I recently had the pleasure of working on a logo for some great guys starting up a new cafe in the Melbourne CBD. (where do they fit them all!?) Anyway we were all very happy with the final result which is always ideally what you want. I’m going to share with you the process I went through to come up with the final design. It was a special project because it allowed me a lot of creative freedom and I could also do the style of illustrating I really enjoy. Naturally the first thing I had to think about was kind of branding they wanted and the general feeling they wanted to give viewers about the cafe. The only direction given was the idea of a seal holding a coffee cup on his nose. Obviously I love this idea because it is a pun and involves drawing animals.
These are the first sketches I did, getting a vibe for the movements of seals and what I could do with their bodies etc. A seal is not a rigid animal by any means so most of my sketches turned out rather smooth and organic. I tried to think of fun stylistic ways I could portray the ideals of Mermaid Dog. I imagined it to be a classy and professional place but also friendly and charming. So this called for some whimsy, something appealing to many people, tasteful and trendy but not too cutesy or cartoony (as I have a habit of making things.) These were in the shortlist.
I must confess that I got help from a friend about the stylistic direction I should take and they suggested some old school cross hatching illustration. (the one on the bottom right) Which turned out to be the design that was chosen! So i really owe him and it goes to show that you should never be afraid to ask for help especially if you are relatively new to something like I am to graphic design. In any case the coloured designs I came up with were perhaps too colourful or not quite hitting the mark in terms of believability as a place serious about their food and coffee. I tried to link them to coffee but turning them different shades of brown but that didn’t work out because of the unfortunate shape of a seal. So it turned out that the final design made more sense in terms of its style because it suggests something classy but also chill and quirky; something you can take seriously. The image is self-contained and has more structure and design elements that compliment it such as its circular shape. Sometimes it can be hard to whip things up out of seemingly thin air, with so many variations available to you. Especially if you are a person known for their indecisiveness such as myself. But I learnt that you have to just trust yourself in terms of what looks good and what feels right to the project, rather than sending 100’s of variations to your client. In the next post I will elaborate on refining that final design.
Thanks for reading, if this interested you here is part two.
PS: the cafe is up and running on 50 Market lane, Melbourne. Check it out 🙂
Often when I am writing Sheena I have a specific vibe and references in mind. If some people hadn’t figured it out already the name came from the Ramones song Sheena is a Punk Rocker. I figure that most people wouldn’t make the connection but thats ok really. Its just a guide for the attitude that she has; a grungy (not completely) nihilistic and somewhat shortsighted view of the world. I wanted a strong graphic/comic style to represent her beyond the design of her character which is often whimsical rather than aggressive or graphic. The general vibe of the zines is very important to me; to maintain values and ideals and let the design form itself through those. These images (not mine) might help materialise these feelings I have about Sheena’s character and her origins in terms of style and attitude. Influences such as the 80’s hardcore scene, bands from that era but also one of my all time favourite people Patti Smith. There is just the general vibe of bohemian lifestyle but also DIY aesthetic.
And who could forget the ever-bad-ass Tank Girl.
And the gorgeous Lorna comics by Benji Nate, whose character is bad-ass in her own way but also very naive, and unapologetic.
Subconsciously and sometimes not I subverted these values or lack or lack of values and styles into the Sheena zines. It’s not only about being broke and hating everyone, its more than that. There are themes of despondence and inner turmoil; seeming eternal restless and a rejection society’s expectations. For some reason there is satisfaction in the creation of your own world, even if it is a dingy, messy squalor with no respect for any standards or even self care.
Obviously (to those who know me) the character is based on myself and anecdotes/thoughts from my life. Which I’ll be honest is the only thing I really know how to do at this point. Therefore it is both easy and hard for me to describe her. I know there are a lot of semi-autobiographical comics and zines out there but I hope Sheena makes some impact on some one other than me. I will hesitate from saying that she doesn’t care about anything, only that she pretends not to. She wishes she didn’t care so much. Sheena takes comfort in night time, after all she is a raccoon. It’s when she can try and forget about all her cares once in a while, usually somewhat recklessly. But she’s not as tough and unfeeling as she wants to be, she’s vulnerable and only sometimes wants to admit it. Yet she holds her punk values close to her heart, she feels at home there. Sheena appears alone in almost all of the panels. I’m not sure what this really means, whether it was consciously done or not. I guess all these ‘moments’ are about her reflections on things within herself and thats why. She doesn’t always loathe herself; yet she’s always dissatisfied with something or someone, put herself out too far and only knows how to retreat rather than fight. Just like any character she is full of contradictions, she’s never trying to be anything – but rather trying to understand what she is.
Just an end note to say that I’m glad I decided to use an ink wash over the top of the drawings as you can see what a difference it makes in the above images.
Hope this all made some sense 🙂