Thursday, December 10, 2020

award-plaque design

I think I finally have a halfway decent award-plaque design for my buddy JW, whom I managed to get addicted to distance walking.  I want the design cut into crystal, so it might not retain the colors you see below (see here to understand why).  I've run the design through Photoshop in black and white to see whether I'd be okay with a monochromatic rendering, and in the end, I thought it'd be okay.  Here's what I came up with:

The black border won't be visible on the actual plaque.  I added it just to make the plaque's dimensions more obvious for my blog readers, given the otherwise white-on-white background.  Let me explain the design, whose elements might not have an obvious meaning.  First, you see a man walking across a dragon's back (I found the dragon online by looking up "Chinese dragon seal").  This is a reference to a phrase from the walking poem I'd written last year:  "so forth we go, friends:  stick and pack!/we walk across the dragon's back!"  The three Korean words inscribed in the dragon's image are, from left to right, "Incheon," "Seoul," and "Yangpyeong," representing the 120-kilometer axis that my friend walked in order to "graduate" and be thought of as a true distance walker.  

The English content of the award plaque needs no explanation, but the two red squares might.  They were designed to remind people of dojang, i.e., seals or chops that are used to stamp official documents.  The dojang on the left is in Chinese; you should read it in two vertical columns, right column first and moving leftward:  dobo yeohaeng, i.e., a trek on foot.  The right-hand dojang, meanwhile, is in Korean, and it says gukto-jongju, a word that ought to be familiar, by now, to readers of my three walk blogs.  The word guk means "country" or "nation"; the word to (pronounced like the English word "toe") means "land" or "ground"; the word jongju means "end-to-end path," so a gukto-jongju is a path across the nation's land.  The Four Rivers path is one such gukto-jongju.  Another is the east-coast path that I plan to hike next year.  The Chinese proverb about "a journey of a thousand miles" is written inside a blue field with an arched top, possibly representing the promise of a sunrise or of the future.  The choice of the color blue contrasts with the red of the dragon and the dojang; together, these are the colors of the yin-yang symbol at the center of the South Korean flag, which is a symbol-laden, philosophy-heavy standard (see here for an explanation).

I played around with and discarded all sorts of design choices.  What fonts to use?  Should the little man on the dragon's back be abstract (like a men's-room icon) or more realistic-looking?  Should he have a backpack and a walking stick, or would that connote mountain hiking instead of distance walking along a bike path?  (JW has never walked with a stick and pack, although he has done some day hikes with a shoulder bag.)  There were plenty of choices to make, and it might be that you, Dear Reader, see something about my design that doesn't sit right with you.  Feel free to comment if so.  Just know that I'm not lying when I say I went through a bunch of different designs before arriving at what you see.  

Initially, I wanted an image at the top of the plaque that would reflect (1) distance walking; (2) the number 120, given that JW had done the 120K span from Incheon to Yangpyeong; and (3) the names "Incheon," "Seoul," and "Yangpyeong," somehow connected by something abstract and map-like to delineate the route JW had walked.  My earlier designs had no dragon in them; they looked like hypertrophic versions of the tee-shirt design I had done for my walk, with the word "SEOUL" in the middle of a huge circle, and the words "Incheon" and "Yangpyeong" to either side, written in their own circles and looking like little moons orbiting Planet Seoul.  I tried connecting the three circles with straight bars and galaxy-arm-shaped swirly tentacles; nothing seemed to work.  I also gave up on including the number "120":  it seemed repetitive, given that "120" appears in the text portion of the plaque.  At one point, I made the center of the design a giant, abstract "walking man" icon.  I labeled his circular head "Seoul," then replaced his hands with circles that read "Incheon" and "Yangpyeong."  This proved to be ugly as hell—it looked like an angry boxer, gloves still on, stomping across the countryside in search of something or other.

Ultimately, the dragon came to me as an eleventh-hour flash of insight.  This often happens with the creative process:  you waste 99% of your time generating crappy ideas so that your one good idea can finally burble to the surface of your consciousness and save the day.  I'm still not happy that I didn't draw the dragon myself; I might do so for my ego's sake.  (It's a bit like promising to cook an entirely homemade, from-scratch meal, then cheating by using store-bought pasta.  The store-bought pasta isn't the problem—it's the promise to do everything homemade, then reneging on that promise.)

As for the blue field, I had initially created a blue sun that I placed behind the dragon, but that didn't work.  While blue and red work fine on the South Korean flag, they don't work well as a dark-blue sun behind a fire-engine-red dragon:  the color contrast was hard to look at.  I decided to honor the flag design by placing the blue at the bottom of the design, in the yin position, just as it is on the Korean flag (see the above link to review the ROK flag's design:  red represents fire, a yang force; blue presents water, a yin force, so this is why red is on top, and blue is on the bottom:  yang moves up, and yin moves down).  So the flag is now merely suggested or hinted at by my current design.  I imagine a professional designer could do a better job of incorporating the ROK flag more explicitly into the plaque's final look.

So there we are.  Lots of stillborn images, and finally, one image to rule them all (for now, anyway, unless my readers offer constructive criticisms that prompt further changes).  I hope JW will appreciate his plaque when he gets it this Christmas.

ADDENDUM:  the centering of the left-hand dojang might be a millimeter off when compared to the right-hand dojang.  Just so you know that I see the problem and will work on it.  There might also be some text-centering issues; I'm aware of those as well.

1 comment:

  1. Well, it's the thought that counts and you have obviously thought about this design a lot! I like it! The dragon is my favorite part(but then, I bake cakes from a box) so if you do a redesign I hope you capture the same majesty.

    How long will it take to have the design put on the plaque? Christmas is coming!



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