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Associations Now Magazine: Sketchnote Illustrations

Associations Now Illustration: Cover

I was honored and excited to be interviewed by Mark Athitakis for his Associations Now Magazine article, Are You A Visual Thinker?

Imagine my surprise and excitement at being hired to illustrate the Associations Now Magazine cover and feature spread for the very same article in my signature sketchnote style.

What a great opportunity to share visual thinking in a fun way, to about 20,000 leaders of associations.

The Hand-Drawn Idea

As Mark was writing the article, Associations Now Magazine's art director, Beth Lower, saw and liked my sketchnote of the iPhone 3GS Unboxing. Each issue of the magazine has a different design in context to the feature story, which led Beth to a completely hand-drawn, sketchnote style cover to communicate the visual thinking feature story.

Beth and I chatted about the concept on the phone, and both of us resonated with the concept of a visual thinking collage, comprised of the tools and notes about them in a hand-drawn sketchnote style.

Pencil Sketches

Associations Now Illustration: Concept SketchFor the next step, I sketched out a rough cover design idea using pencil in my Moleskine squared notebook, and scanned it for Beth to review for direction.

Beth liked the the look and feel of my pencil sketch and approved the illustration phase of the project. I prepared for the final sketchnote illustration, though I knew some elements would likely need to be sorted out on the fly.

Inked Illustration

Because I wanted to create the art at 100% actual size, I found a sheet of heavy paper to layout the structure of the cover on. I drew out the full size of the cover and began laying out elements I knew had to be in place — Associations Now logo, headlines and table of contents elements in pencil, etc.

Associations Now Illustration: Type Inking 1Once the main elements were organized, I began inking in the elements, starting with the logo in the top left of the page and working my way down to the main headline on the left side of the page.

I encountered issues with gel ink reacting less than smoothly with my paper and pencil graphite lines, but thankfully, I was able to work through those issues and ink out the cover for production.

Photoshop Production

Once I was pleased with the final illustration, I scanned it into my MacBook and began preparing the final art for production in Photoshop.

Associations Now Illustration: Final Inked ArtI knew Beth wanted to capture the sketchnote style, which meant producing a creamy background color behind the rich black illustration work.

Cream can be a very tough color to capture in the printing process, using standard colors of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Black (CMYK). It's so easy to lean too much toward yellow or red and ruin the creamy feeling you're hoping for.

I found what I felt would reproduce in CMYK as a good cream combo, then imported the final scans in, tweaking the contrast, moving elements around in subtle ways and perfecting the final artwork.

Once the art was finalized, I shipped source artwork off for production.

Inside Feature Illustration

Next up was the two-page feature spread illustration which had to continue a consistent image and feel from the cover, to connect them visually.

Associations Now Illustration: Feature Spread

Beth provided a PDF of the page spread with a headline in place. I used this to trace and ink in the headline and figure out where drawn elements needed to be placed.

I used some elements from the cover for consistency, then began sketching out other elements to fill the remaining space in a balanced way. This is where I built art elements on the fly, allowing the concept of the article and elements already created for the cover to spark new ideas.

Associations Now Illustration: Ryan Coleman QuoteWhen the inner spread was completed to my satisfaction, I created a Photoshop file similar to the cover, with cream background and the elements in their exact locations on the page.

Beth had one more element for me to sketchnote — a quote by Ryan Coleman of VizThink. I sketched out a pencil grid, drew the lettering, scanned and sent the art out to wrap up my illustrations.

Printed Magazines: Wow!

A few weeks later, a package arrived at my door with a package of final, printed copies of the Associations Now August magazine, featuring my illustrations on the cover and feature spread. I'm very pleased with the cream color and how well the illustrations look on the page.

Associations Now Illustration: Cover - Cool StuffThe Associations Now team have been very pleased with the final results, and I'm excited to hear how their subscribers react to this unusual issue of the magazine.

Thank you Mark Athitakis, Beth Lower and Lisa Junker from Associations Now for your faith in me to produce the cover and feature spread illustrations. I'm very honored to have been chosen.

If you are interested in getting a copy of the August issue, let me know. Lisa, the magazine's editor has told me she has limited copies of the magazine available for those who ask nicely. :-)

Related Links:
Associations Now Magazine Illustrations Set
Are You A Visual Thinker?
Download The Associations Now Visual Thinking Feature (2.5MB PDF)

Reader Comments (5)

Good morning from Spain.

I'm a happy RSS subscriber of your blog since 8 months ago.

It would be great if I could get a copy of this issue where you have made the cover because I love your work.

I would pay the shipping rates.

Could you please say me if it's possible?Thanks.

Best regards.
This is just wonderful, Mike, and richly deserved. I've been a fan of your sketchnote style for years (I can't believe it's been that long!).

Wonderful work as always.
August 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRobin
@Francisco, thanks for the note. I'll talk to Lisa and see what we can do for you about the issue sent to Spain. I'll be in touch.

@Robin, thanks so much for your kind words!
August 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde
I love your work! I am curious as to what pens/markers you use. I saw in one video it looks like a Sharpie. Do you use other pens? It's very cool!
August 19, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAngela Yee
Angela, thanks! I use gel pens for my sketchnote work, and this was no exception. I like Pilot G2 0.7mm though lately I've been digging Bic 0.7mm gel pens for sketchnoting because they flow so well.
August 20, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMike Rohde

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