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Graphic Design
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All about Schoolhouse

Background Information

Schoolhouse.world is a free and fully-online peer to peer tutoring platform that connects learners all around the world. The initiative was founded by Khan Academy’s Sal Khan, and aims to provide quality, free education to anyone and everyone who wants to learn. The backbone of the platform are the volunteer tutors and product team; who embody, and are guided by Schoolhouse’s recently defined company values.

My role was to make some special t-shirts illustrating these values, to later be offered as thank-yous for volunteers. While I began by working on 1 illustration, the long term vision was to eventually have a cohesive set– 1 for each value (Think big, start small; Uplift each other; Always be a learner). 
Figure 1. The month-long timeline I followed

Gathering tasty morsels

Figure 2. My moodboard-- Special thanks to Youtuber/designer “therochellefish” for introducing me to Velvetyne Type (spot her illustration below)!

The Vision

My first order of work was collecting visual artifacts that embodied the spirit of Schoolhouse. I was envisioning something very bold and full of life; either in color or primarily black and white with different accents. At the time, I saw a few potential directions that we could explore:
Incorporating UI inspired elements, paying homage to Zoom (Schoolhouse's meeting platform) and the browser
Having a very type heavy design (could be custom or a pre-made font)
Creating a very simple style of illustration that simultaneously feels busy and energetic

Initial Sketches

I used some of my existing work to prototype low/mid-fi digital sketches quickly, and explored a lot of creature drawings. I see lots of diversity in Schoolhouse and personally gravitated towards happy animal-y explorations– I’m happy (and relieved) that the team was onboard and I was able to continue with this direction.

Back & forth

Through email replies, I received great feedback about being mindful of the volunteer demographic–- considering that most were high-school age, there was a danger in being a bit too youthful. Moving forward, it was also clarified that sub-bullets shouldn’t be included in designs. As copy might change, Jackie pointed out how there was more value in focusing on the value (haha punny), and at that moment, they weren’t able to confidently commit to printing the additional text.

From Jackie, on composition:

I like including the stairs as background–it feels natural for the "Step In" value. Can we try an illustration where it's one animal character helping another character up the stairs, like leading/holding their hand in an invitational way? The idea is to make it feel like volunteers are welcomed and supported in their journey of giving back to the community and assuming leadership roles.

Jackie saves the day!

New findings

1. Due to font size, Basteleur Bold doesn't work as well as we thought it would. Generally speaking, decorative fonts feel awkward and overly youthful when next to the illustration.

2. I personally feel that the sans-serif fonts (not in caps) pair with the Schoolhouse logo best.

3. Including texture and shading makes the illustration pop, however, it may cause issues in print depending on the supplier.

From Jackie, on composition

Putting on my art-direction hat here, I think it might benefit if the steps were less abstracted and more perpendicular (I love your interpretation as it adds visual interest, but I do think it reads less clearly as stairs), and if the monkey was more in motion and we see it walking up the stairs.
Figure 3. My favourite illustration


My personal favourite was this graphic, imaginarily split between the front of the t-shirt (cursor + text) and the back (full-illustration). While colors are unlimited for DTC print, the design feels a bit too picture book for our age group. We ended up going with the yellow background iteration because it leans more towards the “fresh/editorial” side. While the final illustration may feel simple, many, many, hours of work and thought went into it.

Thank you to Jackie and the Schoolhouse team for your clear communication and guidance– you guys do incredible work and I’m happy I got the opportunity to share my little creatures with the greater Schoolhouse community.

Other Fun Projects

(c.) 2021—2022