About the project
When I began the process of developing my last project for my Communication Design III class, I never thought I would end up creating a children’s book to communicate my message. For our last project the class was given the opportunity to branch out and choose a topic of our choice to develop. All the students took part in picking topics of interest. I chose the topic, personal struggles. I felt that this topic was very broad in general and I could expand it further in a variety of ways. This topic can also be easily relatable to people, for we all experience personal struggles in our lives.
Once we all had a topic, the class came up with a question that could relate to everyone’s topic of interest. The question of focus was “what shapes us?” This question was used as a starting point in our research and development of our own main topics. This question is very broad based and can have a variety of answers that could stem from it. During my research process I asked a few friends and family members what they thought when asked the question, what shapes us? Everyone’s answer was very similar to one another and was similar to my own answer to the question. The answer I was given was that everything from our surroundings to our struggles, to our culture and people we interact with, has the ability shape us to who we are as individuals. When I looked up the question on the computer, I was pretty much getting the same answer. Every interaction, interests, preferences, characteristics, etc. builds on in establishing what makes us…us.
I put the question aside as I tried to focus on the topic of my choice. Part of my development process was to create a lotus bloom, which is similar to a mind map. I took the topic, personal conflict, and expanded it to eight possible ideas that could be a result of a personal conflict. I came up with things like addictions, fear, family, religion, relationships, identity, etc. From there I took each one of these topics and expanded it further. Identity was one of the topics that I was most interested in branching out from the main topic (personal conflict). I reapplied the question, what shapes us?, but changed it to “how does identity shape us?” I came up with a few answers such as, that our identity can dictate how we interact and with whom. Our identities can also shape how we see and perceive ourselves and others. I continued to expanded the term identity. In my process I came up with titles/labels. This got me wondering if the titles and labels we give ourselves and others give us, really define and shape who we think we are. I thought this would be a good subject to develop into a project.
I was thinking of creating something like an informational book or a book that could make people (particularly young people) question whether their labels really define who they are. The main idea I was thinking of trying to get across was to challenge peoples preconceived notions of who they are, based on the labels they associate with. Does the labels/titles we associate with and are given to us, make up who we are? This was the question I wanted to use and to be the center of my project as I develop it.
After I shared my ideas for this last project with my class, it became clear that although the concept for the project sounded interesting, I actually didn’t have a solid solution for how the project could be developed overall.
The discussion with my class helped to steer me to a whole new concept for my project and to approach it differently. I needed to think of labels in relation to myself and then see how it could be applied on a larger scale. This helped to focus my attention on one thing rather than a multiple of different things. During the class time, one student chimed in about the fact that one of her labels as a kid, had stemmed from being adopted. Some people would associate that label with her. I easily related with her on that matter since I too was adopted when I was younger. The questions that arouse from that conversation was, how could I develop that for my last project? and how could I make the topic relatable to others? and Does it need to be relatable? After the discussion all I really knew was that I needed to add elements of my own story into the project. There were many layers that needed to be considered and the only other solid thing I knew about my project was that I was going to develop it into a children’s book.
I decided to piece together elements of my own story to see how it could associate to a personal struggle or could be used to help tell a story that relates to that. I thought about how the world became scary and so fascinating when I was adopted from the orphanage and moved to a whole new country. The orphanage that I lived in for a few years as a child, was all that I knew of the world. This event in my life, when I left, shaped how I saw the world around me. I got to experience something pretty profound that had a part in shaping me to who I am today. As part of my research process, I asked my parents what they remembered about my reaction to my transition into a new country. They said that I seemed to be very inquisitive about my new surroundings, but they could tell that at such a young age the experience was a big culture shock for me as well. There were a lot of things that were foreign to me and would take time to adjust to the new customs and culture of this new country I was in. I considered the idea that when coming from a different country to a new one, there is the struggle to try to feel like one fits in and belongs in the new environment. With the merging of these elements, I was able to come up with a story that could work for the illustration of my book.
I envisioned telling the story through the character(s) of animals. I started to collect images for inspiration and looking up children’s books to create a mood board. I created a brief sketch to arrange the story. I knew that the arrangement of the story would change once I start working on the illustration on the computer, but it was a good starting point. When I began to illustrate, I automatically was drawn to the idea of creating silhouettes. I felt that incorporating silhouettes would create a nice clean visual element throughout the story. I looked up famous silhouette artists like Lotte Riniger and Kara Walker to get inspired from how they tell their stories through silhouettes.
For my story I wanted to keep everything fairly simple design wise. I chose to use very minimal detail, so that elements like the transformation of colors could be used instead, to help visually tell the story. The structure of the story evolved as I created the character of the rabbit and the transformation that happens to the rabbit as it moves throughout the different scenes. I wanted to begin the story of the rabbit being in a world that is all in black and white. This emphasizes that this home is all that the rabbit knows of the world, so therefore the the rabbit is unable to see the world in color. When the rabbit travels away from her home, the world around her gradually begins to change and transform to color. Her experience is that she is beginning to see differently. She is seeing a world that’s new and full of colors. This is beginning to shape her as character in this story. I added two other characters, cat and fox, to give meaning to the notion of belonging. The rabbit discovers the feeling of not belonging when she meets these colorful characters, but ultimately she discovers that she does belong in this new exciting world full of different hues.
The idea of the story was to incorporate elements of my story, which was the transformation of seeing the world differently. I used colors to visually represent that change. I also wanted to include the notion of belonging as a personal struggle for the character. I think that the idea of belonging could resonate with a lot of people as a personal struggle that they might have experienced at some point in their lives. For the character in the book the struggle becomes her wanting to feel like she belongs in this new world, but she struggles at first to feel that connection. I feel that I was able to capture the elements of struggle and transformation throughout the story.