Our editorial assignment required us to create a cover illustration for Anne Helen Peterson’s article How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation. The illustration should reflect the content of the article at a glance, while displaying a thoughtful color palette and wit.

Upon reading and furiously highlighting important parts of the article, I created 5 preliminary sketches:

The first shows a clearly burnt out millennial with smoking hair reminiscent of a snuffed match. She is surrounded by stacks of papers, post-it notes and a growing pile of coffee cups and crumpled papers. The second shows the everlasting to-do list, created for years 2010-2060. It features lines upon lines of errands superimposed on each other, along with an ever present coffee stain in its corner.The third is a play on all the simple things that create burnout- all those little real-life nightmares that haunt us whether we are awake or (trying to be) asleep. The fourth is a cluttered inbox/ unread notifications, indicating an overwhelming accumulation of responsibilities that are not being attended to. (I could extend this one to fill an entire phone screen)The fifth is very rough but suggesting a sort of naughty child (a millenial that i could dress up as a sort of businessperson or student) that seems to have done everything wrong, despite their best effort. The attempts at success only land them again and again ashamed and in trouble.

I decided to pursue sketch#3, which I referred to (in my head) as Sleepless-InStability (my attempt at a Sleepless In Seattle pun). As I developed my first draft, I quickly decided that I wanted to use a style that utilized colored shapes and subtle use of the transparency palette. I chose an assortment of teals to be used on the dreamer and her nighttime environment. I knew that I wanted to contrast this with oranges and reds for the monsters, but that still felt far out.   My pursuit of an unfamiliar style landed me with a dreamer I was proud of and no time to make any sort of cohesive task-gremlins. I decided on a timely draft as opposed to a great one, and threw together a few ugly little monsters. I received thoughtful critiques on what I had completed, as well as new ideas for my second draft.


Here is my first draft:

Suggestions for my first draft included to use less green, which promoted me to use exclusively reds and oranges for the monsters in order to increase contrast, as well as break up the tranquility of the nighttime scene. The rest of my critiques largely revolved around the style and variety of the creatures, which made it even easier to just scrap what I had and recreate them entirely. My final renditions featured mundane though time-expensive errands such as laundry and groceries; a pregnancy test to symbolize the stress surrounding pregnancy and parenthood; an ever-calling cell phone; and another overdue letter- all nagging the dreamer for her prompt action.

Final Draft

Here is my cover illustration in context:

I continued on to make several sketches that I could use as starting points for spot illustrations throughout the article. Some of my initial cover sketches were recycled, as I figured they would make better spot illustrations than cover-work.

Overall I am very pleased with my final draft. I think my design is clever and cohesive in terms of style, and that my use of color complements the main idea of anxiety and exhaustion. Though my work was done in an unfamiliar style that I had not previously tried before, as I continued to work and developed a better understanding of what I wanted to do, the hours did seem to fly by with satisfaction. This did not, however, change the fact that it took several hours. The process between drafts, though tedious, was an important experiment in what I knew I did NOT want to be seen on my final draft. I realized that though my first-draft monsters were ugly and a little embarrassing to showcase, it was an essential primary step in getting creatures that I was proud of. I really enjoyed this assignment and its call to create clever work that was reflective of a piece of writing. It felt very close to a real-world assignment, one that I wouldn’t mind doing more of in the future.