At the beginning of January, our design & production teams gathered together for a no-holds-barred brainstorm sesh that kicked off a three-month process of planning and preparing our Easter services.
Over the next month, ideas were discussed and narrowed down, and ultimately the direction our graphics team received was that visuals should feel celebratory and full of life, and we all agreed that we loved the idea of using green.
This direction was a bit abstract, so we challenged ourselves to build a concept that felt simple so it allowed for an expansion on vision from our team later in the process.
Creating a Moodboard
Our first step as designers is often creating a moodboard—an easy way to offer a snapshot of our ideas without investing a ton of time into a concept that may not even be well received.
For Easter, gradients felt like a way to provide a softness and movement to the graphics while allowing us to really focus on bright greens.
We began discussing this concept as a team, and it became clear that we needed a more specific visual element to build alongside the gradients, and the idea of plants kept popping up. Plants felt very representative of life, of renewal, of growth. We decided ultimately to stick with leafy plants, rather than flowering plants, in hopes of creating a look that we hadn’t seen for Easter before.*
*I’d like to point out that uniqueness is not a standard I personally hold myself to. There is nothing new under the sun, as it goes. Innovation, however, is crucial to breathing life into design. If I hold myself to the standard of only creating work that is truly unique, I will always fall short—this is an impossible standard. If I hold myself to innovating, then I’m allowing my design work to be informed by all of the visuals I’m absorbing on a daily basis, I’m allowing myself to learn from other artists, I’m allowing myself to feel inspired. Inspired work will consistently feel fresh and interesting. So when I say that my hope was to create a look for Easter that I hadn’t seen before, I don’t mean that I wanted to create something entirely new; but instead, I wanted to push the boundaries on the expectation of what an Easter graphic could look like. Innovation over uniqueness!
Proof of Concept
After we obtained approval on our concept, the next step was to create a visual example that was a good representation of the ideas we presented.
Originally, we tried mocking this up digitally, layering gradients in Illustrator over stock photos of plants.
I’ll spare you the disappointing results (because we deleted them) and just say that it was turning out less than magical. There was a very obvious lack of depth. The interaction of the gradients with the plants felt flat. To be totally honest, at this point, we were feeling like we lost our momentum and traction on what was an otherwise great idea. All of a sudden the concept felt incredibly boring.
When you hit this rut there are two options. Either make the call that yes, in fact, this was a bad idea and move onto a better one. Or, alternately, make the call that the approach was the real issue, and you simply need to try again. It can be nearly impossible to want to continue working on an idea that is so suddenly uninspiring, but part of creating is problem solving. While I do believe it’s incredibly important to know when to walk away, it’s equally as important to know when to keep moving ahead despite the obstacles. This is a delicate line to navigate, but one that becomes easier to walk with time and experience.
Ultimately, we knew this was an idea worth moving ahead with. We had to trust our gut. So we decided to start completely from scratch so that we had complete control over building depth and layers. And no stock photos this time: we’d be taking the photos ourselves.
Here’re the set-up details:
The gradients originally created in illustrator were printed on long rolls of slightly smokey, translucent poster paper. We set up C-stands in front of a white backdrop, and draped the gradient prints over top of the stands. From here we just experimented with the layering of plants behind specific gradients, and with different placements of lights to achieve a variety of shadows and highlights on the plant surfaces.
BONUS: We had a graphic intern lead the photography on this shoot, and she nailed it.
Development and Typography
Once we got photos back, we realized gradients weren’t reading in the exact shades we wanted, so in post-production we worked on adding subtle gradient layers and tweaking colors. Here’s a small sample of a few (very) rough, early edits.
The overall response from our team was positive! This meant it was time to move forward with finishing our edits, and begin working on typography. This was an interesting year for us, in that the team never landed on one final phrase to anchor as our theme, and rather decided to use a series of phrases and vision. For us, this meant a great opportunity to put a big emphasis on the typographic elements. Below you can see our working Illustrator board where we developed a variety of type layouts that would ultimately go on to a variety of graphic elements.
REFINING & WORKFLOW (using Adobe Creative Cloud to work with teams)
We have two & a half designers on our team, plus interns, so that means we had lots of eyes and hands working throughout the refining process. Organization was crucial! We made the decision to work out of a shared Adobe Creative Cloud folder, synced between all of our Adobe accounts. Inside of this folder was everything any of us could possibly need, from edited photos and fonts, to sizing templates, to final print files. Being able to work out of a folder that is constantly syncing between all of our workspaces meant everyone was consistently on the same page.
And here’s a few examples of the final product!
To download our full Easter graphics package, click here.