Visual Jazz

It’s really no wonder that photographer Natalie Jackson O’Neal’s favorite subjects are musicians. “I grew up in a home constantly pulsating with many genres of musical rhythms,” she recalls. “Jazz has always been my favorite.”

Of course, it doesn’t hurt that two of her favorite people are well-known musicians—her father Preston Jackson plays jazz guitar, and husband Dexter O’Neal is a singer, guitarist and leader of the Funk Yard. But Natalie really honed her photographic chops as staff photographer for Good News magazine in Atlanta, where she was a regular at jazz clubs. Eventually, many of the musicians she photographed asked her to shoot their gig posters and CD covers.

Jazz vocalist René Marie made a particularly indelible impact on her, Natalie explains. “She was so soulful and strong, energetic and beautiful. She was a treat to shoot because she always gave so much to her audience—and you always captured something new and exciting.”

Natalie’s photographic jazz series, entitled “Straight, No Chaser,” is a visual soundtrack to the Thelonious Monk tune of the same name—“a nod to its fluidity and extreme unpredictability.” Each piece in the series is named after a different jazz number. Read the rest of the article here.

Freeze Frame: Capturing Moments in Time

An artist’s lifelike portrayals take on new meaning via time and motion.

Connie Andrews’ portraits and sculptures often transcend time, telling a story within a story. “The passage of time is a theme I like to explore,” she explains. “I look for ways to tell a story of a few seconds, or even decades, in the context of a confined space—the way a person changes over the decades, or the movement of hands over a piece of work.”

With that in mind, she never takes a project at face value. Getting to the essence of her subject requires time and reflection, and it’s at the heart of her work. “If I were to just take a photograph and paint it as I see it, that would be pretty easy,” she notes. “To make it really touching and meaningful… I add to it and make it a piece of art.”

Layers of Meaning
A woman once came to Andrews shortly after her wedding, asking her to paint a portrait. She brought along a few photos—all striking, professional shots. “One of her favorites was of her and her husband dancing, with him spinning her around. It was really beautiful—I couldn’t improve on the photography,” Andrews explains. Using the photos for reference, she combined several shots to create “A Whirl of Their Own,” layering the couple’s movements to illustrate a range of motions—the bride and groom at different angles, her dress swirling around the scene. Read the rest here.

Putting Your Best Font Forward

Finding the perfect typeface for your next project takes skill and know-how. Here we put together three different takes on type and why they work so well.

Type says a lot about a brand. Letters are a language in themselves, communicating personality traits like sophistication, simplicity, and whimsy. They can shout or they can whisper. It’s also very subjective, so knowing your audience is critical. With so many typefaces to choose from, it can be overwhelming—and nearly impossible—to make the right choice for your client.

The following projects demonstrate vastly different type applications, with compelling results that speak to their intended audiences.

Herschel’s Coffee Co.

Design: Mustafa Akülker, co-founder, Monajans

Usually, the simpler a logo is, the better. Such is the case for the logo mark for Herschel’s Coffee Co., in Amsterdam, designed by Mustafa Akülker of Monajans. “I wanted the design to be very minimal, so I used a sans serif for the logotype, but then went with an italic serif Hs for the optional logo in contrast,” he says. “I like the softness of the brand with the italic font.”

The Hs can stand alone as an identifier or be used with the full name of the coffee shop. When used with the name, it’s like the crown jewel—that added touch of elegance. The soft curves of the uppercase H next to the lowercase s, create an almost theatrical overture.

A big part of the success of this identity is also the subtle, yet distinct, color palette. “You can see various tones of brown by imagining coffee beans and milk mixed together,” he notes. “I also wanted to emphasize the memorability of the brand by using blue because it’s a nice companion to brown. It adds sophistication and class, much like how I envision a discerning coffee drinker.”

Pro Tip: It can be tricky pairing a sans serif with a serif. Test many variations and ask others their opinions about what is and isn’t working and why.

Molbak’s Garden + Home

Design: Cindy Tyler

When you have a beautiful product, show it off with great photography. There’s nothing more luminous and captivating than the natural landscape, and Molbak’s Garden + Home store, in Woodinville, Wash., uses photography to great effect in their seasonal promotions featuring lush, living plants. Designer Cindy Tyler explains, “Appealing photography is essential, as is the styling. We aren’t just selling plants, we are also selling ideas and inspiration.”

For instance, Molbak’s Lookbook provides recipes, gardening tips, and useful information about plant varietals so consumers make the right choices when purchasing plants to harvest. The photos are often featured full page, with content creatively overlaid. The hand-lettered headers were part of an overall brand strategy incorporated a few years ago to create a more hands-on, friendly feel, similar to chalkboard lettering. However, due to the volume of materials she produces, Tyler says, “It’s not possible to have them actually done by hand, so I went with the next best thing – a computer-generated font that looks hand-drawn. We also use our standby sans serif face (Myriad Pro) for larger amounts of copy.” And it works. Coupons, mailers, and the website all incorporate this open, inviting style.

Pro Tip: When placing type over photos, find the greatest contrast and most visually interesting layout to draw the reader in and complement the imagery.

 

Maisons Paysannes de France

Design: Graphéine

Art direction and type design: Jérémie Fesson

Motion design: Philip de Canaga

The Maisons Paysannes de France was formed in 1965 to preserve buildings and rural landscapes that were abandoned during the rural exodus. However, more than 50 years later, its identity was outdated and overlooked so the association commissioned Graphéine to bring the brand to life. Art director, Jérémie Fesson, did just that by designing an entire alphabet, called MPF Display. The letters in this dedicated typeface can be dismantled and shifted to create patterns evoking construction and movement of architectural elements. Every visual form was considered from the accent marks and punctuation, to the dot on the i.

The stencil lettering, in essence, deconstructs to create unique, decorative elements that are in constant flux. The letter variables are played out in print and online. There’s even a video demonstrating the fluidity of the letter parts and the different ways they can be played out. Each element flutters and flows beautifully on its own and when firmly planted in place on its letterform. “Some letters, like the a and s, have several different writings: This small detail—which often goes unnoticed at first–gives a singularity to the graphics that represents the spirit of a peasant house,” says Fesson.

Pro Tip: Be sure to consider every moving part, including letterspacing and punctuation when designing an entire alphabet. Each detail is critical to its success.

Finding Your Way: Designing Functional & Beautiful Maps

Graphic design is all about solving problems and making things functional and easy to understand, and wayfinding materials such as signs and maps aren’t the exception. In fact, they’re the rule. If the information is wrong or misunderstood, there can be deadly consequences. But not all maps are life and death. Some can be really fun while providing factual information, such as maps for parks, playgrounds, museums, and more.

One company that knows how to put the fun in mapmaking is Visual Maps based in Copenhagen, Denmark. They’ve designed colorful, richly detailed maps for parks all over the globe for the past 20 years. “It started with an illustration for a DUPLO universe on a LEGO package I did, which was spotted in Legoland, which then commissioned me to do their park map,” explains founder and creative director Mads Berg. Since then, they’ve designed all the Legoland parks worldwide, and have specialized in park maps since.

Here are five tips for creating successful map designs.

  1. Combine fact with fiction for emphasis

Designing wayfinding maps for parks isn’t so much scientific as it is illustrative. Sure, you need to help visitors find their way around the park, but it’s much more loose and playful than a city map. “There’s a mixture of reality and fantasy in each design,” he notes. “Google does the reality thing beyond compare. We love to do the fantasy part.” Of course, they do this without overriding the wayfinding purpose.

  1. Visit the park to get perspective

Although Google Maps is a great resource, Berg always starts projects by visiting the actual park, “not only to see the facilities, but also to experience the park as a visitor and know the points of navigation and get a first-person point of view.” Make note of the biggest attractions and their popularity. Often, these are points of interest that draw visitors to the park in the first place, so capitalize on them in your design by making them prominent.

  1. Sketch it out

When he’s back in the studio he does a pencil sketch to get the point of view right and define the composition. “Then we do a digital disposition map, where we take all facilities/rides/buildings individual height/volume in to account, and lay it all out,” Berg says, adding, “It remains a nice challenge to detangle the pathways, and to distribute everything, keeping the pathways correct, but at the same time focusing on and exaggerating individual features.” The biggest challenge is capturing all the landmarks and details in miniature, while still making them easily identifiable, as well as capturing the topography. In a zoo, for instance, different animals require different habitats, like water or vegetation, so be sure to visually represent them where applicable.

  1. Use Color as a differentiator

Color is a major factor in map design, not only to represent actual points of interest, but to use as identifiers. For instance, use a color key to identify things such as restaurants, gift shops, restrooms, exits, etc., for quick reference. Berg says of his maps, “Each park has its own colorways and atmosphere.” Be sure to capitalize on this as part of the overall brand strategy.

  1. Keep it real and keep it fun

He admits that he likes balancing the realistic demands of accuracy and wayfinding with the aesthetics, by exaggerating details and colors to create intrigue and beauty. “I especially like Tivoli Gardens and Liseberg because of this equal balance between aesthetics and navigation service. They both have poster qualities as well as being a good guide.” Use icons and buttons to help identify and locate points of interest. It can be frustrating for a visitor, if the map shows one thing and in reality, it’s completely different.

The tips above can be adapted for any kind of map project, just be sure to capture the fantastic qualities that draw visitors and help them get around the park, museum, school, or city safely.

Enticing Menu Designs

Beyond offering a selection of food and beverage items, a good menu design is an extension of the restaurant’s identity, it’s well organized and easy to read, and hopefully it’s appetizing. Here, we offer up several menu designs with decidedly different ethnic and cultural offerings.

Köksbordet is a family-style restaurant serving locally produced foods in a friendly, relaxed atmosphere. Designer Björn Berglund, who’s known for his hand-lettering, was tasked with creating the identity. Köksbordet literally means “kitchen table,” so he intentionally made the o’s look like a round table, and the wavy baseline for the word indicates the restaurant’s close proximity to the sea.

Once the logo was determined, Berglund focused on a color palette derived from the natural ingredients served at the restaurant, and he worked with illustrator Fanny Schultz, who drew the imagery. “I love to collaborate on larger projects, if you find the right partner. The overall quality is so much better,” he says. The illustrations are used on the menus, business cards, and on the website.

“The menu basically follows the rest of the identity – but it´s important for me that it´s easy to navigate and that it makes you hungry and ready to order,” Berglund explains. He designed a simple template so the owners could easily update the menu offerings each day, and could be printed on a basic printer.

Common Bowlery, San Pedro, Mexico

Design: La Tortilleria

Common Bowlery invites patrons to select ingredients and create their own bowl of goodness. The menu features an array of fruits, vegetables and legumes to let customers mix and match according to their tastes. La Tortilleria created a complete identity system for the restaurant, starting with a name that fit the offerings, and then devised a unique logo that incorporates a custom hand-written style for the word Common, and a robust sans serif typeface for Bowlery.

Zita Arcq, cofounder of La Tortilleria, says, “When we created the brand colors, we knew from the start that we didn’t want to use the typical broccoli-green hues so overused in health-centered restaurants. Instead, we developed a color scheme inspired by lemons and mint. This harmonious blend proved to be a winning combination and was used on every communication application, and on the interior decoration, including the menu.”

Counter Reformation, Palm Springs, California

Design: Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich

This wine bar/restaurant is located within the swanky Parker Hotel, which also houses two other two other restaurants. “When the owner was throwing out ideas for the name, he came up with Counter Reformation, and we started working with the idea of tongue and cheek religious themes,” explains designer Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich, who is well known for his restaurant identities around the world. “Palm Springs is a unique place with a very liberal demographic that appreciates the antics of the branding.”

And the branding plays heavy on humor. For instance, the coaster imitates a holy wafer, the check is presented in an old hollowed out hymnal, and there are murals by the entrance depicting praying hands holding a liquor bottle. De Cumptich went so far as to recreate actual characters from old medieval manuscripts for the menus to create a masterful arrangement, sure to elicit a chuckle or two from customers.

El Vez, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich

El Vez is a Mexican restaurant with locations in New York City and Philadelphia. With the opening of its third establishment in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the owners worked with de Cumptich to establish the identity. “The owners like to mix the spirit of the city with Mexican culture and folklore, which is why each restaurant has a different theme. Ft Lauderdale is a tourist beach destination, with a big spring break contingency, so we wanted to convey the hedonism of sun-filled beaches that is part of the locale,” he explains.

“When you design a series of menus, they have to be identifiable at a glance and have a general common theme to unify them. ‘Day of the Dead’ themes are a bit cliché, and often expected in a Mexican restaurant, but on closer inspection you see what the skeletons are doing with each other, and it makes you smile and laugh,” de Cumptich notes. “We want customers to be part of the joke and laugh with us.”

Each menu features a different position—and he admits he had to tone down some of the depictions. The illustrations are paired with a geometric mosaic and printed in a warm or cool gradient to resemble popular printing techniques found in Mexico.

 

The Art of Storytelling

Marika Maijala, based in Helsinki, Finland, has always loved books. In fact, she says that reading helped her survive her “tough teenage years.” It wasn’t until later, though, that she discovered that she could make a living illustrating stories. Fortunately, her love of reading has helped her succeed in her career as an illustrator, because it’s one of the most important functions of the job—getting a feel for the characters and their thoughts and actions. “I usually read the manuscript a few times and then let it live in my head a while, before starting to sketch the images,” Maijala explains. “I trust my intuition, so oftentimes the number of the spreads and the outline of the story come quite naturally. I somehow see the story like a film inside my head.” She often tries different adaptations and approaches when it comes to composition, color, and even characters, but finds that the first iteration is usually the way to go.

Of course, before getting too far on any project, Maijala must get approval on her creative output from the publisher and author. She notes that in many instances once the initial direction is approved, she’s free to continue in that direction for the remainder of the project with little input. But that’s not always the case. “For the first book for Etana Editions, Piano Karkaa (The Great Escape), I made many versions of the storyboard and the illustrations. We initially prepared the book for the Bologna Book Fair, and from feedback we received, we made changes both in the story and the visuals. I learned a lot with that project,” she says, adding that she prefers some back and forth with editors and art directors, because it usually results in a better book.

For Miljoona biljoona joulupukkia (Million, Billion Santa Clauses), by Hiroko Motai, Maijala had to rethink her illustration style. “I loved Hiroko’s style of writing—you rarely get to read such a minimalistic and poetic text, perfect for a picture book. But I also immediately felt that any of my previous styles wouldn’t fit this story, so I decided to develop a new style,” she explains. “But funnily, it came quite naturally. I just tried to follow the light, child-like tone of her writing. It was a very important project for me, because it allowed me to be more free and impressionistic with my pictures.”

Color is a huge consideration in Maijala’s work, but it’s often challenging to specify the right color when transferring handmade art to the desktop. “I see the color in my head, but making sure it prints that way, is another thing. For the Piano Karkaa and Kissa Katoaa (The Lost Cat), I manually marked the CMYK values of each color in each image on the proofs, and then art director Jenni Erkintalo made the change in the design files,” she explains. “When using this system, you really will see the end result only in the final printed book, especially when using the fifth Pantone color, as we did. I have certain color palettes that I love, but I like to challenge them as well, not to get stuck with one palette.”

And there have been times when she’s been disappointed with the final outcome. “For me, it is always difficult to see the final printed product for the first time. There have been books that I have been able to look at properly only after months after publication. That’s telling about the process: If the process was difficult, I have mixed feelings about the result,” Maijala notes. “One time the paper had been changed at the printer, and I was severely disappointed. I was worried that people would think I was the one who chose that unpleasant material for the book.”

Maijala is lucky in that not only does she work for publishers, but she also collaborates and creates with author Juha Virta. “We create the story together, and then Juha writes the text and I make illustrations, and we both comment on each other’s work, throw ideas and make changes, if something isn’t working. I really like the process of working this way,” she notes. They have done five books together.

Cocktail Cards That Pack a Punch

Designer Maria Montes is a life-long learner when it comes to lettering and typography. Splitting her time between Barcelona and Melbourne, she works on custom lettering projects, illustrations, and type design, and once a year she travels to the remote village of Cabanabona (about 75 miles from Barcelona) to study lettering and calligraphy under the tutelage of Keith and Amanda Adams. There she immerses herself in historic manuscripts, studying lettering techniques from the masters to improve upon her skills.

She says, “I have a strong graphic design background and I am very passionate about all kinds of letterforms: from calligraphy to lettering to typography. I am daily training my eye to become a better designer.” And Montes isn’t selfish with her knowledge. She teaches calligraphy workshops in Melbourne, and speaks at design conferences sharing her work and fondness for details.

“I have a strong background in calligraphy and typeface design, and both disciplines are extremely technical where attention to detail is key. When I draw organic forms, I loosen up and look for energy instead of technicality. I never looked actively for this style of illustration but I am personally drawn to details,” she notes. One of her favorite quotes is by Giorgio Armani: “To create something exceptional, your mindset must be relentlessly focused on the smallest details.”

A couple years ago, Montes was invited to participate in the Ladies of Letters series, Flourish Together by designer Carla Hackett and letterpress printer Amy Constable (Saint Gertrude Fine Printing) to design a series of four letterpress cards. “At the time, I was already in the middle of putting together my first solo exhibition in Melbourne, called Breaking The Ice. It consisted of a series of eight full-color illustrated cocktail artworks and pattern prints, so I offered to convert four of my full-color pieces into two-color letterpress cards, and they agreed instantly.”

What you see below is the result of the collaboration and the details

Mojito cards

There was a long research process for each illustration. First, I look for the message, something naughty and fun at the same time. Based on the origin of the cocktail, I try to add some cultural references to the piece. Then, I sketch the lettering and I go through many iterations. The base for each lettering style is my own calligraphy. After the calligraphic sketch is balanced enough, I use tracing paper and I redraw all letterforms adding or removing weight, contrast and adjusting letter spacing.

For the Mojito card, the original full-color piece features the actual colors used in a Mojito, but being restricted to two colors for this series, made me reconsider the colors so they would work well with the other cards.

Absinthe images

I was a little worried that the hairlines in Absinthe wouldn’t reproduce well in letterpress. Each piece was born as a large format, full-color artwork, so I went through a reduction process where I removed elements and the color palette, but kept the soul of each piece intact. Each card has been digitally redrawn using vectors. I asked Amy for the minimum line stroke to make sure that the letterpress would translate all details, and the result was great. The color palette is clearly inspired by the popular Green Fairy name associated with Absinthe. I wanted to create a glowing visual experience.

Green Fairy alphabet

“Absinthe” was originally a custom-lettering design. This design got stuck on my mind and a year later, I went back to it and drew all 26 letters of the uppercase alphabet using Illustrator. The result is Green Fairy, which started as one weight, but quickly turned into a layered/chromatic font.

Currently Green Fairy is a font family of 6 weights (chromatic layers). The font is close to be finalized and commercially available. You can subscribe to my mailing list to be up to date with the release date.

Negroni

The inspiration behind my Negroni artwork is a blog post from BonAppetit.com called How to Drink like an Italian. On this post, Andrew Knowlton states: “Italians drink differently than we do. They sip, stir, linger over low-octane cocktails.”

The cocktail venue where my solo exhibition was hosted, offers a variation on this cocktail called Chilli-Choc Negroni. I love chillies so I decided to go ahead with this version of the classic Italian drink.

I wanted to use the colors of the Italian flag without being too obvious. Chillies gave me the red color palette I needed, so I began to illustrate them as my starting point. The other ingredient from this cocktail’s recipe is Vietnamese mint, which became the second main element. Initially, the ingredients were drawn by hand and colored on the computer. For the letterpress printed version of the artwork, I redrew all the ingredients in vector format again.

Following the Italian theme, I wanted to introduce an Italian word that could be easily understood in English, so I chose salute. This lettering has been designed using my own Copperplate calligraphy as a reference. On the other hand, negroni is a lettering design based on my own Fraktur calligraphy.

Old Fashioned

My desk is divided between analog and digital tools. On the left side, I have my pens, brushes, inks, paper and an A2 lightbox that I love. On the right side, I have my computer, Wacom tablet, camera, and iPhone. I think in your work you can either specialize or you can be versatile, and do different things in different ways. I get bored easily, so I like jumping from one discipline to the other or ideally, combine them when possible.

Next year, Montes is having a solo exhibition at the Contemporary Art Center La Panera in Catalonia. She says, “The space is amazing and the crew I am working with is incredibly supportive. I am really excited to share new work with friends and family.”

Illustrating an Ale Narrative

With so many microbrews infiltrating the marketplace—and taking up valuable shelf space in retail outlets—having a memorable package design that stands out from the crowd is more important than ever. So when Ommegang Brewery, based in Cooperstown, New York, decided to update its brand, they hired French illustrator, Yann Legendre, to bring their packaging to life.

Each ale has a fun, quirky back story, so the art needed to portray those qualities and bring them to life. Legendre notes, “They were looking for an artist who would bring a sense of movement, openness, storytelling, and wit in the art, to both honor their history and reflect a stylish, dynamic, and modern approach.”

He credits Ommegang’s art director Larry Bennett, with devising the clever stories. “Typically, we look for a story idea that may lead to a brewing idea, that will create an even better story idea,” Bennett says. “We have a great history with Belgium and American brewing, so we don’t often have to pull rabbits out of hats. Unless it’s a story that involves magic.”

Legendre created compelling characters to bring the narrative to life. For instance, for “The Three Philosophers” ale, he drew a headless man, juggling three heads. “The story evolved from three philosophers in a William Blake play, Island in the Moon, who talk about why/how/if they would do something remarkable,” he says, so he each head has a questionable expression.

“For each project, Larry gave me the story and a series of visual references or ideas,” Legendre recalls. “He never asked me to draw a particular thing. He was more interested in how I interpreted the story and brought a new layer to it. The stories are like fairy tales, with different characters and scenes, so it was really fun to work on.”

Legendre drew everything in black-and-white, and then Bennett’s team reversed and dropped the illustrations in front of a colored argyle background in many cases. “We developed a color palette that works with the beers and seasons. For example, wheat beers tend to be warm and summery, while winter ales tend to be cool,” Bennett says. Getting everything right for production was crucial, especially when working with more than one printer, as they do. “The labels are printed at one place, the four and six packs at another, and the cartons another. Each printer specializes in what they do, but they talk to each other and to me on color matching. We send draw downs, color chips, and samples back and forth to get everything in sync.”

Fortunately, their system works. The artist’s crisp renderings pop off the packaging, bringing the characters to life as he intended. Legendre is known for his large-scale posters that hang in shop windows in Paris, so for this project, he treated the labels as if they were mini-posters, paying special attention to how they will be produced and presented. “I spend a lot of time making sure each illustration is perfectly set up for a certain printing technique, whether it’s silkscreened, foiled stamped, or offset.”

 

In fact, he loves the whole production process. “Printing to me is like bringing the work to life. I have a deep relationship with this art. My grandfather was a book binder, so I was exposed to this at a very young age. The quality of the papers, the smell of the inks, leathers, glue, etc.—it’s ingrained in me and it influences how I work.”

All of these considerations have paid off for the brewery, which has noticed a bump in sales since the packaging was updated with Legendre’s illustrations. “I’ve admired Yann’s work for several years, so he was my first pick for this project. His illustrations have a strong, conceptual framework, and they convey the ideas perfectly,” Bennett n

Fili & Thorn & Charles : Legends, Swans, & Dorks

Spencer Charles was hand-lettering signs at a Whole Foods in Salt Lake City when he heard Louise Fili Ltd was hiring. She invited him to New York for an interview. Fili and Charles clicked. A month later he was living in Brooklyn.

It was 2012 when Charles began working for the legendary Louise Fili, whose New York design studio specializes in book design, restaurant identities, food packaging, and “all things Italian.”

Including, apparently, amore. For Charles, landing a job at Fili’s studio was a dream come true … but that was just the beginning of his dreams come true. While working there, he’d meet Kelly Thorn … and marry her.

Meanwhile, Kelly Thorn was finishing at Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia. She, too, had heard Fili Ltd was hiring. “I lugged my giant portfolio case to her studio, and that’s when I met both her and the guy who’d become my favorite dork, Spencer.”

As their work relationship grew romantic in 2014, Charles left Fili to freelance. By 2015, Charles and Thorn were married and working together as Charles&Thorn.

Based in Brooklyn, they have a studio at The Pencil Factory, a creative coworking space, where they work for a host of clients including Barnes & Noble, Knock Knock, and The Wall Street Journal, among others. In fact, they’ve done a series of book cover illustrations for classic titles for Barnes & Noble. Initially, Charles designed The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and then his client asked if he knew anyone who would be a good fit for Jane Austen’s seven novels. “A prerequisite was that they had to enjoy drawing flowers and letters, which suits me perfectly,” says Thorn. They have subsequently illustrated dozens of titles for the publisher. “Now, depending on the title, they decide for us who is right for each job,” she adds.

When collaborating with your life partner, it can get tricky deciding who does what, but this duo has figured out a system that works for them. “It really depends on the project and who is more excited about doing it and, frankly, who is better suited for it. We’ve learned to delegate and be honest with each other about the type of work we want, and that’s made a big difference,” Thorn notes. And then, there’s question of spending so much time with one person—is it too much of a good thing? “Of course, and this is something we check ourselves on regularly. We’ve learned to voice when we need alone time, when we need to consciously NOT talk about work,” she says, adding, “separating work and life is tricky, especially when you love your work.”

But the two, who admit that their favorite project to date, was designing their wedding invitation, wouldn’t have it any other way. The benefits definitely outweigh the negatives. “We take work home all the time. I think it’s better for us to kind of accept that the two worlds permeate one another. It’s unavoidable, and we don’t really mind.”

Ohn Mar Win’s Illustrated Recipes

They Draw & Cook is the internet’s largest collection of illustrated recipes created by artists from around the world. Founded by Nate Padavick and Salli Swindell, the site features more than 7,200 recipes, and it grows each day. They’ve since published more than a dozen books with recipes from the site, and one The Most Gorgeous Cookbook Ever, features 30 recipes by artist Ohn Mar Win. Swindell says, “We LOVE receiving illustrated recipes from Ohn Mar Win! Her illustrations always capture a mood and vibe that would be really hard to achieve with a photograph.”

Win who’s based in the UK, has been an illustrator and designer for 20 years. She teaches classes for Skillshare on drawing and watercolor techniques. Here, she shares five tips to help you get started on your own illustrated recipe.

  1. Research

Before beginning a project, I always collect lots of reference photos and create a mood board. This helps me to see many angles of the image—in this case, figs—and shows the variances in colors. I often use Pinterest for broad references, but if I need something more specific, I’ll use an image library like Shutterstock.

  1. Put it down on paper

Win: I always start with a hand-drawn sketch rendered in brush pen or black pen, which I scan and take into Photoshop for the texture. I find this method helps me keep the spontaneity of the sketch, which a lot of clients like. My best suggestion is just draw and draw and draw – that’s how I got good at food! It’s very important to observe actual food so you can translate your understanding of it in a recipe or piece of packaging.

  1. Establish the composition before drawing.

Win: I draw out the ingredients that I think I’ll need based on the layout I’ve chosen. Most of the time I follow the sketch layout, but sometimes I’ll rearrange the composition in Photoshop or Illustrator depending on what other elements I’m using.

 

  1. Follow basic lettering rules.

Win: I’m mindful of the lettering placement when I sketch out my rough. I also take a look at lettering sites like My Fonts to get a feel for what sort of lettering style would suit the vibe of my recipe.

Swindell notes, “The angle of the title and the mix of lettering styles help to make this composition so dynamic and engaging.”

  1. Color is key.

Win: I look very closely at foods and often seek out the nuances within them, especially if they are heirloom vegetables, which I love to paint or illustrate. You can do whatever you want when you’re creating for yourself, but clients may have their own ideas about how they want their foods to be colored based on the final product.

Swindell says, “The colors and stylization of the figs are pure magic. The colors almost sparkle against the dark rich background.”

“Figs are a super sexy fruit to draw because they are so curvy and lyrical. In truth, I think her illustrated version of the fig tart looks way more appetizing than the real thing,” Swindell notes.
“One of the best things about this recipe is the organization of the information. It’s super easy to know what ingredients you need and how to prepare the dish. It makes me want to make a Fig Tart. NOW!”