08 December 2016

[SF] OryCon 32 Souvenir Program Design: OryCon Works Dark

The next year, OryCon 32,  I was back as publications again, and this was the first of two years when the theme went 'dark', as they say.

The Author GoH was P.N.Elrod, creator of The Vampire Files: the Art GoH was Chad Savage, macabre artist extraordinaire. What better them than The Dark Side of Fantasy?

This program was a bit of a new experience because, whereas the previous ComCons were content with my decisions on everything from headline fonts to layout, this year the remit included a bit of art direction via the con chair. She had a definite idea as to fonts for headers and headlines, and was obviously quite sensitive to the visual and emotional weight that the fonts transmitted to the content.

The GoH's, page, backed with a screened-back bit of his art, cast a certain mood. This was the first time I attempted this, and I thought it worked quite well.

The spread showing off the GoH along with a snazzy little ad for WorldCon 2013.

I must admit this was a challenge for me in more ways than one. The art directing, while minimal, was a factor I hadn't contended with in the previous two publications and it was a new experience, and a welcome one. The big up here was, as previously mentioned, the Con Chair clearly understood that thoughtful choice in cover design and typography is an essential starting-point to a successful overall design. She pointed me in a good direction and, as every solid graphic designer knows, when it's not necessarily your vision, it's your duty and job unify everything so it supports the client's look-and-feel. This succeeded very well on that level, and was a real creative workout for me.

The other part was ... well, in saying this, I don't want anyone to think that Chad Savage's art is bad. I don't. I think it's splendidly-done, and if I were 10 times the draughter I am now I'd be, at most, 1/100th the artist he is. That he has talent and vision cannot be gainsaid. The crux is that I don't find dark themes pleasant; they don't speak to me so much. So this really opened my mind to listening to an artistic voice that didn't quite transmit on my wavelength, and that was a real workout, and a valuable one, too.

I'd suggest that a good way to expand your design chops and your visual repertoire, as a publications designer, is work with edgy art that's not exactly to one's taste. I'm still not one with the macabre art, but I can hear the voice it speaks in and help it communicate when it must, and that's something else an effective designer does. 

Push ones' own envelope from time to time. After all, art shouldn't always stroke your happy place. A diet of art that doesn't sometimes disturb is just as stultifying to the visual health as eating the same thing is to the physical. 

The other notable thing about OryCon 32 was the loss of one of the granddaddies of the OryCon/PorSFiS community. John Andrews, a regular and one of the maintaining forces of the original OryCon crews, passed away at an extremely untimely age.

One of the ironies of my life is that my nocturnal-by-necessity nature means that I see some people in my own tribe, who live in the same city as myself, only once-a-year; necessity has made of me rather a recluse. But one of the signals that this was indeed OryCon was meeting John Andrews at the pre-reg table; as long as there was a John Andrews helping hold things up, everything was aright. 

He left us a legacy of a scholarship fund that sends a fan to WorldCon in his memory. We should all be so lucky as to inspire such a mark in Con history.

John only made it to age 48. The community he helped build continues with a newer generation every year, it seems: a posterity anyone would be thrilled to leave behind. 

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