Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Blue Aster Studio and the Quest for the Perfect Snake Art ---Guest Post---

    Hello, Living Alongside Wildlife readers! My name is David Orr, and with my wife Jennie, I run a small design firm called Blue Aster Studio. We do work ranging from illustration and branding to designing full presentations and websites. Because of our shared passion for the environment, we especially enjoy working with organizations and researchers in their conservation outreach efforts. Today, I’d like to share our process in creating outreach graphics for David Steen.

    I’ve been following David on Twitter for a while now. He’s why I know about the indigo snake. He educated me about the fact that rattlesnake round-ups exist, and how heinous they are. So when he asked to work together, Jennie and I jumped at the chance. He told us that he would love to have graphics to support his interactions on the #NotACopperhead and #NotACottonmouth hashtags, so each tweet could have more information than Twitter’s 140 characters can convey.

    David wanted something bright and eye-catching, rather than “field guide” type imagery, which we felt tied in nicely with his mantra of “Don’t Hate, Educate.” Our mission was to create work that would surprise and delight people, even as they were… gasp... being corrected by an expert. We asked David to give us a list of the snakes most commonly mistaken for copperheads and cottonmouths, as well as a set of factoids about each species. 

    Having this content was the foundation of everything, and the design process began. First, we created a visual identity that would unite all of the graphics: a set of fonts, colors, and other graphic elements. This also included the logo. We tried various ways to make a snake interact with the
#NotACopperhead and #NotACottonmouth hashtags, eventually settling on a pennant design, with a rat snake wrapped around the flagpole.

    We shared a draft of the logo with David along with one snake illustration, to be sure that we were on the same page. When he gave the thumbs up to both (he liked that the logo reminded him of the “victory” flag at the end of Super Mario levels), I moved on to completing the set of seven snake illustrations and incorporating them into the two sets of shareable graphics. One was a simple “You found a…” design that would correctly identify a snake. The other incorporated the factoids for each species, between three and five for each. To keep them varied, each graphic used a different combination of colors and textures. We wound up with three dozen individual graphics!

    Since David also wanted to benefit snake conservation in some way, we created a line of merchandise to sell from a special section of our on-line shop, called the Snake Shop. Half of all proceeds go to Advocates for Snake Preservation, who work to improve the way people interact with snakes. I’m happy to say that since launching the shop in September, we’ve raised about $85 for the organization!

    Finally, we pitched the idea of holding an event to bring together snake experts with the public, as well as launch David’s shiny new set of graphics. Thus, the #SnakeTownHall was born. Early in September, we brought together an international group of researchers and conservationists and helpd a two hour event on Twitter to allow folks to ask their burning snake questions (to clarify, these were not questions about burning snakes - not that I recall, at least). It seems to have been a hit, with participants leaving excited for the next one, and advocates of other organisms pondering running their own virtual town halls. We certainly learned a lot about snakes and about running events like this, and we’re also eager to try it again.

    In all, working with David has been a great experience. It’s always a treat to see designs “out in the wild,” and the fact that we’re directly contributing to improving the lot of snakes in this country is a terrific feeling. We’ve got another project we’ve discussed as a follow-up, so keep your eyes peeled for that, too!

Click here for more information 
about Blue Aster Studio and 
please visit the Snake Shop!

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