May 2, 2018Comments are off for this post.

Together, we’re better.

Our final project for the semester was to create a 30-second commercial for Volkswagen. In light of all of the deception they have been caught in with false emission tests and harmful animal testing, Volkswagen's brand image is in need of repair. We were tasked with creating a commercial to address their brand image and how the company can both apologize and move forward.

I personally was pretty upset by the scandal, and though many people don't care and have moved on - I find that to be the issue that aggravates me the most. Pardon my rant, but the fact that we don't care and don't hold companies accountable means that they are being told it is acceptable to behave like this. So coming from that perspective, I wanted to not ignore the problem, or the wrongdoing. From a business goal perspective, I see how dwelling on what they did wrong can be very harmful for the company. So to keep business goals in mind, while not shunning the fact that amends are needed - I wanted to take a "this is what we're doing to make it better" approach.

I've always been interested in digital illustration and throughout the past decade have done it here and there, but never on a larger scale or cohesive project. I think illustration is a way to feel approachable and lighthearted, while being inclusive of all. It allows for stretching of the imagination - enhancing of colors, romanticizing scenes, without feeling phony. VW's biggest offense arguably (aside from the lies) was the irreparable damage they did to the environment and wildlife. In a time when environmental fears are enhanced, and people have fiercely taken sides, I feel that this was an important offense to address.

I combined my illustrations with this message of protecting nature and expressing gratitude for all it has provided for us. I knew I wouldn't have any trouble finding inspiration for my illustrations as there is no shortage of beautiful scenery in the world around us, and that it could express diversity without blatantly calling it out.

My copy was designed to be a bit of an ode to nature, resulting in a message of Volkswagen's intent to do better and pledging $1,000 per recalled car to preserving the rainforest. As a nod to being the 'people's car,' I then wanted to pull it back to the relationship between VW and their customer (you) and pull the heartstrings a little with a little invitation for you to join into the spirit of treating our world better. I ended with a url to a landing page I envisioned having tips and ways for people to get involved, as well as more information about the Rainforest alliance - possibly a meter of how much they have donated so far.

Overall - I felt my main challenges were time management, tech and consistency in tone and imagery. I am not very strong in illustration currently, and it was really challenging not only sketching the scenes but also having the imagine them from a film perspective - thinking of angles and a strong composition.

My process began with rough sketches of how the frames should flow and then getting the copy in a good place. I then roughly sketched out a grand theme for each slide - like jungle scene, one involving water, etc. to make sure I was getting a diverse range of scenery to keep it interesting. When I moved into actual slide by slide sketches, I spent a lot of time digging through Pinterest and Instagram for illustrators I really admired (some of the favorites I stumbled upon: Thomas Danthony, Claudia Carieri, Camilla Perkins, Petra Eriksson, Anne Laval) By the time I actually was illustrating, I had made a Digital Illustration Pinterest board with over 250 pins. This really helped me figure out small nuances and little elements I thought I could incorporate into my designs.

A glimpse of my messy Illustrator file. I always make a "worksheet" file for each project where I can try out different things - like a digital sketchpad of sorts. When I'm happy with it, I move it over to the final file. This way I never really lose my inspiration or other options if I want to go back and iterate later.

I took these sketches into illustrator and using combo of pen tool/wacom tablet, made digital copies. I then turned back to Pinterest for color inspirations. I chose a mood I wanted per screen, trying to keep a lighthearted, slightly unrealistic/artistic portrayal of the world around us and found colors for each screen I thought carried that mood. All of this was the easy part realistically - next came the animating. I started by digging on Behance to find animators who had shared tips and tutorials. I watched a lot of youtube videos (half the struggle is finding out what the right question to ask even is when you don't have the vocabulary).

And then I just jumped into After Effects assuming I could just start animating and would figure it out. Wrong. Turns out your illustrator files have to be set up very specifically. Importing them into After Effects has to be done strategically - otherwise you can't edit the layers individually. After a lot of trial and error - animating them really came down to some super helpful youtube videos. It is really amazing how many resources are available - even simple videos that ended up helping me decrease files sizes from 80 mb to 800 kb! All in all it was a really time consuming process (and is now why I'm realizing most illustrators hire other people to animate their drawings) but I think I'm walking away from it feeling more confident in my ability to animate and use After Effects as a tool in general. Things I'd like to revisit if I get the chance: making some of the animations smoother and working the type into the designs more thoughtfully (based on feedback).

Here's the video (typo to be fixed on that last slide soon!):

December 5, 2017Comments are off for this post.

‘Zine

For the first project of the semester - we were asked to think about the cultural impact our art has when we put it into the world. Every design we make plays a role in the visual design of our current culture. I often don't think about the resonating aspects of my designs - especially since many of them are menial everyday tasks (like an email design people will open once and then let disappear into the oblivion of their inbox for the rest of eternity).

Our task was to create a 'zine, and that was pretty much it - other than that we had free reign over the content, size, materials and imagery. Initially I brainstormed a few themes for mine - I thought about making one with all of my unfinished short stories in them, an ode to fictional lives never lived, per se. I considered making one focusing one entirely on images of little moments of happiness that one might overlook on a daily basis. I did like the idea of something calming or being a visual break from all the heaviness and anxiety I personally feel on a daily basis, and think my peers feel as well. When creating my personal brand, something that I thought about when writing who I was and what I did was that I wanted to create things that delighted people - and that is something I hoped to achieve with this project.

So I landed on the concept of a 'zine about calming or anxiety relieving tidbits. This led me down a bit of a rabbit hole in terms of design direction, since I had a few concepts and they were all pretty different from one another. My original thoughts were something very soothing with feel good quotes and song lyrics that were uplifting - which led to some sketches and a more muted cover with soft pinks and blues:

 

I also considered an approach that used photography and bright patterns. I focused a lot on flowers in these 2 concepts because I perceive flowers to be a symbol of beauty and purity and wanted that beauty to be portrayed in a way that indicated that our thoughts and words should be beautiful and we need to be mindful of them/be more loving towards others and ourselves. Here is a quick look at this second concept:

Finally - I returned to one of my favorite illustrators who really inspires me with her use of color combinations and style, Marylou Faure

She is based in London, and is a freelance designer and art director. Here are a few of her images:

 

Her style really exudes joy and the color combinations stand out to me, which I thought would be great for a 'zine that you want to catch people's eyes. So I turned to her expertise to try something a little different from my original concept. I had asked family and friends for help with joyful or calming quotes - and my sister sent me this image:

I really liked the content direction of this image - the simple facts were very comforting and I thought they could fit with Marylou's illustration style. So concept 3 was born out of the combination of those two inspirations:

After feedback from the class - I went with option 3, which I think was my favorite all along as well. I really like doing the illustrative style from Concept 2, but I think that style would have created a more somber, thoughtful emotional response and I like the immediate joy concept 3 seems to bring about.

Here's where I was with my first round creating the 'zine:

(sorry, these don't want to rotate in wordpress!)

The feedback I received from my first round was that the cover felt a little disconnected from the tone of the rest of the book. A few of the spreads needed some tweaks, and it was recommended I incorporate more hand written text into the 'zine.

So my main tasks for the final 'zine were really focusing on the typography and cleaning up some of the illustrative details (since I drew on top of Marylou's drawings so that I could manipulate them as needed)

 

I tried hand drawing the text freehand before realizing it just really wasn't as clean as I wanted it to be. So I traced over the font I was using on my computer screen (makeshift lightbox!) and then scanned in the images and drew over that text. A little clunky, but overall I felt like I was getting a much more consistent look for the type. I made a few small edits to spreads - for example I originally had a spread mentioning the ozone layer, which after discussing with my classmates was false information - so I had to revise that spread. I really liked the layout so I kept it the same, but I struggled to find a new fact for that page, and feel that that may be an area that still needs refining if I ever adjust the booklet in the future.

Here's a peak at the final:

I had spotted some cute washi tape online a week earlier with some uplifting phrases - so I decided to line the prints with some tape to add a little extra to them:

 

I'm not going to lie - I was dreading distribution a little. I'm not a very outgoing person so the idea of interrupting businesses or stopping strangers wasn't very exciting to me. I started with friends and family, and got pretty positive reactions from them. Here are a few quotes:

"This is the cutest thing ever in the whole world!!"

"I took it to happy hour with my coworkers and I showed them and they think it's adorable and that it should be in the back pocket of every airplane seat."

"Would for sure catch my eye and entice me to pick up and see what's inside."

"I wish I had a long version I could keep as one of my coffee table books!"

"The only page that threw me a little is the bird spread...it isn't quite as a congruent with the story that the other pages are telling."

Here's a photo of me leaving some randomly for coworkers to find on their desks:

For the rest - I decided that I mostly wanted my 'zines to be pleasantly stumbled upon by unsuspecting strangers - so I handed some out and I hid a few in different spots of Boulder for people to find.

A few shots from running around town - I left a few on benches, some in the B-cycle baskets, a few in Starbucks (and handed one to the barista) and on the bus benches. In general, I wanted them to be noticeable enough for people to see the bright colors from a distance and get curious. Hopefully a few people were cheered up by the good news!

 

Overall I really liked working on this project - the printing costs were pretty high so I don't think this could be a regular personal project, but I was pleased with how my 'zine turned out.

 

Maria Rogers © 2021

 

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