Saturday, June 11, 2016


   This commission was part of our local National Park Service headquarters to do some fun community events in recognition of the Centennial celebration, among them a 5k Family Fun Run. That's where I came in as someone tasked to create logo which would reflect all of those aspects: family-friendly, fun and in action.
   The first incarnation went through a dozen reworks with constant reviews from an ad hoc committee, meaning I held it up in front of random folks at the coffeeshop and asked them "what kind of animal is this?" The overwhelming majority of respondents answered "hedgehog?" followed by "... beaver?" and "feral rat?"  Boy was that ever humbling - and frustrating comsidering my assumption it would be relatively easy to knock out a simple porcupine - after all I'd done it before. After a few days it morphed into what I thought was the definitive variation, at least until I woke up the next morning after sending "the final" and realized with horror it looked even worse. Not to mention the aesthetic side-effect of incorporating the client's suggestion of including sneakers: adding an article of clothing to these sorts of cartoon critters quite often has the unintended result of making whatever animal it is look like IT'S NOT WEARING ANY PANTS. But with a rapid rework (sometimes the best solution is pure panic as a creative juice) and the knowledge that the end point design would have big words saying "Parkie-Pine" which would be of immeasurable help in identifying the creature in question. When in doubt, label it.

   As with all clients, there is considerable back-and-forth between myself and the designated point of contact - often there is a committee but I find it much saner and more effective to limit the working relationship with one person in charge. My process is also to present simple pencil sketches with the initial concept long before committing the time + energy to inking and digital tweaks. So the above image was a sample of both the agreed-upon line art + a bonus color test to help flesh out the character. Next was settling on the overall logo design, in particular the graphic elements, using a basic, nondescript font as a temporary placeholder until that particular phase of the project.

   My instinct, or personal preference is to work within the shape of a circle, but the idea was introduced to incorporate the National Park Service shield (arrowhead actually) as a part of the bounding shape. As it turned out this was a better solution as far as accommodating additional elements, but not without its own unique issues to consider. And since I'm afforded plenty of leeway when coming up with such logos I have no trouble whatsoever accepting outside suggestions - after all, that's the defining distinction between a commercial artist and a fine artist. I aim to serve the intentions of the client first & foremost, and part of my job is to execute their vision, not mine. It's only when the dreaded micromanagement occurs that it becomes tedious and counterproductive, which in such rare instances usually takes judicious setting of limits, even to the point of incurring additional fees.

   Now we round the bend and come into the home stretch as alternatives are in font selection are advanced for consideration. Again I find it appealing to my aesthetics to juxtapose an organic, hand-drawn element against the more mechanical, computer-set type. This phase goes hand-in-glove with constant shifting of the graphic elements so as to maintain a cohesive, unified look to the piece in its entirety. Balancing line weights and textual considerations for proper composition sometimes takes a lot of minute adjustments, as at this point everything is interconnected, and no part can be changed without it affecting the big picture as it were. Even in a comparatively simple layout it can give rise to a seemingly infinite amount of combinations which can be quite the artistic rabbit hole. This is also when it helps to remember the basics in maintaining a healthy, objective distance by taking breaks. A fresh look at the problem or even sleeping on it is more often than not the best solution - these things take time, and scheduling the calendar around such mental wrestling sessions is crucial.

   Also it becomes time to ensure the design is thoroughly cleaned up, which means vectoring, adjusting the threshold etc. and chasing down stray pixels. But at long last there's a finished line art version which is the template for the final manifestation and end-point product(s).

   In this case it was usage for both a tshirt and a full-color poster for printing. The tshirt, like the black + white core logo should ideally function as a one-color, which incorporates the background color of the garment as part of the design. This in turn means generating a reversal, shown above in the first panel which looks like a negative: when burned onto a screen everything you see as black will be printed as a colored ink, say for example, white ink, which you can see in the next swatch on a tan background. This is also by far the most economical option for a limited budget, as each additional ink color will add to the price-per-unit of the tshirt, even as seen in the last panel with a black ink and white ink variation.
   But lastly, there's no such limitations in the full-color version which will be used in fliers, poster and web-based promotion. So included on the final CD of image files are 300 + 72 dpi JPEGS along with 11x17" PDF and TIF formats. All that's missing now is photographs of posted fliers... and racers wearing it!

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