Billy Baumann may be his own toughest critic, always stepping back and looking at how he could improve his work and grow as a designer. Never settling for the first sketch or first idea, he continually looks for ways to fine-tune his work, even still considering some of his finished designs a work in progress. His eye for perfection has been at the core of his success, helping him as he grew from designing posters for bands most people never heard of to designing projects for some of the world's most recognizable brands.
Several years ago Baumann and his friend Jason Teegarden-Downs founded a design studio with the curious name Delicious Design League. As the firm quickly grew, the name stuck and what really began as a hobby became a full-service design studio. Today, the two friends are busy in their loft studio in Chicago's warehouse district, where they design posters, packaging, ads, and logos for a range of notable clients.
In this article, Baumann relates the thought process and technique behind his computer-generated piece "Venus Mea Gemina."
I like to fill my mind with anything that could spark an idea. Becoming actively inspired by listening to music, reading old books, checking out midcentury modern designers, or even flipping through comic books can inspire me to think differently. I also like to experiment with different mediums and textures. I might use markers or a pen for one project and paintbrushes for another. Other projects might begin as a pencil sketch.
“Illustration isn’t about just
throwing down something creative on paper. I take a
very intentional approach
to every project.”
At the core of any of my work is the need to find an idea that will grab the audience emotionally and intellectually. Then I have to execute it in a way that is both visually interesting and very relevant to the story my client wants to tell. When these critical elements come together, I feel more confident that the final design is both well crafted and has impact.
I looked back at images of Botticelli's "Birth of Venus" and they had so much soul to them; the hand-drawn images have such a human feel. I wanted to create the same passionate experience for the viewer using computer-generated graphics and Adobe® Illustrator® CS6.
For my project, I started out with the concept of strong line work, a limited color palette, and symmetry. My mind is drawn to symmetry and balance.
I composed a rough composition with images of the painting, and then continued to draw line work over the image, just covering one side.
I copied and flipped the line work along the way to see how it looked.
With my line work complete, you’ll see below how I created different layers to bring in color and added patterns to reinforce symmetry. I also crafted elements to give it the hand-done feel I experienced looking at the original "Venus" images.
To bring greater depth to my illustration, I placed the texture from Adobe Photoshop® into my new document, used the new Image Trace feature in Illustrator CS6, and then warped the resulting vectorized texture with the Envelope Distort feature in Illustrator.
The vector textures were applied to a new layer and were masked to provide the shapes needed. I then further refined the line work of the drawing, using the Width tool to create flowing lines of varying widths.
Once I had the basic texture and line variation that I wanted, I roughened my line work throughout the drawing to give it a more hand-drawn, human feel.
Here I opted to expand the line work and applied the Roughen filter to the drawing.
Using the new pattern creation capability in Illustrator CS6, I created a pattern for my design.
I then applied the new pattern in the colored layer and finalized the second color. And as a next step, I began to lay out a second color in a new layer.
“Adobe Illustrator continues to deliver new features that make it faster and easier to take ideas, experiment, and refine them, and create designs that grab audiences emotionally and intellectually.”
In a new layer, I applied a third color and set to multiply with the second color. To the left, the second and third colors can be seen, minus the first color.
I began to mask each layer to the desired sizes. I continued to adjust the colors along the way, and eventually added two more colors — one to create more depth, and the last one to simulate the natural paper color we’d print on.
“Our work is extremely deadline driven — so we need solid
processes to get the results we want. New features in Illustrator CS6 help us work smarter and more creatively to give our clients the best designs on time.”