Black Girl Magic - Gabby Douglas gets her own Barbie doll

Essence 12 Black Girl Magic Moments of 2016

In last three months of 2016, I have been commissioned to shape the look and feel of ESSENCE magazine’s foray into the SNAPCHAT ecosphere. This is my third edition and possibly the best one to date. I had the most freedom on this edition and created some great illustrations from it.

This was also an intense project since we only had two weeks to complete 12 illustrations, 12 videos with animated videos as well as graphic design for all the info that is contained in each video. As a Digital Mercenary, I’m most comfortable in tight situations with short deadlines.

A choice of design styles

Black Girl Magic - Beyoncé & Issa Rae concept illustrations
Black Girl Magic – Beyoncé & Issa Rae concept illustrations

I created two different art styles for this edition that would shape the look going forward:

Style 1: Issa – Detailed illustration with a dark purple outline shaded skin tones with 3 layers of depth. All clothing would be done in flat or gradient colors with no outline. Any accessories (jewelry, belts, bags, etc.) would be flat color with a single dark purple online.

Style 2: Beyoncé – Simplified illustration. Simplified shapes for everything. There are no outlines in this style as the colors flat against each other.

Both styles were great and effective but essentially one is easier than the other. With style 1 being more detailed and because of the detail more difficult to achieve across 12 images. Style 2 was simpler and would allow more time for the animations/video. In the end the client chose style 1 and began to stockpile coffee for the long nights ahead, lol.

Black Girl Magic Illustrated

Black Girl Magic - Beyoncé, Teyana Taylor, Solange
Black Girl Magic – Beyoncé, Teyana Taylor, Solange

The Illustration side of this process was a lot of fun. I had a lot creative freedom and I got to challenge myself by using a very limited palette of colors which forced me to think about how I would build on each illustration making them look different while keeping a consistent look across the entire lot.

The biggest thing I learned while creating this huge project is making sure I build out a solid plan at the beginning. While I had a loose plan and a color palette I spent a lot of time figuring out how each subject would interact with the background and then how it would animate in the final video. If I had mapped out these ideas more from the start more time could have been devoted to the animation and illustration instead of ideation during the process.

The After Effect

Black Girl Magic - Misty Copeland frame by frame of a pirouette animation  
Black Girl Magic – Misty Copeland frame by frame of a pirouette animation

Animating in After Effects is one of my favorite things to do mostly because every project is a adventure of exploration. In this instance though it was a journey of frustration. For some reason my bezier handles would not appear in the graph editor so I wasn’t able to create smooth animation using easing. All the motion found in these videos are based on jury rigging the system to fake the effect I wanted. Some of them came out great like the Teyanna Taylor one while others did not. I’m still happy with the result but I’m upset that it could have looked  better.

Black Girl Magic - Gabby Douglas gets her own Barbie doll
Black Girl Magic – Gabby Douglas gets her own Barbie doll

This project helped give me more confidence in my ability to animate and has emboldened me to create more animations. Remember whenever you take on a huge project make sure you build an in-depth plan so you’ll be more equipped to accomplish your goals in a more efficient manner. You’ll thank me later and your client will thank you later as well.

Always remember “difficult takes a day/impossible takes a week.” Nothing is impossible.

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