Thursday, January 22, 2015


Some jobs go like this.

This is the result:
Actual size
And this is how it began:

The starting point …
No, the final art did not read "Slogan Goes Here." I substituted that for the real thing because this is not about the client, and I mean the client no disrespect.

This is instead a postmortem on how a project can go classically cattywampus. It doesn't happen often but each has similar symptoms, beginning with high potential for some creative heavy lifting and even fun, but ending with the objective of simply getting it done and moving on.

Factors may include, but are not limited to, multiple decision makers with competing visions, and the last-second verdict of an unseen and unexpected decision maker who trumps all previous decisions.

An odd request, is how this assignment was proposed to me: Turn this four-color illustration (above) into one- or two-color art for screenprinting onto a T-shirt.

Remove the labels, the people and the open-air cockpit, went the rest of the proposal.


As is, the artwork I was given is complicated, and re-creating it as full-art would have been a feat. I wonder if I could have mimicked it, all the metallic planes and organic shapes.

You can see where I quickly (and sloppily) obliterated the labels. Almost everyone and everything in this art had been labeled, like an old editorial cartoon.

The jet nozzles each had labels representing some favorable quality, the metaphor being that all the qualities have to work in concert for the vehicle — and the mission — to operate smoothly. The people around the lighted table represented the shareholders in this mission. The unlabeled flight crew looked at labeled screens representing the mission's optimal operation.

The front plane and the two planes on either side of the cockpit were also labeled. More desirable qualities, representing more team effort.

I'm guessing this began as clip art that someone modified for use in a campaign for this particular client.

Reducing the color illustration to line art took a bit of reverse engineering in order to keep it interesting to look at. The engine nozzles looked a bit odd in the clip art; I think the one on the left was supposed to go behind the left wing, just as the one in the foreground is, so I enlarged it, moved it over, and spaced out the other three nozzles. I told the client, who didn't respond, so I took that as affirmation.
A campaign slogan went over the top plane of the flying vehicle, which I substituted here for the generic.

I was only too happy to lose the cockpit and people, not because of the work but because the spaceship was making me a bit crazy.

I'm as much for flights of fancy (so to speak) as the next person, but this ship made no sense.

Unless the nozzles are just for show and this ship was as gentle as the old Disneyland™® Peoplemover©®, it wouldn't fly. Unprotected, untethered people, in an open-air cockpit, blithely going about their work like they're playing ping-pong in the neighbor's backyard? I don't think so.

So I closed the top, added some ribs to enhance the sense of motion and perspective, and used a new trick I learned to manipulate type. I like screenprinting, especially the challenge of depicting something in limited color, and harnessing the shirt color into the design.

I wish I could screenprint for a living or avocation; it would be hard to pry me away from the machine. Besides, the art would play big on the back of a shirt: Nice!

The client wanted black lines and something for color. I made four color options (the client has a strict color palette, so before I got specific instructions otherwise,  I played wildly with color choices).

Plus, I got a chance to add smoky flames and motion lines!

Lose the smoky flames and motion lines, the client said. Change the order of the text.

Done, and done.

Wait two weeks.

Lose the color behind the text, the client said. It's gonna run on a dark shirt. Make the lines light enough to show. Change the text.

Done. And … wait.

It's gonna run smaller now, on the shirt pocket, the client said.

Drop out some of the details, change the text. One color.


And wait.

A week later: We're going with embroidery on the pocket of polo shirts now, the client said. Someone else representing the client asked, Can you add the client logo?

The logo is an image with a bunch of words that must always be together — too complicated to run small, certainly too small for embroidery on a shirt pocket. Outlaw attempts with parts of the logo are rejected.

Are you sure? asks someone else. We're sure, answers the client.

So this:

Can't you put in the swooshy lines? someone asks.



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