25 November 2016

[SF] The OryCon 30 Souvenir Program Design

Starting with this post, I'm going to do a little look back. The centerpiece of our year is OryCon, Oregon's premier SF and F convention. All the people I've known and loved over my years of living as a Portlander come together each year to throw the best party ever thrown and continue to do so. 2016 saw OryCon 38, and 2017 will see OryCon 39. I've attended since Orycon IX.

Wife goes me one better. She hit OryCon VIII.

After I learned graphic design and got layout skills, I wanted to contribute in the way that spoke the most to me: creating the program guides. OryCon standardly puts out two: the Pocket Program, which has all the tough details about who's going to be where and doing what and what panels and where and such, and the Souvenir Program. So far, I've designed the main publications for OryCons 30, 31, 32, 33, 37 and 38. Six of the last nine. That may or may not be more than any one person has done in the history of the 'con, at least as far as I know. The fact may be a little different.

In 2007-2008, I finally got my chance. I seemed to find myself on a tabula rasa, of sorts; there wasn't anything but inspiration and a little organizational memory to go on. The Guests of Honor that year were author Harry Turtledove and artist Jeff Fennel, amongst the others, and I took a little spiritual inspiration from both, though it clearly was the artist that influenced the tone … as well as the theme, Days of Future Past. Looking at the future through the lens of what we thought it would look like during the salad days is a base SF tends to touch on a semi-regular basis and it's got a powerful pull.

Here's the cover of the OryCon 30 Souvenir Book, which is centered on a particularly beautiful example of Fennel's retro-futurist style:

The idea of retro-future influenced the type chosen: Futura Condensed seemed a natural choice. And here's where the influence of the art translated into visual theme: somehow it occurred to me that setting half the name in Futura Condensed Medium and half in Futura Condensed Bold would be visually complex while retaining a simplicity, visually playful without losing its earnestness. A perfect encapsulation of the innocent, antic yet serious hope the past had for the future.

An epiphany quickly followed, one step in front of the last, in which I realized how the half-and-half type approach would lend itself to a certain unifying treatment; putting one work in Medium in a black block at the ear of the page, forming an ready anchor point to let the rest of the page 'hang' from. Here's how it worked on the bio page for the Author GoH, Harry Turtledove:

The black block nicely defines the vertical space in which I could tuck a photograph of just about any size (sometimes you get very small graphics and have to make do with them) and provides a reference point that I can hang the rest of the page design from. The eye goes right to the black block and since the bold type outside the block is on the same baseline as that within, the unity is provided, and one's vision falls naturally down to where the text begins.

I had great fun coming up with this design and idea. It went over very well, as I recall.

One other page I want to show off: The table of contents:

I think it was on this page that I really hammered out how the type was going to play together and I just let the snowball run on out from here.

Note in the upper left-hand part of the page. The blue disk with the red swallowtail and the green Oregon shape with Portland picked out by a particularly bold star was a one-off; part of the 'Days of Future Passed' theme involved getting NASA photos from the 70s and 80s as illustrations (along with Jeff Fennel's art); I even found one where the Star Trek original series actors posed along with Roddenberry at the rollout of the Enterprise STS glide-test vehicle. It inspired me to come up with a sort of mission patch for OryCon 30 based on the NASA designs I've known (notice how the margin of the design (pictured right) is full of details, including the GoH names arranged as though they were a crew on a manned space mission. This is proud bit of inspiration; the simplified mark (with just the words OryCon at the 12 o'clock position and Portland, OR at the 6) appears to have been informally adopted as a logo/icon for OryCon*, a bit of indirect flattery which I'll cherish as long as I have memory to.

The logo of the 2017 edition of OryCon at http://39.orycon.org

It was a coming of age as a ComCon member and a demonstration to myself that I could take on a big project and make it work and succeed. And it was finally contributing in a real way to something in my life that I love very very much to this day.

I would go on to do it, so far, five more times unto the present day. Of which, more to come.

* IMPORTANT NOTE: The author does not speak for nor represent the views of OryCon and any views I have on the adoption of the 'mission patch' design as OryCon's logo are strictly my own impression and not to be construed as a statement of OryCon policy.

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