q&a with Arizona State

A few weeks ago I Skyped into an Arizona State classroom to talk about editorial illustration. So often it's just go go go, I don't really stop to think about what all goes into a page. It's really nice to be reminded of it all. I have tailored the answers around the citizenship page below. Here are a few of the questions and answers:

What is your process for coming up with a concept? I read the story FIRST. Sometimes I read it more than once. Then I start thinking of a headline. I jot down ket words like "citizenship, easier, clear path, open road (Thesaurus.com helps expand these words, too)." Sometimes I google the words and look at the images to spark an idea on how to make the topic visual. Once I have the words I start with the illustration. Many times these are created together. I knew I could make "Doors could open on path to citizenship" visual. You've got doors, paths, flags. I start sketching the whole page. A visual without a good headline won't work. It won't make sense. The ultimate goal is to make the topic quick and easy to understand to the reader. 

Who do you work with throughout the creative process? My design director is there from the start to bounce ideas off of. Usually we both read the story then toss out headline ideas. Then come the visual ideas. About an hour and fifteen minutes into my shift we have a group meeting behind my chair that everyone is invited to. I talk about the stories on the page and we discuss if it works or not and give suggestions on the page.  This terrified me when I began here. Everyone is standing behind you and you are trying to remember the stories and if it doesn't work everyone knows. It's something you created. It's hard to let it go sometimes. The thing about it is these people become a second family. I wouldn't call these meetings fun, but they are laid back and can be. And it's super cool to think that everyone is working together to make the best possible page. Everyone cares that much about what they do. Nothing is personal. We are a team. It's a really great thing to be a part of.

How do you choose what method of execution is right for your concept? It depends on time. How much time do you have and what style can I use in that amount of time to give me the best execution? You can have an amazing illustration idea but if you can't get it done by deadline it turns into a horribly stressful idea. I went down to the wire with the page above. And it was one of my first concepts. I used textures to fill each shape. I was really happy with the way it turned out and the fact that everything from illustration idea to layout to headline was mine. I thought it was a really important story as well and I think I did it justice.

How do you define the success of the page? Does it tell the reader what they need to know? It is clear? Does everything on the page have a reason to be there? Does it have impact and is it visual? If the answers are all "yes," then it's a success. A personal success is when I try a style out of my comfort zone and nail it on deadline. The page above didn't have a new style but it felt like a personal accomplishment to mesh the headline and illustration together and for it to hold the entire top of the page.

Some advice on getting out into the workforce? I have always been job oriented over place oriented. My first job was in Alabama. I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I would be working with one of the design greats. I made friends there that I will have for a lifetime. I found things like caving that were unique to the region. I found a love for microbrews. I could go on... but I'll spare you. The people and your openness to embrace the place make it. I miss Huntsville, Alabama a lot and wouldn't take back those experiences to live in any other place. So go explore!

I had a great time talking to the students. They asked some really great questions, too... but I can't remember them. I should have written this post right after. They did ask me to share some pages that didn't work. I have plenty. I sent them a few, but those will not be posted here. Sorry. I just can't. If you have any questions feel free to leave them below.

Thanks, Adrienne Hapanowicz for asking me to speak with the class! 

 - brb

Declaimer: The answers here are not verbatim of what I said to the class but the basic gist is the same.