Stumptown Comics Fest is an independent comic convention in Portland that draws over 3,000 attendees yearly. I’ve been going to this show for 7 years straight, and I’ve had the privilege of seeing it grow from a wee thing into a huge and robust convention. To be perfectly honest, it’s my favorite comics show of all, which is why I was so thrilled when I was asked to be the Art Director.
My job was to ensure that all visual materials produced for the event by different artists worked together to create a cohesive look for the event. In addition to art direction, I did branding and designed all the print collateral. I created a logo and style guide, designed a 34-page program, flyers, badges, t-shirts, and an 18×24″ poster.
As Art Director, I wanted to create a unified look for all the festival’s collateral. Even though the Festival is now in its 10th year, until I came on board, it had never had a logo or style guide. My goal was to get all the festival-related materials to be tight and visually harmonious.
I was invited to art direct the festival by Kaebel Hashitani, the festival director. I’ve known Kaebel for a few years, but I really got to know him well when I put together my show, “Date Lines” at the gallery he co-runs with Merrick Monroe.
For the branding, I wanted to create a logo that could be used in different ways. I ended up creating a major brandmark, the tree stump with a stylized Portland skyline. The tree stump can also be removed, and the text inside of that can stand on its own as a secondary brandmark. The T-shirt, event booklet and postcard feature the stump logo, while the badges, which are pretty small and feature full-bleed illustrations, look better with the simpler version of the logo.
In designing the badges, postcards and other collateral, I got to collaborate with two wonderful artists, Mike Russell, and Bill Mudron. Initially, Bill was supposed to do the poster and Mike was supposed to do the badges, but because they’ve collaborated in the past, I thought it would be good for them each to work on both. The result was spectacular.
For the poster, Bill created the artist’s desk, hands and a border. Mike drew the scenes inside the comic panels. In the top panel, Mike riffed on my logo and did an illustrated version of it. I ended up modifying my vector logo slightly to match the geography on top of the stump in Mike’s illustration, because he’s a native Portlander and I’m not. In fact, I was the only remote member of the entire staff, so we ended up doing a lot of collaboration over Skype, phone and email.
The collateral list was pretty huge: postcards, a poster, program, badges, and the t-shirt. This was the first time that the t-shirts ever sold out completely! The booklet was a big effort as well, because I had to design a color-coded event schedule and a map for the exhibition hall. A huge shout-out to Mary at Brown Printing for getting everything printed beautifully and on time!
I’ve been asked back to Art Direct for 2014, and I’m really looking forward to pulling it all together again next year!