Direction and Lack Of

ABA, ChronicleHE, Newsday, Washington Post, WSJ

The above assignment for the American Bar Association that I completed in early June is a good example of a type of project where I’m given a lot of direction by the editor/designer. The illustration below, from an assignment for the Chronicle of Higher Education, is another example, although a little less so (in the illustration above, I was given an actual sketch of the idea, laying out each of the individual characters right down to their sex and racial characteristics, while in the illustration below, I was just given a verbal description of what the editors wanted to see). The remainder of the illustrations for this period of time that I am writing about in this blog entry are the other extreme end of the spectrum, where I was given little other than the text of the article and given total freedom to come up with whatever I felt would best fit the story. I prefer somewhere in the middle of these two extremes, a hint of an idea that I can improve upon, but not so much as to chain me to a certain image. But that is not a tried and true rule of thumb for all situations. Sometimes I can come up with a great idea from almost nothing, and other times I flounder and scratch my head and come up empty. Sometimes an over-directed project ends up stale and lifeless, and other times it turns out wonderful, where I’m able to completely free up my mind from conceptualizing and concentrate on a good image. The variety is probably what keeps me going.

The above illustration was a book review assignment for the Washington Post, in which I was given the book review, which included a brief synopsis of the mystery novel (set in Australia, involving terrorists, the media, and a certain amount of voyeurism). It was a fun project and although I don’t think the rendering was nearly as good as the design, I was fairly pleased with how it turned out. Not a client I do a lot of work for (maybe 3 assignments total over the past 10 years), but one I would like to do more work for.

The above piece was for Newsday, and I don’t remember what the story was about (prisons obviously), but I enjoyed doing something a little more esoteric than my usual fare. Another piece for the same newspaper appears below, and is a little more straightforward in approach, involving a story that takes place on a metropolitan train. The fun of this one came from playing around with the different lighting and shading effects, with reflections in the window glass distorting and stylizing the characters to where only a hint of the facial structure is revealed.

And then, finally, the total freedom to conceptualize that I am given every other week for my regular ‘health column’ gig for the WSJ. Sometimes the editors choose one of my more ‘outre’ ideas, and sometimes they go for the more ‘conservative’ approach, but it is fun to try and come up with both sides of the spectrum each time out of the gate.