grab bag blog

This is where I talk about my work, my discoveries, my creative process, and the ins and outs of marketing in the arts.

Changes of Heart: the process

May 25, 2011
Changes of Heart final poster image

Next up, I’ve got the second poster I created for Remy Bumppo Theatre Company‘s 2011/2012 Season. The first one was Eugene O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra, but now we move on to the mid-season holiday-times comedy Changes of Heart by Pierre de Marivaux, a French playwright from the early 1700s. This one wasn’t nearly so difficult as Electra, but it had it’s challenges nonetheless.

The story of Changes of Heart is basically that a prince disguises himself has a lower-class guy, and while exploring the city, meets and falls in love with a woman from the lower-class. He decides to have her kidnapped and brought to the castle, but then cannot find a good way to introduce himself as the prince, so continues the charade. Meanwhile, the man that the prince’s love is engaged to comes looking for her. It’s a comedy of disguises and love across class boundaries, but a comedy along the lines of The Merchant of Venice, where some bits are left a little uncomfortable at the end. Remy Bumppo’s production will be set in Chicago in the 1960s and highlight the class differences by also making them racial differences between the city’s mostly-white north side and mostly-black south side.

Changes of Heart initial sketches and mockup

When I first start doodling ideas (above left) for the show, I gravitated towards many men being attracted to one woman and the feel of 1960s movie posters that involved silhouettes and dramatic size differences. I was also trying to capture a sense of fascination with the prince seeing a woman from a culture other than his own.

My first attempt at a very rough mockup (above right) seemed a little plain to me, and did not resonate much the marketing director. She was keen to continue this line of thinking though. She and the artistic director suggested that the guy(s) needed to be less Mad Men and more leisure class—the prince is not a working man, after all. The company’s artistic director suggested the staff watch the Beau Bridges/Lee Grant movie The Landlord from 1970 to get an idea of what he was thinking.

Changes of Heart 2nd round of design sketches

Displeased with my first take on the idea, I went back to square one. I disliked the literalness of my first approach. Much of the company’s past design has had a sense of playful abstraction, so I wanted something more symbolic. My first new idea (upper left) was two color planes with footsteps everywhere, showing the crossing of lines. That didn’t work for me because it wasn’t a good strong single image. I also half-heartedly played with some ideas involving hearts (ha!), but really, there’s no need to put a heart in the design if it’s already in the title. That’s just overkill and way too obvious. The design should communicate something that the title isn’t already doing.

I moved from there to the idea of a wild flower and a potted flower mingling, since one would be “wild and free” and the other upright and contained. This lead me to the idea of birds rather than flowers—one caged, one free—and the period-appropriate image of the bird from the Woodstock poster.

A fun side note: these pages of rough sketches were done while riding the Brown Line train downtown. One must always carry something with which to write/draw at all times, because you never know when you’ll have a free moment and inspiration will happen!

Changes of Heart 2nd round mockup

The company’s marketing committee responded very favorably to this image, likely because they tended to be in their 50s or older and had an emotional connection to Woodstock. The only feedback I got from the marketing director on this one was that the feel of the “lower class” in this production was going to be more 1960s community organizer rather than hippy, more mo-town, soul, and funk than rock and folk. She suggested changing the acoustic guitar neck to an electric guitar neck for that mo-town feel. I did this and tightening up the bird cage, and we also moved the caged bird to the door of the cage, suggesting a little more possibility. The energy of the piece comes from wondering which bird, if either, will go to the other.

So as you can see, not as difficult a journey as the previous poster. In the end, both the client and I were very happy with this image.

I realized that I neglected to mention in my previous post the fonts I’ve used for this project. My primary fonts for the season are Headline One and Headline Two (One is all caps, Two is mixed), though this poster uses a font called Pupcat because it’s a little more fun. I’m certainly not a strong advocate for using too many free internet fonts for design work, but these two were just kind of perfect for this whole project.

Later this week, I’ll give you the final poster in our little series. Thanks for reading!


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