Frances & Joe’s Wedding Invitations: Chapter 4 — Going Off-Script
Usually at the beginning of a project, I would sharpen a pencil with a half-decent eraser and start rubbing lead to paper. Instead, on a whim, I zipped open my arsenal of markers.
‘Allegory of the Cave’
I remembered a project I did years ago to design a hierarchical system for Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” from the Greek philosopher’s “The Republic.” It began as theoretical. How to translate a philosophical Socratic dialogue into a clear, concise diagram? I decided to start in the abstract. I dusted off my paintbrushes and began to sketch in acrylics, embracing the permanence of the ink. What I was after was a visual representation of what it would look like — and ultimately what I could see — inside that cave described in Plato’s dialogue.
Each page of sketches was a chipping-away at how I would interpret “the shadows” cast on the wall of the cave. What would I see? Would turning off the lights, the ambient light from the moon casting a soft elliptical glow on the wall, engage my imagination even more? So began an exploration that evolved from sketches in raw brushstrokes to rigid geometric shapes that successfully represented the stages of consciousness in the allegory. This is just one example where, as a graphic designer, I loved the journey.
The journey begins
With these invitations, I was inspired to entertain that method again. I popped the cap off my jet black brush marker. It was playtime.
I didn't know if the brush tip would eventually make an appearance, or even a cameo, in the final design. At that point, it wasn't important. I was engaged in serious play.
As I drew Joe and Frances’ names in a variety of styles, I quickly fell in love with the process. I continued to sketch their names, with each stroke, the marker felt more like a natural extension of my finger. Each night, I would practice my thicks and thins and the steady flow of my hand across the page. Legibility was just as important as style. As I explained in the first chapter, the brush script eventually became a playful contrast to the font I chose for text, per Frances’ inspiration: Kris Sowersby’s Pitch. When I presented the first draft of the invitation, Joe and Frances exclaimed their love for the scripts I had showed them.
Drawing upon color
The wedding color was emerald, with accents of gold and cream. By drawing in black, I was able to use Photoshop to add and adjust the color, rather than relying on any choices of green among the marker selection available to match the particular shade required. Variations of gold were tested as an accent on the invitation, but a monochromatic palette with a minimal, judicious use of color brought more elegance and bequeathed more of the stage to the whimsical drawings and hand-lettering.
Beyond brush script, I also drew characters in caps and upper- and lowercase and crafted decorative glyphs for use on the invitation. I would return to pencil now and again to quickly articulate an idea in my head on paper, but I would finalize it in marker. Some of these characters and glyphs would not make it into the final design.
As the project grew with the suite of invitations, so did the need to expand the use of lettering across the collection. All of the sudden, there was a lot more display type, and I didn't want to pull any power away from the main invitation’s brush script. I developed a couple more scripts for the save-the-date and R.S.V.P. card, but for the remainder of the collection, I sought to do something different.
Inspiration soon came: I was reminded of a marquee. Soon after, I drew a series of characters inspired by vintage light-up letters with inline bulbs. The industrial yet romantic voice of the lettering, no matter how muted in its abstract representation, would speak directly to Pitch, which is Sowersby's love letter to the typewriter. I would use the marquee-style lettering on the R.S.V.P. card, as well as on the travel information card.
I also drew individual characters from Pitch’s character set to bring some cohesiveness to the display type, and the suite as a whole. I did this on the save-the-date card and the invite to the second reception in Georgia.
The hand-drawn type, the drawings and text would eventually come together as part of the entire suite.