Background and Restated Brief
Song of Crow is a tale illustrating creation’s struggle against mankind, the species that has fallen out of love with its own habitat and creativity. Although the message is dark, the performance is contrasted by the way it is told; with wit, humour and vibrancy. Multimedia is a key aspect of the play, script, sound, video, music and dancers are all combined to add to the energy and drama of the piece. The play aims to activate a sleepy community through an unorthodox public presentation that attempts to break all boundaries as far as possible.
Song of Crow will be staged in Reading in February/March 2016 with two or three evening performances. There may also be an opportunity for the play to be taken to Edinburgh.
The productions requires complete branding that should reflect the themes of the play. Printed leaflets, posters (only for display on screen), a website banner and a logo will need to be produced. All deliverables should be visually coherent and reinforce the themes of the performance. In addition, a rebranding to the current website may be necessary to mirror the promotional materials created.
The initial meeting had confirmed that an illustrative approach would be most suitable to for the genre and style of the play. Both I and the client were very happy with the initial meeting and we were both excited to see the direction the project would take. We set an initial target of mid-January for the design to be completed.
After the meeting, the client sent me a full copy of the draft script – I read this through while taking notes of imagery, themes and concepts that could lend themselves to the design. To generate ideas and get a sense of an appropriate style I looked at existing illustrations on Behance, Dribble and other creative sites. I focussed on designs that related to the natural world and maintained an unusual and striking appearance.
I sketched out a few pages of thumbnail designs, these were then scanned and shown to the client and discussed over Skype. We decided that a more abstract approach to the poster would be the most appropriate, too literal and it would not let the play speak for itself. The client wanted the design to enhance the mystery and meaning of the play. Two of the initial ideas were then selected for further development. I went through a few stages of refinement before presenting them. The first was based on the character of ‘Crow’, being at one with nature and its creator this was set against a landscape. The second, was an eye made from rock, wood, trees and grass. This was imagined to be a cropped in section of ‘Crow’ or a god however the ambiguity of the design allowed for many possible interpretations.
Fig. 1 Developed Sketch 1
Fig. 2 Developed sketch 2
Feedback from the client confirmed that I would take the eye design to be further developed, she was pleased with its abstract concept while including the main themes and subject matter. Details were discussed about having the pupil as a black hole mass or the earth with water as the iris swirling around in a whirlpool or a wave. Jennifer also specified that there could be a red highlight with in the design, she used the term “flash of red” to illustrate her thinking. We also talked about how the illustration would work with typography, that it could be interesting to integrate it within the illustration in a hand drawn format, although it was later decided upon that contrasting typography would make the design more striking.
Fig. 3 Final sketch
After decision on the final concept we discussed that a logo for the promotional materials was not necessary. We felt that the illustrations should be strong enough to provide enough visual link and as her production company (Outrider Anthems) already had a logo, another new one would be redundant.
I began the final illustration by developing the design further for a few more iterations, until a final neat copy had been sketched. I made sure in my sketching method this would be easily transferable to Adobe Illustrator. I also kept in mind that the illustration had to work well with text, so an asymmetric appearance was implemented to allow the illustration to visually balance on the page with the title. While developing I took reference from an illustration by Paul Douard for the style and the sort of textures/ finish I was aiming for.
Fig. 4 Vegetal Mask by Paul DOUARD
Once the image was scanned into illustrator, I then proceeded to outline all the sections with a black brush tool using a graphics tablet, remembering to divide each section of the illustration onto separate layers. I then built up some more strokes to add finer detail to each and to give the sense of texture. Finally I added lighting effects with the appearance panel and adjusting the filter type and layer opacity, I also added a radial gradient for the background. After a bit of tidying up and colour adjustments I presented the illustration to the client over a Skype call as a meeting could not be scheduled. The client was very pleased with the illustration, however she asked me to send her a number of colour variants. Initially she wanted the whole thing to be more vibrant to give it more ‘pop’, however, we later agreed that the more moody colour palate of the initial design was more fitting to the theme of the play but with the inclusion of brighter lighting effects.
Fig. 5 Illustration layers and development process
The next step in the process was to select a typefaces and to start putting together the layout. Once the title typeface was selected, the website banner could be completed and sent to the client, this would allow promotion to get under way and give a small preview of what the poster would look like. Numerous samples of type were sent to the client with the illustration. The client’s initial ideas of the typography was that it should complement the illustration, so we went for more script fonts. However it was later decided that a more contrasting approach would make the text stand out. The final font chosen was ParadoxX, I thought that although the font gives the impression of it being hand- drawn that fits with the illustration well, it also provides enough contrast that it stands out. The typeface also gives connotations of ancient runes or cave drawings that link back to the themes of creation and man slowly destroying the earth.
Fig. 7 Banner and title development
Fig. 6 Final Banner
I started designing for the A3 version of the poster, the initial ideas had the illustration much smaller in the centre, until it was agreed upon that the illustration needed to take more of the centre stage to create more impact. At this stage revisions were sent back and forth between myself and the client to reach the ideal due date of mid-January, many text, layout and colour changes were made during the process, with the addition of logos added to the poster.
Fig. 8 Final poster
After the layout of the A3 version was completed, this was then transferred to A2, A4 and A5 versions with adjustments on each one for the text sixe to ensure legibility. The client later added that they would like A5 and A1 copies of the files too.
The client expressed that she was very satisfied with the deliverables, being a contributing factor for it getting high number of attendees and selling out on one of the dates. I am very pleased with the overall poster, particularly the illustration. I think it worked well to be eye catching and, after watching the play, portrayed the main themes, energy and message of the piece without being too literal. I also like how the illustration works with the typography, I think they both stand out and complement each other. As the client specified they wanted to use a printers outside of the university, I could not proof check the colours as much as I would have liked to. This has resulted in the final poster being slightly too dark. I also feel that the main body of the typography could be a lot stronger, I found this most difficult due to the shape of the illustration, trying to fit the text around it has meant that the spacing seems uneven in places.
I have learnt a great deal while carrying out this project. I have technically progressed a great deal on Adobe Illustrator, learning many new methods and tools that will help me in future work I create. Perhaps where I have learnt the most was in working with a client. It has made me understand that the more communication maintained with the client and the more feedback received, the higher the likelihood that they will be happy with the outcome. I’ve learnt that in some cases, challenging what the client wants can be beneficial as what they think they want and what they actually want, which will help better fulfil the brief may be two different things, I need to remember that the client is not a designer. I also learnt a lot about preparing files for print and how files must be constructed to ensure they will come out as expected. I found that organising files was a lot more important than I expected and makes things a lot easier when it comes to keeping track of your files and sending them to the client.
I thoroughly enjoyed the whole process of the project and felt that I could really engage with it as it was on a theme I feel strongly about. I think both myself and the client worked very well together, which made it more enjoyable, successful and efficient. The numerous skype calls and constant sending of files helped her to stay ‘in the loop’ and understand the route the project was taking. We did not however meet the mid-January deadline, although this was due to delays in the conformation of the copy and obtaining high quality images of the Logos. The finals ended up being sent off to print for the 26th January. The client has also said that they would be keen to work with me again on future projects they have.
Douard, P. (2015). Vegetal Mask – Step by step – Illustrator CC.Available: https://www.behance.net/gallery/30936877/Vegetal-Mask-Step-by-step-Illustrator-CC. Last accessed 26/03/16