What was your design process for designing all of the star systems for each of the worlds?
I am lucky enough to have on staff one of my good friends, Isaac. He actually introduced me to my wife. He sent me on a blind date with Emily. He was one of my students, my second year teaching the class. He's a really good friend. At the time, he was an illustrator for a video game company who was just interested in fantasy books. And he saw that there was a class at BYU and he was like, "I'm gonna take that."
He now works for me full-time. Though, fun story on this. You know how some people joke that in their marriage there's one person they could cheat with, like a celebrity? When I hired Isaac, he was like, "I will come and do things for you full time. But if Tad Williams ever asks me, I'm doing something for Tad Williams," his favorite book series. This summer, Tad Williams needed a map for the new Osten Ard books. Isaac is like, "So, I do maps for Sanderson." He's like, "Sure, do one for me. Great!" So Isaac's been working on that and it has been a dream come true for him.
Isaac and I, we sit down and we do brainstorming sessions for the art. He's done almost all of the symbols and maps in my books, except the ones that he commissions someone else to do because he wanted to get a different style for it or the first book, Elantris, I did the symbols. That's why the Elantris symbols are not quite as visually interesting as some of Isaac's. They fit the world but I drew those and my artistic chops are... So Isaac and I sit down, we brainstorm and we say, "What do we want this to look like? What's the feel of it?" So I'll outline what the planets and the world are and then he will bring up historical- like he went and got Renaissance star charts and said, "Do any of these work? What do you like?" We kind of narrowed it down to ones that have the right feel but I said, "I want it more like this, more like this." He took that and ran with it and gave me iterations. He's like, "Here's four different versions of a map for Scadrial. Which one do you like?" And then I'll give him that and he'll then do four iterations on that, saying, "Here are different designs of this. Which one of these do you like?" Anyone who's an artist knows that illustrators, that's what they do. So we come up with it and then I say, "This style, go," and then he does all the maps.