The purpose of this blog post is to outline some of my process when working on a project. In Professor Frazier’s Graphic Design Studio course, we were required to keep a detailed process book of every step we took on each project. This blog post is an abridged version of the process book that archives my work on the Ender’s Game Book Jacket project.
The first step I take whenever I begin a project is research. I began developing a concept for a new cover by looking at some of the previous covers of the book and its sequels. At this stage I also researched the book (as a refresher, I had already read it). During my research of the novel, I paid special attention to the different recurring themes throughout it.
After looking at these covers, I decided that I wanted to move away from the traditionally illustrative style that these book covers gravitated towards. I wanted to create a more graphic look while still retaining a rich, eye-catching quality. With these visual concepts in mind, I began looking for some designs that communicated in a similar visual language.
These images served as a rough moodboard to direct my process while I was working on developing sketches and a concept. So the next step, naturally, is sketching:
Lots and lots of sketches. These are a little on the low side as far as quantity goes, I usually do atleast 4 pages of sketches. Doing such a large amount serves as a kind of visual brainstorming process. It lets me put a lot of concepts down on paper very quickly, which I can sort through later. Just like with brainstorming sessions, no idea is too simple or cliche at this phase. It helps to just get the lame ideas down on the paper so that you can quickly move on.
After evaluating my sketches, I was well on my way to developing the final concept. I knew that I wanted to explore the theme of Games vs. Reality, and I wanted to showcase the virtual reality system that Ender trains with throughout the novel. I chose to illustrate the armada piloting system in a kind of 3D wireframe that was somewhere between a game and reality. I also knew that I wanted to keep a flat, graphic quality to the wireframe.
I created a very basic rough to begin to communicate these concepts and to narrow my focus as I moved forward and to begin establishing a composition. I was very inspired by the straight lines from this image of a radar screen. I felt that it was a perfect embodiment of a 3D alternate reality wireframe.
Because I knew at this point that I wanted to illustrate a spaceship, I compiled a second research board, this one with various images of space transport that I could use as an kind of reference. It is important to assemble multiple reference images instead of just one, because you don’t want your design or illustration to look derivative or like a trace.
Based on these images, I began laying out some sketches for the development of my own spaceship illustration. During this stage I began layout out some ideas for the composition of the dust jacket.
These sketches led to the development of the finished drawing for the cover:
Then I used Adobe Illustrator to create a vector of the image. This step took probably the most time of any of the other steps, because the wireframe drawing is very intricate. Inset I have placed an image of what I had in mind for the composition at this time, which made it to the final design fairly intact.
At this stage the next step was to do a type study. The type study helped me choose a typeface to use for the title of the novel on the cover. In the composition the type was featured very prominently so it was extremely important to find a good looking typeface that communicated well with the wireframe image and the overall color of the illustration.
At this point I composed all of the elements I completed so far, and I began doing color studies. The color studies were challenging for me because I was torn by the idea of how I could represent an alternate reality. I felt the need to move away from the typical green and blue lines of a 3D wireframe, and I attempted to experiment with the orange and cyan colors of the earlier radar image I had picked as part of my mood board.
Below is my first attempt at moving towards a final design. I was very partial to this color-scheme as I felt it was very clean overall and it also served to somewhat obfuscate some of the directness of the overall concept. However, this design proved to be too confusing, and not linked strongly enough to the themes of the novel. I also felt that the type I chose was a little problematic in its blockiness.
Professor Frazier and I both agreed at this stage that it might be advantageous to return to my color samples and type studies in attempt to address some of the issues with this design.
I did another (more limited) type study and tried to choose a typeface that was more smooth and didn’t have the same ‘blocky’ element. I ended up choosing Neuzeit S LT because I felt that it had a nice balance between sharp corners and curves, as well as a good overall balance that complimented the wireframe illustration.
For the colors, I decided that a stronger color link to the concept was necessary, so I decided to go back to the colors of the original Radar interface image. I did another color study with different explorations of those colors to explore some different effects in attempt to really make the illustration ‘pop.’ I found that if I added a curved sphere background the ships became much more grounded within the space, and it also pushed the concept of a wireframe within a game.
The Final Design
The final design is the culmination of many different elements from throughout the process. This design was rather challenging to print because of the darker colors and the need for the black type of the description to contrast with the green background.
The print of the finished dust jacket:
You can also view the portfolio page for this project to learn a little more about it.