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Herding cats to ensure the WOW remains

January 30, 2017 by Klaus Uhlig

Everyone in an orchestra has an important role to play. Woodwinds, brass, percussion and strings all learn to play together in harmony, and are all led by a conductor standing at the front of the stage.

When it comes to branding initiatives, marketing strategies, key messages and communication plans,
the role of the creative director is no different than the role of the conductor.

But what the audience sitting back enjoying the music doesn’t always realize is that an orchestra is more than just the sum of its instruments; there are many more “invisible” people involved in making that performance come to life. There are stagehands, a lighting crew and sound techs all doing work behind the scenes where no one notices them.

When it comes to creative endeavours, those roles all fall on the production artist. This person knows where everyone sits and understands how everyone meshes together. In other words, the skilled production artist knows how to manage all of the moving pieces to take the project from design comp to a completed, tangible product.

The copywriter writes the content, the photographer shoots the pictures, the illustrator creates the visuals, and the graphic designer develops the product but it’s the production artist who takes everyone’s composites and concepts and turns them into one solid masterpiece that is ready for digital launch or print fulfilment.

Often, the production artist works under a tight timeframe, as his or her work cannot truly begin until everyone else sits down to play. Working closely with the creative director, designer and writer, the production artist is a stickler for detail and ensures that the process stays tidy and runs smoothly. In the movies this role falls on the continuity person, in the creative space, this person is the necessary ‘eagle eye’ because we know that the devil is in the details.

The take-charge production artist often liaises with the client to ensure that all of the niggling details are in place, secures the necessary approvals, oversees the timing of the deadlines and connects with the suppliers so that the client always gets the best possible solution on time and on budget.

And all that focused effort and energy ensures that the front of house looks good and the client’s project gets the attention that it deserves.

Read other posts in this series:

Building out the WOW!
Creating the WOW!
In the creative process, writing shouldn’t be DIY



What’s a Signature Worth?

January 24, 2017 by Klaus Uhlig

In 1986, I was approached by the owner of Firefly Books to work on the art direction and design of a children’s book. The backstory was simple; the author’s regular publisher wasn’t prepared to print the story because they felt it was too sentimental — a tearjerker that readers might find disturbing.

Firefly president Lionel Koffler made the arrangements, and I was introduced to Robert Munsch. The plan was simple: I was to learn about the story. We had no script, there was just two guys with a story to sell, sitting across from me in a cramped office in a derelict corner of downtown Toronto.

Before I knew what was happening, I was the sole audience of a Munsch storytelling; the animated version with all the actions and facial antics that come with a live telling. At points along the way he’d stop for a breath and take a few moments to reflect on his thinking about the storyline and explain his reasoning for the actions and sounds. And then he’d say, “and then I do this, and this,” and simply pick up the story once again. That was my introduction to
Love You Forever. Live, unplugged, unfiltered, with oral liner notes.

Sheila McGraw, a talented artist and illustrator was engaged to create the wonderful images that underpin Robert’s story. Her sense of humour and willingness to take creative direction, helped make this — her first book — a stunning visual success.

As you look over the illustrations, you’ll see two cats woven into the picture story. As the baby grows, so do the cats. There are several such occurrences in the book where secondary and tertiary stories are woven in for readers to discover. Those instances — the layering of sub-stories — are in part what make this book such a rich portrayal of the circle of life.

My hands pulled images, narrative and all the moving parts together — from choosing the right type face that complemented the illustration style and was easy to read by young and mature readers, to sizing and placing text blocks into the layout.

Fulfilling a near invisible role in a book’s design process is the job of a creative mind. Done poorly, you can muse the outcome. Done well, the job jells the narrative with images and produces a product that turns the designer’s contribution invisible while heralding its creator’s efforts and collaboration.

Today, more than 26 million copies of this book in multiple languages are in households around the world.

So what is a signature worth? It’s the honour of receiving it and having it on a first edition copy of
Love You Forever almost 30 years after we first created it. Thanks Bob for the audio link!


Finders Keepers

January 17, 2017 by Klaus Uhlig

What would you do if you came home one day to find your house empty and your family gone?
That’s what happens to Ossi. In need of a new forever home, the abandoned little cat chooses a neighbourhood family that she’d like to keep. But now that she’s found them, will they keep her? 

That’s the premise of Finders Keepers! With 44 pages of delightful colour illustrations and engaging prose, Finders Keepers is Ossi’s poignant yet humorous story about loss, perseverance, and finding and keeping family. It is a heartwarming story that both children and adults – cat lovers or not – will enjoy over and over.

I found this square book under the Christmas tree this year, but purveyors of a touching story will love it anytime. This is Ellen Rumsey’s first effort and she hits the mark! Visit for the backstory.