Responses by Stefan G. Bucher, designer/illustrator/writer, 344 Design, LLC
Background: Stefan G. Bucher’s LetterHeads: An Eccentric Alphabet is an alphabet book using 3-D sculpting software to create an expressive new set of characters. My hope is that by bringing the alphabet to life, it’ll get kids and adults alike to see that interesting and magical things can hide in every detail of your life.
Reasoning: Creating these characters has been a very intuitive process. Feeling my way around the shapes, I worked to discover each letter’s unique personality—or personalities as some have more than one.
Challenges: The most challenging aspect of any character design project is always to make each new character feel truly alive. While I’ve had practice with my Daily Monsters, this time I had to do it in a more detailed and humanoid setting. I also wanted to create a book that was colorful and fun for kids, but also sophisticated enough for my fellow designers. It’s a bit of a challenge to unite the two, but I hope I made it happen.
Favorite details: I love that you can see the front and back of each character, so you can really experience them as 3-D sculptures in a 2-D book. And of course I sweated all the details. I kerned the foreword for hours, noodled the colors and worried over which headband to select. I just love the painted yellow fore edges, making the book into a little yellow monolith. The whole thing is such a labor of love.
Anything new: Moving from pen and ink characters to modeling in a 3-D environment made the whole process new for me. As soon as I started playing with ZBrush a year and a half ago, I was hooked. It makes a lot of things possible that I didn’t even think to attempt before and it also made me more aware of my decisions.
Visual influences: I’ve been a huge animation fan all my life, and devour all the Pixar and DreamWorks Art of… books. I always find myself drawn to the unpainted clay maquettes of characters before they get too smooth and perfect.