Gateway to Home — A Homecoming Concert Commission

Duration: 1 week, Toolbox: Sketch, Photoshop

Homecoming is a time for alumni to return to their alma mater, reunite with current students, and relive their college days. The days are filled with special events, games, and performances, and are marked by spirit and a mutual sense of pride across Cornell.

I was commissioned by the Cornell University Glee Club and Chorus to create a poster celebrating their joint annual homecoming concert. This year happens to be The Glee Club’s 150th Anniversary, so the concert this fall places emphasis on celebrating their tradition and history. I was asked to create a poster that would evoke nostalgia and pride amongst alumni and potential audience members who would see it.

General Concepts

Initially, we considered illustrating a central male figure on the poster. After some thought, I decided it would be better not to focus too closely on facial features for the main figure of the artwork, to avoid forcing Glee Club members into one mold.

With that in mind, I started making some general sketches and paired them with reference images to more accurately demonstrate the designs I had in mind. I envisioned something that felt classy, clean, and timeless.

low-fidelity concepts

Inspiration for the silhouette and overlay concepts came from the idea that Glee Club members would reflect fond memories of Cornell through their performance.

After reviewing the options, we decided to pursue the concept in Artboard 3. I started to play around with tuxedo illustrations and color combinations.

The Tuxedo

The tuxedo is the performance uniform of Glee Club. It would serve as a frame for the inner illustration.

I chose to go with the first black and white version because it would be the most adaptable in terms of pairing with other colors.

I created a very simple silhouette because I wanted to limit the number of colors used on the tuxedo graphic. However, when others looked at the concept, it wasn’t immediately apparent to them that they were looking at a tuxedo. So I made a few adjustments…

I created a V-cutout on the top so that the divide between the jacket and the shirt was clear. I darkened the background slightly to a misty grey in order to make the white of the shirt pop. This version received a more positive response than the last.

The Illustration

I wanted to incorporate some iconic Cornell landmarks because they are often the center of activities that people recall during their time in college. The challenge — how would I prevent the illustration from looking like a rendering of a stock photo?

While thinking about unique angles, I recalled a perspective that I had taken notice of recently. While I was riding in a car going through a tunnel, I was fascinated by how the exit seemed like a portal to the outside world, amidst the surrounding darkness of the tunnel.

What struck me after recalling that was one specific memory — I’m crossing the West Campus arches to get to the Slope. Viewing the sunset from there is breathtaking, and it offers a good view of the McGraw Clocktower, which is highly symbolic of Cornell. And because the tuxedo graphic I made was black in certain areas, it would blend nicely with the tunnel concept. I decided to incorporate the arches into my illustration.

Inspiration

Portraying the Friendships

To generate more ideas, I talked to students to get a sense of what made them proud of and enjoy being at Cornell.

Some things people told me:

The beauty of the campus
The freedom to explore anything they wanted.
The prestige of the institution, and the diversity of the people.

But among all varied responses, the one thing everyone mentioned was the community and friendship.

I ultimately illustrated two friends walking out of the Baker Flagpole Arch, facing the slope and clocktower ahead of them. I used a sunset color palette because it is warm, inviting and reminiscent of returning home after a long day.

Sketch and detailed concept

After nesting the illustration within the tux graphic, adjusting the color and adding grain to the illustration, this was the result.

A portal to Home (Cornell)

Typography and Composition

There was a good amount of information to add to the poster, and doing that while keeping the design clean proved to be a challenge. I was unsatisfied with the initial explorations and decided to take a different approach — celebrating the text instead of treating it as plain, required information.

I used a more decorative script font for the title ‘Homecoming Concert’ and added horizontal lines around the subtitle to balance its weight with the main title. I spread out the information across the whole poster so that it would not be too text-heavy in one area, incorporating logos to add extra visual elements alongside the text.

Final

Reflection

This was a fun opportunity to exercise illustration and graphic design. I learned a lot from this process — the importance of being in the moment in real life in order to make interesting observations, keeping those observations in my creative bank, the value of setting stages of progress (from looser, low fidelity to the finer details). Doing this reaffirmed my desire to continue merging my passions for illustration and design — I can’t wait to work on more projects like this one.

If you’re curious, my personal artwork can be viewed here. :)