Thursday, July 2, 2015

Firewise Poster

Several weeks ago, I was contacted by an organization called Idaho Firewise and asked to re-design an educational poster/mailer for them.

Idaho Firewise is an organization whose mission is to help homeowners (particularly in more rural areas of Idaho) manage and limit the risk of wildfire to their homes and property. This mission is accomplished through various means (outreach, education, grants, programs, etc.). The poster I was asked to re-design is in the educational vein. It informs homeowners on how to modify their homes and maintain the surrounding property in a way that prevents wildfire from having a direct path to the house.

Here's the original poster:

There was nothing necessarily wrong with the original design. Some of the information needed to be updated. They were also looking for a slightly more cohesive design that more specifically addressed the Firewise message. They wanted the house to more closely reflect a more typical Idaho home. And finally, they wanted the overall poster to be more aesthetically pleasing. Basically, they were looking for a redesign pretty enough that, rather than reading once and discarding, a homeowner might actually hang up somewhere and be reminded of the information.

So the first thing to do was concepts. I figured it made sense this time to create a template. This isn't something I normally do, but since the visual elements of the poster would be constant (as opposed to illustrating an article or story where each concept could be completely different from each other), it made sense to do so. Plus, they needed this poster to be ready to mail by fire season, which was only a few weeks away, and a template would save some time.

Here's the basic template sketch:

The house is the centerpiece, of course. But the surrounding property had to be clearly visible as well. There were several elements that had to be included on the property (trees, a landscaped plant island, a propane tank, etc.). Finally, the poster had to leave space for the information and for breathing room and composition.

With the template squared away, I moved on to more specific concepts.

1.) The Blueprint:

A blueprint is just a plan for a house. Firewise is just a different kind of plan for a house. One deals with building it, the other with protecting it. It seemed like a decent conceptual link to me. And since typical blueprints already have a house or building and plenty of text and information, the idea made sense to me.

2.) National Park Poster:

1950s and 60s National Park posters have a very specific look to them. They're retro (which is very hip these days), but they're also usually very nicely designed and beautiful. They are, after all, posters. I figured this was a good option if we wanted people to hang them up. There's something familiar and comforting about this style that I figured would appeal to a decent number of people. Also, I always figured there was a subtle message of appreciation and stewardship of the land in the original posters and both of those things dovetail perfectly with the Firewise message.

3.) Modern:

This one didn't necessarily have a theme like the previous concepts. I wanted to give them a more straightforward option: Detailed, well-drawn, and clean.

4.) The Saturday Evening Post:

This concept came from a few different places: My fascination with classic graphics and illustration and the fact that the layout of the poster (a featured subject flanked by bulleted information) seemed magazine-like in its presentation. Hence: An homage to "The Saturday Evening Post".

In addition to the poster, I was also asked to design and illustrate some graphics and icons to include with the poster and in some subsequent materials:

To my surprise, they chose the "Saturday Evening Post" concept. They liked the fact that the lighter background made the information easier to read. I figured the magazine option was a long shot, since the SEP is a pretty antiquated reference, but they liked it. The final version ended up being a hybrid of that concept and a few of the elements of the other concepts in the end:

This project was a lot of work in a relatively-short amount of time. But it was also challenging, fun and satisfying. The illustration is pretty much always fun and this project was no exception. The most challenging part for me was probably the text layout. It's a visual element that has to be included same as any other illustrated element, but it has slightly different rules. Figuring out how to integrate all the bits and bobs together in a way that kept the style of the poster cohesive and the message clear was tough. But I think I pulled it off in the end.

Overall: Fun, challenging project. A real pleasure.


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