Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Sight unseen: New work

You wouldn't see much of this work outside of this blog.

These pieces became the fallout of one of those pesky paradigm shifts.

Icons, Round 1, testing the waters …
Still, I had fun with a long laundry list of illustration projects for California ISO, which was publishing a document designed to explain to the uninitiated public and industry experts alike what Cal ISO does (which is to work ceaselessly to make sure California always gets the electricity it needs, in a sustainable way, at a fair price; you've just endured a grossly simplified explanation).

Driven by a consultant, the project was designed to arrive fully formed on the desks of decision makers, so few elements were sketched first. Most went directly to digital rendering.

The job, should I have chosen to accept (and I did!) asked:

Icons, Round 2: Decision makers needed
to see work in close-to-finished form, so
few sketches underpinned this series of work.
• Can I draw one of those twisty compact fluorescent bulbs, but twisted in the shape of the state of California, and make it glow?

• Can I make a bunch of icons representing the many electrical power sources and conveyances, such as dams for hydroelectric power, pipes for geothermal power, windmills, transmission towers?

• Can I make a bunch more icons showing power users, such as homes and buildings?

• Can I make icons showing consumer/producer, such as electric vehicles — lots and lots of vehicles?

• Can I fit all these icons into diagrams showing how power flows between consumers and producers?

• Can I make more of the same icons, but in a different way, when a tiny paradigm shift (a foreshock?) requires a change?

• Can I come up with a whole new concept for the fluorescent bulb, when that concept crumbles in the paradigm shift?

• Can I turn the western states into giant puzzle pieces suggesting their dependence on one another for power creation and distribution?

• Can I turn California into a giant conference table, around which stakeholders decide power policy together?

• Can I render a giant map of California, dotting the landscape with all the kinds and sources of electrical power?

• Can I create a single panoramic landscape, showing the spectrum and variety of electrical production and consumption?

Thoreau as art director: Simplify, simplify, simplify.
Sure! I said.

Still more and different icons …
In the end, only the last two on the list survived the paradigm shift.

The initial project itself was a shift from previous projects I have been able to do for Cal ISO. The biggest difference from the start was that it didn't require keeping to a limited official Cal ISO color palette — a dark blue, a dark green, a yellow green, an aquamarine, an ochre and a brown.

Since it's a tough — though welcome — challenge to keep illustrations lively within the palette, being able to roam around the visible light spectrum felt freeing.

Off I went:
One iteration of the state-shaped table …
… after another …
… after another …
The West became a colorful puzzle …
The design staff folded all the illustrations into the publication. The consultant presented it.

The decision makers decided: Uh, no.

That sound you heard was the paradigm shifting.

Out went all the icons and with them, the color. Another illustrator was called in to create different icons. I was asked to create a couple of new cover concepts, just in case: 

Shout out to San Diego, Los Angeles(ish), Fresno and San Francisco …
I was still filling the night sky with all those huddled masses of light when this idea got nixed.
But these didn't make the final product. Instead, the publication sampled for the cover the one illustration that remained, of the landscape of power users and consumers. You can see how that illustration gradually filled with details as its color drained away:

I measure satisfaction in my jobs by what I learn and the fun I had, and Cal ISO was gracious and patient throughout, even as the ground shifted.

This, from the first round of ideas, is still my favorite:

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