Friday, 8 January 2016

Project 2: Penguin Book Prize: Emil and the Detectives Book Cover: Development and Reflection

Development:

Ideas:
The composition that I ran with. Found alongside other ideas on my worksheets within my folder.


Ideas generation was a typically linear experience – I sourced the book and read through it, getting a sense of the characters, setting and plot. I began noting iconography within the book – Emil’s money, the statue he defaced and its red nose – quite bold visual elements within the story. I then noted what I believed to be key scenes in the book that I could draw from. With this information, alongside the brief, I took to creating rough sketches and thumbnails that conceptualised these scenes as a book cover.
Most likely inspired by my ‘Explorers’ project, it was important to rise to the challenge to create a landscape image that ran across the whole cover. My preferred draft was based on a location within the book that acts as the detective’s stake-out spot. I consulted Phil about these roughs and he noted that he thought this particular composition was the most effective. I also decided that my other ideas were either too visually similar to previous covers, or omitted key characters.

Character Design:
Reading through the book, I noted any names as well as any descriptions associated with those characters. Kastner is very brief in his descriptions, providing plenty of artistic freedom. I relied on illustrations within the book, as well as some thematic research into the clothes of the era in which the book is set, to inform the appearance of the characters. I also looked at actors that had portrayed some of the characters on screen and in film to help me further flesh out a visual identity. (The Professor is only described by his horn-rimmed glasses and makes an appearance in one illustration. I took some visual elements from stage actor Oscar Clement’s portrayal of the role - seen front left in the image below.)

For those characters with no description at all, I relied on their names and brief speech within the book to form my own ideas on what they might look like. (The two Mittler brothers are only given names and Krumm has no visual description, but his grumpy personality helped me to picture him.)


I really enjoyed the roguish charm of Matt Hunt’s version of characters in his cover and wanted my own image to be as expressive.

Rendering:
Early stages of building up the image, using my rough as a guide.



The colour palettes and style of the buildings were taken from research images as well as calling back to the predominant use of yellow in previous editions of the stories cover.
Continuing the na├»ve style of drawing that I used in my Explorers project, I also wanted to render the image in a similar fashion – using the polygon selection tool in photoshop to digitally collage shapes. In contrast to that project, I decided that my use of texture would be minimal and as I progressed, that I wouldn’t use scanned textures at all.



 I did however continue the use of drop shadows when rendering the characters, but felt that the effect looked tacky spread across the whole image.


The digital collage process also informed the typeface I created for the front cover.


Peer feedback:

Image shown to peers


After making a bit of progress with the image, I decide to present the concept to my peers for their opinions and criticism.


Although in a very rough state, I got a positive response from my course mates and they provided me with valuable feedback.





I took these comments on board whilst continuing the development of my image ready to present in my pre-deadline crit.



Once again considering using drop shadows across the whole image, rather than just the characters.


My conclusion remained that the drop shadows weren't needed.


Outcomes and further development:

Pre-crit outcome:


I got a good response during my crit for this image, which was great as I was quite pleased with it myself. Feedback was mostly about small clashes in colour or positioning, but a prominent response was that it was not immediately clear which character was Emil. Visual clues such as his position in the centre of the image and the colour of the book title helped people out, but they felt that it would be better if he was isolated; as his interaction with ‘the professor’ made his prominence a bit ambiguous.

Suggestions included:
·         Separating Emil from the other characters, giving him his own space.
·         Making Emil the centre of the image. 
·         Giving Emil iconography from the book
·         Having Emil forward facing, as the professor is.
·         The brown frame in the background clashing with the text.
·         The text clashing with the protruding sections of the building
·         Scaling the whole image down, so that the lamp post is not cut off at the top.

      Taking these comments on board, I spent the afternoon making edits.

Post-crit outcome:


Scaling the image down, rearranging the text and a few building elements and placing Emil within the centre of the group, rearranging other characters accordingly.
I sought further feedback from Caroline, who noted that the text on the front page was quite high, and pointed out a few spaces within the image that could be filled; including the wall on the front cover and the floor. I realised that I preferred the characters spaced out across the page, also.

Further amendments after further talks with Caroline:


After consulting design-savvy Caroline, I made further changes to the image; I decided that I would try to separate Emil from the Professor this time – copying and editing the original image of Emil and pasting and scaling it back into the document. His now free-hand holds his suitcase. His other hand now looked odd being empty- so I had him hold his hat. I also flipped him horizontally so that he could better fit the centre of the image and aligned him somewhat with the puffin book logo to fill that space. 

It was then a case of rearranging the other characters to fill out the space; squeezing ‘Big Mittler’ (the one with his fingers in his ears) onto the back page – not wanting to discard him and lose a member of the core detectives team.  Fortunately there was a gap on that page that ‘Krumm’ (the grumpy one) couldn’t feasibly fill whilst also leaning against the wall.  

Further amendments after talking to Phil:



After playing with Caroline's suggestions, I decided to catch Phil up on the development of the image. He suggested that the transparent text box looked unfinished and that the text may be covering up more artwork than it has to. I revisited the text and found that I had used a 14pt size, where as I could realistically be using a 10pt size. Phil also suggested trying to link the text box stylistically with the typeface I had made. These comments resulted in the above image.

I thought the box sat within the design well, echoing the bar-code section. I had considered using a similar box behind the 'after him' text, but felt that would cover up too much of the background artwork.

Final Image:


Showing this amendment t to Phil, we both discussed if there was an alternative way to present the text that allowed for the background illustration to be less interfered with. Phil noted the angular space created by the brick wall to the left of the image and demonstrated the use of the gradient tool to provide a background for the text that would make it easier to read.

Initially this space was too small to fit the body of text, even after reducing it's size further to about 9.5pt. I decided to edit the artwork so that the wall was no longer in the centre of the two buildings, but aligned to the side of the pink building. This allowed me to fit the text within the space. It also gave the text enough space between the wall and the edge of the page. The new positioning of the wall also provides a crisper line for separating the blurb from the other copy information on the back page and I think provides a more satisfying division of the image into thirds. The new position of the text meant re-positioning the 'after him', aligning it above the text to create a more compact and pleasing design. This meant re-positioning Gundeis also, so that he was not lost behind the text, but I think he works just as well in the right hand side of the page and flipped horizontally.

I consulted my peers to see if they found these amendments more effective, they agreed that the text and image were well considered with this design and that it looked like a well refined piece I am content now to leave the image as-is after many considerations, amendments and confirmation from my peers. I may well revisit the image if there are any pernickety changes that can be made to improve it for the competition deadline, however for this modules submission I think I have reached a decent conclusion.       


Reflection:

Here is Gustav to sum up my feelings for how the project went.

I’m really happy with how this project turned out. I’ve not had the greatest success with book cover designs in the past and I feel this is a natural progression of the experimentation that took place within my ‘Explorers!’ project. One of my aims for these projects was to produce some portfolio pieces and I think this one will make a great addition and hope that it will be regarded as a strong submission to the contest. In the long run, besides acting as a portfolio piece and continuing the development of my illustration practise, I think that the typeface may be something that I carry on into other works. The characters were rendered somewhat larger than their final scale, so might be able to be utilised for some A5 prints or as accompanying portfolio pieces.

Despite neglecting the project for several weeks after my energies were direct towards completing the first of my ‘Explorers!’ images, I was delighted that I managed to complete this project within a couple of weeks. Having managed my time wisely earlier in the module and built a good foundation of research and understanding of the theme, I allowed myself to develop the image into a presentable draft with a good pace.  I now have some confidence in being able to produce book covers and believe that the goals that I set out in the proposal for this project have been fulfilled aptly.

*Updated Content* Final Ammendments for Submission

Before submitting my artwork I asked my tutors for a final critique.

I decided to edit some of the colours within the artwork to improve the eligibility of the text.
I also changed from working in RGB to CMYK - something I should have done from the beginning.

By de-saturating the colours I edited the background elements to enable a better contrast of colour.

























Here the background details have been simplified and the colours are more uniform to the rest of the image.



The light and dark blue found on Emil's clothes and the title text have been edited to improve eligibility.

The teaser text on the back page has been edited to be somewhat more dynamic.
























The final cover:


It was an interesting experience making so many edits to one piece of work. The submission process was quite simple and I'm glad that I finally participated in this competition.

Unfortunately my design wasn't shortlisted, but a positive response and experience have encouraged me to design more book jackets in the future and as part of my BAIL303 module. I also believe that creating this jacket helped me to improve my landscape image making and dealing with complex compositions.

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