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ACNH island designers explain how they’re prepping for the 2.0 update

We’ve all watched Animal Crossing island tours — or maybe it’s just me who has consumed dozens of these with the frenzied hope of osmosing design skills through my eyeballs. Talented Animal Crossing: New Horizons players deck out their islands, top to bottom, making ample use of terraforming tools, furniture, and custom designs. I have learned a lot of tricks of the trade thanks to creators’ incredibly inventive use of accessories and furniture items and pathing tools, in ways I never would have thought to.

The coming Animal Crossing: New Horizons update plus the Happy Home DLC release on Nov. 5 has sent me back into the wormhole of these videos, looking for inspiration. ACNH’s options are already intimidatingly endless, and with the addition of farming, gyroids, new furniture and fences — including froggy chair! — and new villagers, there’s even more to do. Polygon interviewed four pro island designers for their design tips, and what they’re doing to prepare for the update.

[Ed. note: These interviews have been edited for clarity and length.]

Katie, Katie on Calla Cove

When did you start seriously designing your island? Have you re-designed parts of it?

I’ve been working on my current island since July 22 when I reset my game back to the beginning, but it’s always a work in progress! Oftentimes I’ll be inspired to create something new, and it turns out completely different than what I imagined (for better or worse), so I’m always redesigning and renovating various areas. Since the in-game clock is set to the player’s respective season, the holiday events and seasonal changes always make for unique and creative challenges for decorating, as well.

What is your aesthetic, and what design tools and items did you use to achieve it?

I definitely gravitate towards a very natural aesthetic where bushes, trees, and flowers are incorporated into every single build. The majority of my island focuses on the natural beauty and the raw nature that Animal Crossing New Horizons gifted us within our island getaway package. To achieve this, I tend to use a lot of items with muted and neutral colors like the pirate barrels, brown street lamps, hedge fencing, and log furniture.

Do you have any design tips for beginners?

Search the internet for inspiration! When I first started decorating in ACNH, I immediately ran to the internet to get inspired by other creators and see what resonated with my own personal style. Hundreds of players online have created impeccable islands with different themes and aesthetics for you to get motivated. Not only can you use their islands to draw some inspiration for your own, but you might see an item used in a totally unique way, or even embrace a theme you hadn’t considered before.

Any unique tips or unexpected ways you’ve used in-game design tools or items?

One of my favorite design tips is to stunt tree growth! Having varied heights with trees (or any item, for that matter) makes for more interesting depth and dimension throughout the island. The trees in Animal Crossing New Horizons have five stages of growth that occur over a five-day period: nursery, small young, medium young, large young, and fully grown. The stages are the same for any kind of tree, including bamboo! If you allow the tree to grow to the desired stage and plant a piece of fruit directly behind the tree, it will stop it from growing any further.

How have you prepared for the update?

A lot of my preparation has revolved around my excitement for the new farming element within the 2.0 update. By clearing out an area and creating some farming space, I’m gearing up to cultivate the tomatoes, wheat, potatoes, and carrots properly. My island definitely doesn’t shy away from agriculture since I’ve already decorated a vineyard and turned my Nook’s Cranny into a feed & seed, so I’m eager to embrace even more in-game farming!

Is there a specific part of your island that’s your favorite?

One of my favorite spots on my island is my villager Rowan’s yard. Even though it’s such a tiny area, something about his little basketball court makes my heart so happy. I love taking my villager’s personalities into consideration when giving them a space to live, and Rowan’s jock-like nature deserves a space where he can enjoy all things athletic!

You can follow Katie on YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.

Val, NaydinfarCrossing

When did you start seriously designing your island? Have you re-designed parts of it?

I started designing my island before the game came out. I knew I wanted a Zelda-themed island, to hold me over until the Breath of the Wild sequel. I am a bit obsessed with the Zelda series and I thought recreating my favorite parts of BOTW and other Zelda titles like Ocarina of Time and Link’s Awakening would help me wait out the release of the next game. So I drew my map ahead of time and was able to get the layout I wanted from the start. I was very excited to use the design feature to give my reps custom clothing for their characters.

Over the summer the inspiration finally hit me to make an entire Lost Woods-themed island. The Lost Woods and Castle Town were the first areas created in my original island. They were always my favorite, but they didn’t flow together aesthetically. So I decided to give up the blue Castle Town and make it match the woods. Using a new green palette I slowly transformed the whole island into a green maze of Evergreens, Spooky Trees and Mushroom Platforms.

What is your aesthetic, and what design tools and items did you use to achieve it?

My aesthetic is Zeldacore with a bit of forestcore/castlecore. But all definitely Zeldacore at heart. The spooky trees, the moss covered stone DIYs, the Mushroom platforms, fossils and trees themselves were my favorite items to decorate with.

Do you have any design tips for beginners?

Think of your island as a continuously evolving project. You don’t have to have everything perfect all at once. As we learn new techniques or think of new ideas we can incorporate them into our builds. There’s no finish line in Animal Crossing. It’s not a race and I’m glad because I don’t want it to be “over.”

Some other tips: Finish an idea to completion before tearing it down. Sometimes the build doesn’t look right until the very end when you add the last details. And you won’t know unless you complete it. Every one of us that makes a great build also had several attempts you didn’t see so don’t think it has to be perfect on the first try.

Any unique tips or unexpected ways you’ve used in-game design tools or items?

  1. The more you design, the better you’ll get as a lot of it is trial and error. So keep doing it regardless of skill level — there’s one way to go and that’s up!
  2. When creating designs I always start with the grayscale palette. It makes it easier to group colors together for me.
  3. Save often. In case you make a big mistake (which I do alllll the time) you can exit out of the design and reclaim the previous edit. I will also copy the design to a new template if I’m going to attempt something I’m not sure of. At most I’ve had five templates of the same design going at once.

Due to the lack of in-game green items, I had to get creative and the Swamp Path was born — to add a deep green not found outside of the trees. I saw other swamp codes but they had a delicate cottage core feel and I wanted a dark swamp with glowing fireflies. I make umbrella bushes and love using them to add variety in the “greens” to create depth. Green mums, two different types of bushes, and several umbrellas helped to create a more lush ground cover. My good friend @acnh.Hylia from IG also made me some great umbrella designs to use such as the Alligator Loki and Deku Scrubs.

How have you prepared for the update?

I am very excited about the new items coming in the update. The glowing green weeds, the vines and new trees were the missing pieces I was trying to make up for.

I’ve prepared for the update by making sure I have Nook Miles to go to the mystery islands with Kapp’n. I’m keeping a list of the things I’d like to bring back and add to my island before releasing the DA. The biggest thing I’m doing for the update is preparing my other three islands, one has been a WIP for the past year and the other two are brand new islands I started today so I have to grind to get ready over the next two weeks. All three will be based on Zelda of course: a surprise return of a favorite area demolished in the Lost Woods island remake, a total remake of the Links Awakening map, and the third I’m still deciding.

What is your favorite area you’ve designed?

I definitely love Hyrule Castle, it has been there since the beginning and right behind it (literally) is the Lost Woods. But recently the Korok Forest finally came together after a year of working on it and it’s become my favorite place to go, and I wish I had a Master Sword pedestal item.

I suppose, whatever we wish we had in game, we as a community, will find a creative way to have it. And seeing everyone’s creativity is my favorite part of this experience of being an Animal Crosser.

You can follow Val on Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok.

Lex, Lex Play

When did you start seriously designing your island? Have you re-designed parts of it?

I started focusing on the aesthetic value of my island about a month and a half after I bought the game — so around June 2020. That was my first island, Rivendell, which I redesigned several times. Since then, I’ve designed more islands: Lórien, Lost Falls, Antillia, Zinnia, and even GG Island, GUCCI’s official island for their Gucci Guilty campaign.

What is your aesthetic, and what design tools and items did you use to achieve it?

My aesthetic changes with each island I design, anything from autumncore to ancient abandoned city. I think a design choice that I carry through all my islands is to fill all possible space, minimizing empty grass. To achieve this, I rely on natural furniture (log stakes and the like) and plants — especially shrubs.

Do you have any design tips for beginners?

For new players, I definitely recommend that you take your time getting to learn the game and understanding what sort of aesthetic you’d like to see on your island. I find so much inspiration just scrolling through the Animal Crossing communities on Instagram and Twitter. YouTube is a lovely resource for learning how to use the tools in the game and how to acquire everything you need.

Any unique tips or unexpected ways you’ve used in-game design tools or items?

Don’t be afraid of the terraforming tools! You can always undo something if you don’t like the finished look, and adding cliffs and waterfalls around your island adds so much depth and dimension to your island design. Also, if you’re struggling to fill large spaces, do not underestimate the power of a pond.

How have you prepared for the update?

For the update, I’ve set a goal to finish the island I’m working on for my channel (Zinnia). I’m fortunate to have two islands, so I plan to restart one and flatten the other, that way I keep my resources and everything I’ll need to purchase new items. I know a lot of people are aiming to restart their islands prior to the 2.0 update, but personally, I recommend keeping your island! You’ll need those Nook Miles to take trips with Kapp’n and buy the new Nook Miles items, and you’ll want bells, too, for redesigning. Nook miles can be tedious to farm; don’t burn yourself out before the update even arrives.

What is your favorite area you’ve designed?

Out of all the islands and specific builds I’ve done, my clifftop house on Antillia remains one of my favorite builds ever.

You can follow Lex on YouTube and Instagram.

Kang, KangGaming

When did you start seriously designing your island? Have you re-designed parts of it?

My original island? As soon as the game was released last year! Since then, however, I’ve had two other islands I worked on and now I completely erased my original island a couple of months ago! I wanted to start fresh.

What is your aesthetic, and what design tools and items did you use to achieve it?

I didn’t really have an aesthetic in mind, although my recent island is going for a “Farm Village” feel. On my original island, I was super fond of the items you get from Celeste. I had my main room decorated with those items as well as an area outside. Those are the space items, by the way.

Do you have any design tips for beginners?

The best thing for me is to take it section by section. Think of an idea you want to accomplish and focus on that for some time instead of trying to decorate everything at once. While streaming, it usually takes me several areas just to plan out and decorate one area.

Any unique tips or unexpected ways you’ve used in-game design tools or items?

Stalls are awesome and can be used for a variety of different things since they can be customized.

How have you prepared for the update?

Well, I am attempting to get my new island to five stars at the moment. That way I don’t have to worry about progressing through the old content, instead I can focus on new things. You can follow that journey with me live on my Twitch. In addition to that, in trying to gather as many bells and Nook Miles as I can since a lot of the new features are going to require a lot of those. Finally, trying to gather as many of the old DIYs before the new ones is a goal as well.

Is there a specific part of your island that’s your favorite?

I have a pretty nice farm/greenhouse area set up on my new island. Also, I had a wedding on my old island and we made a ceremony area as well as a reception area. That was pretty memorable!

You can follow Kang on Twitch and YouTube.


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Polygon

Polygon is an American video game website that publishes blogs, reviews, guides, videos, and news. At its October 2012 launch as Vox Media's third property, Polygon sought to distinguish itself from competitors by focusing on the stories of the people behind the games instead of the games themselves.

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