Exercise: Educational strip

Exercise: Educational strip

What’s happening to my body? It is all going mad!
This is the title of an educational leaflet for which we are asked to produce an illustrated strip by this exercise.
I started by researching on puberty, reading some articles and watching some videos, which revealed to be very useful specially to understand what language to use to communicate with an early teenager or even pre- teen, in the best way.
My first idea was to compare puberty to a caterpillar metamorphosis, so I also researched a little on this process. I used thumbnails to explore hypothetical frames, but I was not satisfied so I passed onto a more simple idea of showing the effects of puberty on the body. I chose to work on a female perspective and I sketched some frames in thumbnails. I really wanted the effects to pop out of the frame, using it to focus on the parts of the body involved in the transformation, but I thought it was looking quite boring, specially thinking of what my audience would have been.
So another idea came, to use the body as a frame. I thought of five steps in the development of the female body through puberty. It is a succession of images connected between each other – like those paper garlands everyone has cut in their childhood – following the growth of this young girl to her adulthood. I shaped the bodies in a simple way, describing some of the aspects of puberty on each of them.
I used watercolours and fine liner to complete the piece.
The original idea was to create a leaflet shaped as the body, so that the text would be contained in the image.

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But then I tried working on the finished image in digital, quickly mocking up a simple little brochure. I imagined it accordion-folded in five pages, the first one being in the front. I wrote a brief text for each phase, trying to be playful and to introduce the issue in an easy and relaxed way.


I also tried to cut the image just like a paper garland and even though it is quite funny and interesting (for example could be very nice to draw the back of the bodies as well), I thought it would be quite hard to insert a text, as the space is not really much and would be disturbing a smooth reading of the images.

I am very satisfied with the outcome, particularly for the nature of the idea. I think the problem is presented in a way that would attract the attention of the audience for which it is intended.
I am also quite satisfied with the technical outcome, even though I felt the outlines a little to heavy marked. I had a few problems with the printing, has the image of the brochure came out cut on one side and the definition of the image was very poor. Was also a quite bad idea to colour the edges of the garland in black, it was much better with the light background or none. I enjoyed the experimenting though, it was very useful to understand how the imagine actually worked.

Exercise: Working with children

Exercise: Working with children

When I was a kid I remember being terrified by an image from the tale of Ali Baba and the 40 thieves. It was hunting me at the point that I used to keep that particular page always far away from my eyes, turning the book and keeping distance from it. Only now I realise how much an image can affect a kid.  I could say that images are not only a media between text and reality, they can be alive through imagination, and this is a great power kids are capable of.
However, as an images lover, illustrations and visual products in general still have a great impact on me.

I visited my local library to get more familiar with children illustration, which has evolved quite fast since I was a kid, obviously giving space to digital images.
I could distinguish the five main categories given by the exercise brief:
The first is the one of the patterns, simple shapes, textures and colours, clearly for the youngest.

A second category sees the introduction of characters, simple drawings, still featuring textures and bold colours but accompanied by a simple text, often teaching some very basic lessons like numbers, the names of colours and so on. Very often the brief stories contained in those books are moral lessons.

With the third category the illustrations start to be more articulated, more detailed and more accurate, with shading and with a larger variety of colours. The text is also much more detailed, taking the shape of proper tales.

A fourth category sees a more mature approach to the images, which are giving more and more space to the text, now completely mature, only different in subjects from the adult one.

For the category older age groups I think the main illustrated subject becomes the comic book and the graphic novel.

I thought it was not always simple to distinguish the categories, and also I think the impact the illustration is having,  really depends from the personality of a kid (If I think that I was very interested in some of the books it really makes the theory just a theory!).

I chose to work on the preschool category and on the established reader one.
I brainstormed on some of the words given by the exercise and then chose the ones which inspired me the most.

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I matched a couple of animals per category and then combined them with the chosen word, recording some ideas in thumbnails.

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In the end I selected two images: An elephant walking on a very poorly stable bridge, symbolising the word journey and a angry wolf patrolling the forest at night, for the word scary.

I used a different approach for the two images.

The preschool images is treated in a less realistic way, not only in the shapes but even the action is practically impossible. I think to make the characteristic really extreme in this case conveys the message: a journey might be not always easy and pleasant, it can be really dangerous, but it is always going to bring you to something good.

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The established reader image features a more realistic situation, even though the colours are probably not responding to reality.

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I am satisfied with the outcomes, I think they are communicating what they are suppose to. However, regarding the technique, I believe the wolf illustration is better than the first one.

I think colours have a huge impact on children, far bigger than the one they can have on an adult.
I don’t think it is correct to generalise and think that full colour is always the right approach with kids. I think even monochrome can have a major impact of them, influencing their mood. To conclude, I believe the combination of colours is far more important than the variety.


Exercise: Packaging

Exercise: Packaging

It was quite fun to work on packaging illustrations, maybe even more because it involved extinct animals, which lead me to a very interesting research.
The brief asked illustrations for three different flavoured biscuits, raisin, choc chip and ginger.
It had to include extinct animals interacting with the biscuits and to be in full colour.

The first step was researching about the existing products: I noticed packaging targeted for kids are often featuring animals and are really playful, which I think demonstrates how pester power is the key in the success of those products. The only thing that is probably really attracting parents to buy them is when nutritional information are displayed, and particularly the ones relative to the supplements for healthy growth of their kids.

After observing different packagings, even through internet, I started researching on the animals.
Obviously I was dragged straight away to the thought of dinosaurs, but I decided to focus my research on other extinct animals, the ones few people know about, the ones who where relatively recently lost for ever.
The research started to make sense when I found out about a book, Cari estinti by the Italian author Arianna Papini.
I managed to see some of the illustrations of this beautiful children book and thought it was amazingly inspiring and at the same time extremely useful to my research.
I managed to list all the animals featured in the book and went on trying to find images.

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In the end I chose three animals, from three different habitats ( there is a marsupial, a bird and a cetacean). The Tasmanian tiger, also known as thylacine, was a carnivorous marsupial extinct in the 1936.
I managed to watch a video taken of this beautiful animal and I was really impressed by its elongated enormous jaw, that looks like changing shape from when its closed, similar to a dog one, to when it is wide open.
The Baiji dolphin was a freshwater cetacean, only peculiar of the Chinese river Yangtze. It features a really long and narrow mouth and its fins look shorter than a regular dolphin.
Even thought not declared extinct, the last exemplar of this specie was seen in 2002.
The Great Auk was a flightless bird and was the first one defined as a penguin. It was found in Canada, Greenland, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Norway, Ireland, Great Britain and even northern Spain. It went extinct in 1852.
Before sketching I thought to match each animal to the colour palette of the flavours. Particularly I chose the yellow/ochra Tasmanian tiger to go with the purple raisins; the grey/blue Baiji dolphin with the light yellow and ochre ginger; finally the black/white Great Auk with the reddish brown chocolate.

I started to sketch after recording few ideas in thumbnails and I created line visuals.

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I then decided to colour my line drawing with gouache and picked the Tasmanian tiger and the Great auk. I tried a quick mock up with both a hand drawn font and a digital one.

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I loved the outcomes, even though I think the Tasmanian tiger purple background looks a bit uneven, due to the fact that I just recently started off with gouaches after long time not using them.
I think in this case the digital fonts is more successful, looking sharper than the hand drawn one, even though this is also due to the tone chosen for each one.


Exercise: Text and image

Exercise: Text and image

This exercise got me working on the relation between the text and the shape of the letters communicating it. A first step was writing some given words in my own handwriting and a second one was to try to convey their meaning through the shape of the letters.

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I then used digital fonts in the same way, trying different solutions.

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For the following step, I chose an option per word and then traced those fonts trying to match them with an appropriate colour.

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Then came the mood board stage. I found this step a little confusing, having to create a moodpboard for so many different words, but in the end I managed to find few pictures and mostly textures which I thought where conveying the sense of those words. The result is more like a ‘narrative mood board’, which moves with no interruption from the word big to the word mad.

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In the end I experimented various materials for each word, which I believe could match with the concepts.

I used a large black marker for the word big; a simple biro for small; Acrylic paint and dark pencil for fat; fine liner for thin; indian ink and brush for fast; pastel for slow; Acrylic, biro, marker and poster paint (and fingers!) for fun; pencil for boring; watercolour pencil for calm; acrylic and marker for mad.

I have to admit the last step was quite funny and particularly I think the word mad is the one that best conveys the message and the passion behind the letters.

Exercise: Travel guides

Exercise: Travel guides

I found this exercise particularly difficult. It asked to produce travel guide covers for Milan, Istanbul and Helsinki.

The first step was to understand as clearly as possible what to do, so I put my ideas in order with this brief:

Produce three cover illustrations for travel guides, for the locations Milan, Istanbul, and Helsinki. Every illustration has got to have more elements brought together in a diagrammatic way. The type has to be hand drawn in an appropriate way.

  • Size: 10 cm x 19 cm.
  • Text: Istanbul, Milan and Helsinki type will be occupying maximum one third of the page and will be hand drawn, being part of the illustration. Additional text will include the sentences : ‘A complete, compact travel guide’; ‘Map included’; ‘City’s best restaurants, shops and hotels ‘; ‘day-trips and weekends itineraries’. There is no need for empty spaces, as this text will be added over the illustration.
  • Colour: The colour palette has got no restrictions.

At my starting point I was already familiar with the first two cities, being Italian and having studied archaeology in the past, but I had absolutely no idea about Helsinki, apart from knowing its location, therefore how cold it could be over there.

I started researching about the cities at first very generally on the internet, then I got some travel guides from my local library which I found immensely useful. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a travel guide of Helsinki, so my gap stayed there until I kept searching the net for more information and curiosities (which where very useful to let me create an identity for this city).
I started working on the cover for Milan. I wrote down the key information to help the brainstorming process and then I used thumbnails for my ideas.

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I thought the second one was working best. The images are drawn in a layered effect, there are models walking on the foreground, the Duomo on a second plane, and an opera singer on the stage, holding the type Milan. I chose what I thought to be the most popular symbols of this city, fashion, the Duomo and the theatre Scala, famous for opera and ballet performances. I sketched very quickly at first and then more in detail.
I traced the sketch and created a visual, which is only slightly different from the original idea, where I thought to collage some models walking before the Duomo and in the end I chose a slanted perspective, which gave a sharper effect.

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The same process has been followed for the Istanbul cover.

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Between the ideas that came to my mind, I chose the one which sees a roman statue and the Blue Mosque to represent the characteristic double side of this city, even geographically split in two parts, being dominated in the first place from the Western Greek and Roman populations and slowly sliding in the Oriental hands of the Turks Ottomans.
The symbols for the two side of this city are lying on a kilim rug background, typical from the area.
The font once again tells about the two-faced city: arabesque shapes, western alphabet letters.

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Finally I got to the Helsinki cover. After collecting informations I came up with few ideas and chose one.

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The background sees the space divided into three sections: the middle one is decorated with a pattern from the Helsinki design museum (the city has been 2012 design capital). The sides are coloured in black and white to represent the peculiar dramatic daylight length, which switches from 18 hours in summer and only 5 in winter. On the black side I placed the type in white, just as if it was made of snow. The font is in Art Nouveau style (apart from the K being reindeer’s antlers) because Helsinki is rich in buildings featuring that style.
The foreground sees a squirrel, symbol of the city, on a can of reindeer meat, a typical product which feels quite ‘exotic’ to me.

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I was really satisfied with the outcome, even though I struggled a bit in the first place.
I chose to take the Istanbul cover to the next step. I painted it with watercolour and gouache and painted the font with black indian ink.

For the final step I used Photoshop for a quick mock up:

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Exercise: Editorial illustration

Exercise: Editorial illustration

To get started with this exercise I was looking at some examples of editorial illustration (Time Out, New statesman, The Spectator), trying to make up my mind about it.
I thought that editorial illustration is often subject to very short production times and it has to have the ability to catch the readers eyes quickly. Newspapers and magazines are in fact handled by a huge number of casual readers, sometimes just absently going through the pages.
The audience can be very varied in interests and age.
Consequently, the illustrations appear very bold, fresh, eye catching and easy understandable.
After going through this stage I chose one of the sentences given by the brief, How green is your food?, and looked up the internet to find an article which could match it.
I found one on http://sustainablefoodtrust.org by Alicia Miller, entitled What should we eat now?.
I started by reading it several times and brainstorming some ideas in thumbnails. The article was pretty long so I went through it one more time underlining the key passages.

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Among the ideas I got from this first process, I felt that more than one was a valid alternative, but then I realised that most of them where too specifically related to some of the topics covered by the article.

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I selected the two options I felt were more generically speaking for the whole article and after quickly sketching them, I chose the one with the Earth-burger.

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I think the composition is simple, direct and easy to understand. A guy is about to bite an Earth filled bun: his big mouth stands for the greediness which is sadly typical of the human being and his eyes are closed, for the way humanity is capable to be indifferent.
The action summarise the problem that the article explains in details: our way of eating is destroying the world.
I created an outline and copied it few time to try some colours.

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In the beginning I wanted to have a green background, to be connected with “How green is your food?”. But then I realised that green was too ‘positive’ for this purpose, and gave to the scene a relaxed feeling. I also tried to fully colour only the burger and leave the rest monochrome, to symbolise how our actions are making ourselves disappear.

In a last try I used full colours, but a red background instead of the green and thought this was the best solution, because is giving to the scene a sense of danger and uncomfortable.

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The final artwork as been made in watercolour and fine liner, in the size of one of the images I researched earlier for this exercise (14.5×11 cm).

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I am pretty satisfied with the result, I think the colours are really bold and fresh as I expected them to be, and the message is quite immediate.


Exercise: Your own work

Exercise: Your own work

This exercise asked to revise my own work and select the images containing elements I like, watching them from a pure aesthetic point of view.

I went through the images created responding to the various briefs and selected some of them:

Then, I went on trying to create a brochure using InDesign for the first time. I thought it is an awesome software and it is really fun to explore the infinite possibilities it offers.

I shaped the brochure basing it on the card I prepared for the first assignment and I inserted the images and a brief text just to experiment how ideally a brochure of my works could look like. I thought it probably lacks in showing a certain style, due to both personal experience in developing one and also to the nature of the briefs the images have been created for. Being so different, they produced very different outcomes and I still cannot identify myself like having a consistent style.

However I did identify my style in one of the images in particular, the crab, that is why I placed it in the front page of the brochure.


I printed out the little brochure (7×10 cm when folded) to realise how it worked and I have to say that I was surprised as I really like the outcome!