Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Digital Design for a Granite Memorial Bench from Start To Finish

A month ago I had watched Chase Jarvis and Ramit Sethi talk about freelance work and the mentality required to do acquire work like a pro.  The main take away I got was to consider all the work I was doing (day job, other projects, new projects) and consider them like a juggler.  It requires a lot of work to keep several different projects going, but over time the goal is to be juggling the right project.

I browsed through occasionally, but the moderator set up a little recipie with where I get an email everytime someone posts a new job.  I ignore most jobs since they are either outside my skill set or not interesting to me, but one job caught my eye.  The gentleman had recently lost his wife and needed a digital illustration for a granite memorial bench.  I had never done work like this before, so I cleaned up my portfolio and sent him a bid for the work.

He said yes.  I was slightly beside myself with excitement!  

I called him up and then reality hit.  He just lost his wife and he has a young daughter. Yikes!

I thought about what would happen if my wife passed on in a similar way and the emotional heaviness of this work set in.  He had already purchased the memorial bench, but the engravers were difficult to reach.  And on top of that even dealing with anything related to his wife was challenging.

I knew this was slightly outside my expertise, but I also agreed to communicate with the engravers and make sure I could get in touch with the actual engraver -- the client always had to be patched through someone else, if they were around -- and get them early samples of the design to make sure it would engrave well.

After a few calls, I got the name of the engraver and started working on drafts.  The client wanted a quaint bridge in the center, and I started drawing out different bridges.  

I didn't one every bridge to be based on something I'd found on the Internet, so I branched out and used magazines, books, and my imagination as sources for various briges.  I presented my initial draft to my client and awaited his feedback.

He said he liked the middle bridge on the first row.  He and his wife were pretty conservative and the bridge matched their aesthetic.

I did a few more to try to pull in concepts he wanted to see with people acting as a bridge.  In the end he still preferred his first choice and like seeing additional material textures added to the bridge.

I was pretty happy with the results, then he emailed me this image.

He wanted to incorporate the border work into the piece.  I will admit, my initial reaction was jaw drop that nearly bruised my chin.  Then I zoomed in and got lost with all the details of the pattern.  It seemed it was repeated, but I had no freaking clue how to consistently isolate a base pattern since the corners joined in a complex way with the vertical and horizontal patterns.

I waited a few days, and when he asked about how things were going, I kicked my design mojo into overdrive and just did it.  I drew out each line, and copied and pasted where I could.  

Eventually I banged out one panel, and was able to give him a draft.  The main issue was the white space on either side of the first and last panel.  The empty parts where due to a dimension mismatch.  The border pattern he wanted was not as wide as the bench width. 

He used Photoshop and emailed me a way the sides could be expanded.  I really wish I could have used the same method to stretch out the first and last panels, but I was using a vector based program which is essentially based on dots and lines.  It would be pretty obvious if something wasn't lined up.

I redrew the sides and took a portion of the border pattern to repeat the wider pattern until the first and last panel were much wider.

My client also requested there be a little more life in the center panel.  I added more trees a couple more birds, and the river took me 3 tries, but I eventually had something I was happy with.

Here's the center panel by itself.
I had sent out a test file to the engraver and an early draft to make sure I wasn't breaking any design limits since I had never designed for stone.  But he sent back images using a similar stone and the results came out pretty good.  

I spoke to a friend about this project and how each phase of it required different approaches and different energies very similar to the beginning, middle, and end game of chess. 

The client is now awaiting photographs of the final engravings and I've requested copies so I can share them here as well.