Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Regency Era-Inspired Family Tree Project

I have to admit that working in graphic design is a hell of a lot of fun, mainly because we have the chance to work on incredibly varied projects. Last year, we were approached to create a family tree for a friend of ours, and I'd be lying if I said that we didn't "squee" in delight at the chance to sink our teeth into such a fabulous endeavour.

The tree was commissioned by MK Martin—a writer and naturalist based in rural Ontario—to be a Christmas gift for her parents, and the final piece was created as a canvas print, which was later framed by the family.

Here are MK's own words, describing what inspired her to commission the project:
"My grandmother was the family genealogist, growing up, and had a massive set of filing cabinets full of our history, dating back to the 1600's. Later, the internet set that even further back. Recently, gram was diagnosed with Dementia, then Alzheimer's. Her descent took less than 5 years. Something about the loss of her passion inspired first my mother, and then myself to keep up. Mum's also an avid biography reader, and I'd spend many hours reading the family trees in royal lineages. We were assigned family crest projects in elementary school, and my Irish imagery really spoke to me Also, I wanted to win Christmas."
...and oh, did she win.

We'd never worked on a family tree before, so this was a wonderful new challenge to tackle. Our goal was to create an elegant piece that could be treated like a family heirloom.

Fortunately, MK's mum had been hard at work doing genealogy research on Ancestry.com, so we had access to several generations' worth of names with which to work.

The challenges were to determine how many generations back we could go without making a tree that would dominate an entire wall, and how to arrange the very large family lines vertically, rather than horizontally.

Since MK's mum is a big Jane Austen fan, we aimed for a Regency-like aesthetic (...with many artistic liberties taken...) that incorporated iconography from both sides of her family's lineage.

The ornaments used around the border were taken from a collection created by Pierre Simon Fournier; an 18th Century typefounder and typographic theoretician. We used them to make repeating borders that were both utilitarian and decorative.

It's always a pleasure when work we create for someone to give as a gift is truly appreciated by its recipient, and knowing that MK's family loved this piece as much as we loved designing it reminds us of why we went into this field to begin with.

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