I love drawing and illustration, and I also quite enjoy taking different pieces of imagery and combining them into something new. But sometimes, all I need is an amazing photograph and my work is done.
This might seem an easy way out for a designer, but finding just the right photograph is a time-consuming process, and requires knowing exactly what you want, but with the flexibility of knowing that you might be surprised by something you hadn’t considered. Most of the time, you won’t find such an image on a stock photo site. Case in point is this poster I recently made for BoHo Theatre’s upcoming production of Amadeus:
The primary theme the director is exploring is the main character’s fear of mediocrity, of always wanting to have been great but who was, in fact, nothing special, and that he will die without having left a mark on the world. This desperation leads him to try to destroy the true genius he encounters, namely Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This is dark stuff, and I worked for weeks trying to figure out a compelling image or illustration that would attract attention and be true to that idea. Most of my work focused on the end of this man’s life, of his solitude, emptiness, and fear. But I didn’t like anything I came up with. It was all so… depressing. It didn’t make me want to see the show.
But in my research, I came across some images of burning pianos, because apparently that’s something people like to do with pianos. (Who knew?) These images captured the energy and passion that I needed but hadn’t realized it. They reoriented my thinking away from the cold and empty place of despair and instead pointed me towards what drives somebody to be great. The fire communicated both the driving passion to be brilliant and acknowledged, and also the destructive power of anger and revenge. So I dug deeper into researching pictures of burning pianos.
Finally, I found the blog of photographer Stu Jenks and the images he took recently of a piano burning. His close-ups of the fiery keys are beautiful and powerful, and exactly what I was looking for. We worked out a deal to use one of his images in our marketing, which you’ll soon see online and at some choice transit locations around the city. Everybody involved in the play has been thrilled with this marketing image.
Every project is a new challenge that needs to be approached in a unique way. The work of every designer starts with knowing what is to be communicated and how; skills like drawing, painting, collage, illustration, and image manipulation are all just tools to facilitate that communication. And knowing when the right tool is another artist is an equally important skill to have.