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  • Andrew Gardner

Parks & Rec Posters

How old were you when you realized that July was National Parks & Recreation Month? Today? Cool, I wasn't too far off! When I think of parks I think of picnic tables and laughing kids chasing frisbees and dogs learning how to sit in a group class. Or is it the other way around? With the past year we've had we need some (safe) outdoors time. Thats why when we needed a theme for our editorial calendar in July we filled the spot with National Parks Month!

Now while finding resources about our parks department, locally or nationally, would have probably been easy enough, we thought that maybe this time we would do something to just bring attention to our collaborators and let our patrons find out the goodies for themselves. Partnering with the Greensboro's Parks and Recreation Department we brainstormed how we could draw our audiences attention to the parks all around our shared community.

I had remembered a few years back the Nation Parks doing a collaboration with the popular Field Notes on some notebooks and posters and suggested that maybe we could do something similar but for local parks. The idea being that we could choose some of the most popular parks in the area and create posters depicting them in a striking and graphic way that represents them and encourages the viewer to go in visit. Once the idea was approved I got a list of the most popular parks and spent a few hours over a couple of sunny days going to these parks with my dog Stevie in tow to get some hands on references.

If you haven't ever created a project for yourself that forced you to go outside with your pet and a friend and get paid for it, may I highly suggest you do so!

Filled with inspiration, I went on to sketch out some designs for the posters which I had intended at the time to be illustrated. The distinctive style of those National Parks posters in my head were the goal but I quickly realized that I perhaps did not have the skill and/or style of that artist. I could not make my hand do what my eye and brain had thought up. This part of the creative process is always discouraging but sometimes, if I'm having a good day, I take it more as a warm up instead of a failure. And that's what this was, a warm up!

Is it a bad illustration? No, I don't think so. I may even like it more now a few weeks after discarding than I did then. But it was not what I intended. It somehow looked dated and unprofessional, not the vibe I was going for at all. I took a few days away from the project so I could come back to it with new eyes and tried it a different way. What if I did the same composition but entirely in Adobe Illustrator? I thought. Many people had done it before but I had never tried.

But boy, am I glad I tried! Instantly as I did the basic shapes of the fountain I realized I may had been onto something. I loved the sharp lines and flat colors. It still wasn't quite exactly what I had thought of for the original idea but sometimes the best result is an evolution of your best ideas, not the original one.

I quickly added the other elements and with a quick affirmation from a friend, I did the other park posters in the same style and within a day of hard design work I had a poster series worthy of any notebook or wall.

I don't think I had ever been more proud of the direction a project has gone in. Using the limited color palette of the university's brand guide I was able to bring the key elements of each park alive while also including a sense of identity within each peace.

Separating some of the elements from their posters I was able to also make the social media material so that we could spread the good news of the great outdoors to the masses.

The Parks Department loved the result and shared the series as well, resulting in the mayor liking the series on social media as well. (Don't worry, the fame has not gone to my head.) Hopefully next year I can do this again with new parks and posters that even Leslie Knope would be proud of!

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