Thursday, March 17, 2011

Graduate Student Appreciation Week 2011

The National Association of Graduate-Professional Students sponsors an annual Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation week to acknowledge the positive impact and accomplishments of advanced degree students. The University of Oklahoma is proud to support this aim with a graduate student celebration of our own.

To visually promote the week-long series of events, I started by designing several icons representative of each event throughout the week (microcosm). Then, I arranged each individual symbol so that they functioned together as a whole to create the bigger picture (macrocosm), the oh-so iconic smiley face, which is representative of the overall happiness of the graduate student population. The main concept behind the design is that these smaller events and initiatives combined aid in the overall happiness of the graduate students. So when the poster of the smiley face is viewed from a distance, one sees the big picture, the iconic smiley face, but when viewed closer, one begins to notice the details that make up the big picture.

Here are the stand-alone icons:

FAMILY DAY PICNIC: Pie and Watermelon.  
This is a bring your own lunch event but we provide watermelon, pie, drinks and games so I created pie and watermelon icons to represent this event. 

BOWLING NIGHT: Bowling Ball & Pin

MASSAGES: The Healing Hand
I had the hardest time coming up with an icon for this one and then the Healing Hand symbol popped in my head, so I created my own version based on the outline of my very own hand.

The folks from Buchanan Bicycles will be on hand to help students get their bikes in shape for the warm weather by fixing minor repairs and teaching students the basics of maintaining their bikes.
 OUPD will also be at the tent to register bikes on campus, a program that helps recover stolen bikes.

THE BGSA (Black Graduate Student Association) RESEARCH SYMPOSIUM: Atomic Structure
At first, I was getting images of beakers and test tubes when trying to think of an icon for 'research' but that was too specialized and seemed more limited to the sciences, leaving out other academic areas. Since the poster session is open to all graduate and undergraduate students of any discipline, I finally settled on an icon of a simplified atomic structure because it was the only icon that I could think of that seemed to best represent the idea of interdisciplinary research. The structural rings have a sort of an intertwining movement to them that, in my mind, communicates "all encompassing". 

WINE TASTING: Wine Bottle & Glass
This event provides students with an opportunity to sample various wines, all from local wineries.

We grill hamburgers and hot dogs for students and I couldn't choose just one to use as the icon for this event, so I went with both...and it was fun.


Since we invite parents to drop their kids off at a local church where we hire baby sitters for the night, we assume the parents will probably use this time to go out on a date. So, naturally, a heart came to mind. I stuck with the heart because it was simple and I think it works well not only to symbolize a date night for graduate students with children, but even if students do not go out on a date, it symbolizes the love and care we will provide the children so parents will have a worry free evening to do as they please. Spreading the love!

 Click images to view larger

Friday, March 4, 2011

Poster Design Process: Student Research & Performance Day 2011

There's really nothing too exciting about this particular process, but I felt like posting it anyway. I say "nothing too exciting" because, personally, I find the most interesting design processes to follow to be the ones of something done by hand, and this was done via Adobe Illustrator. Nonetheless, I still find all design processes to be interesting because the journey to the end result is, in fact, probably why most designers love what they do.

In a nutshell, this event poster design is one I do every year as it promotes the annual Student Research and Performance Day event, a day where graduate students have the opportunity to present their current research, paintings, photography, sculpture, video etc. through the use of portfolios, posters, slide and video shows.

This year, I was inspired by art deco performance/show posters of the 1920's and 30's, so I combined the the bold and linear art deco style with a touch of modernity.

1A) I began with the pale green background, mainly because I love the color and it is soothing to me, but also because it is often seen in art deco color palettes.
1B) I also wanted to create a simple background that slightly resembled a stage curtain, so I decided to create a circular pattern near the bottom so that it looked as if the simplified curtain were being drawn upward.
1C) After I established the curtain background shape, I decided to add a radial gradient in order to give the piece a bit of dimension, while also providing a stage spotlighting effect.

2A) In order to keep with the simple yet effective concept I had in mind, I decided to work with nothing but the title of the event. I needed a way to make the title stand out in a more interesting way than I have with past posters for this particular event. So I decided to create the ribbon pattern you see in the example below. Once I created the ribbon, I knew I was going with none other than the ribbon for the title banner. Not only did it just look so cool to me, but it seemed to work really well over the radial gradient spotlighting effect because it gave the ribbon more dimension, which made it pop and stand out further.
2B) However, I needed to do something to make it pop even further and I still needed to give the piece a more art deco feel. So I googled art deco tutorials and found one that suggested using Illustrator's grain effect. So I fiddled with that until I came up with a grainy gradient shadow effect on the ribbon. I was super pleased with this effect so decided that I would keep it. I still had no idea what font I would use for the title, so I played with that a while, which you'll see in examples below.

3) I was digging everything about the design so far, but it still just wasn't there. It needed more pizazz but I still needed to keep it simple. So I decided to try adding a radial burst from the center of the spotlight. As cliche as these radial bursts have become and as often as I've used them, I couldn't help but keep it in this design because it just worked so well. It gave the piece more of a "look at me, I am shiny and great!" feel while maintaining a simple, symmetrical, linear art deco quality.
As you'll see, I was still experimenting with various art deco-ish font styles.

4) Here, I decided to overlay the grain effect over the background to give it more of an art deco feel but with more transparency than the ribbon so that it wouldn't compete with the darker grainy shadows of the ribbon. I think it worked.
Still experimenting with typography...

5A) I finally found an art deco font that I could work with! So I added some drop shadows for dimension and presto! 5B) This is also where I established the event location, date, and hosted by information in the cream space below the curtain. I was feeling quite happy with the design so I decided it was time to see what other people thought. I had been looking at it way too long so I needed fresh eyes... 

6) I showed it to a couple of people and although they loved the design, they didn't feel like the color was quite there in that it was not eye catching enough for a promotional poster. At first, I have to admit, I didn't want to agree with them. I was really digging the color! But after I gave it some thought, I decided they were right so I went back to the drawing board and started playing with other art deco color palettes. Nothing felt right for quite a while, until I found this blue that I felt harmonized well with the overall design. But as I looked at it further, I felt that, even though it was a bit more eye-catching, it was still a bit subdued, so I played with colors a bit more...
7) I finally found a blue that was vibrant but not too overpowering so I went with it. Then I decided to   break away from my original plan of sticking with a two color palette and added the purple color as an accent color. Once I was happy with the color and the vibrancy of the design, I took the examples around the office to gain perspectives from even more people than before. Almost completely unanimously (with the exception of one person...who actually liked the original green one best. ha.) and without hesitation, people favored the vibrant blue with purple accents. So here you have it, the final result:

And here is the invitation design: