Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Nic's Sticky Notes

Right then, here we are. Or here I am, at any rate, I imagine you’ll be popping along at different times as you’re free.

Asynchronous conversations – one of the many beautiful things about the internet.

But I’m just wasting time here with my fingers while I think of what to say. You see, Cy invited me to be an irregular contributor to his blog, sticky fingers excepted, and it sounded like a great idea. Now I am faced with a white text box and struck with a case of the “...but what shall I writes?”.

Let’s try and keep it comics related, then, at least at first...

This week, in preparation for Bristol, I have been mostly lettering comics. I also designed my first logo.

Here it is:

As you can see it’s for Slaughterman’s Creed, which will be out from Markosia later this year.

When I say “designed” I actually mean “designed and executed”. I’ve come up with logo concepts before for Cancertown and The Indifference Engine, but they were both drawn up by the rather wonderful Paul Cartwright.

In my other life I do a lot work with what is known as “emotional design”. The short explanation of that is “designing for the subconscious”. Using shapes and colours and their placement, contrast and interrelation to provoke certain feelings and attitudes. You’ll maybe have seen Derren Brown do a “turned up to 11” version of this kind of thing, but I'm a marketer, not a magician.

In my other life, though, I do the theory and the sketching and the testing of the interpretation. I usually have a magically skilled graphic designer to do the actually execution. So, when I said to Harry Markos of Markosia “What do you want to do about designing the logo for Slaughterman’s Creed, then?” and he said “Why don’t you have a go?” I had an initial moment of terror and then merrily jumped in with both feet and started splashing about.

It wasn’t like I didn’t have a safety net though. Luckily I could ask the incredibly talented James Reekie for tips, and Markosia’s editor Ian Sharman is a red hot designer himself.

I’d been thinking about ideas for the logo for a while, albeit for someone else to draw. Given the nature of the story something meat related had always been kicking around at the back of my mind. For a while I played about with the idea of the kind of bluish stamp that you see on bacon, but then for that to work the whole cover would have had to bend around it and look like it was made of flesh. That would have all got a bit too Necronomicon, though, and not worked as an advert for the content.

The initial cover concepts that Stephen did were quite “video nasty” style with their red and white and nasty meat hook in the foreground. I spent a lot of time thinking about whether to play up the “straight to video” kind of look – but the 70s exploitation or 80s horror vibe didn’t fit the nature of the story, but no spoilers about why that is the case at this stage!

In the end this one popped into my head almost fully formed. The concept of the logo as a label from the actual world of the story. As I played with sketching out possibilities for it I realised it could also do the job of getting across quite a lot of information about the content. Not just incorporating a content warning (and yes, it is very very violent, the language is very bad, but there are no naughty bits!) but little hints about the nature of the world and the story. Ah, you’ll see what I mean once you’ve read it.

And if you come and talk to us at Bristol then you’ll be able to see some previews.

I drew up several versions with the elements combined in different ways and after a bit of back and forth, Harry picked the one he liked.

I had more to say about that than I expected, and I didn’t even get into font selection and straight or curvy corners!

I wonder if I’ve got time to say anything about lettering then, and what to say about it? I’m not going to write a “how to” that’s for certain. For one thing, there’s a lot of those about, and if you want one the best I can recommend is Comic Book Lettering by Jim Campbell. It started life as a series of posts on the 2000AD forums and he then kindly compiled it into a PDF and a free ebook. I know it’s helped lots of people with its clear illustrations and practical step by step advice. Apart from eating his brains to gain his knowledge it’s the closest you can get to a direct download of years of experience.

If you think you want to be a letterer, though, be aware that it can change your life in ways you might not want, like wondering about the fonts used in the middle of a film you’re watching.

I think what I want to write about is more the “art of lettering”. More about what you do once you’ve had the all night wrestling matches with illustrator, learned its true name and gained dominion over it. That’s not a fight to be approached lightly, either!

Recently PJ Holden wrote a fantastic piece on his blog showing his approach to composition and how he manages the flow of the readers’ attention around the page by drawing focus within the panels and the page as a whole. It’s better if you go and read it than if I describe it to you though. It’s a really great insight into an artist’s creative process.

So, inspired by that I’d like to do something similar for how I approach lettering, working with the shapes of the art and the script, but I am nearly out of time and almost certainly out of post and attention span now, because it’s going to need examples and arrows and all sorts of things like that.

So, let’s save that for next time, and I’ll make up lots of pictures to illustrate it as well. For now I’ll just say that I think of lettering kind of like the Force – it has a visual side and a technical side and it binds the script and artwork together.

All that remains is to clean the sticky marks from the keyboard before Cy gets back...


  1. Is it safe to read if I've already had 50% or my RDA of swearing? What are the overdose risks? Maybe I have to always read it as soon as I wake up just to be sure I haven't already exceeded my quotas :)

  2. If you have already had all or part of your RDA of swearing then the surplus swears are stored at the back of your mouth.

    These swears may be emitted by the mouth at any time following until the body is back to it's natural swearing level.

    Warning: The writer accepts no responsibility or liability for the appropriateness of content or context of such swear laden emissions.

    Read at own risk.


google-site-verification: google0d3d5d05cce73118.html