Long Fall Title Card

While getting more active in social media the past few weeks, I realized I had a small problem: every site I posted links on wanted me to either upload an image or select one from the destination page. This resulted in situations like below.

Presented with two bad options, I went with both. The results were (predictably) something less than inspiring.

Thus, armed with most of a 4th of July weekend, I went about designing a header-image for Long Fall, so it could start to have some kind of visual identity of its own. I happened to store images from several steps of that process, and thought it might be fun to share them with you lovely folks out there in cyberspace.

Read on to see how all that went down. Scroll down rapidly (¡más rápido!) if you’re not interested in a whole bunchy-load of production details.

This first image was a fairly quick mock-up in order to test out typefaces and general layout.

There isn’t really a whole lot of concept in evidence there. I knew I wanted a high-contrast image with the title covered in some sort of pattern, located toward the top of the image with a hint of vertical motion. The only slightly creative addition was the hexagon motif, which I used for its mental association with high-technology (something that’s hard to ignore in the media once you see it).

I think the results are serviceable, but also pretty unmemorable. It doesn’t elicit any questions from the viewer, and there’s just no reason at all to remember glowing text floating over hexagons the next day.

I worked up another quick concept.

I changed both of the typefaces and brought in a starry background. That was an easy decision because I’ve made dozens of starscapes over the past six or so years. Waste not, want not. The hexagon pattern on the text was replaced with (I know it’s hard to see here) a circuit-board, sourced from the wonderful folks over at Bittbox. However, none of this really did anything for the memorability factor… and it frankly smells too much like Star Trek. Don’t get me wrong; I love Star Trek… But this isn’t Star Trek.

Next up, I tried to inject more concept into the piece.

Strange concept? Yeah, probably. One of my goals with the book’s title was to make something evocative but open to interpretation. When you first saw it, I rather hoped you’d think of a fall from grace, or maybe something plummeting a great distance. Here I was trying to display another interpretation of the title, and maybe confuse you for just a second.

A little confusion can be valuable. It gets synapses firing.

The leaves were… ooh, how should I put this… I made the leaves in probably the hardest way possible. I grabbed a source image from Wikimedia Commons (you can find it right here), separated it from the background in Photoshop, transformed it into a 3D model in Blender, then built a particle system to scatter leaves for me. Why didn’t I just copy one leaf, paste and distort it so it looked like a bunch fluttering by? Deep inner stubborn mixed with deep inner stupid.

Especially dumb because (as you can see) it did a rather crap job of scattering them at first. There are two identical leaves touching each other, for Grodd’s sake. That’s not at all Blender’s fault, though; I just haven’t worked with particle systems much recently, and the interface changed over the past couple years.

However, I thought the concept was sound so it’s all about refinement from here on out.

This step represents about a billion individual changes. I did some drastic work on the leaves, brought the starfield back in, and added bunches of small halos and shadows around different elements. Last, I added a green/orange color cast reminiscent of Stars Rain Down‘s current cover. This version looks kind of dirty, though, and I preferred the more dreamy feel of the previous one.

A dozen more small changes brought it to this point, now using a red/blue color scheme more like the original SRD cover (remember this guy?). The contrast is lower, but the circuit-board design is more visible. A fairly large improvement, and I actually thought it was done for a while.

Which brings us finally to…
Long Fall’s New Title Card

This is the image you’ll be seeing attached to Long Fall posts from here on out. You’d probably be hard-pressed to find the changes, but they’d be a bit more obvious in a larger reproduction. The red and purple tones are stronger, and I added both a faint chromatic aberration effect and some explicit purple fringing (ya know, things that drive you nuts when taking photographs).

Because of the leaf picture from Wikimedia, this image carries a Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license, meaning you can reuse it for your own projects so long as your image has the same license, and you attribute the original to me and a fellow called Almonroth. You can learn more about the license by following this link.

And that’s the story. Be sure to leave a comment and let me know what you think of the new pic!
~Chris

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