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Helen Capewell
OCA Learning Log
Student Number: 522802
Degree: Illustration
Current Level: 2

Assignment 5

Updated: Feb 2

Self-directed project.

Deciding on a brief for the final assignment has been challenging. I wanted to bring some of my personal interests into play here, and wondered if I could find a fitting brief from a competition. I was torn with creating my own brief or using something I could find.

Currently, in my full-time work, I am in the process of developing a new brand and line of products which is due to be launched end of February. With much of the time being dedicated to creating the product and brand image in time for launch, other projects that are less important but also necessary, such as merchandise, content and other accessories, are only a bonus if there is time at the end. As the launch will take place at a key event in the industry for which we are specialising in, having merchandise to bring another level of interest would be incredibly beneficial. We are presenting the brand for the first time, face to face with the target audience, the extra stuff will bring excitement, show our commitments and hopefully generate conversation.

With time ticking, for both this assignment and the real time deadline of my work, I was thinking whether there could be a way to connect both works by creating a brief that would be used for real. The are 3 ideas that could be used here, all of which could work hand in hand.

Animation was an area that I enjoyed working on during this course, despite taking the concept too far for my level of skills during Exercise (number), maybe there was an opportunity to redeem this.

I thought the brief could be to generate motion graphics. Creating animated gifs that would help bring energy to the launch of the brand, making it an interactive opportunity for social media "stories" so that end users could naturally talk about us with official visual representation. This alone could reach an audience with humour that is memorable, further contributing as a talking point, bringing attention and interest to the brand.

Secondary to this, I also thought of creating collectable toys of the brand mascot in special editions, creating life in the character and further cementing the mascot as an integral part of the brand. I thought this could be a nice collectable item to mark the official launch in 2024, hoping to add a grandness to the potentially historical moment.

And Finally, the third idea related to the brand I am working with, is merchandise. With the launch happening at a big event next month, having merch available could help elevate the "new kid on the block" value. Showcasing our mascot in illustrated designs that can be used across different accessories. Merchandise is always an incredibly valuable marketing tactic for brands such as ours, especially if given away for free on special occasions. They have power in spreading brand awareness, and is almost a free product placement for when people wear it in their social media content. T-shirts and stickers are an easy start, but also finding other clothing accessories that suit the niche market would also help with the buzz.

In all, there is a lot of scope with the brand I am working with, all ideas being absolutely necessary. Whether creating an official brief for this assignment or not, the work would still need to be done. I think this is an excellent opportunity to share the process for developing and then being able to receive real feedback from my work team.

To follow this, branding is certainly something I very much enjoy doing, and getting full creative freedom to really explore the market and visual options for the brand, from packaging to visual identity, is the dream. There hasn't been much exploration of branding as an avenue for illustrators in this course, however Key Steps did in some way touch on it, and it might still be considered one of my favourite exercises to this date.

I love starting something new, creating life through designs that communicate an identity and narrative for a product. Branding is the perfect area for all that and more, and when you can bring illustration into the equation then there is a real sweet spot for unique identity, especially today where there are more and more independent brands that have fun with their visuals. Illustration within branding brings an element of individuality in an overstimulated, heavily saturated, and competitive world.

Audience members look at more than just the product, they look for an entire experience whilst shopping, when using the products, and even thereafter. They look to continue following and supporting the brands beyond the shopping experience, which of course works well for endorsements, natural growth through word of mouth, and gaining trust from an audience that really connects with your product. Good, authentic branding is the driving force for connection in today's world, the better the experience, the more chance it will be shared online with genuine fandom. Because of this, there is so much potential for creativity through illustration and design that can really elevate a brand. This is why I can't help but gravitate to this area as a potential brief for this assignment, and even as a profession.

If it wasn't a brief that I could latch on to through of my existing work, then I was toying with the idea of creating something new. I looked at the AOI World Illustration Awards 2024 and explored their categories, and found that they included a category for "Design, Product & Packaging". Could I curate the brief so that it focused on creating a new brand, producing examples of the branding used across multiple areas. Key Steps, for example, asked to create illustrations for a line of biscuits that needed to include extinct animals for each flavour (dinosaur, dodo and woolly mammal were my chosen animals). as part of this exercise, I also created a logo for the biscuits and included an example of how all of it would look on packaging. I loved this exercise! I could explore an idea of a similar context.

The minus with working towards the AOI WIA2024 is the lack of an actual brief/client to work with, meaning I am left to self-direct. This is fine, however I do like the challenge of not being able to pick the criteria as if it was coming from a client.

Another option I discovered, taking a completely different direction altogether, was a competition I found on the MoMa website.

"International Poster Triennial in Toyama - The Toyama Prefectural Museum of Art and Design in Tokyo invites submissions for its triennial exhibition of poster designs from around the world."

A poster can often bring similar processes and elements from branding yet condenses it into a singular piece. This certainly caught my eye with a sense of excitement for bringing both design and illustration together. Not only this, but it was set to be in Japan, a bustling place full of creativity that I often gravitate to for inspiration. The conceptual design and clean aesthetics mixed with disjointed, abstract, and subcultures, all of which often marries minimalist with artistic in ways that are very unique to the world. They are bold, and so it is of no surprise that this brief sparked a desire to explore something different, to perhaps allow myself the freedom to begin exploring a style of illustration and design that I personally enjoy but have yet to find an opportunity to explore.

I liked their second option for submission, using the word "Think ()" Followed by a second word of the designers choice. It gives direction whilst still allowing much creative freedom for the end result.

So here I am, torn between 3 strong options; a live brief for a brand, self-directing a new branding brief for a fake client, or the International Poster Triennial in Toyama.

For the past year I have been completely immersed in my full time work, it has dominated a huge part of my day to day (more than it should). Whilst I think it would be fun to self direct a brief for a fake client, self directing a brief for a real project seems far more beneficial. In a way, it is not a self directed brief, but a brief from a real client. As the brand manager and lead designer, it just happens to be partly me that is the client, albeit having it approved by a team after my own stamp of approval. Either way, logic chose for me. I was going to work towards the illustrative side of the branding. Treating it as if we are hiring an illustrator to generate artwork that could be used in different areas.

Now for the brief.


A specialist sporting distribution company with a wide range of brands in their portfolio, has created a new brand with products set to launch late February. The brand specialises in inline skates, from aggressive to freeskate, including hardware such as frames, wheels and other accessories. The brand prides on being "by skaters for skaters", with a strong sense of being "local" through community efforts. Design choices focus on the urban lifestyle, suggesting that the concrete jungle is a playground for everyone to enjoy.

The brand is looking for an illustrator to help bring their mascot to life. They are specifically looking for merchandise items such as stickers and apparel that includes 2 to 3 t-shirt designs and a beanie hat. The illustrator can use the brand name in different hand drawn typography, and imagine the mascot in different styles, however it should still keep the same features.

Additionally they would like to create 1 or 2 simple hand drawn animated stickers that can be used on social media, discord, and other messenger platforms. An added bonus if something could be used as part of an intro to some video content as well.

Things to know:

Name: echo

Mascot: pigeon

Slogan: This Life and the Next

(based on the idea of echoing the skate lifestyle now and in the second life)


I think now you can understand why the character development exercise was a pigeon! I have literally been looking at one everyday since the mascot was created back in June last year!

I started in the same way I would with any given brief; research and mood board. I knew loosely the vibe I was thinking to take the merch in and so began with a light search on Pinterest until I found myself in the black hole. Beside this, I had to research the market by looking at other skate brands, and also streetwear brands to see what style illustrations they were using. This would help get an idea of what might be considered trends for this target audience. Researching these areas were to help get an idea of what graphics would be appropriate for the age range, what even was the age to be considered?

Aggressive skating, although it has been around for many years, still seems to be a niche sport. When researching for clothing that was on the market, finding anything generally specific to aggressive skating seemed rather difficult. Unless, of course, you are a skate brand with merch. The alternative to finding streetwear for a skate scene, is to look under skateboarding or even surfing, although often come with a completely different vibe to the skate scene. I checked brands such as Vans, Volcom, Billabong, Rip n Dip, P&Co. I also checked out the likes of Urban Outfitters who's t-shirts seem to fit the vibe for the skate scene.

I collected some images for reference, though not all were what I had in mind, they certainly gave food for thought on layout, colour limitations and how they combined text with illustration.

I also created a mood board of some action skating shots, to get a feel of the sport and perhaps use the tricks for ideas. One photo (black and white second from left in top row) really stood out for dynamic pose, I liked the way the camera used a fish eye lens which as a result added some distortion to the shot. I found it to be a striking shot that could be useful.

My sketches started pretty basic. I had the image of the mascot in mind and stayed within this position, thinking it would just act as a different version. I wasn't feeling too wild or sure where I would be taking it at this stage. In other words I played it safe!

My earlier sketches were not the most successful, however it did lead to clean ups and testing, some of which did eventually work!

I was quite fixed on the idea of creating a skeleton pigeon, based on some trends I had seen where they have created skeletons of famous characters. I thought it would be cool to do something similar, which would tie in with their slogan "this life and the next", but it just wasn't clicking. I was stuck on keeping it in the same pose as the official mascot image, and so it was very wooden. Perhaps I needed to come back to this idea later on?

Before closing the chapter on it, I had progressed it into a a clean line drawing with a touch of colour. I did also like the idea of really stripping the concept down to a singular element which could be used as a small crest on the front.

When I see this idea in this final stage, I don't hate it. I think there is some humour in the illustration where it has taken apart the mascot. It just was not my vision and it feels too basic and therefor I just need to park this idea for now.

The other concept that I had sketched early on was the pigeon grinding on a pipe. I took this a couple of stage further to see how this could work on a t-shirt, the result may be one of my favourites!

I had one image from my t-shirt reference sheet that I thought would be a nice idea in building the sketch further. The way there was a smoke that wrapped around letters that came from a tiger. This kind of filler in between illustration and letters felt like a really great way to bring everything together, to make it feel connected as one illustration.

I liked where this was going and so developed a final illustration with colour.

This felt like really good progress at this stage, and was satisfied with having at least one concept finished that felt strong. My next batch of sketches was riding on this, I liked the vibe of it, but also felt I wanted to bring a variety of styles.

This sketch was quite a literal take on the mascot. I traced over the graphic image so that it had a rough edge/tooth to the brushed outlines and then added some cartoon effects. Now that I had explored different skating positions, looking back on this one feels a bit stiff, and could be developed further where I push the pose to give a better impression of speed. That said, it isn't a bad next attempt, just not the strongest.

I came across another image later in that I thought had a really cool interesting pose to it. I dragged it to my board and sat it next to the reference of the mascot. I wanted to use it to help give a new view of the pigeon and so went ahead with sketching something.

Giving the pigeon the big rounded eyes referenced the classic cartoon styles that I love. The sketch needed another round of cleanup but overall I was super pleased with this concept.

A few variations on a t-shirt:

Once I had these down, I was feeling quite confident. the pose of the above felt stronger than the first attempt where I had traced the mascot, I also really loved the nod to the big eyed classic cartoons - it felt cheeky! Speaking of classic cartoons, the pose I had created reminded me of a rather iconic image. With a flip of the image and a slight adjustment to a foot and eyes, I could see a weird resemblance to The Adventures of Tintin and thought this could be a fun direction, adding a silly twist to the mascot.

Would this be recognisable? Would it go down well with the team? Well, the plan is to present each concept and to see which they gravitate too - I wonder if they will see my connection here! I personally think it came out really well, but I am biased.

So from one pose I managed to create 3 different looks, the Tintin replica, the halftone and the coloured version. All of which felt like good contenders!

There was one other reference image from my mood board that kept speaking to me. I wasn't sure what I could do with the reference, but there was potential. The reference I am speaking of, is the Cuphead devil on yellow background with the words "don't deal with the devil". The pose was really strong, the silhouette was perfect, surely there was something in the pose that could be done. Then I saw it. I am pretty sure I had seen images or video or a trick where the rider was their legs similar to the devil, where both skates are pointed out the ways, as if skating on a tight rope. So once again I reimagined the mascot in an action shot.

Strangely, one trend that I do seem to see often is illustration based on the devil, hell or death. The pigeon inferno became my slightly safe attempt at bringing some hell to the line up, and I'm not mad at it. Did I achieve the look I was thinking in the developed drawings? not quite. But still, there is something in this that I like but I am not entirely sure what it is yet.

If any, I like the version on the left "raising hell" however the colours actually give me chicken vibes rather than pigeon, so I decided to just leave this idea for now. It was fun to explore, I do think I could make use of the idea, but like the skeleton concept, I needed to pause it.

One last concept was done, this time without the mascot and just playing with the name.

Eventually I had quite a lot to work with from these drawings, and started putting a few together on t-shirts. Here's a pretty big variety:

Apologies that the quality of the image is quite low res, I feel the blogs will be very heavy in size if I keep the images at a higher res!

With these I was able to create a few sticker variations as well. With everything here I compiled my top favourites that I think would be worth presenting, and put them into a more presentable state that reflected the brand guide.

I will add the feedback once it has been shown, and hopefully I can even include a few photos of printed t-shirts should any be selected.

I'm really pleased with the final selection. For a launch I think there is enough here to begin with, and I think it can also set the style for what could come in the future, though this is of course open!


I have since received some feedback for the presentation. Whilst all were liked, there was 3 that stood out, Classic (which is a no brainer), The Adventures of Echo, and Fishbrain. I asked whether they recognised the connection with Tintin to the design and it was well received. I was surprised this would have been selected, however they mentioned that it works very well with skating, saying that there are a few levels of humour to it, one of which being in the spotlight as if being caught by "the law" and told to stop skating in certain spaces.

It is now a matter of preparing the final artwork for print, and getting the costs right for the budget. It might be that some designs need adjusting to include less colours so that the costs work for the company. I have also never prepared artwork for t-shirts so will need to know in which format they prefer. If screen printing, I imagine the colours should be on separate layers. Does the artwork need to be vector for screen print? or can they prepare the screens with a psd file? These are my questions. Currently all drawings are on photoshop, they are not vectors. Once I have researched this, I will update the blog as part of the process.

Part Two

The final stage of the brief was to bring some animation in. This will be added soon! I have a plan for the pigeon inferno and the graffiti tag for this! I might even get a use of the skeleton concept here!


- 06-01-24


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