Process // Entry Number Two — Untitled Reconstruction Play
I was recently commissioned to create some brand collateral for a local theatre production called, Untitled Reconstruction Play.
The client didn't have much money or resources, so I could only offer them a full work day's worth of my time. However, this gave me an opportunity to exercise my improvisational muscles a little more than usual and see what I can come up within a limited time frame.
The play is a combination of text from 1871 and contemporary dialogue, chronicling several cases of lynchings in South Carolina, by the Klu Klux Klan, of African American veteran civil war soldiers attempting to exercise their voting rights.
The Typeface is Helvetica Neue Bold. Meant to evoke the uncertainty, confusion and chaos that permeated the United States post-civil war, the logotype I designed for the play is a light exercise in readability and Typoglycemia, the mind's ability to unscramble scrambled words. The Reconstruction Era was a time in the United States where what it meant to be an American was unclear and in a state of flux, a time where many different disenfranchised and minority groups were desperately and aggressively in search of an idenity, with no clearly distinguished path for them to do so. I wanted to project some of that uncertainty onto the viewer.
In line with the plot of the play, My client wanted to use an image of an African American civil war soldier and she wanted him to be staring directly at the camera (and consequently, at the viewer). I sifted through a bunch of photographs on the Library of Congress website, hoping that I would come across an image that suited my needs. I lucked out with this one. The worn, yet stoic eyes, as well as the nice overexposure ring around him, gave it an extra something special, reminiscent of images of catholic saints. It also looks like something that THE ROOTS would use for an album cover!
sidenote: I was listening to their album, Undun, while working on this today. Good stuff...just saying.
Color & Collateral
Since the play is a combination of text from the 1800's and contemporary dialogue, I settled on a color palette that would contrast starkly with the photography. The photo was color corrected with dutones -- a more naturalistic black with a white reminiscent of old paper -- to bring out the shadows and details of the subject's face. I choose a bold yellow hue for the logotype because of the subconscious association it has with caution and urgency, without being depressing or dreadful. The color and placement of the logotype was in part inspired by emergency broadcast system tests from the 1950's. I didn't have the time to bring that inspiration out in the work as fully as I would have liked, but maybe I'll revisit this project at a later date and explore the concept more.
This is about 90% of the way done. I still need to optimize the photography work, rescan the photo at 300 dpi and make some tweaks to the body copy, but I'd say this is one of those rare instances where a relatively cheap commission produces surprisingly solid work.