Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Magazine Cover: Here We Have Idaho


I was contacted a couple of months ago by the editor of a magazine called "Here We Have Idaho", which is put out by the University of Idaho and covers all things UI (academics, research, alumni, etc.). She asked if I would be interested in creating an illustration for the cover and I (of course) jumped at the opportunity.

Projects like this can begin from any number of starting points. Sometimes I'm asked to imagine ideas and concepts from scratch. In this case, the editor and art director already had a pretty solid idea and approach for the cover.

The idea was a map of the state of Idaho, drawn in a vintage style. The map would feature graphic elements/icons (drawn in that same style) representing articles within the issue covering a wide variety of current projects being spearheaded by various departments and colleges within the university. So the HWHI team already had the subject matter and a general style they wanted to employ.

As such, my job as the illustrator was twofold:

One: To create a set of concepts that distilled that idea into a style that fit with the goals of the issue.
Two: Once a concept was chosen from that set, draw that concept.

So, first things first: The concepts.

The word "vintage" can mean a lot of things. What era? Usually, when people say "vintage" they mean 1950s and 60s. But the word can refer to pretty much any time period before the one we're in right now. Since I'm a fan of mid-century aesthetics, I created two concepts that used some of the visual elements of design and illustration from that time and a third concept from earlier (20s and 30s).

Travel Poster: The style from these posters is oft-imitated these days. Perhaps a bit too much. But I can't resist the bold colors and stylized imagery of illustrators around that time. It has a built in nostalgia factor, even for a dude born well after these aesthetic trends went the way of the Cold War.

 Travel "Stickers": The design of the icons in this concept were based on those stickers people used to get when they traveled to various hotels. They'd stick them to suitcases and steamer trunks. They were badges of experience and always beautifully drawn and designed.

Textbook Diagrams and the 20s Map: Because old textbook diagrams are cool and so are 20s and 30s maps. Again, there's a kind of mood and gravitas built in to educational imagery from the past, even if the information being conveyed is complete malarkey.

The latter of the set of concepts was chosen, but sans letters or numbers indicating various parts or points of the icons. Because there were quite a few icons to be drawn, the final version took quite a bit of time to create. Each one had to be drawn in the same style with semi-muted colors and engraving-like shading lines. This isn't anything close to the style in which I draw naturally, so it was, at times, painstaking. Always fun, though.

And I think it turned out well:

Reflections: A great project, overall. Drawing outside my typical style/approach was a challenge, but a fun one. I think (well, hope, anyway) that the illustration has the vintage feel we were going after. The editor and art director liked it, which is always great. The only icon I don't like is the cow. For some reason, I never think my drawings of cows look right. My favorite icon is the geyser. I don't know why. Because I said so. That's why.


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