Project X Revealed – Designing for Better Futures

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APP – Final Presentation

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Today we have had our final presentation for the APP project, giving us a moment to show our research, development journey and final products as well as receive responses from both our tutors and fellow peers.

APP Presentation (Final)

To my hopes the reaction I received from the class was all positive, with far more feedback from my peers than my previous presentation. After talking to a member of class afterwards I found that this may have been because the explanation I used was not clear enough with my planned outcome for the piece, and so no-one could think of any feedback for what I could do. This time however, people were able to ask about the aspects of the designs they liked as well as question what techniques I used for the design. Some peers even asked about the poem I used for the final page, an aspect that I honestly did not really expect to get so much attention.

With the only other bit of feedback I was given being some comments from my tutors giving a little bit of praise and acknowledgement for my visible improvement from previous projects (which is something I am genuinely proud for one of the few times in my time as an artist/designer), I did not receive any memorable negative comments on the work itself. However, whether this was because I was doing the final presentation, and thus did not need feedback seeing as the project was already finished, I am not entirely certain about. Either way, this project has marked an excellent end for this year and I eagerly await our next project so I may continue honing the lessons I have learnt.

APP – Final Designs (Cover + Spread)

With the back cover design now complete (as well as the spine of the jacket which I did not include a post about due to not as design focused as the other pages) the page spread and book jacket have come to a finish. Below are the results of the combined pages and jacket in their complete forms.


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Positives

  • I am absolutely thrilled with how both illustrations have turned out. Each has a very pleasant colour scheme, and thanks to the newly learned techniques I have obtained over this project, the texture effects now make the design appear more lively and not flat shapes like my previous works on Illustrator.
  • I also think that the type was very successful as the simple (almost hieroglyphic like) shapes that give the title a more personal touch than if I had just used an existing typeface.
  • I am also very proud with how the character’s design (in general) blending well with the scale of the scene, showing just how far/small they are compared to their destination. I also like how the flowing cloak and staff give the impression that wind is hitting against them, considering they are in the middle of a sand storm.

Negatives

  • If I had to say anything about what I think are the negatives of the book jacket, it would be that I think I may have missed some opportunities with how the side connect. I only noticed after combining the two halves of the cover to the spine that the sand layers of all three three designs are all on the same level. This meant that I could have continued the pyramid’s (and sand dunes) edge over onto the back cover design, making a single image across the whole jacket. At the point I had noticed this idea however, I would have had alter the layer of both images in a way that I simply did not have the time to do.
  • Another point that annoys me somewhat is that I could have added more ruins to the end design for the middle background layer, something which I may have planned but forgotten to add when the design was still a prototype. This makes the placing of the already existing ruins slightly odd as they are only on the right.

Improvements

  • I think that if I did go back to recreate this design, I would be sure to plan the entire jacket’s layout rather than just one page at a time. This way I won’t miss these interesting ideas again.
  • I would also add a second group of ruins to the left of the front cover (as well as the back cover if I did do the connected pages). This would not only fix my little gripe with the current design, but also improve it by leaving a visible gap between the two sides that make the character’s path to the pyramid even clearer.

Inner Spread Design

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Positives

  • I am also very proud with how the spread pages inside the book also turned out, as they are both a sign of improvement to my previous abilities.
  • I personally find the first of the pages to be my favorite as they more encapsulate the strong sense of atmosphere which I wanted most. The way in which the overlay gives the impression of dust is probably the biggest contributing factor to this.
  • I also hoped that people will also gain a feeling of culture from how the giant monuments resemble the character, hinting that this place may have once been a city for his people.

Negatives

  • I do find slightly more negatives with these designs however than my previous spread, notably with the second design. I say this because I feel that the placement and design of the pillars (the main source of scale for the scene) could have used more work, with some of the ones on the right in particular looking a little wonky and too thin at the closer areas.
  • [UPDATED VIEW] – After looking at the second page design in a larger image scale, I have just realized that the pillars actually look more like thick, individual walls placed behind one another than they do circular columns. This is mostly due to the gradient effects I used for shading. Funnily enough, when looking them in this new “perspective” they actually look much better to me than they did before and no longer bother my view of the design.
  • The area on the left of the page is also a bit empty due to a removed wall back during the creation time.
  • I also belive that the shading on the top and bottom of the image are a bit lack luster in terms of both the shape and intensity, which were supposed to give the edge an ominus void effect rather than look like black clouds.
  • One gripe that I don’t really think counts for the first page is that when looking back on the original design by its self, I noticed that the edge of the blur effect in the top-right corner was visible. luckily it is not (as) visible on the final design as the right half was covered up for the spread layout.
  • Despite the finished results, I had planned on making each design a double page spread, but due to the designs I had used, stretching them to fit the size required would have left to mush empty/unnecessary space on the page than needed.

Improvements

  • If I had the chance I would probably fix the pillar designs to more fit the side of the page, such as the far left on which looks a little flat in my opinion.
  • I would also go back to making the dark effects a bit more fitting to the area, such as making it curve around the pillars slightly more and making the bottom half look more “bottomless”.

Final Thoughts

Overall I am incredibly happy with how all designs have turned out and how much I have learned and improved thanks to this project. I now have a better understanding of managing perspective as well as being reminded of the existence of the effect tools. These abilities have not only helped improve my own creative ability for Illustrator (my most used design software) but leave the potential for to continue growing with the following projects and within my future as a designer.

APP – Experimenting with Type

Today I have begun experimenting and adding type for the cover designs of my book, including both the title typeface as well as the back page typeface (which after some time of thinking and discussing the idea of adding details, I decided to add some sort of vague summary of sorts).

I originally began by trying to create a more stylized typeface for the front cover by taking inspiration from fantasy genre titles such as Hollow Knight, a game I have already talked about here. I mostly took my interest in its use of a flowing border, as well as how I could create a typeface which was just as interesting to look at.

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https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/11662585/hollow-knight

After toying around with the pen and circle tools, I was able to crate the design shown bellow. At this point I had decided to name the book “ORIGIN”, as it was supposed to symbolism the character returning to a place they could have once called home. However, when I tried showing this typeface to others, they often read the title as “ORION” before realizing the true name. This pointed out that perhaps the design I chose was over-complicated and filled with unnecessary design, especially for the title of a wordless story (as it may be one of the only written clues to what the story is about).

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Taking a step away from the previous design, I went back to exploring the web for fantasy and tribal styled typefaces, which I was planning on using due to my book being set in an ancient desert within a fantasy world. However, after looking on ended up some images for inspiration, I came across the image bellow and got struck with a new Idea for the design.

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https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/315603886374228560/

The image above was what gave me the new idea, as it was almost the complete opposite of the previous design I used. Instead of adding an overabundance of details to each letter, this typeface boiled each character down a simple yet recognisable form. When placed next to one another, even the mostly vaguely designed letters begin to be recognised by the reader when made into words. I also really enjoy this typeface as it genuinely fits in more to the world I am trying to make, as a simple line-based typeface easily blends with my simple shape-based art style.

Below is a slightly altered version made by myself using shape and line tools.

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Happy with this new typeface for my front page, I moved onto choosing possible type for the back page. I decided on adding some sort of poem on the back page despite recommendations to add a summer instead. I made this decision as I did not really like the idea of having any text to begin with as it would push away my plan of a purely wordless story, so rather than have a detailed summary explaining the story itself, I instead used a vague rhyme of what the font page of the story is about.

In this case my idea for the front page is that the character is beginning to see the large pyramid structure through the sandstorm, which is the destination of their long and lonely pilgrimage. Here is the poem that I created based on this setup:

“Clad in robes, worn and alone, a small pilgrim far from home. Behind the waves of the golden storms, a mountainous figure eerily forms.With walls of rock and towers high, centre within where aged ruins lie. They take haste to the ancient retreat, to where their kin would graciously meet.”

Fairly happy with this text (despite it looking a little too much like a child’s nursery rhyme to myself) I began experimenting with what typeface to use for the poem, this time using a pre-existing font from Illustrator as I did not have the time or patience to create an entire new typeface just for the back of the book. Some of the results are shown below.

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The typeface which I ended up going with is called OCR.A Std Regular, which I chose due to it being somewhat similar to my own typeface for the front page (in that it is drawn mostly through simple line-work with a somewhat fantasy/sci-fi theme in mind). Because of some feedback I received, I added a darker cloud of sand behind the text to allow the lighter typeface to stand out clearer. With that, the final page has been completed.

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I am again very happy with the end result of this design, as I like to believe that this empty view of the half sunken monument help express the age of the location that the character has just entered, as well as show how barren their journey past this point may have been.

APP – Continuing the “Prototypes”

At this point I am beginning to view these “prototype” designs as being good enough to be considered my final pieces, which mostly surpass all of my previous designs made on illustrator due to the addition of these new skills. Today I completed yet another two designs, the first being the second spread page and the other being the design for the back cover.

The first design I created was originally yet another attempt at experimenting with new methods (which in this case was a close-up perspective of a large chamber) that quickly developed into a full scale design for the final project. Because of this, I did not have any major inspirations for its overall design as it started with me trying to test a new method.

I created this piece by creating the pillar structures to help form my sense of scale and viewpoint from within the room before adding the pathway which the character would stand. Designing the character in this slightly more 3 dimensional perspective, as the character up to this point was either shown from a side or back pose, making their appearance more 2D. I was able to finally achieve their current design by using the cone shape of the robe to create a more circular look to the character. The colour pallet for the area was made using the same/similar browns, yellows and reds, as well as using the colours of the character’s robe to make the large hanging drape.

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The second page design I created is going to serve as the main design for the back cover for the book jacket. I created this design by copying and modifying some of the desert assets I used for the front cover design, which I did due to wanting the jacket to have a shared overall design theme. The most original piece of design on this piece is of course the statue piece in the sand, with a large amount of wearing features (created by using the knife tool to chip away the edges, as well as some scratch designs inspired to me by one of my tutors for additional effect) to add to the whole “ancient civilization” theme of the setting.

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I am actually really pleased with how simple yet effective this design has turned out. I may plan on adding some sort of text or feature(s) to this final version of this page to make it look more like a back cover, such as a bar-code or author note section.

APP – Zdzisław Beksiński – Nightmarish Scale

During my previous research into the uses of scale found within fantasy drawings, I was suddenly reminded by the works of an artist who I stumbled upon in my spare time about a year or two ago. This artist was Zdzisław Beksiński, a Polish painter who well known for his rather surreal collection of paintings which were all very morbid and foreboding in appearance. According to Beksiński, the aim of the paintings themselves was “to paint in such a manner as if I were photographing dreams”.

While many of his works are fantastic in their own right, I was mostly concerned with the design bellow in terms of my own project.

Image result for Zdzisław Beksiński

The reason why I am going back to look at this painting is due to the sense of scale through the use of large, ominous figures looming over a character showing just how small they are in the word that they are in, as well as adding the feeling that they are perhaps being watched.

 

I decided that I would try to create a similar scene for my first spread page in which the character is passing through a massive corridor/hallway surrounded by massive looming statues. This would give readers a sense of scale of this new location while also adding a bit of visual storytelling to the setting our journey takes place in.

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At fist I attempted to do some sketches of possible designs, sizes and page layouts based on Beksiński’s painting. I eventually simplified the overall designs of the statues to more resemble the main character’s appearance with a simple and angular totem-like design. My attempts to recreate the layout of the painting was a difficult and pointless en-devour in the end however, as after multiple failed plans on Illustrator I realized that not only was I basically copying the design of Beksiński’s work (something that would lead my work to be cheating and uninspired), but I noticed how vastly out of place next to my previous design it would become with a sudden 2D to 3D layout between pages. It was also flat out awkward and finicky it was to work my designs into a 3 dimensional plane.

With that, I instead moved my idea to sticking with the 2D styled layout for now and began using the techniques I have learned to build the second design for my spread. Using the blur effects and the grainy look given by the tea stain overlay, I was able to create what I consider another successful page for my design.

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I feel like this design is step higher than the previous page simply due the new addition of lighting and interior atmosphere which I learnt from the works of Daniel Egnéus. The overlay now gives the impression of stone on both the statues and when combined with the light shining through the doorway, gives the impression that the structure is filled with dust (adding to the ancient appeal of the location). By making the character so small, I hoped to express exactly how massive the statues are and how big the building itself must be in their perspective.

I am very happy with how this design has turned out and I am even more excited to see what my next illustrations will turn out to become.

APP – Creating Landscapes Through Layers (Journey)

Moving on from my research into fantasy landscapes I have decided to look back to one of my original inspirations for this project, which was the game Journey. Back when receiving my feedback, my tutors took a moment to point out how the images of the game I used effectively showed the type of perspective and scale that I missed within my own sketches. Looking back at them now, I can see exactly what they meant and how vastly superior Journey’s methods of depicting a large world/scene from a small character’s perspective were and how they used them.

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One of the most striking methods I noticed they used within their most popular shots (such as the one shown above) was the use of simple designs on levels. What I mean by that is that many of the designs could be broken up into a few (typically 3) layers to form a scene. These layers include:

  1. The foreground/area which were viewing from, in this case the sandy hill where the character is standing. This adds the first layer of depth which is then expanded upon by the following layers.
  2. The middle-ground which is an area  between the place we are viewing from and the background, in this case it is the buildings visible ahead of the character (this can also be attributed to the clouds/mist, which could also be considered a second middle layer). This layer adds depth to how far ahead the goal is from the current point by showing that there are is still a landscape before them.
  3. The background, the final layer which shows the magnitude of the goal compared to the building in front as well as add more depth to how far away it is to the character. By making the goal background faded (as an atmosphere does in real life) you can again stimulate this method of perspective.

After looking at this use of layering, I decided to practice it myself by creating a prototype version of my sketches. I used simple shapes and a basic pallet of color for the background, with the only thing that I put any amount detail into being the character, as I wanted to know what they would look like at any distance.

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This version of the design was far more successful than my previous sketch attempts and gave a full impression of the sense of scale which I completely missed last time. After presenting this version to one my tutors, they seemed also very pleased with the new design, commenting on such things as the use of having the pieces of cloth on the character and his staff flowing to the side to simulate wind, which added motion to the image. He then began to give me some feedback to improve the visuals of the design.

One of these pieces of advice was to use the effects feature on Adobe Illustrator (the program used for this image), a feature which I had all but forgotten existed. Using this feature, he showed me how to add blur effects on shapes to give the impression of blowing sand, something which I was actually struggling with adding beforehand. We immediately saw an improvement to the design, adding a layer of atmosphere to the design which I didn’t even know was possible on Illustrator. To push even further into the design, we added an overlay image of a piece of tea stained paper to add a grainy texture to the page which made the blur effects and ground layer appear more like actual sand particles blowing in the wind. The image bellow is the result of this work.

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Now that I have created this prototype design, I feel as if I have begun to get a firmer grasp on what designs I want to achieve with the rest of the cover as well as the spread pages. I also feel as if I have actually made progress with my own skills as a user of Illustrator, as the simple use of adding these effects have given my originally flat designs a feeling of texture and depth. I am starting to feel like this project may benefit me more than I initially thought.

APP – Revising the use of Perception (Fantasy Landscape)

Using the feedback which I received back during my first presentation, I have decided to take a step back from rest of my work in order to revise my knowledge about the use of perception and sense of scale that the world of fantasy is capable of portraying, a topic which I should have obviously looked at closer from the start.

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With a quick on any digital art gallery, you can find a practically endless supply of examples of this sense of scale that I had missed within my rough sketches. Instead of using a birds-eye perspective of the landscape to try an show the length of the journey like in my sketch (which only made the world itself look smaller), the images I found all used a more grounded view of the scene, always appearing as if they were a photo taken from somewhere on the ground. This use of perspective makes the world around seem enormous, with mountains, castles and large statues being the most common ways of showing how small we are compared to them.

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A fair few of the images I saw also had a small figure placed around the bottom of the design in order to give us a representation of how large the area is compared to a human. This idea of using smaller figures to express the size and scope of your world reminded me heavily of many of the more iconic screenshots and fan art of the game Journey, which often have the robed character(s) standing in front of the shot with the mountain (the end goal of the game) looming in the distance, dwarfing the rest of the landscape. I may have to look back of how they achieved the effect of scale within Journey within another post to help remind myself of its techniques.


Overall I believe I have been given stern reminder from these depictions of fantasy and how they use perspective to express the incredible scale of strange (semi-realistic) worlds. I will also have to go back to Journey (my current main inspiration) to relearn how they used their simple art style to create the size of the character’s journey feel incredibly long.

APP Presentation

Today we have all briefly presented our most recent progress with our APP projects with the main purpose of receiving feedback from both our peers and tutors. As usual, we each took independent turns in showing our ideas via a PowerPoint presentation. In an honest opinion, my presentation went so-so as I feel like I should have had more to show than I had, or simply because my speech was not up to par as I had hoped with several moments were I failed to properly explain my ideas and research due to my babbling lagging behind certain slides. In the end, even after going over several ideas during the feedback, I still feel like there were things left unsaid. Either way, I did receive some helpful advice concerning my overall of the cover idea.

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My tutors (who were the only ones who gave me any advice (something that doesn’t really sound good to me)) gave me fair bit of advice about how I should have taken the perspective and size of my world into account when creating the drawing I had shown them, as from the angle I used for my sketch did not really express the length and magnitude of the character’s journey from their current spot to their apparent destination. This was because my failed use of perspective made the pyramid (destination) look a lot smaller than it actually was and the path design I used did not help to make it look like it was a great distance away.

Image result for journey game wallpaper

They helped to point this issue out by looking back at one of the images I used for the Journey game slide, which showed a perfect example of this missed use of perspective. This images uses what looks like only 3/4 layers of background alongside the character, yet the picture easily expresses the magnitude of the mountain (and unknown distance) before them. I believe that they were able to do this by taking the perspective of the image level with the character, making the mountain seem huge compared to them and hiding any clues as to how far away it is.

They also recommended looking at an artist by the name of Caspar David Friedrich, an artist we once looked at during class. It may be helpful for me to at least look at some of his works to help improve my ability at drawing landscapes.

Overall I have learned some important pieces of information from my feedback, as well as some of the feedback as others, such as finding a typeface which fits the themes of my design over looking nicer, as one of my peers found when they used a fancy font for some of their text which, while pretty, look like it belonged more in a Christmas card than a anti-pollution campaign.

My Presentation – APP Presentation