For this assignment, I was tasked to create a frontispiece editorial illustration for Anne Helen Petersen’s article “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation” posted January 2019 for Buzzfeed News. The illustration in question must solve a difficult problem: capturing the spirit of the article without being either too general or too specific. The graphic should be something to pull a reader in just enough that they want to know more.
My first step for this project was to read the article. I read through it a few times, underlining and highlighting words and images that stood out to me and was left with a short list of things that sparked my interest: “overwhelmed,” sending mail as an impossible task, and being indoctrinated into this burnout lifestyle since birth. With this compact arsenal of phrases, I created three sketches. Two of them focused on turning tasks and abstract worries into tangible monsters, while the third focused on a millennial in the womb. The latter was received the best with my class, but with the suggestion to make the mother multitask or be on her phone as well. I needed to better get at the idea of eternal distraction.
The first revision was a huge overcompensation. While I am partial to it’s odd vibe of campiness, I added too many new concepts and elements. The business man waiting to deliver the newborn to a world of efficiency was my jumping the shark.
So I pulled back into what became my final illustration. I took my original idea and really just played with the composition until I was happy with it, changing it from a profile to a front-on orientation. I tweaked the colors, making sure to pay attention to saturation and a sense of depth, and I landed with something that reads well at a glance and in mock ups of social media shares. Furthermore, I have stretched my artistic ability by creating something that is not my first go-to for style. I took elements from my comfort zone—large patches of flat color, and lifework—but supplemented those fallbacks with new attributes: a thin, wavy line, and a less stylized figure.
In the end I was able to funnel some of my other initial ideas into sketches for possible spot illustrations.
Overall, I am pleased with the work I created. Readily recognizable is the pregnant woman, the phones, and their beams of light, none of which require the reader to read the article to get the sense that these characters are constantly engaged in technology and not caring for themselves–especially the baby. Compared to my first draft, the color palette feels much more cohesive and provides a sense of energy to an otherwise stationary piece, something which the negative space around the figure and mother’s phone helps with also. Throughout this process I felt that I authentically experienced the necessary cyclical nature of editorial illustration revision.
1 thought on “Burnout from Womb to Tomb”
Sam here. Nice, Katie! It took me a second to notice the baby on their phone too (creepy!), and/but I wonder if just the floating baby in the womb on a phone, all by itself, would do the trick. The way you dialed it back from the more developed version is great though, and you’re right, it’s a perfect example of how the process often works. Go too far so you know to reign it back in. These additional concepts are GREAT too…. I’m amazed at the concepts shown in such simple sketches. The gas tank one is great!