Julia Kuo on Designing Literary Lots

Last week, the Literary Lots team created an aquatic-themed learning environment in the middle of Cleveland. This space includes a coral reef maze, 17-foot submarine reading space, underwater mural, and giant squid climbing tubes. It’s the second time Literary Lots has transformed an empty lot in Cleveland into a public arts and writing space for children of all ages.

With last year’s experience behind us, Literary Lots creator Kauser Razvi and I felt like this year’s preparation was much smoother sailing! Here’s a brief look at what I did as staff artist for this year’s Literary Lots.

Squid and boat

I like to start off the entire process with an image that sets the tone for the whole lot. This image acts as a style guide that will dictate the look of everything else that needs to be made – from lettering style to colors to subject matter. This is similar to the process of creating a children’s book or a line of greeting cards. This year, our main literary inspiration was 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, so I had to draw a squid and boat!

Turtle and coral

Once that main image is set, I expand the branding enough to make sure that there’s something for everyone. I’m personally fascinated by the idea of a giant squid attack, but I think there are those out there who would appreciate the softer side of the sea.

Mermaid
Booklet

I work in Photoshop because digital images allow for the most versatility. These images and all their components become a “digital drawer” full of art to be applied to anything that needs a little bit of decoration: calendar, coloring book, posters, tshirts, you name it! This type of repurposing is efficient and keeps the whole set of materials consistent and recognizable.

Long Kickstarter
Set Design

My favorite part of building out this entire body of work is designing the lot itself. Kauser has always had an amazing attitude of “design the best pieces you can imagine and we’ll do our best” – so I did just that. I thought about what it’d look like if my favorite aquatic children’s books and movies were to come to life, and how I would want to interact with them if I were a kid. I might be secretly wishing that I could play on them now.

And some photos of the lot in process!

Hope you enjoyed seeing a little bit of the process for this year’s Literary Lots. If you’re in Cleveland, don’t hesitate to stop by and see it in person!

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