Production Journal for Final Project

Originally, I envisioned a poster full of the life and culture of the countries Heifer International helps. Heifer helps communities across the world in Africa, Asia, the South Pacific, Central and Eastern Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean and North America. I wanted to capture the worldliness of the organization, while conveying how the cause stays true to each individual culture’s roots. My original plan was to cut various animals Heifer gives to these communities out of different makes and patterns of paper. My vision included paper that appeared to be homemade to follow through with the “authenticity” of the organization and the project. Heifer does not go into villages and try to impose their way or change the culture; they merely want to provide assistance to make a group of persons lead a sustainable life style. They do not promote dependence on foreign aid, but instead encourage each person they help to turn around and “pay it forward” in the sense that they give away the first born of their newly acquired animal to a neighbor in their village. It is in this way Heifer has transformed entire communities and I really wanted to portray how widespread the organization has become. Though I initially had all these ideas swirling around in my head, when I sat down to begin creating my poster, I realized I was more concerned with the idea of intricate cut animals and the look and visual qualities of the poster rather than it’s message. I had too many ideas of what the poster’s purpose would be. Would it be to share Heifer’s message, or to be an art piece to hang on a wall… or would it be both? I had been perfecting my skills with the exacto knife throughout the semester as I’ve been taking my first graphic design class and even though they are still sub-par, I was excited to have a new skill and wanted to use a technique not often seen in posters. I was also inspired by a poster hanging above my bed for a music heritage festival in Memphis. I wanted this poster to be just that, all about heritage…and connecting cultures…and Heifer…and animals.

I did little research since I am already very familiar with Heifer International and its goals as an organization. I was a regional volunteer throughout high school and still continue to work when I go home for holidays or breaks. I have talked with people for hours at farmers markets, crafts fairs, holiday bazaars and even while tabling at the fast-food chain Chick-fil-A about why Heifer is a great cause and what differentiates it from other organizations. It was this knowledge and my strong belief in its mission and the way it helps people help themselves, that made me want to do a poster promoting it.

In addition to the poster above my bed, other inspirations for my design idea were images I had looked at in my Intro to Graphic Design class. These works included posters for humanitarian causes such as poverty. It was such styles as the ones utilized in the “Lighter than Paper” and “International Cooperation” posters that I wanted to closely take stylistic details from (http://good50x70.org/2010/gallery/poverty/). To prepare for the creation of my poster, I looked up various countries Heifer helps and viewed pictures of the people, cultures, colors and landscapes. I wanted to get an accurate sense of what the tone of these places is. Should I use darker colors for the country, or more earth tones or lighter hues? I started preparation over Thanksgiving break as I went to a local crafts store, bought some extra X-acto blades and perused the extensive collection of fancy and decorative papers. I was excited to find a pattern that looked like photographed cow skin where you could see the individual hairs. I bought some dark greens, browns and gray papers to represent indigenous cultures and places where earth, farming and agriculture are so important to their livelihood. These are places where animals would be particularly and increasingly important gifts. The only initial difficulty I encountered was finding certain textures of paper I was envisioning. I really wanted paper that looked handcrafted, but I decided that I could always make my own since I knew how to and had done it a few times in the past. I sat down to begin creating my poster by staring at a sketchbook. I drew some doodles but had a hard time bringing all my ideas together. Then I remembered what Professor Williams had told me during the graphic ad critique. I had done a design for a New Balance shoe where a transparent figure was running through a dark forest. The focal point of the image was the colored neon shoe. Also, the ground the runner had already covered was very subtly colored, whereas where he was about to travel was in black and white. She told me I had too many concepts going on and I really needed to focus on one message. This critique of my work has come up a few times in the past. Sometimes I get overexcited with projects and try to do animated presentations where the meaning of my research gets lost behind too many fancy bells and whistles, or I just try to convey too many messages. It was this suggestion that led me to change the way I wanted to execute my project. Instead of trying to make the poster an intricate design out of cut paper, I decided I wanted it to accurately convey what Heifer is. How did it come about and what does it do. I wanted it to be basic and fun, something that’s appealing for all ages and can be easily understood, even if you have a fairly basic reading level. Too many times at the crafts fairs or farmers markets, people had heard of Heifer International but they had no idea what the organization did. It took a little bit of explaining. Its mission couldn’t be understood in the title. Heifer is not well known enough to the point that it has national name-recognition and people already know what it does. Without knowing its purpose and credo, people can’t support it or feel passionately for or against it. I decided at that moment that I wanted the purpose of my poster to be education, but in a fun and enjoyable way. I didn’t want it to be a boring eyesore poster with small text and boring images. I wanted it to almost be a take on a diagram. One of my inspirations for the layout I envisioned was a book of Spanish words I had as a kid. The font was huge and the pictures were even bigger. The book was oversized in itself, probably at least two feet long. Big, simple things draw attention, as they are easy to read and add a fun, less serious tone to the message.

Again I sat down with a sketchpad and drew out a basic layout for my poster. I then worked with Adobe InDesign to start creating what would be my final piece. I am still fairly new to InDesign so it took me a little while to accurately size the canvas and learn the correct way to layer and edit images. Something that I consider (as do many others) extremely important is typeface. After watching Helvetica in Visual Literacy and listening to a brief lecture about it in graphic design, I have started reading into the meaning behind fonts, and analyzing what type face means to individual products and companies. Before I even started choosing images for my poster, I looked through fonts. My favorite website for fonts is dafont.com where you can search by category and look through hundreds of free, downloadable fonts. After browsing for a good while, I found a font I really liked that gave off a fun, exciting tone, yet still had imperfections and looked a little blocky as if it had hints of another country or culture. Next, I started playing with shapes, colors, lines and images. I knew I wanted to illustrate how the organization started at the top by using as little type as possible. I drew a man in Illustrator, laid out the top text and grabbed images off of Google as fillers before I decided if I liked the look and wanted to purchase them off Istock. Everything worked very well as I drafted a rough cut of how I wanted the poster to appear. In total with sampling different fonts, colors and images, I probably spent about 4 or 5 hours on my poster, but this was in a span of 3 or 4 days so I had time to let ideas marinate in my head and develop creatively. Luckily I have Adobe software on my computer so the only materials I needed were my laptop and filler images I found on the Internet to create a mockup of what would be my final project.

After discussing the draft with Professor Williams, I did face a problem dealing with Illustrator. I am much more familiar with Photoshop as far as layering and photo manipulation and became stuck with my design in Illustrator. I could not figure out how to do layer masks or if that was even possible. I tried to look through the software’s help function or if there was anything online but couldn’t find what I was looking for. So, I deleted all the images and the majority of the text and started laying it out all over in Photoshop. It was not a huge hassle because I had all the files and now had a good idea of how I wanted it to look. Plus it was comforting to be working in a setting I was familiar with. After transferring my project to Photoshop, I had greater control over my ideas and how I wanted to execute them. I made the changes I had talked about with Professor Williams and it greatly improved the design. The only thing that didn’t work was depicting just a cow and then all the animals the organization had evolved into next to it. So, I tried to do this in a different way by having the animals’ silhouettes across the map and by changing the wording to say “Heifer gives a family an animal,” implying that it’s evolved into something more than cows. Also, after moving the order of animals around a little bit, it appeared that height order was the best to signify the organization started small but was slowly becoming something greater, bigger than itself. I also played around with a few different colors until I found the right ones that conveyed the tone I was looking for. Another minute detail that I played around with was manipulating the infinity sign to make it appear the glass of milk was rounded. It also took careful precision to cut the animals out from their respective backgrounds. I went through a few different maps before I found one I liked where you could see the entire world. I liked how the one I decided on looked like parchment, like when things were still being discovered, before technology ran rampant. Many of the communities Heifer helps are still pre-technology. I wanted the lines showing the places Heifer helps to almost appear like orbs of light, with the affects of their work showering over vast areas. As the production of my poster came to a close, I was very pleased with the execution of my work. It was pretty exact to what I had envisioned. Luckily, Istock, the stock image website I got the silhouettes and pictures from had exactly what I was looking for, enabling me to easily communicate my vision.

Reflecting on my final product, I am not only happy with the outcome, but also how I got there. I didn’t let my inexperience with Illustrator slow me down. I quickly searched for answers and when I could not find any I figured out an alternative way to achieve what I was looking for. My biggest disappointment was my inability to make the cut paper idea work. Although, the fact that I could let it go turned into my greatest success, a more meaningful poster. I learned to keep things simple. That’s the best way for one to get a message across effectively. Patience, sketches, drafts, revisions are all part of a successful process and project. The end result was exactly what I wanted to convey. Sometime it is hard for me to articulate what I am thinking, whether that be orally or visually so I am particularly happy that I am slowly learning how to successfully do that. The final result is very different than my original idea in the way that is constructed but it is still championing the same cause in a more direct, educational and enjoyable way. There’s nothing I would change about my final product. I am very happy with how it turned out. I am eager to see how people respond to it as educational material. I wonder if the fun tone will affect their outlook of the vision or goals of the organization. I would definitely do this project again, it has really gotten me excited about promoting this cause that I feel so strongly about. I am in communication with the regional coordinator of Heifer for the Memphis/Mid-south area about speaking to the Heifer Headquarters in Little Rock, AR about potentially using this as part of their promotional materials. Next I plan on further contacting the Heifer headquarters to see if my work can be made into an actual poster. Heifer already tries to appeal to all ages by providing colorful buttons with all the animals on them when they pass out literature. They also have a curriculum about sustainability that is in place at many early childhood centers and kindergartens. This would be a great poster to enhance that unit and could potentially be included in supplies for the classrooms.

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