July 16, 2020 • Design // Illustration

Can’t tell if judging or feeling judged

Burgeoning book publisher Red Crowe Books — currently just an imprint for my friend’s books, possibly eventually a full-fledged indie publisher — had a logo, but it was just a clip art crow. So in the midst of doing some other stuff, I was tasked with creating something a little more bespoke to affix to the back of his then-upcoming (now available!) book.

Initially, I responded by trying to make a logo-y logo. You know the sort — flat, single color, made in the same vector graphics factory as nearly every logo and app icon designed since iOS 7 and Windows 8 decreed that all graphic design everywhere must look capable of having been made on the original Macintosh from 1984. What I made looked fine, but I didn’t love it. I could learn to like it, but I’d never love it. Bespoke clip art isn’t a whole lot more interesting than purchased clip art.

So I threw it away, grabbed the smudgiest charcoal pencil I could find, and carefully but not-too-carefully drew a bunch of messy strokes that formed the shape of a crow. I ran it through Photoshop to make it a single-color scribble that lost the grayscale without losing the texture, and came up with a compromise I like — a logo-y logo when scaled down on a business card or book spine, but a real drawing with personality, texture and one very suspicious expression (nothing new there) when examined more closely.