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!