Designing Unlawful Good

Part 3: designing the book

I’ve posted two posts about the design work that went in to UNLAWFUL GOOD: establishing an overall art direction and designing the masthead. Today I’m going to take a look at the design work that went into the initial designs for the inside of the book.

Designing the inside of an anthology like UNLAWFUL GOOD is a bit of job to say the least. Anthologies by their very nature have a lot of different content and this one was no different. So the overall challenge was to find a design that could work with all the different stories and art styles that the book was going to contain, as well as being interesting enough in its own right so that the “rest of the book” was interesting, well designed and nice to look at.

Just what was I designing
You’ll recall that after working through the art direction, Heather (Antos, the Anthology editor) and I had established that she was looking for a “noir” themed design for the book. My job now (after all my research that you can see more of in the first post) was to actually sit down and start designing. The key for me at this point was to try to get that “noir” look out of my head and down on to paper (or onto the computer screen) and this isn’t always the easiest task.

Since I had been working on the masthead by this point, I’ll confess that I already had some distinct ideas about what the design could (and should) look like and most of that was based on trying to create different types of moods. I didn’t want to invest too much time into concept designs just for the sake of experimenting since I already had some designs in mind. And once I had some rough sketches done, I decided to focus on three different designs and mock those up for presenting in round 1.

UnlawfulGood-ArtDirection-round1-Concept1 UnlawfulGood-ArtDirection-round1-Concept2 UnlawfulGood-ArtDirection-round1-Concept3
Above, the three different title page designs that I presented for the first round of proofs.

The three designs were:

Design idea 1 – Silhouettes
In the initial discussions with Heather, she really emphasized a couple of points: silhouettes, crime noir and BATMAN: THE LONG HALLOWEEN. So this design concept really came out of that. My thought was to really use stark black & white art and typography with one colour for emphasis (I’ve used red here since it’s really classic and fit the “noir” vibe). The obvious choice for this concept is to do the black silhouettes on a white page, so I’ve reversed that (this is also very Long Halloween-esq). The result is stark imagery and the masthead (plus whatever type we use will really pop off the black with the hit of colour).

Design idea 2 – Textures
The second concept is really a mix of styles. The stories cover a range of topics, so I wanted to present an idea that was more than just “crime noir” and I think this design does that. The textures really bring a rough grimey feel that I think of when I think of crime and the silhouetted artwork at the bottom would change depending on what the focus needed to be. This idea was really dependent on creating a lot of different layers which I think suits crime stories.

Design idea 3 – Shadows
To be honest, this one was the frontrunner for me because it was something a little different and new. I had the idea of shadows right off the bat when I started thinking about design concepts (and as I said above, it was something Heather had mentioned in our discussions as well). So I started experimenting with how to create shadows on the page. In the end, what was pitched was really a mix of layered shadows over a smoky background to create shapes and movement beneath the typography.

Heather really responded well to all of the designs that I pitched and after some back-and-forth we both agreed that the concept that I’d titled “Silhouettes” was the right direction for the Anthology. Here’s why:

  • The design worked well with each story and silhouettes aren’t too specific (so they’d work with the variety that the anthology was going to have).
  • The overall tone really matched the “noir” look that Heather wanted from the very start.
  • The design worked well with the masthead designs that I had already started working on. In fact, after seeing the mastheads paired with this design, Heather picked a final masthead design and we were done that part of the process.

What’s interesting about the design that we finally decided to roll with was that it actually required me creating A TON more artwork than I ever would have created if I had just illustrated an 8-page story. And that was pretty much the next step in the process: get all the content from Heather and start rolling out the design to the full book.

So how did that all go? What’s the final product look like? Well, you’re going to have to wait until UNLAWFUL GOOD is released! I’m currently still working on parts of the design but I have a large chunk of it done and I think it’s looking awesome. I really do feel like this was a great opportunity to design a comic well. I know people might have quite a bit to say about that statement but in general, I really liked that I had the opportunity to take what I know I can do with design and apply it to a comic.

Up next: I’m going to take you through the creation of the pinup that I created for UNLAWFUL GOOD.

About jason

Illustrator and graphic designer. When not working full time as a Senior Graphic Designer, I am usually working on the graphic novel On the Verge: the Arrow of Time. Artist on Andrew Jackson in Space and The Sisters.

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