5.3 Design

The purpose of ‘Design’

The purpose of the ‘Design stage’ is to take all of the research and thinking to date and develop this through the iteration and testing of composition and layout using thumbnails.

Presentational format

A fundamental design decision that had to be made was the presentational format of the images. The Terms of Reference I gave myself were deliberately vague on this, acknowledging that this decision would naturally come once the research and generate ideas phase was completed and it clearer what visual and narrative components to play with.

I formalised my thinking through the creation of two mind maps (click on an image to expand).

Given the experimental nature of the assignment, I thought it would be more beneficial to have a different presentational format for each one of the three illustrations.

The overall genre that I was working in was ‘historical storytelling’; a story based on facts dramatised for narrative effect.

I identified three presentational formats that would work with a ‘historical storytelling’ genre. These are outlined below:

Narrative sequencePortrays a story through a sequence of sequential illustrationsNarrative arc – beginning/middle/end
Adult book illustrationTelling stories predominantly through words supported by illustrationsNarrative illustration and visual style
Contextual i.e. book coverFunctions as packaging and point-of-sale. The purpose is to catch the attention of potential readers and buyersVisual impact
Three presentational formats

Based on my research and other work to date, I matched each subject to a presentational format:

  1. Fricis Freienbergs – Narrative sequence
  2. William Clarkson – Adult book illustration
  3. Edith Thompson – Contextual

I felt this grounded my design approach. Taking a different approach to each illustration would proved interesting learning given that the visual approach for each subject had, up until this point, been the same.


Common design component

Having a common design component should give some degree of commonality across all three illustrations.

One of the ideas that I had right at the start of the assignment, inspired by the work of Peter Codling, was to use the Brookwood Cemetery Plot Map to provide this common design thread.

The thumbnail below shows how this could work.

Thumbnail using the shape of Brookwood Cemetery Plot 122 to frame the image

What I liked about this was that it added an interesting constraint to the design i.e. I had to work with a potential awkward shape that forced me to think about composition in a particular way. It also provided a direct link back to my overarching Brookwood Cemetery theme in a novel and somewhat abstract way.

Fricis Freienbergs – narrative sequence

scope and purpose of the sequence

In line with the purpose and objectives of a historical narrative, the scope of the Fricis Freienbergs narrative sequence was limited to the facts I’d been able to discover during my research that cover the dates, times and circumstances of his death. I was also able to find out about the fate of the U-Boat commander who was killed in action later on the same year, and I think this gave an interesting historical twist and counterbalance to the story. The narrative would end with reference back to the grave in the Swedish Section, Plot 122.


I started the design by writing a simple script that incorporated key facts. Because the design idea is to contain all of the text script into a single illustration, the script had to be edited back aggressively to retain as few words as possible and just the essential facts.

ScriptDialogue/action/visual elements
Fricis Freienbergs was captain of the merchant ship the SS Katvaldis.Portrait of (what we imagine) Fricis Freienbergs looked like in Merchant Navy uniform
During 1941, the ship was part of one of the many merchant convoys that traversed the North AtlanticSilhouette of convoy on horizon
German U-Boats were a deadly unseen enemyU-boat on surface
Captain Freienbergs died at sea on 2nd November 1941. Cause of death is unknown
His ship was later torpedoed and sunk (on the 25th August 1942), by five torpedoes fired from U-Boat (U-605), with the loss of three crewU-Boat commander (Herbert-Viktor Schütze) looking through periscope
View through periscope of ship with black smoke flume
Three months later, U-605 was sunk in the Mediterranean by depth charges dropped from an RAF Hudson aircraft with the loss of all hands (46 crew)Nautical symbol indicting death at sea
Fricis Freienbergs is buried in the Swedish Section of Brookwood CemeteryHis gravestone is in the shape of a lighthouse – Could use lighthouse as key visual component
Simple script based on historical research

Artist research

What I really like about the work of Jonathan Wingley is his use of caricature and fluid composition, where one image overlaps or forms part of another. In doing this he plays with form, colour, orientation and scale to create visually engaging pictures.

Fig 1 – Fisherman’s Wharf with Dilone and Dylan (2018)

Storyboard/ image design

My approach to visual design was similar to how I’ve developed sequences for other illustrated sequences. I printed out the script, stuck it into my sketchbook, and used this as a prompt for thumbnailing.

Because of all of the previous research and experimentation, the thumbnailed composition came really easily and was really just a consolidation of previous ideas.

Thumbnail showing composition and layout of text elements

Visual style

There needed to be some consideration of typographical style given the textual content of the illustration.

The text in the illustration has two functions:

  1. The narrative text that runs down each side of the illustration – these are full paragraphs of information so the font needs to be easily legible and easy to adjust to the constraints of the design
  2. The more decorative inscription that runs in the ‘tramline’ boarder

The font pairs I selected were based primarily on the decorative text that match the feel of a gravestone inscription. There are three combinations that I will experiment with when I have the final illustration.

Testing font pairs

The visual style was testing during the Research stage and draws heavily on the work of Jonathan Twingley and my media experiments.

Fig 2- Fricis Freienbergs visual style test incorporating the outcomes of the colour and media experimental processes (2020)

William Clarkson – Adult book illustration

Scope and purpose of the book illustration

In line with the historical storytelling genre, the scope of the William Clarkson book illustration is limited to an aspect of his life derived from facts discovered through subject research. The purpose of the illustration is to give readers a feel for the character of the man and his interests.

Artist research

For this illustration I will draw inspiration from the work of Masha Pryanichnikova. I have already referenced her work in relation to using stamps or repeat patterns as a mixed media approach during the Generate ideas stage. I add another example of her work her, simply because I like it, and it embodies what I would like to achieve in my own illustration; finding a visual style to match the character of the subject.

Fig 3 – Instagram post “Cohens movie marathon (2020)

Image design

The design involved working with and developing the strongest elements from my previous research and experimentation.

I used thumbnailing to develop both content ideas, composition and use of colour.

Clarkson layout and composition thumbnails 01
Clarkson layout and composition thumbnails 02
Clarkson colour test
Clarkson colour thumbnail using experimental colour palette. Created in Photoshop

Visual style

The visual style will draw inspiration from the work of Masha Pryanichnikova and the outputs and learning from my experiments with colour and media from Generate ideas.

Edith Thompson – Contextual

Scope and purpose of the contextual illustration

The scope of the illustration could include any of the elements/references related to the story of Edith Thompson and her illicit relationship with Fredrick Bywaters, the murder of her husband, her trial, execution and burial.

The purpose of the illustration is to provide a viewer or reader with the context of the story, operating like the cover of a book or television title sequence.

The illustration will function as packaging and/or point-of-sale. It needs to have impact and produce enough interest in the viewer to either buy/read the book or watch the documentary.

Image design

The need to create impact and capture the essence of the story opened up the possibility of using visual symbols and metaphors, something I hadn’t really experimented with up to this point.

I spent a couple of hours thumbnailing ideas that were all based on my research, but which took new and different directions.

In order to bring the brief to life I chose to work with the titles of two existing books that cover the story:

  1. Criminal Justice: The true story of Edith Thompson by Rene Weis (1988)
  2. Rex v Edith Thompson: A tale of two murders by Laura Thompson (2018)

The book titles played a large part in the direction of the design that I wanted to be simple and bold.

Design development thumbnails 01
Design development thumbnails 02
Thumbnail layout and composition that will be taken forward

Visual style

I deliberately designed the image to work in black and white to reflect the stark harsh reality of the narrative. To enhance this further I decided to use a combined print technique in the final artwork. The image would be a woodcut (reference 3.3 Experimental relief prints for previous examples of woodcuts) leaving the opportunity open for me to use my experiential media approach using colatype and possibly monoprint to add colour, texture, and hopefully drama to the background.


List of illustrations

Figure 1 – Twingley, Jonathan (2018) Fisherman’s Wharf with Dilone and Dylan At: https://www.twingley.com/work#/the-graffiti-drawings/ (Accessed: 21/09/20

Figure 2 – Hadfield, Hugh (2020) Fricis Freienbergs visual style test incorporating the outcomes of the colour and media experimental processes In possession of: the author

Figure 3 -Pryanichnikova, Masha (2020) Instagram post Cohens movie marathon At: https://www.instagram.com/p/CFXJlD3I8AH/ (Accessed: 22/09/20)


Thompson, L. (2018) Rex v Edith Thompson: A Tale of Two Murders. (s.l.): Head of Zeus Ltd.

Weis, R. (1988) Criminal justice: the true story of Edith Thompson. (s.l.): Hamish Hamilton.

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