How:Design Ideas at Work is a great magazine, primarily for graphic designers and art directors. It has a lot of practical advice as well as coverage of the leading edges of design, advertising, and art. Recently, I was asked to write an long (8-page) article about how drawing and journal keeping can feed one’s creativity. It was a topic I’d long wanted to address to the professional image-making community because so many of those folks have lost their touch with drawing, though it was probably the very thing that got them into their chosen field at the get-go.
I am pretty happy with the article and was delighted when the senior art director for the magazine also asked me to draw the cover for the issue, a special one dedicated to Illustration. How has a fairly strict format for the cover, one that revolves around their enormous logo, so I did a design that integrated the three letters into my idea. Because illustration is a personal medium, I liked the idea of putting a thumbprint on the cover, maybe the thumb of an artist sighting his subject. I did a quick sketch of myself in that pose, colored it on my computer, and fired it off to her.
Unfortunately, the magazine’s staff felt that the image was confusing. Some didn’t like the fact that the fist might interfere with the coverlines (the titles of the articles inside). Then some others thought it was a person giving a thumbs up, rather than sighting.
Back to the drawing board. The art director suggested I just draw a hand drawing the logo filled with clouds with some art supplies scattered around. I resisted this idea and instead thought I could make a little design out of pens and stuff. I cobbled together a collage from drawings I’d already done to convey the idea.
My client didn’t like this design much because it doesn’t play up the logo enough and was a two 2-dimensional. Instead she brought up the idea they’d proposed earlier: filling the logo with sky and having a hand drawing it. I gave that a try but thought the hand looked so lonely. Instead I sketched in the artist’s head and torso too. I did another self portrait but shaved off my beard in case that was a turn-off.
The email arrived the next morning:
There are still a few hang-ups. Something about the person coming from the back of the logo is off-putting. The focus needs to be on drawing not on the person doing the drawing. The viewer needs to be in the place of the artist.
I’d like you to draw the cover as if it were a page in your sketchbook where you drew the act of drawing the cover. Forget the hands. Just draw the set up since you’re so good with everyday objects. Leave the middle just a wash background or blank so the focus is totally on the logo. I’ll attach my thumbnail. That may help.
Yesterday I started again, following the art director’s sketch. Just to put a little bit of myself into it, I added her sketch as part of the assignment, lying on the table where I drew from it.
I sent the final image to her last night but don’t expect to her about it till Monday. We’ll see. It was an interesting experience; I may have been stupid to have resisted the idea she clearly wanted me to execute and insisting on other interpretations. It’s a hard lesson to learn for a stubborn know-it-all, but I am trying.