I did something I actually like!

I don’t post about specific stuff I do at work very often because … actually I’m not sure why. It ain’t modesty, I promise. I think I’m still just delusionally assuming that if I don’t post specifics about my work that no one at the new job (new? I’ve been there a year!) is going to find this corner of the internet and discover what a nutty broad I am. That’s crazy, I suppose, because surely by now they have already figured that out.

ANYWAY! For three weeks I have been working with the editors at the Montgomery paper to illustrate their huge series on violent crime in the city. I had spent a lot of time working on The Commercial Appeal’s True Crime series a few years ago, so I felt pretty equipped to tackle the topic from a design standpoint. Except this time around, the editor was not enthusiastic about the photographs that went with the main stories. So he asked if we could go conceptual.

So here’s what I did.

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I’m a bit self-conscious about my ability to execute conceptual designs. I’ve felt that it’s been a weak spot for me since I didn’t get much graphic design training in college (I was on the media design path in J-school; graphic design fell under the college of art) and I spent the first seven years of my career cutting my teeth at a paper that had amazing photographers and an amazing illustrator. There really wasn’t much of a need for me to do conceptual illustrations. So that muscle never got worked.

But I took the editor’s challenge and had a moment of inspiration one evening while digging through stock art. I found this one piece — a spiky blue wave drawing. I had my way with it in Photoshop and ended up with a huge and aggressive wall of red ink engulfing nearly the entire front page. I thought there was no way it would fly with the editor and suspected it wouldn’t fly with anyone, so I ran it past my creative director (email subject line: “Is this crazy?”). He enthusiastically greenlit it and helped me refine it. And then the next week’s photographs were also week, and so we decided we’d have a trilogy of illustrations.

The roots are my favorite. They are hand drawn. Er, mouse drawn. (I should get a tablet.) And that is the third iteration of them. They started out just at the top, and then I had them go down both sides of the page, but my boss told me they looked like Frodo’s head. (They did. And Michael Jackson’s.)

It was a ton of work but I’m happy with how each of these pages turned out and with how they all work together. Kudos to the editor for going with such a bold idea — many editors might have balked — and for letting me come up with ideas that strayed from his original vision.

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