An image of a Mexican newspaper featuring a satirical drawing showing a skeleton wearing a fancy European hat.

You can download a PDF of this assignment here.


With the surface design project, you all created images inspired by your mood boards and interests. Here we’ll shift gears to a project that more closely approximates the experience of creating a commissioned illustration to accompany an article. We’ll be working with Anne Helen Peterson’s article, “How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation” published earlier this year on Buzzfeed. You’ll create a “front page” illustration as well as a series of six (6) roughs, drawn to scale, for proposed complimentary illustrations for the rest of the article.

Your illustration will be the “featured image” for the piece. That’s the one that is shown on Twitter, Facebook, and other digital platforms when someone shares the article. It should relate strongly to the article, but it is not necessary to literally illustrate or show specific content. In fact, the Getty Images published with the original article are a great example of this. They suggest rather than specify.

This assignment, inspired by Jesse Stommel’s article How to Ungrade and a podcast interview he gave on the subject, we’re going to define the project’s objectives and create our final rubric together. More on that in person.


We’ll talk about these in class together. Update: Following our meeting on 3/7, these are the objectives we set as well as some guidelines on how we’ll assess whether or not our work achieves these objectives.

Please use this awesome list to reflect on your process with the editorial illustration assignment. Use this text as the backbone of your blog post.

+ to create an illustration that speaks to the content of the article
– Does it evoke key words in the article?
– Does it make sense? Can we recognize elements in it?

+ to use a cohesive color palette and style in the front-page illustration and proposed list
– Does the color palette suggest a clear mood? Do they make sense?
– Does it approach the subject matter in a way that is unique?

+ to produce an image that is conceptually sophisticated with a clear visual narrative that reads “at a glance”
– Does it encroach upon cliché? Is it clever?
– Does it require one to read the article to make sense of it?

+ to create a composition with movement and balance
– Does it work architecturally and have a visual hierarchy?
– Does it work equally well at a smaller scale?
– Does it use negative space to enhance movement?

+ to produce work that is authentic to our style while pushing our boundaries as designers and artists
– Were you uncomfortable or challenged while working?
– Are you pleased with the work?

What You’ll Create

  • A single polished illustration to accompany the article, “How Millenials Became The Burnout Generation”, no smaller than 1600 x 1100 pixels @ 72 ppi
  • A series of mock ups showing how your illustration looks in context (I’ll provide the InDesign files for these): 1) Shared on Twitter, 2) Shared on Facebook, and 3) On Buzzfeed’s front page. UPDATE: There’s a folder linked on slack with 3 InDesign files you can use for this.
  • A final post about the project posted to our class site discussing your process (with supporting images), categorized as “final work


3/14, R – Make plans to read our article over spring break. Take notes.

3/26, T – Find an example of an editorial illustration you like and post it with a couple sentences on why you think it works, watch Editorial Illustration: Learn what it takes in just 3 days
3/28, R – Post to slack: 3 (or more) rough sketches with what you’re thinking for your illustration, give thoughtful written feedback to your peers, read: What Do Art Directors Want – A Guide for Editorial Illustrators

4/2, T­ – Optional video to watch: Editorial Illustration: Draw Idioms the “Designy” Way // Read up on Sam Smith and come with 3 thoughtful questions for him
4/4, R – Post work-in-progress image to slack, seek feedback if you need it // Skype with artist Sam Smith

4/9, T – Keep working
4/11, R – Post final images to class site with thoughtful post articulating (and showing with images) your process, meet in today (location TBD)

Sam Smith’s websites

Sam’s Portfolio site
Sam’s blog