Neil Gaiman Desert Wind Poster

April 1, 2010  |  Featured, Illustration, Portfolio, Print

*Limited quantities of this poster are now on sale at our shop. Click HERE!

For this portfolio piece, I thought I’d post about my process. This collaboration between Neil Gaiman, Molly Crabapple and myself was so much fun — I had to share the experience.

When I received the art work sans text, I was in awe. Molly had done a beautiful job. Here is how it looked when it came to me:

Before - Illustration © 2010 Molly Crabapple

My job was to find the perfect type style for the title, layout the poem itself and possibly embellish the art work and text elements when and where possible. I began looking through fonts for the perfect style to accentuate the illustration as well as the words of the poem. This process is one any designer can get lost in. There are oodles of well designed fonts out there to choose from (my fave go to site is myfonts.com) allowing me to set aside a nice, big bundle as possible contenders for this poster. ArcanaGMMStd-Manuscript ended up being the perfect font for this project – a little weathered, a bit of a Middle Eastern flair, all mixed with just a touch of whimsy.

Here’s how the text looks untouched:

When designing, there can be quite a lot of details to be applied to the text to accommodate the layout. After all, my goal is to make sure the text really feels like a part of the piece. I don’t want the text to feel disjointed and simply pasted on top of the illustration. My next step was to stack the text as well as tilt each line a bit. This allows the title to fill the top portion of the design nicely:

Next, I applied a few distortions to the text. Even though the type face provides a nice organic feel, this step adds just a bit more movement to the treatment. I found that the text alone in the space wasn’t quite right. Something was missing. It still felt a bit lonely. I needed to incorporate more elements to tie the treatment into the illustration. So, I got out the sketch book and jotted down a few of my own little swirls inspired by those found in the illustration. I also pulled out my trusty tracing paper and began to apply some extra embellishments to the text. Dotted swirls, loops and curlicues did the trick! Here’s what it looked like before I applied it to the illustration. Keep in mind, I had a plan for the color and transparency of the different areas of the text – so this example is a little overwhelming being that it is the high contrast, black and white version:

Next step – apply it to the illustration! I experimented with color and transparency creating multiple versions of the piece. I then held official voting in my studio and decided on the version you see below.

The body copy went through a lot of revisions. In some of my first compositions, I treated the text similarly to the title treatment – giving it a bit of movement. In the end, simplicity prevailed. After looking back at some of those other compositions, I’m so glad they were vetoed. The poster has so much going on it was best to keep Mr. Gaiman’s poem untouched in regard to fanciful embellishments and distortion. At the foot of the poster, I felt it would be a fun element to reiterate the words, “this time,” from the poem. They become ghost like and an after thought I felt added a little something extra to the piece.

And there you have it! This project was SO much fun to work on. It’s always a pleasure working with Molly Crabapple (as you can tell from my portfolio – only our favorite jobs make it there). And I am so very honored to have been able to work on this poem for Neil Gaiman, Cat Mihos and neverwear.net. One of the most rewarding pieces I’ve had the pleasure of working on yet! The poster will be available for sale beginning Friday, April 2nd, 2010 at 4PM PST on neverwear.net.

*Limited quantities of this poster are now on sale at my shop. Click HERE!

Final piece:
Illustration © 2010 Molly Crabapple • Design © 2010 Nicola Black Design, L.L.C. • Poem © Neil Gaiman


7 Comments


  1. That is absolutely wonderful. Can I buy it, and if so, where?

  2. This is amazing!

  3. I can’t wait to buy a copy for the Vilnius Jewish Library in Lithuania!

  4. Thank you for the kind words, everyone!

    Jenny, yes, you can buy it! It will be available on neverwear.net at 4PM on Friday. There will also be limited quantities available here soon! More info to come – please check back regularly!

  5. what a reveal, you magician!
    lovely walk through the creative process…
    thanks, lady!

  6. Will be ordering very soon (about two hours from now).

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