I am so excited to share with you the illustrations I created for my most recent client project! I worked with an amazing web design studio, Punctum Design, and the VA on this project. Although I was hired as a UX designer - and I did a lot of UX-ing, I also got to do a ton of illustrating - which is pretty new for me. Illustration was not originally part of the scope of the project but turned out to be the best solution to adding visual enhancement to the website. The project for sure pushed me out of my comfort zone but I am so glad that it did.
Wait what is this project about?
Let’s back up a little. Our clients were a part of a mental health organization focused on improving treatment methods for PTSD in veteran populations. We were tasked with redesigning their PTSD training website for non-VA therapists. The training modules were pretty text heavy - naturally - and Katie, the creative director, and I, had to figure out the best way to break up the text as well as visually show information. Charts and graphs only went so far for this project, we also realized that stock photos would not cut it and doing our own photoshoot was out of the budget and would not satisfy all of our needs.
We started to play around with the idea of illustrations. Neither of us are super realistic illustrators, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. What we figured out was that if we created less-human-like characters, we would avoid the issue of needing to represent every type of person. We wanted to create illustrations that were friendly, helpful, had emotions, but gender, race, and age neutral. We also realized we needed to make the illustrations simple so that we could quickly create a variety of illustrations just by tweaking a few components.
iPad pro to the rescue
I first started with some sketches - and it just happened that I got my birthday present, an iPad pro and an apple pen the day I started working on the first illustrations. Nothing like a project to learn a new tool fast! Thanks to Adobe Creative Suite - I started using Adobe Draw on my iPad and could upload my sketches to illustrator seamlessly.
The client loved the sample drawings and we just kept creating. My drawing process was to come up with as many ideas as possible based on the information presented in the text. I would sketch on my iPad, bring the designs into AI, do a little cleaning and then add to our “base” illustration characters. Katie and I worked closely and she was great a pushing my ideas and skills, creating ideas and tweaking. It was a solid team effort to produce the best possible designs. In total, the website has over 90 illustrations!
Never throw away your sketches
Early on in the design process Katie suggested I try drawing full body illustration. I worked through it and created some sketches, but we decided to stick with our body-less characters - mostly for space constraints, and simplicity. On the last training module we wanted to illustrate a long case study. We wanted the illustrations to look more human like - I went back to those more human like sketches from months before and they worked perfectly. It was so funny how I originally thought those drawings were a waste of time - but in the end they saved us a ton of time and ensured we met our deadline. Lesson learned - keep all your sketches.
Vector is key
For the case study illustrations we worked closely with the client to pick appropriate skin tones and genders for the illustrations. Adobe Illustrator allowed us to tweak, change and make many samples for the client. We wanted to be extremely cognizant and represent as many people as possible. We also know we are not perfect, and if the client does give feedback, we can easily change colors and drawings as needed. Not so easy if we did a photoshoot.
I was so honored to be part of this amazing project and work on something that I hope will benefit many in the near future.