ABC’s of Natural Hair: My thesis project

Malaaya Adams
Apr 27 · 4 min read
Art Direction credit: Abby Ryan Guido

The Natural Hair industry is really thriving because more and more Black women are embracing their natural hair, no longer feel the need to straighten or relax their hair. Currently, the Natural hair industry is worth over $500 billion and continuously rising. According to recent reports, it indicates that black women aren’t reluctant to try new products and investing more in hair care if it really helps their hair. Here is a link to read more statistics about natural hair: https://www.morroccomethod.com/blog/afro-hair-industry-facts-and-stats/.

The problem I wanted to solve was some new parents either mixed or not may don’t know how to treat naturally curly, coily or kinky hair. Even if, they do know how to treat natural hair, they have a limited knowledge of hairstyles they can do and the products they put in their child’s hair. Also, there’s not many books that specifically teach children of color how to treat their hair or all the different hairstyles they can explore through colorful imagery and the alphabet. I used my colorful illustrations and hand-lettering to make it more fun for children to learn more about their hair. The text page goes in depth about how to do a specific hairstyle and facts about certain hair products. The alphabet and illustrations make it easier for children of a younger age to learn about natural hair.

When I started this project, I used my illustrations from my winter break to be the foundation of my thesis project. Since, I had to time to work on my own stuff I started off by doodling the “Afro w/ Braid” while I was waiting for my plane to Louisiana. But while I was at my aunt’s house, I got bored, so I started doing another illustration. And next thing, I knew I ended up making 10 illustrations featuring black women and the versatility of natural hair. Then, when I went back to school, I came up three different topics that I would want my thesis to be about. The first two ideas I came up with was a children’s book about me and how I struggled with shy and “different” from the other kids at my school and my other idea was about a little girl who would gain a superpower with every hairstyle she wear, like a afro puffs or cornrows. But I decided to choose the idea about an ABC picture book about natural hair.

My Inspiration
My Process
The Result

Then, I decided to expand the idea to a natural hair starter kit along with the book itself. I started off by sketching the items that would be in the hair kit and how I would want the book to be structured. After, sketching out how project will be presented, I started working on the illustrations for the book while, researching hairstyles and hair products to represent the letters in the alphabet. Then, after I finished the sketching phase, I started filling in the sketches with color and line for the smaller details.

After, filling in the illustrations with colors, I added patterns to the background to activate the space more. I wanted to use abstract, colorful patterns with texture, shapes and line so the background would still activate the space, but not distract the viewer from the illustrations. After, completing the imagery part of the book, working on the hand-lettering for the letter pages of the book. After, completing the book I started working on the labels for the leave-in conditioner, moisturizer and shampoo and the logo.

When I started this project, my goal for this was to make it a physical project, but when it came to printing the book and creating the book I ran into a road block trying to pay for printing. But, my teacher suggested making a book structure and adding the content of the book through photoshop. Besides, making the structure of the book, I still have bottles, jars, a box I designed for project so I decided to have my box kit photographed and I would edit those photos in photoshop. Which, was the second half of my project and along the way I picked up some tricks while working in photoshop.

Through, this project I learned about about natural hair myself, more about packaging, and how I can use my illustration style in different aspects of graphic design.

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