Twelve Twelfths: 2013 in Posters

Twelve Twelfths

Twelfths was my first long-term design project since I started my design blog, and it began at the start of the year, borne out of my frustration towards desktop calendars that were useless and ugly (to me). Now, in the last month of this year, this year-long project is finally completed, and I feel a strange sense of pride and satisfaction as I published my last design a week ago.

Don’t get me wrong: this series of minimalist poster designs is filled with flaws, and sometimes they’re the only things I can see when I look back at the previous designs. But I think that, somehow, through the little faults and mistakes of each poster, a picture of the year of 2013 – and of my growth as an amateur designer – can be traced. So here it is: a minimalist review of 2013, through twelve Twelfths of minimalist posters.



In my first design of the series, I had little idea of what I was doing, but I’d nonetheless lay the foundations on which future designs were based on. I recall being particularly excited when I came up with the ultra-minimalist calendar design located at the bottom of each poster design.

But of course, looking back, a number of errors were made in this very first design. For one, I was using a long and tedious method of creating the design. Instead of working fully in Illustrator, I drew the vector shapes in Illustrator, then transferred them into Photoshop to add the colours. The latter part of the process was totally unwarranted and redundant, especially since I was using flat colours. Playing with text and alignment in Illustrator was also much easier than in Photoshop, but I used Photoshop mainly because I was unfamiliar with Illustrator.

Also, because I totally didn’t know of the existence of anchors then, the lines in the poster tended to be slightly shaky and not as clean as I’d like them to be (I draw with a mouse rather than on a tablet).



The second of my series was very similar to the first, with (very) shaky lines and only a few key features of Alan Rickman’s face being illustrated. I also hadn’t played around with opacity yet, resulting in weirdly bold-looking folds and frown-lines on his face.



My favourite design for the series is probably March’s one with Lady Gaga, and I really like how the colours turned out. It’s the only poster with an unusual palette, because, really, Gaga seems to be the only one who’s able to pull it off.

While the initial design also had shaky lines, I went back and re-did the design in Illustrator as I’d wanted to print it out to decorate my hostel room. The image above is the touched up version, with cleaner lines and fully done in Illustrator.


FOUR/12I really like my design for April, too, because I feel that it’s very clean, and somehow the shaky lines for Emma Watson’s hair, eyes and brows worked well for this design. April’s design also marked the start of my decision to draw all facial features of each celebrity (most notably by including the nose), and I guess I abandoned being minimalist for the sake of being minimalist.



My illustration of Adele for May’s design was when I first began using the simplify path tool in Illustrator to make the lines cleaner, and hence there is a visible improvement in terms of the shakiness of the lines in the illustration. However, I hadn’t learnt about using anchors yet, and the outline the hair makes with the face in this design jarringly points that out (at least to me).

May’s design also marks the first where I played with opacity to create Adele’s chin, and this, I found out, was a useful tool especially when illustrating celebrities with distinct facial features. In this design, for example, the illustration doesn’t quite look like Adele without the chin fold; add it in, and voila! it turns into Adele.


SIX/12If I had to pick my least favourite of my series of poster designs, it had to be the one for June featuring Jung Yonghwa. I started regretting almost right after completing and posting the design for June, as the it lacked a general look of polish and felt rushed.

In fact, this design was rushed: in May, I started my 3-month internship in Ogilvy Singapore’s creative department (the most awesome internship I’ve ever done) and I remember rushing to finish the illustration by the end of May so I could publish it before June. I cringe a little internally whenever I look back at this design, as the many flaws pop out instantly: the left eye’s smaller than the right, when the opposite should have been the case; the lips were drawn too thick; that irritating single tuft of hair going in the opposite direction from the rest of his hair, etc.



My design for July (featuring Stefanie Sun!!) was the first to be done entirely in Illustrator, meaning it’s fully vectorised from the start. July’s design thus marked the time of the year when I learnt to really use Illustrator (incidentally, half of the Twelfths are fully done in Illustrator and half in the long and tedious method).

I learnt to use Illustrator during my internship with Ogilvy. While interacting with my seniors and other interns in Ogilvy, I realised that most of them use Illustrator to create posters, while Photoshop was mainly reserved for photo editing/manipulating purposes. I really learnt how to use Illustrator, however, by observing how the other designers worked on their computers, rather than being taught (and I’m quite happy with myself for that). I learnt by watching others, for instance, that by holding the space button I could quickly move around the canvas, and releasing [space] allows me to resume working with the previously selected tool. I also learnt how to use the eyedropper to quickly fill vector shapes with colour, and of course, I discovered the glorious existence of anchors.

July’s design thus serves as a sort of turning point in my series of posters, the first one with vast improvements in my methods. And I also really like how Stefanie Sun’s hair turned out.


EIGHT/12The benefits of playing around with anchors in Illustrators becomes obvious, I think, in August’s design. Fine strands of hair, which would otherwise take a painstaking amount of time and effort, could be created in seconds by tweaking the anchor points in paths.



My second favourite design is probably September’s featuring Song Joong Ki, mainly because of the complexity of his wavy hair (I loved how it turned out!) and the number of layers it took to create it:

Joong Ki - hair layers

September’s design also came with a few fundamental changes in the poster design. First, after months of being asked by friends about what the dots at the bottom of the posters are for, I finally decided to replace the ultra-minimalsit one with a full calendar (with all the dates). To be honest, I still like the previous ultra-minimalist one more, but I learnt the importance of practicality. Another change I made was to stamp my signature onto the poster.



This tenth design was in a way a throwback to the more minimalist approach of the earlier designs. When illustrating Anita Mui for October’s design, I contemplated using a more complicated and layered design for her hair, before finally settling the current simpler one.



Anne Hathaway’s illustration, as simple as it looks, took a surprising amount of work to create. This was mainly due to the rather complex layering of her hair. What I liked about creating November’s design was how sharp and identifiable Anne Hathaway’s features really are; you could immediately tell it was her even if I removed her hair from the illustration!



Maggie Smith’s design served as a pretty nice end to the Twelfths to me. In this design I discovered, in a rather poetic moment, that one’s lines of age really make a person. I initially tried to draw Maggie Smith with as little wrinkles as possible, thinking that they were superfluous details, but soon realised that without them, the image didn’t look a bit like her.

I had previously thought, wrongly, that Song Joong Ki’s hair was to be the most complex of all I’m ever going to create in this project. Maggie’s Smith’s hair was, quite frankly, a nightmare to create. I’d spent the bulk of the time creating this design tweaking and re-doing her hair, as the layering and colour was simply insanely intricate.

2013 was a pretty crazy year for me. Besides completing this series of minimalist posters, I’d got my wallpaper design featured in Smashing Magazine, came out of the closet, and started seriously drawing again. And of course, there’s more stuff coming along. In fact, I’ve got a really exciting announcement to make in the coming days!


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