Design Case Studies – Dani Jones

design case studies

I contacted Dani to see if she would be interested in showing a design case study after seeing a post on www.danidraws.comThe making of a children’s book illustration, make sure you check it out along with her other work.

Design Case StudiesDesign Case studies is a feature where graphic designers/illustrators are invited to show off a piece of work and talk us through their design process from initial ideas through to their final design.Dani Jones (pictured left) is featured this week and talks about one of her designs.

1. Your Name?
Dani Jones

2. Your Location (City and Country)?
Keene, NH

3. Your Website or Blog URL?
Sketch Blog:
Illustration tutorials and articles:

4. Project Title?
Cover illustration for the children’s book The Best Mariachi in the World (Raven Tree Press, 2008)

5. What was the brief?
Mariachi is a story about a boy named Gustavo who wants to be in his family’s Mariachi band. Unfortunately, he cannot play any instruments, but throughout the course of the book he slowly learns to develop his own true talent — singing.

6. What sort of research did you do?
The book takes place in the Southwest, so I had to learn a lot about desert life, including the animals, plants, and culture.

7. How did you start? (eg. planning, brainstorming, sketching, moodboards etc) Please supply images of planning/sketching stage.
I usually start a project with lots of thumbnails and very loose sketches, just to get some ideas down. I’ll slowly refine my sketches until I come up with a solid idea that I want to develop further.

first sketch

8. Where did your inspiration come from?
Much of the book takes place at night, in the middle of the desert. The text describes a sky full of stars, cacti that towered over him like trees, and various wildlife that comes out at night, like owls and coyotes. I really liked these visuals, so I wanted to include these on the cover.

9. Where did you go from here? (talk through with client, work up visuals etc)
I showed the client my general idea, which they liked. I now set out to refine the drawing.

My first drawing ended up looking a lot like my first sketch. I researched some photo reference of some cacti and refined the characters a little.


10. How did you present the concepts? What sort of feed back did you get from the client? Please supply images of concept stage
Both the client and I decided that the first refined sketch ended up being very stiff, and lost some of the dynamics that were indicated by my original concept.

To fix this, I redrew the background to emphasize the perspective and movement. I also redesigned my main characters and reworked the poses a little.

sketch next stage

Eventually, I ended up with the drawing I used for the final painting.

final sketch for book cover design

11. Where did the design project go from here?
First, I made a a few color studies using Photoshop. I found that the biggest challenge for this project was to create a night scene that could look bright and colorful, and not too dark. It remained a challenge throughout the final painting, and I had to make adjustments several times during the process to continue making it lighter.

colour studies for illustration

12. What are your thoughts on the final design are you pleased with the outcome/anything you would like to change? Please supply images of the final design.
The final image took a little back-and-forth between the client and I, but eventually I think we were able to come up with an image we were both happy with. I wish I had put more care into figuring out the value and color problems before I started the final painting. Overall, I am happy with the result.

final book cover illustration

13. Any thing else you would like to add?
Visit to see more of my work. The Best Mariachi in the World will be released in 2008. Be sure to watch for it!

Reinventing the Wheel in Graphic Design

wheelIf like me you have been a designer for many years you may well have been in this situation – You have been working for a client for several years and of course some design jobs will need refreshing every year or two or maybe projects of a similar nature crop up a lot.

This is my question for you –
How do you keep finding new inspiration for the same brief?
If you can imagine perhaps you have designed a company’s annual review for several years, nothing major has changed and the brief is just about coming round again.

How do you think of new ideas for a brief that you have already brainstormed about a hundred times over?

I try and look what other companies are doing but not necessarily in the same area of design. I also go back to basics and sometimes create moodboards, cutting up magazines and found graphics. It’s one of the things I find incredibly difficult about my job as a freelance graphic designer. What do you do?

Typographic Inspiration

I don’t know about you, but the classic thing I do when looking for typographic inspiration is to flick through a few magazines, design books or the web. Try taking a look at the typographic group on Flickr I really like what has been done. There are entries as you would expect showing pages of brochures and literature, but there are also more REAL WORLD examples you perhaps wouldn’t normally use as inspiration – street signs, posters partially pealed off walls etc.

Keeping a digital camera and snapping anything which could be useful for design inspiration is something I really ought to do – how about you?


Inspiration for Illustration

I am a big fan of illustration and used to do a lot within my work, unfortunately time/budget constraints and cheap royalty free images means that it’s now a luxury to be able to illustrate, and it’s easy to get out of practice. I thought I would share with you some sources of inspiration for illustration that I have found on the web.

Ilustraton Friday

Illustration Friday
has a new theme every Friday and invites illustrators to submit illustrations on a word/topic. The topic is usually fairly loose so you get a real mix of interpretations and styles. The illustrations can also be seen via Flickr.

Ilustraton class

Illustration Class
is a website I mentioned when my blog was fairly new (so probably only me and an accidental stumbler read it 🙂 ), so I think it’s worth taking a look at again. The website written by Von Glitschka (illustrator/designer) is literally as the website’s name a series of illustration classes. Tutorials include creating an illustrative logo, creating illustrative icons, creating illustrations starting with basic shapes, collage illustration. The illustration exercises really remind me of the sort of creative exercises I did at college (all be it they were then by hand rather than on computer).

Amateur Illustrator
Amateur Illustrator
This site is a community for illustrators. I am not quite sure of the term amateur as some of the entries seem to be by practising designers/illustrators, none the less there is a wealth of different illustration styles to view here categorised by media/technique. You can also join the site and upload your own images and profile to the site.

Advocate Art

Advocate Art
A large illustration agency based in the UK has a website featuring illustrations organised by artist and type (cartoon, graphic, figurative etc)

I Spot Illustration

The I Spot
This is a site where lots of different artists/illustrators showcase their work


“Drawn! is a multi-author blog devoted to illustration, art, cartooning and drawing. Its purpose is to inspire creativity by sharing links and resources.”


Vektorika Magazine
Mentioned before on this blog, Vektorika is a free downloadable PDF magazine of vector illustration from various artists – each issue is based on a theme ie. Love, character design etc.

Start Drawing

Start Drawing
A portal for Asia’s illustrators and artists this site features a wide variety of illustration styles, well worth a look. Found via

Smashing Magazine – Masters of Illustration
Smashing magazine showcases more than 100 illustrations from contemporary illustrators.

If anyone knows of any more I will be happy to add them to the list.

How to Have Creative Ideas

creative bookWhile I was away on holiday I took the book “How To Have Creative Ideas” by Edward de Bono which I heard a lot about. For those of you that haven’t heard of Edward de Bono (I hadn’t a few month ago) he is a leading figure in the field of creative thinking and has worked with people from children to large corporations. De Bono believes that the brain and your creativity needs to be exercised. As with anything you become more creative with practice, he also believes that anyone can learn to be more creative.

The book “How to Have Creative Ideas,” consists of a series of exercises designed to flex your creative muscles using random words for inspiration. For example one of the exercises is to take a random word (these are selected from tables at the back of the book randomly by rolling a dice) and come up with new ideas to make a bank more attractive to its customers. I randomly drew the word curry mmm… makes you think doesn’t it. How can you use the word curry to come up with ideas to promote a bank? Maybe the bank could have a snack bar so customers can grab lunch while sorting their finances, could the bank be themed different Countries different months India/curry to promote its travel currency services and travel insurance, maybe on opening a new student account the student is given a voucher for a curry at a local curry house. Ok maybe they are not the best ideas but you can see the concept. Once you are confident at using the random words with de Bono’s exercises you can then apply the random words to your own problems.

Another exercise I enjoyed was to randomly pick to words to create a potential profit making company. I picked Ant and Hotel, so maybe there could be a hotel with very small rooms, I have seen on TV hotels in Japan where your “hotel room” is literally a shelf with a bed and curtains round it, perhaps this could be introduced for pub goers as a cheaper alternative to a taxi (ok, if you are laughing, you think of some 🙂 )

What I really like about the whole random word idea, is it can throw up concepts that you wouldn’t have thought of in a million years. I can see that this way of thinking could be especially useful for conceptual design work and advertising, I think I will give it a try on the next project I am stuck on.

I think this book is well worth a look for anyone interested in expanding their way of thinking. If you are looking for a random word generator to have a quick try of some creative thinking check out the random word generator. This site also suggests exercises similar to Edward de Bono’s ideas.

Graphic Design Cookbook

A little while ago I came across a small paper back book in our local bookshop called The Graphic Design Cookbook, with a slogan – mix and max recipes for faster, better layouts, sounded interesting so I bought it. Essentially what the book does is picks and element of a design layout for example page folios and then shows you numerous page folio examples, just as simple black and white diagrams. The idea being I guess that if you are stuck for an idea for layout you flick to an element of the book to inspire you. Some of you may disagree but I think the premise of this book is very good. I would never create a mix and match design but sometimes you do think – what could I do with that page folio to make it look a bit more interesting and anything to help spur an idea is always welcome.

The downside of this book is, in my opinion it is badly executed. I decided to give it a go when I was stuck once for a straight piece of layout design.When I have a concept within a design I find the layout easily evolves around it, but for me if I am just given a photograph and text and told to make them look nice its a lot more difficult to pull something interesting out of the hat. So did the book work, for me, no, the graphics deliberately made stark/diagramatic did not inspire me at all, and so I did my usual flicking through my scrap books and magazines for inspiration and scribbling on a layout pad. What it did do was make me think this could work if was done better.

Maybe there is a way we could all start a shared design elements gallery on Flickr or similar image gallery (cool headings, navigation, folios etc) ? I rarely use Flickr so am not sure if this is possible for people to group their images together, or do you prefer to have your own personal resource? What do you think?