Formats and Contexts (and a cheeky bit of type)

Some recent developments on the Bestiary!

I’ve been playing around with the possible formats and layouts of the cover, hopefully this will give me a bit more direction as I can feel myself starting to slip again… The on-going stress of this being the final project, the final good impression I can make on my tutors and the public during the end of year show before I graduate is pretty significant. But, as I discussed with my tutor and peers during my last critique, my method of tricking my brain into thinking that this is a personal and/or client based project seems to work when I can get it going.

By thinking about and drawing up some possible cover and interior layout ideas, I can actually see the project progressing so there’s a little bit less of a chance of having the, oh too familiar, sense of hopelessness and worry descend on me.

The layout I’ve been looking at involves a frog skeletal study I developed recently. It’s probably my favourite study so far and seems to work well on while a minimal cover design.

Frog Skeleton 1

froggy_1  mockup_2MOCKUO_1cover_2

I’ve been looking into both a portrait and a landscape format, but so far the landscape is winning the battle for while orientation to focus on. It leaves me with much more working space and potential inside the book and seems to blend in better with the studies I’ve produced so far.

I’m also pretty happy with the type, surprisingly. Considering it was my first choice and I, in all honesty, didn’t put much thought into the decision, I think it works really well. It may well change as the project progresses, but my main criteria for the type is that it should have a similar, light line-weight in comparison to that of the illustration its next to and it should be sans serif. Serifed type seems to add the wrong sort of atmosphere to the overall composition, adding unnecessary formality and a grid-like structure to the appearance of the page. Sans serifed type faces have avoided this so far, so long as it’s nothing too grid set or squared off.

I’m going to play around with hand drawn type as well. The hand drawn type I developed for the Ugly Bestiary Promo Material project for BA7 worked really well I feel.

condor 1

Moving away from the book cover, I’ve begun to narrow down my plans for the final format of the interior of the book.

I really needed to communicate a very strict number of things with what’s inside the book, missing out one or more of these could throw off the whole point of my chosen focus so it was vital that I kept these elements in mind. These points were, but not limited to:

  • It had to communicate the main purpose… showing the appearance based bias towards animal species funding, conservation and general public perception for what it is; entirely irrelevant to the species in question and damaging to the balance of the species diversity in the world.
  • Strip away popular opinion about certain animals by showing in a clear and visually pleasing way that they are just the same as any other pretty or cute animal, just with a different outer ‘packaging’.
  • Contain elements of scientific illustration, not only to perfectly compliment my dissertation and fulfill a personal desire to draw scientifically, but to focus on the animals in a more calculated and mathematical way rather than on an emotional or opinion based focus.
  • Somehow communicate facts and information about the species in question to not only potentially reform the opinions of the reader but to also provide them with potentially new information about the species, creating more of an opportunity for the species to stick in their mind as something of interest and strange beauty rather than something to be repulsed by, scared of or generally uninterested by.
  • And do all of this in a unique and visually pleasing way!

It’s been really.. very.. hard to try to generate ideas which fit within this format while maintaining the traditional drawing feel I wanted to reflect in the images. But I think I might be starting to get there.

Every time I think of a new idea for the format of the interior illustrations and general structure, I always end up coming back to the idea of transparent or semi-transparent layering of pages. I’ve been thumbnailing some ideas based around this layering plan, the main one of which seems to work quite well with the necessary criteria.

frog_2_idea This very rough and quick illustration shows my initial idea.

The skeletal element of the frog would be printed onto either acetate or tracing paper. I would love to be able to maintain the white elements of the skeletal drawings, but as is immediately obvious, regular printers cannot provide such a service. I have however had some second hand experience of a local printers who can provide the printing of white ink, so I may well look into what they can print onto. They also print amazingly onto plastic like surfaces which would be ideal for the end of year show, but that’s another blog post entirely.

The brown, round element of the illustration about shows the form of the Balloon Frog that the skeleton is based on. This would be on opaque stock, with the skeleton layered over the top on a separate page. The skeleton transparent page could also contain some written information along with the name of the species it illustrates, allowing me a creative platform for information communication rather than simply dumping text onto a page.

This would mean that the main focus for the view of the audience would be on the right hand page as the left hand side would be both the wrong way around when the page is turned (acetate page) and have little on the other side of the opaque page. To avoid this book becoming more of a bound bunch of paper and less of an actual Bestiary, I’m going to look into how I could utilise this unused page side.

The blank page could contain type, perhaps the name of the species. I’m going to experiment with having this type set in a Dictionary style, with the commonly used name (e.g. Indian Balloon Frog) in large, serifed type, then the Latin (e.g. Uperodon Globulosus) in smaller, italic, serifed type underneath. This could add an encyclopedia feel to the bestiary, putting a bit more focus on the informative nature of it as well as its aesthetics. See below:

serif type example 1Adobe Caslon Pro was used for this example, and it works perfectly for the intended purpose. The line weight is varied enough to look interesting and not ‘Times New Roman-ish’ but it still maintains a formal sensibility, avoiding slipping into looking like a quirky children’s book.

If the book were to utilise this serifed typeface within the interior pages, I worry that the lighter more hand drawn type for the cover and potential other elements would clash rather than compliment. I think perhaps a more exaggerated and obviously hand drawn option for the cover would work better than a skillfully put together digital typeface intended to look hand drawn. It could be too subtle and would look odd and confusing amongst this serifed type.

So there’s definitely no shortage of things to do! I’ll get cracking…


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