Revisions are a part of any job. And sometimes you wind up doing a few rounds of major edits to arrive at a solution that matches the changing vision of your client. This "quick" project went through four rounds of substantial revisions before the final piece was approved — a handy lesson in streamlining your process to make changes as painless as possible.
Last year, at the 2017 PEERS Conference, I floated the idea of updating the installer illustration for Craft CMS 3 to the head honcho and resident genius at Pixel & Tonic, Mr. Brandon Kelly. In addition to the fact that his karaoke skills will instantly remind you of an angrier, out-of-tune Henry Rollins from Black Flag, he's also a fan of good-ish drawering skills. I'd illustrated the installer screen for Craft CMS 1 years ago and it seemed to me that the impending release of the biggest update to his flagship product might be the perfect opportunity to update the installer artwork. A few months later, Brandon gave me a call.
Conceptually, he and his team wanted to explore the idea of "inclusivity" without getting too far into the weeds about how to broach a very touchy topic visually and do so without offending an equally touchy group of people (Please note: These are my words, not his ... But it's still 100% true. Deal with it). We eventually landed on the idea of exploring inclusivity through the locations where Craft CMS is being used around the world. Which, once again, brought up the specter of dealing with race and gender and all the baggage that comes along with that topic. It needed to be avoided like Coldplay. The question was how? The initial idea was to focus on landmarks from countries around the world which would have been interesting, but I concluded that the resulting illustration would have felt more like a travel advertisement than a representation of Craft.
After putting the concept through my brain's spin cycle, I expanded on the idea exponentially by including landmarks, mythical beasts and creatures from folklore, foods, and representative objects from specific countries. You'll also find a random assortment of web and nerd references to help round out the illustration for the tech crowd. The resulting piece is straight-up fun and successfully represents "inclusivity" without stepping on any social land mines.
I created three different versions of the center area that literally plug into the open space to accommodate potential uses:
In all, twenty-three countries and locations are represented (objects vary based on center art):
- NYC - Lady Liberty, pizza
- PNW (Seattle, Portland, Bend) - Sasquatch, pint glass, hop bud
- SF - San Francisco is a city
- UK - London Bridge
- Germany - pretzel, brat on fork, beer
- India - Airavata
- Australia - Rainbow Serpent, boomarang
- South Africa - flower with mountain graphic from national symbol
- Canada eh - bacon, hockey stick
- France - Eiffel Tower
- Netherlands - wooden shoe, tulips, cheese
- China - Chinese dragon
- Spain - bull, olives, tomato
- Singapore - lion fish
- Japan - Kasa Obake, koi
- Indonesia - flower, palm tree
- Ireland - shamrock, pint glass
- Norway - Viking helmet
- Poland - brat, beer, bull (nothing unique about Poland's symbology)
- Russia - Baba Yaga
- Italy - wine bottle, wine glasses, olives, grapes
- Saudi Arabia - dual swords from national symbol
- Middle East - Bahamut
- Nerds - Starship Enterprise, propeller beanie, alien ship
- Bunch of other random and tech/web-related stuff
I had a blast creating this piece for Craft 3. It goes without saying that good people deserve good art.
Thanks, Brandon and team Pixel & Tonic!
A wonderful old client of mine from Atlanta referred me for this project toward the end of 2017. This was my last web design project for 16toads Interactive, but the logo and branding artwork fit nicely in with my new direction here at OddBurton, so I am including it as a sample.
Bell Masonry is an family-owned company that has been operating in greater Kansas City for nearly 100 years. They were in the process of going through a corporate restructuring and wanted to overhaul their logo and brand for the future. Their team specified three primary criteria for a new logo: 1) Visually portray "masonry", 2) suggest the idea of a company that has spanned "generations", and 3) make it timeless. These concepts are difficult enough to pull of as individual elements, but all three, in a single mark? This is precisely the kind of challenge I love.
After doing a bit of research I found that two objects appear in 99.8% of all logos for masons: bricks (brick patterns) and trowels. These images are so pervasive that they can be found in nearly every possible design solution down to mimicking the classic Masonic fraternal logo. These images are pervasive because there are literally no other objects that could represent "masonry". My initial pass included bricks, trowels, and a couple terrible attempts to represent the Bell family business with a bell ... and a brick pattern. I threw out those samples almost immediately. And thankfully, my client listened to my rationale for not choosing a bell with brick pattern as their logo.
The only other object that makes sense visually is an actual mason. After doing a handful of initial sketches, I hit upon the idea of drawing a mason from yesteryear to represent two things visually: masonry and generations. It worked. The initial icon was a realistic portrayal of a mason from around the turn of the century. My client liked the idea but felt that the rendering and fonts were a little too "elegant" for his clientele. Their portfolio was broader than the luxury home market and, consequently, he was leaning back toward the bell with brick pattern. I asked him to let me play around with the illustration as well as the fonts to address his concerns.
A Flexible Solution
I'm drawn to logos that provide flexibility for use in different media. A logo that requires an icon to be understandable isn't a successful logo. Nor is a logo that can't be modified to work in both horizontal and vertical formats. The final logo sheet shows how the Bell Masonry logo can be adjusted to work in multiple formats.
After successive passes, I chose a heavy, highly readable sans serif font and simplified the mason icon by removing nearly all of the detail. In the end, my client was absolutely thrilled with the final result. And I managed to create a logo that incorporated all three of the elements they requested: masonry, generations, and timelessness.
The third volume of F5Labs's Threat Analysis Report was a blast to draw. My challenge for this issue was to create robots that visually represented the most common IoT devices exploited by attackers worldwide ... affectionately called, "Thingbots". What artist doesn't enjoy drawing robots?
How were the robots created?
Both robots were hand-sketched with a 2B pencil, then scanned, and imported into Procreate on the iPad. The drawing was then refined, flat color was added, then exported as a PSD using Airdrop. The final piece was modeled in Photoshop and placed in the report layout using InDesign. Easy peasy.
I was afforded the opportunity to create an illustration for a client who has a penchant for octopi and squid. Ultimately, this illustration will be painted on a tile backsplash in her kitchen.
I plotted the illustration using a photo of the space. Ideally, I would have liked to get exact measurements but I knew going in that adjustments will need to be made on-the-fly to accommodate the space, size (dimensions) of the tile, and things like the electrical outlet. None of these things affect the basic concept.
Turns out I did a pretty good job measuring. Very little adjustment will need to be made to the illustration to accommodate the space.
Next steps will be selecting tile, researching paints, how-to-paint-on-tile techniques, and how to fire and/or seal the final painting.
I'll be posting more about this project as it progresses.
Newly finished tee shirt design for the Ballard Beer Company. The shirt will feature a reversed version of this illustration.
As with most of my work, I sketched out the primary art by hand then scanned the image. The final line work was done on an iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil. I wound up exporting multiple PSDs for various elements of the final illustration and compositing those elements in Photoshop. Final tweaks, including additional line work, were completed using a Wacom tablet in Photoshop.
Selected pages from the second whitepaper OddBurton designed and illustrated for F5Labs Threat Analysis Reports: The Hunt for IoT: The Networks Building Death Star-Sized Botnets from IoT Minions.
How was the artwork created?
I created numerous very rough pencil sketches to work out the initial layout of all the objects within the iceberg. Once I had the arrangement I composed in my headspace worked out, the final flat-color painting was created entirely in Procreate on the iPad Pro using an Apple Pencil. I drew the house and the top of the iceberg separately, then composited the bottom of the iceberg and the top in Photoshop. The final artistic touches including the iceberg planing, shading, some of the smaller objects like the narwhal and seagulls, and the text were added in Photoshop.
The artwork for this heavily illustrated report entitled: Using F5Labs Application Threat Intelligence was drawn entirely on an iPad Pro and colorized in Photoshop.
How was the artwork created?
Nearly all of my work begins with a pencil. This piece was no exception. I drew a very rough sketch to layout all of the objects in the landscape, took a photo, and imported the sketch into the Procreate app on the iPad. All of the line work was drawn using an Apple pencil in Procreate. The line drawing was exported as a PSD and imported into Photoshop to add color.
Worth noting that the concept for this piece is a visual representation of the Four Domains of Warfare as established by the Department of Defense: Land, sea, air, and space. In 1995, a fifth dimension was added: Cyber space (denoted by connected dots).
Selected pages from F5Labs 2016 TLS Telemetry Report.
How was the artwork created?
The cover illustration started as a pencil sketch which was photographed using an iPhone, then pulled into Adobe Illustrator for reference. The entire finished piece was rendered in Illustrator. The sweeping dot stream was created line by line, converted to outlines, then placed, duplicated or deleted by hand to achieve the "data" look. Yes, I went cross-eyed.
DDoS's Newest Minions: IoT Devices represents the first quarterly white paper that I designed and illustrated for F5Labs Threat Analysis Reports. You can view or download the full document here.
All told, this project required approximately 150 hours to complete the visual presentation including all illustrations and graphic design.
For comparison, I've included a selection of corresponding pages from the original report below.
How was the artwork created?
The cover illustration was drawn and inked entirely by hand. The final rendering was scanned, then imported into Photoshop to clean up the line work and add color.
Last August, I was approached by a long-time friend, Justin Shattuck, about a potential opportunity with a local web security firm to illustrate and design a quarterly report published by F5Labs that utilized data aggregated by an analysis tool he developed called Loryka. The product of this tool is a highly detailed report and he wanted to add an illustrated flair to what was a very plain document ... Hence, a late night phone call to tell me that he'd passed my name along to the VP of F5Labs. Turns out that the VP had already seen my work at the Ballard Beer Co. and admonished Justin to "get [me] in here tomorrow!"
Given the fact that design is severely lacking across the web security industry as a whole and that the current benchmark produced by a competing firm was, shall we say, uninspiring, I knew immediately this was a golden opportunity to significantly raise the bar. There are few things I enjoy more than a challenge and concocting visual representations of an obtuse topic ranks among the most challenging tasks that I've been faced with up to this point in my career.
My task, as I chose to frame it, was to establish a new benchmark for design in the web security industry.
I was given mostly free reign to follow my creative instincts within the confines of their brand identity. The initial design was unceremoniously scrapped and I started fresh with the intention of using custom art to help convey the abstract themes of each report through editorial illustrations, vignettes, updated graphs and charts, and vastly improved content layout.
Due to my work on the first Threat Analysis Report, I was given the opportunity to design two additional reports as well. Thus far, I've completed four whitepapers that average twenty-five pages in length. Every single visual aspect of each report from design to the artwork to the graphs and charts have been completely re envisioned by OddBurton. I'm damned proud of the work and thrilled to be working with the stellar team at F5.
Click on the covers below to view selected design and illustration samples from each report:
Special thanks to Justin Shattuck and Sara Boddy for patiently describing the security landscape and suggesting potential concepts, Debbie Walkowski for her editing, and Preston Hogue for giving me a chance.