Designing Unlawful Good – part 2

Part 2: designing the masthead

Last week I posted about the initial stages of work that I put into UNLAWFUL GOOD and how we established an art direction for the book. As I said at the end of the post, the thing to keep in mind is that there were a bunch of different things happening in tandem at this point: we were working on what the art direction for the whole book should be, I started designing the masthead/logo for the book, I also started putting together initial designs for the inside of the book and Tony Moy was working on the cover illustration. So today I want to specifically take a look at the design process for the masthead of the book.

Where to start?
It might seem like an obvious question, but I really wanted to make sure that whatever I designed would work however Heather (Antos, editor of UNLAWFUL GOOD and who I worked with through this whole process) needed to use it. So the question was, how was she planning on using the masthead? Well the obvious answer was in the book itself but this meant that the masthead was appearing on more than just the cover. It would need to go on the spine of the book as well as the title page and most likely on the back cover. And after talking this over with Heather, we realized that the masthead would be used in the Kickstarter video, on the web (Facebook and Twitter and whatever else it needed to be posted on), as well as on other print materials like posters and ads.

The more we talked it over, the more I started to think of this as more than just a traditional masthead that you’d find on a magazine and more of a logo since it really needed to have a lot of flexibility to it, work in any number of mediums and stand on it’s own if necessary (and that says nothing of its primary use on the actual cover!).

How did thinking of this as a logo AND as masthead affect my approach?
Well to start, I did what I do for most logo designs and that is try to explore as many different directions as possible to see if there was something interesting to use. For this design, that really meant trying out a lot of different typefaces and typeface combinations to see if I could find something that “felt right”. I knew the overall art direction was “noir” so it really was a matter of trying to find typefaces that fit that overall design aesthetic – or worked against that aesthetic to create something interesting. I wanted to try out some stuff that maybe wasn’t what you’d think of right off the bat because you never know, it might be just what you’re looking for.

Above are some of the initial type explorations for the masthead.

At this point I had quite a few different solutions and I needed to narrow it down a bit before I sent designs to Heather for her feedback. There were some designs that were obviously not going to work either because they didn’t fit the “noir” aesthetic or they weren’t going to work on the cover image (or the other possible uses). I had also just received a sample of the the cover image (a work-in-progress) and it seemed like the logical next step was to put the designs on the art and see what worked and what didn’t. One of the big things that I always like to do when designing is to design with the actual image and specs so that what I design can actually be used and I’m not doing working on something that will have to be changed down the line.

Above are some of the designs that I selected and tried out on the cover image. You can see how I’m trying out different designs with the same type as I try to figure out how to bring it all together.

Design proof #1
Once I had seen the masthead designs on the actual cover art, it was a fairly easy process of narrowing the field of possible designs down a bit. For the first design proof that I sent to Heather I sent 12 designs that showed the mastheads on their own and on the cover (all in black & white). I find it’s always best to work in black & white early on in the process and this was no different for a couple of reasons: (1) People respond to colour differently and I want people to focus on the design, so working in black & white simplifies things early on, and (2) The cover was still being developed and all I had to work with was the black & white ink wash image.

Here are the 12 designs from proof #1.

Overall, Heather really liked the designs and narrowed things down to five that she wanted to proceed with: 3, 4, 5, 11, 12. This was great because it was less than half of the concepts!

At this point, the design work started to cross over a bit and we started working on the inside design of the anthology as well so that we could make sure that the masthead worked on all the places where it needed to and that meant figuring out what the inside design of the book looked like. I’m going to write more in depth about the design of the book in my next post but focusing on the masthead’s multiple uses was an important part of making sure that what we ended up with one that would work on everything.

Design proof #2
Heather had already seen the masthead designs on the cover artwork, so it was really important to see the designs on something else – in this case, the title page.

Above are the 5 masthead designs on the one design concept.

Again, Heather really liked the overall designs but cut things down to designs 1, 2 and 5 because she felt those worked best with the designs. We were making progress and I think this really demonstrates why seeing the designs “in context” is important since designs that we both really liked didn’t work as well once we started using them with other graphics (for this round of design proofs, I presented three distinctly different design directions but the ones that Heather was gravitating towards worked better with some of the masthead designs).

After emailing back and forth and talking it over, Heather narrowed the choice down to design #1 (what I had originally pitched as #3 above) the best.

Decision made.

Next steps
Now that we had a winner, I needed to create the final custom design and that required a bit of tweaking. I also created two other type “lock-ups” for use on things like the book spine and online (depending on the space that the masthead/logo needed to fit in). The final logo design looks like this:

Above, the final typography for the masthead in 3 formats.

I also needed to create the final full colour masthead for the cover. Plus, I always knew that I would have to add in some sort of drop shadow or separating graphic element so that the masthead/logo was readable on top of the cover art. Once I had the final cover art, I tried out a couple of different options…

Above, after experimenting with a couple of different graphics, I settled on the “grungy” paint and splatter to place behind the type of the masthead and a version with a drop shadow. I still wasn’t sure of the colour, so there are three options: a grey, a mustard pulled out of the painted illustration and a hot red that contrasted nicely with the artwork.

…and both Heather and I agreed that option the white paint behind the masthead tied in with the design of the inside of the book as well as really helped the masthead pop off the art.

All told, it took about a month from me first sitting down and experimenting with different typography to finally putting together the final masthead for the cover. That may seem like a long time, but it all flowed really well and it was pretty pain free. I really can’t say enough good stuff about working with Heather during this whole process. She was open to suggestions and clear with her feedback which was awesome. She took time to think things over and in the end, I think she ended up with a design that works really well!

Here’s the final cover:


Up next, we move on to the design work that went into the inside of the book.

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