis Chase is super into D&D? He’s a fanatic about pickleball, too. Truth be told, I’ve got a thing for mechanical keyboard design. I mean, we all spend hours at our desks each day clickety clacking away. You want the sound, look, and feel of the keyboard to be satisfying, right? Just me? 

Oooookay. Moving on.   

I’m not afraid to admit it; the nerdery doesn’t stop there. It extends to chess sets too. And sooooo many other things. But we only have space for a single subject. So. 

How Life Imitates Art Icons

Twenty-plus years ago, I lived in LA and somehow got a job working for the Los Angeles Housing Authority, which involved starting an afterschool program for kids to learn chess. As part of building that program, I laid out a chessboard diagram in Adobe Illustrator so that players could visualize their moves. 

There was a problem with the diagram, though. They didn’t look anything like real chess pieces. You could tell the chess pieces apart, but they didn’t directly map to an actual physical set. 

For whatever reason, that minor annoyance got stuck in my head over the years.

Since then, I’ve always wanted to make real chess pieces AND icons that match them. Told ya! Nerd City, right? 

Our Chess Icons Made “Real” With a 3D Printable Chess Set

Maybe you’ve noticed our chess icons? Well, when you sign up for Font Awesome Pro, you’ll get goodies like chess pieces in an STL format, which exactly match the icons that you can use to 3D print your very own for realzies set.  

Image of 3D printed chess pieces based on Font Awesome icons.
See that? Icons come to life on the chess board!

As you can imagine, there are as many different kinds of chess sets as there are interests. Star Wars chess sets, Harry Potter chess sets, Game of Thrones chess sets, and the list goes on. There are lots of esoteric and abstract examples. 

Well, that’s fun and all, but you still have to memorize what each piece represents. In making my own chess set, I needed parameters. So down the rabbit hole, I went to learn about chess set regulations. 

Finding the Right Constraints to Foster Creativity

It turns out there are rules around what sets are allowed in tournament play, including the size of the pieces and the squares on the board. 

Image of chess board and chair.
Let’s play, shall we?

And these were just the kind of limitations I needed to fuel my creativity. Because when you don’t have guardrails, there are infinite design options, and the project would have taken twice as long to complete. Fortunately, running across the Staunton guidelines provided me with the proper constraints and guardrails. 

So, what came first, the chess piece or the icon? Well, The process volleyed back and forth between 2D and 3D. When one chess piece mapped to 3D didn’t quite look right, we would get it right in 3D and try to map it back to 2D again. 

So, welcome to one of my many passion projects! Get Font Awesome Pro, we’ll send you the STL files, and we’d love to see a photo of your set on Twitter!

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