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Case Study: Theater Logo: The Prince & The Pauper

July 10, 2019

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highblank vertical space, 24 pixels highOne of my favorite clients is Children’s Stage Adventures run by Rob and Lorrie Gray. They’re based here in New Hampshire, and they travel throughout New England and Eastern Canada conducting one-week theater residencies. They coordinate with local schools, community groups, and summer camps.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

In short, they give kids a taste of theater, and a chance to perform in a real live show. They’ve been making kids and parents happy for 20 years now, and it’s a pleasure to be associated with them.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

They’ve asked me to create “logos” for a number of their shows. They use the term “logo” to mean: a single illustration that summarizes the story; one they can use on their website, on posters, for newspaper ads, and on merchandise (souvenir tee-shirts).blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

They asked me to create a logo for their latest production: an adaptation of Mark Twain‘s famous The Prince And The Pauper. There were quite a few steps involved, and I thought it would make a fun and informative case study.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Theater means costumes. They’re a big part of creating the right look for a show. So I started by doing some online searches.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I found some great stills from the 1937 Errol Flynn movie version.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 24 pixels high

still from Prince Pauper movie starring Errol Flynn

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highI was also lucky enough to find some cast photos from other kids productions of the story.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 24 pixels high

costumes for children's theater production of Prince Pauper

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highNext comes the thinking part (ouch!) and the messy part: coming up with ideas and making little thumbnail sketches on scrap paper with a ball-point pen.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

thumbnail sketches for Prince Pauper illustration for Children's Stage Adventures

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highI try to give clients 3 or 4 ideas to start with and react to. They can then ask for changes, mix and match ideas, suggest something else entirely, whatever they want.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I knew from past experience that the logo needed to include the title, with “Children’s Stage Adventures” underneath.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

One idea: two heads wearing a single crown.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys sharing a single large crown

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highThe prince and the pauper giving each other a high-five, while various English court-related characters look on.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys giving each other high five at palace court servants soldiers bishop look on

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highThe two main characters studying their identical appearance in a mirror (which I stole from one of the 1937 movie stills), with the other characters peeking out from behind it.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys looking at each other in mirror bishop court servants attendees peering around mirror

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highThe main characters propped up on a crossed sword and walking stick, with the other characters grouped below.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highRob and Lorrie liked #4.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

The next step was trying out various fonts for the title.
(No need to experiment with fonts for “Children’s Stage Adventures,” which has always been Comic Sans MS Bold.)blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below Baskerville typeface for title

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highSomething a bit plainer.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below Optima typeface for title

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highA bit fancier again.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below Perpetua typeface for title

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highBolder, easier to read, perhaps.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below Skia typeface for title

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highRob sent me feedback in the form of several images he’d pulled off the internet. He wanted typefaces more along these lines:blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 24 pixels highDifferent fonts typefaces for The Prince & The Pauper

blank vertical space, 24 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highI went through my collection of fonts and put together different combinations.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below Bamberg Titania typefaces for title

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highI thought this one had a King Arthur vibe.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below Beckett Bamberg typefaces for title

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highThis one is a little easier on the eyes.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below Pilgi Bangla Bold typefaces for title

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highScript combined with a semi-courtly font.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below Mistral Bucephalus typefaces for title

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highRob and Lorrie decided on a combo that pulled from
two of the above ideas, and asked that “Children’s Stage Adventures” span the width of the drawing.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below Pilgi Bambery typefaces for title larger type size for Children's Stage Adventures

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highOn further reflection, we condensed “Children’s Stage Adventures” slightly, and moved it up closer to the drawing.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below Pilgi Bambery typefaces for title smaller type size for repositioned Children's Stage Adventures

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highHaving finalized the type and text placement, it was time to refine the drawing.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Years ago, I used to do finals from scratch. And they always lost something. They’d look stiff, forced. And I’d be frustrated.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

I finally figured out that my roughs (which tend to be fairly complete) had a certain energy, a spontaneity, because I do them quickly without worrying about every last detail. I lose that energy (and the art is poorer for it) when I try to recreate the rough from scratch.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

What I do now (in most cases) is clean up the rough: I correct mistakes, redraw certain things, and try to retain as much energy and spontaneity as I can.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

And that’s what I did here. If you study the drawing below, you’ll see that stray lines have been erased, the crown is different, the pauper’s cap is larger (more proportionate to his head), I redrew the pauper’s foot, the lines on the bishop’s mitre are more evenly spaced, the street urchin to the bishop’s right is hoisting himself up with his feet slightly off the ground, etc.blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below cleaned up partially redrawn

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highWhich brings us to the funniest part of the assignment.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You may have noticed the pauper’s cap was rather smelly, with a couple of flies buzzing around it.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Rob and Lorrie weren’t sure they wanted that much “realism.” They asked to see the cap “with no smell and
bugs, and one with fewer,” so they could do a compare.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Which led to this amusing series of roughs:blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below less smell zero bugs pauper's cap

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highOne bug:blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below less smell one bug pauper's cap

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highTwo bugs:blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below less smell two bugs pauper's cap

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highAnd no smell, no bugs– which proved to be the winner:blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below no smell no bugs pauper's cap

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highThere was one final tweak.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

If you look closely at the sword and stick lines in the above drawing, you’ll see that they have contrasting weights: a heavier line, and a thinner line. Rob asked to see them with equal weights.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Here’s the thinner version:blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below lighter more equal sword stick lines

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highAnd the thicker version:blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below heavier more equal sword stick lines

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highRob and Lorrie opted for lighter, equal weights. The experiment allowed me to correct something I’d missed:
the pauper’s arm was uneven.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Here’s the final:blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels high

rough sketch Prince Pauper illustration two lookalike boys facing each other on crossed sword walking stick with court servants soldiers bishop below final illustration

blank vertical space, 16 pixels highblank vertical space, 16 pixels highWe tend to forget that trial and error is part of every creative project; you can’t think of everything in advance, and you have to figure out some things as you go along.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

This case study is a good example of that.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

It’s also a reminder of an important truth: it pays to work with creatives who are committed to collaboration, and who are willing to fully invest themselves in their clients’ success.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Rob wrote me a nice testimonial (below). He and Lorrie are a tremendous force for good here in New Hampshire. You can read more about them here.
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About Mark: I’m an illustrator specializing in humor, branding, social media, and content marketing. My images are different, like your brand needs to be.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

You can view my portfolio, and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.blank vertical space, 16 pixels high

Questions? Send me an email.blank vertical space, 40 pixels highRecommendation testimonial for Mark Armstrong Illustration from Rob Gray, Executive Director, Children's Stage Adventures

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. July 10, 2019 10:42 PM

    it was fascinating to follow your process here, and interesting too that I didn’t agree with several of your clients’ choices and yet still loved the finished product. Nice work.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 18, 2019 8:02 AM

      Thanks so much, Alison, always a great pleasure to hear from you. Yes, it’s interesting to see what other people focus on– a good reminder of how different people’s perceptions can be. Hope all is well with you, and that you’re having a lovely summer– and thanks again for your very kind comment!! 😊

      Liked by 2 people

  2. spookster01 permalink
    July 11, 2019 3:09 PM

    Hi Mark… a well rounded interaction with your clients… the best way to be and you offered them a ton of options. No wonder they always come back. Good work. Really enjoy your style.

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 18, 2019 8:09 AM

      Thanks, John. I have learned a few things over the years, and one of ’em is that listening to clients and trying to understand their point of view always makes for happier results, including customer loyalty. As always, thanks a million for all your support– it means more than I can say.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. July 29, 2019 8:44 PM

    Truly cutting edge design is your crowning glory, mon ami! I take my cap (sans smell/ bugs) nay pagri nay bonnet nay Stetson nay beanie nay hat off to you! 🎩 🧢 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • July 31, 2019 8:41 AM

      Cutting edge, indeed– no wonder I’m always covered with bandages and sticking plaster… 🚑

      My big fantasy is to someday be in a Bollywood extravaganza. I’ll be the star, of course, the male romantic lead (I try to take advantage when I fantasize), and I’ll wear an elaborate pagri. And after about 237 takes, the poor exasperated director will finally cry: “OK, that’s a wrap!!!” 👳👍

      Thank you for the nay-hat tip, my dear Radhika! Hope this finds you having a delightful summer, with an occasional starlit dinner on the terrace of the Ganges Club!! 🌟🌖🍔🍗🍹😊

      Liked by 2 people

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