For one of my final classes toward Web design/development certification, I needed to take a basic art/design class. I signed up for the class a couple of times in previous semesters before thinking better of sitting in a classroom for three-hour increments and trying to find my muse next to a motley assortment of fellow students. Solution? Online class!
The course served as a practical instruction to Adobe Illustrator, using projects to highlight different aspects of graphic design. My functional mind (with just a hint of flair or attempted artistry) feared assignments based on abstract concepts. But other than coming up with little graphics that represented concepts like “balance,” the class steered toward real-world applications.
For our final project, we were tasked with coming up with an 8-by-10-inch poster of our choosing. I considered multiple musical interests. (My homage to the “Judy in Disguise” album cover must wait for another day.) But then I considered what could generally be described as podcast album artwork. The real estate on an iPod touch screen begs for a visual accompaniment to all that audio, and I shudder to think how long I spent making sure my thousands of songs in iTunes carried the proper album artwork. The podcast can be considered in much the same way, and even the most basic of designs is preferrable to the emptiness of a screen adorned only by the generic, circular podcast symbol.
Podcasts provide plenty of fodder for potential designs, especially “kitchen sink” designs that incorporate a bunch of different ideas within a general framework. I searched through my podcast subscriptions and settled on the Up and In podcast, a Baseball Prospectus enterprise that recently celebrated its first anniversary. The show revels in the types of tangents and callback references that make the show so easy to anticipate, even with its Cleopatra-esque lengths.
I tried to create a design that worked as a simple baseball reference, while gearing it specifically toward the knowledge gained by listening to the podcast on a regular basis. That meant a slight punk aesthetic, given the musical “guests” featured during breaks in the content. I used a Blondie poster as inspiration for the paper-tear title, and the bold color manifested itself into general shapes that helped make up the appearance of a baseball. This meant finding a bunch of images (specific beer bottles, a stopwatch, a hawk trap – don’t ask), as well as dealing with a familiar foe: the stitches on a baseball. They are quite difficult to deal with at my current Photoshop skill level, and always look goofy outside the confines of a baseball’s familiar white leather.
I softened the edges of each of these images to give them a softer look, then used a white color overlay with black shapes to add bold details. I started with black for the lettering on the title, but then switched to the red of the stitching to make it stand out even more. The paper tear was homemade (i.e. torn by hand and scanned), as nothing I found online looked quite right.
When I was done, I decided to send in the image as a show of appreciation to the show’s hosts, Kevin Goldstein and Jason Parks. Kevin asked if he could get the image as a square eps file, and before I knew it he had used the image to identify the podcast on things like iTunes and the Facebook fan page.
As for my grade, the instructor took just enough points off to make me strive to do better. He thought that the image needed a few more rough edges to truly tap into the punk-by-way-of-Blondie style. So I blended the pure black background with a crumbled-up piece of paper. This necessitated a slight lightening of the background to show the detail, and cascaded into adjusting each of the images to represent this new baseline black. That left me with this:
The whole experience gave me a new appreciation for graphic design, and those creative souls who manage to take the canvass of an electronic screen and make it their own.