These past two weeks in Visual Design class at BYU-Idaho have been devoted to the creation of a set of icons using Adobe Illustrator. The instructions and requirements were relatively simple– We were to design 4 to 6 original icons, each communicating a single message. The icons were to be designed consistently and without the use of text, gradients, drop shadows, or pixels/raster effects. I chose to highlight a variety of Robin Williams’ characters. Following are the icons I designed for this project.
I began this icon set with the mindset that I wanted to pay tribute to a favorite actor- an icon in and of himself. I believe many movie lovers like me probably enjoy seeing him immortalized in different varieties of media. This set was designed for cinephiles and fans of Robin Williams– likely aged between 20 and 45, likely a male majority. This set would appeal to this audience because they would instantly recognize some of his most famous roles, which in turn brings forth fond memories of the times he entertained them– made them laugh, made them cry.
I began with a basic outline, which I knew I could copy and add to for each successive icon. I drew inspiration for the general shapes of his face and nose from depictions of Robin Williams in episodes of “Family Guy.” His eye color was a bit difficult to discern, but a few close up pictures found on google show he has bright, blue-green irises. I did my best to match the color, but I’ll admit it’s still not spot-on. I chose the shirt color based on what he wore to a stand-up comedy show he performed not long before he passed. For my first draft, each icon had the same expression- The same one on the Patch Adams icon. Several classmates who gave feedback and constructive critique commented that they all looked sad. “He wasn’t sad all the time,” they said. I implemented their advice and made the expressions unique for each by repositioning the eyes and changing the curvature of the mouth– interestingly enough: only on the left side (Robin’s right side from his perspective). Each curve to the right of the where his lip dips in the middle is identical. For Robin himself, I attempted to give him a somewhat expressionless face– He is a blank canvas, ready to perform any role.
Patch Adams was the second icon I created, and the easiest of the “roles” to create. He was a simple copy and paste with different colored shirt and hair. Beyond that, I created a simple red circle for the rubber nose, and added a small shine to it. As mentioned before, his was the original expression all of them shared in the draft, so it was actually Robin’s expression I changed for the final draft, not Patch’s. The only change I made for Patch between the draft and the final was his hair color. Patch and Pan originally shared Robin’s hair color, but I decided to make them each darker to reflect the movies a bit more. Apart from that small change, Patch is exactly how I made him in the draft. I was actually quite proud of Patch even from the beginning. Comparing it to the movie poster, it was pretty spot-on with the expression, the colors– even the shape of the hair, which I designed first for Robin, matches the poster really well.
Pan was a little bit more difficult, but not much. Again, he was a simple copy and paste with different color palette. I dragged the top of his ear just a bit up to make them a bit elf-like. I deleted the collar and buttons. creating leaves instead. Each of the leaves is the same. just one leaf, copied, pasted, and rotated, placed around the collar. I began the leaf collar with the idea that I might use the shape tool to delete the unnecessary bits I didn’t want, but that wasn’t going too well. Ultimately, it occurred to me I could simply bring forward the flesh-colored triangle layer that makes up his chest in front of the leaf layers. Again, I darkened the hair and changed the expression between the draft and final. Voila! Peter Pan.
Genie began as a copy/paste, not of Robin, but of Pan. I’d found that nice ear shape and I wanted to maintain it for him. Beyond that, I changed his colors, deleted all the details on his torso, and deleted his hair. I created the little ponytail with the pen tool- not difficult at all, created a general beard shape with the pen tool as well, and used the spiral tool to give him that nice squiggly at the end of of his chin. In the draft, the spiral was a bit blocky, but I used the width tool to change the thickness of the line for the final, giving it that nice point. The eye color wasn’t working for me on this design, for some reason, so I changed the fill to a uniform black. also for the final, I rearranged the eyes, the mouth, and actually removed his eyelids to give him that excited look. It’s fair to say he’s probably the most different from the rest, but I couldn’t create a set of Robin Williams’ greatest roles and not include the genie! That’s sacrilege!
Teddy is, interestingly enough, a new addition between the draft and the final. I’d considered creating him for the draft as well, but I’d just finished Mrs. Doubtfire and was satisfied with my work and ready to call it a day. Good thing, too, because the hat was particularly difficult. Looking at pictures of the character Robin plays in the “Night at the Museum” series, I noticed the brim of his hat is not uniform, but is pinned up on the right side (the left, from Teddy’s perspective). This took some creative use of the pen tool to recreate, and a lot of minor adjustment to anchors and paths to achieve just the right shape. The brim doesn’t actually go all the way around his head. This may have been possible to do with some clever layer arrangement, but I couldn’t figure it out. Instead, the brim is that very shape you see front and center. the glasses were pretty simple to create, but also hide a subtle little technique. The frames are just circles and arcs– outlines with a dark brownish gold stroke. the lenses are actually shapes of their own, placed under the frames– circles the same shape as the frames , with no outlines, a bluish white fill, and the opacity at 16 percent. This way, you can see that lenses are there, and you can also see through them. The colors were relatively simple. I started with the hat and mimicked the colors in the shots from the movie. I colored the coat he wears the same as the ribbon on the hat, and the shirt underneath is the color of the shadow where the brim lifts.
Mrs. Doubtfire was perhaps the most difficult to create. I just couldn’t figure out how to do the hair and get it just right. I tried first to build it from circles, using the shape builder tool to delete the unnecessary bits. That didn’t turn out too well. I referenced pictures again and again, considered using just arcs or spirals, I couldn’t figure it out. Finally, I just used the pen tool to make a general shape and tweaked the anchors and paths to arrange it just so. I added the streaks and coloring to attempt to give it some texture. Creating the glasses, I figured out the same shape-over-shape technique I used later to create Teddy’s glasses. The flowers on Doubtfire’s blouse are similar to the leaves on Pan, in that they are the same flower, copied, pasted, and rotated.
And there we have it! My set of icons paying homage to an icon. I quite enjoyed using Adobe Illustrator. Drawing pictures on a page, I’m a terrible artist. on Microsoft paint, I’m even worse. Somehow, I understand Adobe Illustrator in a way I haven’t understood any other kind of visual or graphic media creator before. It allows me to create icons like you see above, that I could never hope to create with my hands. I am excited to be able to use this program, and very happy with the results. I hope you enjoy them too.