Thursday, July 29, 2010

My phone

I've had this on the back of my phone for over a year now, but for whatever reason everyone's just noticing it now. Apparently I've been more discreet about checking email during meetings that I would've thought...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Playwright

UPDATED: Now with actual content!

As I mentioned before, I wanted to be sure to remind those who might be interested that Eddie Campbell & Daren White's new book, The Playwright is hitting U.S. stores today. (I think it may already be out in the U.K.? Maybe?) If the snazzy cover I designed isn't enough to sell you on this thing (which is the idea, after all), then take a peak inside and see for yourself that this is the most visually stunning book Eddie has yet made... (UPDATE: I discovered today that it's being sold shrink-wrapped, so you CAN'T actually take a look inside... so I guess you have to buy it to see how gorgeous it is.) Something as simple as switching from a 9-panel grid to oblong 3-panel pages really lets you focus in on each panel as an individual composition, and each page as a composite whole. And the color palate is vibrant and gorgeous throughout: as Eddie himself put it: "I have had enough of the purply brown. For me the rainbow!" And I don't mean to give short shrift to Daren's story, either, which is funny and a little sad and mildly terrifying to those inclined to the artistic life but ultimately kind of sweet. Anyway, if you're anywhere near a comic shop today, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of this sexy little hardcover. (Proper bookstores are a little less fetishistic about "release dates" than comic shops (Harry Potter notwithstanding), but certainly they ought to have them out soon enough as well. Or there's always Amazon.)

Enough of that: here's the design process stuff, as promised:

My first idea for this would have involved some new art from Eddie, so you'll have to kind of imagine it, as it never really came to be. There's a repeated scene of the book's protagonist sitting on a bus, fantasizing about the women around him. Here's that scene in the book:

I liked the idea of expanding that into a full bleed cover, replacing all the other characters with attractive women to fantasize about. Here's my 30-second sketch of the concept:

That would have been the dust jacket, and underneath that on the cover itself would be the same image, except in the second version, we get a glimpse inside the playwright's head and show all of the women nude, and he himself red-faced with shame. A little silly, admittedly, but I thought it was funny, and kind of fit the cheeky story.

The second idea was less high-concept, I just liked this particular drawing of the playwright, so I took some type from some old playbills. Not unattractive, but a bit too close to what had just been done on Eddie's previous book, The Black Diamond Detective Agency.

Then the final option in the first round of comps was based on that idea, but with some pretty girls added in to give a hint of the root of our protagonist's frustrations. I also liked the way the ball dots the "i" in "playwright."

The later ideas got the most traction, so Eddie drew some new girls (in bikinis this time so as not to offend the delicate sensibilities of the book-buying public), and I tried a few new variations.

The conversation the shifted back to an earlier idea Eddie & Daren had (before I got involved), about a close-up of the playwright's typewriter with little fantasy nudes crawling all over it--an idea that had been rejected for potentially looking too much like a '60s-era Batman splash page. But there was something to the idea of incorporating the typewriter, so I tried a couple versions along those lines, with a bunch of different typewriters, ranging from a more iconic typewriter to something a little closer to the typewriter that's actually in the book...

We got really down into the nitty gritty of tweaking that concept, and it was just about approved, Except... Eddie and I both had some last minute qualms, primarily that the design ultimately wound up a little too quiet and might get lost in the shuffle at the retail level. We felt that a book so colorful and bright deserved a more colorful cover, and I decided it was time to go back to the well... there's only so far you can tweak a concept before it crumbles under the weight of the design committee, and I think this concept had just about reached that point.

So, stepping back from it, I realized that we had actually lost quite a bit by adding the bikinis to the girls... girls in bikinis playing with beach balls is just a beach scene; NAKED girls playing with balls is illicit and slightly surreal, obviously a fantasy. And a curiously innocent fantasy at that (at least until you process the visual pun there), which I think says something significant about our somewhat naive protagonist.

Also, the typewriter was a bit on-the-nose... the title of the book already does the work that the typewriter did, conceptually: it's the concept between the high-minded/creative/artistic ideal ("the playwright") and the purient/sexual/human (the naked girls) that gives the idea its power. The typewriter was only confusing the issue.

So I lost the typewriter and replaced the bikinis with a "censorship" bar to emphasize the illicit nature of the nudity, and that was the answer. I did a "safer" white version (closer to what we'd been looking at)...

...but the clear winner was the version in bright yellow and pink, (with a snazzy spot varnish on the non-yellow areas), which certainly solved the problem of it being too quiet! Everyone was happy here, and we were off to the races!

And, having seen the final printed book today, I have to say it came out really well! (I'm especially happy with the transition from the yellow/pink cover to the turquoise endpapers inside!) All in all, I'm very happy with how this came out, and thrilled to be involved with this fantastic book. Thanks again to Brett, Chris, Eddie, and Daren for letting me be a (small) part of it.