Illustrating PHP

Way back in 1993 I began my career as a pen and ink illustrator, inking buildings and scenery from local towns to be digitized and then woven into Jacquard-woven throws (afghans). That was at least 2 careers ago. Since then, I’ve been a web designer, then a web developer. Now, it seems, I’m going back to my design and illustration roots.

With our recent acquisition of php|architect (php|a), I’m designing and laying out a monthly magazine, php|architect. January’s issue was mostly designed with clip-art and found images. I spent January figuring out the workflow and import process php|a had employed for the last few years (which, being designed by coders, was interesting).

For February I decided that the “Community Issue” would be carried by a theme. Finding that theme was the trick. Now, if you do a Google Image search for “Community” you get the proverbial “cut-paper people chain”.  That was so obvious and boring I immediately passed on it. If not that, then what? Puzzle pieces? Trees? Hands-grasping-hands? I was not taken by any of those.

PHP’s “mascot” is the blue elePHPant (yes, spelled like that), so I thought, “maybe a herd of elePHPants?” – cool… but how to depict them? Well, since the general view of an icon of community seems to be the string of paper people, why not a string of paper elePHPants?

finalI immediately got out a sheet of copier paper, folded it (accordion style), drew a little elePHPant and cut it out. It was cute- and what’s better, it was quick! SOLD! Heading towards the nearest craft store, I purchased about 3 huge sheets of blue poster board and took it home. My thinking was that poster board is more rigid than craft paper, therefor, it’ll stand on it’s side without flopping over. After some finagling (and various curses at my dull-as-crap Fiskars), I managed a string of 4 elePHPants. I positioned these on a white backdrop (made from a roll of white paper) and took some pictures from various angles. Wow, was this ever fun!

I imported the pics, cleaned them up in Fireworks (because this is a digital magazine, so CMYK was not a concern) and placed them in InDesign. After some adjusting, and flipping, the image turned out way better than I could’ve hoped for.

What’s best about this concept, it was a theme I could carry in any direction. Because the cut paper look is so easy to replicate digitally, that was the last I saw of real-world cut paper for this project. In the course of 3 (very interrupted) days, I had 5 illustrations with the elePHPants placed in different scenarios to illustrate the articles.

In all, laying out a php|architect magazine, with original illustrations) takes about a week. I imagine some issues will be shorter, some will take longer. Arbi did a bang-up job designing the issues the last 10 years, I only hope I can keep up the good image