It’s become a habit for me to make birthday cards for my immediate family (you can see a handful of cards from past years here). Each year the cards get weirder and weirder since I don’t want to illustrate the same thing over and over again. This year was no exception.
First, for my fashionable sister, a card featuring everyone’s favorite controversial elderly German: Karl Lagerfeld. The way he half-heartedly throws neon rainbow confetti gets me every time I look at this.
For my EDM-obsessed brother, a card featuring the disembodied head of Dillon Francis (since the pillow featuring his face was unavailable when I looked). His 2014 album is titled Money Sucks, Friends Rule, so it wasn’t difficult to come up with card copy.
Now I want to make a line of snarky greeting cards featuring doodles of fashion designers. And also use my neon colored pencils more often.
One of my colleagues from Ooligan Press requested a color portrait for her website, and I was more than happy to oblige! (It was especially fun to draw a tiny Webster’s Dictionary and Chicago Manual of Style.)
Bess has a crazy amount of comics knowledge and is a super editor. She’s also an acquisitions co-manager for Ooligan Press this year, so she’s an all around awesome person.
The idiom goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” As someone who has created a handful of cover designs, I say, judge away. If the cover design is effective, it will help sell the book.
Many publishers have a designer or teams of designers on staff to tackle book cover design, but since Ooligan Press is a teaching press, it relies on its students to take cover concepts from brainstorm to final files. Under the helpful guidance of the Design & Production Manager (my role during the 2014-2015 academic year) and a weekly peer critique, students design each book published at the press.
The cover design process at Ooligan is democratic; students who attend the design meetings vote for the top three cover concepts, then the whole press votes on which design will make it to print. After designing a number of concepts that didn’t quite make the cut, one of my concepts was chosen as the final cover for Rhythm in the Rain: Jazz in the Pacific Northwest (woo!). Here is how the process went:
Read the design brief: the project team working on the book puts together a design brief with the assistance of the design manager and then it’s sent out to the entire press via email. Since there was no manuscript available to peruse (normally step 2), the design brief was doubly important.
Brainstorm! If you’re like me, this means some pencil-on-paper action to play with shapes, concepts, and overall composition before/after/during a search for design inspiration. And writing teeny tiny notes to yourself.
3. Make some mock-ups: Time to hop on the computer and create some comps. These are the initial three designs I brought to our peer critique:
4. Revision, revision, revision: My peers responded most positively to design #2, so I took their feedback and ran with it, to produce the following variations:
5. Cover vote! After a few weeks of revision time, the design team voted on three cover concepts to go in front of the entire press. My design was one of the three, and I believe the first cover above was the one I chose to show (I hadn’t had time to make too many adjustments in the prior weeks). We received some feedback from the author on the final three cover concepts, and members of the press chimed in with their own thoughts. Some of it was useful and some of it was not. It was pointed out to me that the bark texture in the background was a bit arbitrary (I agreed). The final vote was tallied, my concept was chosen, and it was time to get back to work:
From this point on design decisions were made by the publisher, the project manager, and myself. When I sent out these variations, the third version was the clear standout. From there it was a series of very small nitpicky design changes, like moving trees around and playing with the background color of the cover.
6. Finish it: Once a front cover was agreed upon, it was time to design the spine and back cover. The back cover will inevitably change a bit before the book is printed based on the blurbs and book summary, so I had some fun with the placeholder quotes in the meantime. Voilà!
(Since Esperanza Spalding is one of the most well-known jazz figures in the Pacific Northwest, she turned into something of an inside joke. Sorry, Esperanza!) If you need a design for your next book, I’m available!
Unless you attended our wedding (hey there immediate family and close friends), you probably haven’t seen this yet. Dan and I co-created a wedding activity book as a gift for our guests, because we enjoy taking on ridiculously complicated projects within short periods of time. Also, what better way to put my master’s in book publishing to use than to design a book?
Eventually I’ll put up all 24 pages of fun and excellence, but for now you just get to see the cover (which depicts Dan with a burrito and I with a book while riding a giant turquoise HamHam, as you do). However, we have a bunch of printed copies that we’re sending out to all of the lovely folks who sent us a wedding gift, so if you donate to our honeymoon fund and email me your mailing address (schnatze at gmail dot com), you will get a copy of your own!
Did I mention the activity book includes poop emojis? Yeah, we went there.
Getting my master’s degree in book publishing made me realize how much I missed illustration (what I got a degree in the first time around). Now that grad school is over (woo!) there is a bit of downtime while I search for full-time work, so I’ve been emailing art directors looking for illustration jobs.
As a result, I snagged an opportunity to work with art director Julie Showers at the Willamette Week, creating an image to go along with a piece about Jubitz truck stops.
Sketch (very similar to the concept sketch Julie sent me):
The digital illustration I submitted (colored completely in Photoshop, which was a new process for me):
How it looked in print:
They added a bit more red to the illustration (understandably so, as I was probably pushing the limit for the amount of pink in a truck-related image), and messed about with the clouds a bit, but otherwise it looks pretty close to the original.
I was initially told that the text would run above the piece instead of below it, which partly explains the awkward crop at the bottom. Chalk that up to a learning opportunity. In any case, I look forward to working with the Willamette Week again. Editorial pieces are fun because I wind up drawing stuff that I wouldn’t otherwise (like a teeny tiny poster of Brooks & Dunn).
I usually save my comics for Thursday afternoons, but since there was a new Celebrity Jeopardy sketch this weekend on SNL (!!!), here’s an autobiographical comic about the time I tried out for Jeopardy in sixth grade. Please note that my head is full of cats and pizza and not the quadratic equation.
Added bonus: the Celebrity Jeopardy sketch I mentioned earlier!