A Diary Full Of Colour

Diary page college term artwork

The approach taken to design the student study planner for 2020 was allot more elaborate and ambitious than in previous years. With a very elaborate theme, new layouts, and experimenting with some gamification. Overall it was well received, with allot of people having strong opinions about what they did, or did not, like. Let us guide you through the design's successes and the valuable lessons learned along the way.

To colour or not to colour that is the $10,000 question. Adding an unlimited amount of choices and appeal to any student diary book, it also comes at a cost both for the amount of time it takes to prepare the graphics and the extra charge of the ink that is used in print. This year's Study Planner was experimental as much as it was an update to all previous versions, one question the College wanted to know was "what would give the book the best appeal for the students?". Is there anything this book should try that has not been done before in order to see more use of it from the people who use it each day?

Study Planner page layout colour chart

Before any design decisions were made surveys were created, to ask about the features the students want to see the most. One recurring answer was to have more separation, a way to help better navigate the diary, find specific weeks or months, and also to visually define each day. From a graphical user interface point of view, the ability to utilise more colours would help break up the repeating nature of the book into easily identifiable sections and sub sections.

The biggest change to the planner was put into motion, use a full colour print throughout the entire book, and use it to break up the sections visually. Each page template was designed to be able to have a colour palette swap both to the page as a whole and to each of its own sub sections. This was used to give each month a separate colour while also overlaying stripes of colour around the page to tie it back to the term, and interior blocks of designated colour for the days of the week. As the user held up the edge of the pages blocks of colour along the side help define the month, while a blot of colour at the bottom separates the terms. Opening the page shows ribbons of colour to help define the days of the week.

Student planner college diary colour sections

The colour palette was chosen using soft colour tones, this was to ensure that any pen used to make notes would still be easy to read, while also allowing white text to be used over it. Six base colours were chosen Cyan, Pink, Lilac, Peach, Orange, and Green each separated with enough contrast to stand apart when butted up against each other. From this a lighter and darker shade was added to the colours to create the variances. The lighter variance was used as the base colour of the background page art, and the darker used for text displayed over the top of it.

The bulk of the book was sorted, however with full colour to be used on every page, it would be a wasted expense to not take advantage of it. Using medieval heraldry, and the college houses as the influence to include many more colourful pages, the study planner was onto its next challenge of creating the artwork of a theme.


College Study Planner 2019

published spiral bound college study planner

The Kardinia International College study planner and study planner junior 2019 were published in January 2019. Giraffe and Elf had a hand in the layout and design work of both versions with a lot of work put into the cover illustrations.

The theme of the Study planner Junior cover was based on the idea of the electronic devices a child in the 1980’s would carry around with them to gain a similar experience to a modern day mobile phone. The insides of both planners were printed using a two colour spot process with converted versions of the junior cover illustration.

concept study planner cover design

The senior school cover was a muted version of abstract bright and vibrant coloured shapes, of which the original concept is shown above. The end result was darkened down to better match the official college colours for whom the planners were to be published. The original concept was to match the 80’s theme with more abstract imagery suited for senior students.

college study planner inside page examples

Together a total of 2,100 copies of the study planners were printed and distributed to the college. Five different covers were designed and created before the final two were chosen, with the junior cover originally intended for the senior book. Further information on the variations and the processes behind the cover illustrations can be found at


Designing a Custom Arcade Cabinet

Custom Arcade Cabinet Plans with arcade button

Very few projects evoke the multitude of skills that personify the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none. But always better than a master of one.” better than designing and building a custom arcade cabinet.

A project that has been talked about since before Giraffe and Elf was established has finally moved into the development stage with a very big project scope and allot to do.

The outcome of this project has also expanded to become a extracurricular course for a high school. The plans, methods, and components used to create the cabinet need to be easily followed and replicated by a small class of students with clear directions. This differs from a regular build in that plans need to be referenced and instructions followed by a group of people rather than from notes scribbled on scrap paper intended for a once off piece.

Custom arcade cabinet plans isometric illustartion

Currently the project is in the pre-production phase as plans are drawn up and problems with production are addressed. As the project continues we’ll be sharing more updates, including specifics about some components, the hurdles we encountered, and solutions that were used.



Cover Illustration Design

College Study Planner Cover Illustartion

A college study planner doesn’t follow the same design rules as books or promotional materials. There are more considerations to keep in mind with a publication like this. Giraffe and Elf was given the opportunity to develop a college study planner and covers for the school year 2019, and a fantastic amount to freedom with the types of imagery to be used in the final design.

Before delving too far into the design process of a cover like this, there were some factors to take into account with how a study planner is treated compared to other publications. First and foremost, a study planner is taken to and from school every day and into every class, this means that allot of time is spent staring at the cover. Second, with all that time a study planner sits in front of students in class there is allot of opportunity to graffiti and doodle over it when the class begins to drag.

Both points were tackled with a similar solution, a cover can remain interesting longer if it takes longer to observe the details it contains, which also helps graffiti in that it can be more difficult to detect if the image is already detailed. From this we adopted a macro detail approach to the image, from afar you notice some things, and up close you notice others. Each level doesn’t obscure the last and overall there isn’t one shade or colour that stands out over another.

The cover contains allot of elements that each add something to the overall image but individually contains its own details. Within the image fake stickers were included as a way to further break up any large flat areas, add details, and obfuscate any graffiti that may be added. The idea isn’t to prevent things from being added but rather to not have them able to stand out from the rest of the image.

College Study Planner Cover Design

The theme was chosen and concept was designed with the resurgence of eighties pop culture and fondness for retro aesthetics in mind. The final image’s motif was based around the idea of the electronic devices a child in 2019 would need to carry around to gain a similar experience to today’s mobile phone. The opportunity has been an amazing experience through each part of the development, to holding the final print.


Illustration using photoshop effects

Retro Casette Tape cover illustration

When the concept you are imagining is a little more complicated than the time you have allocated. Or maybe you need a concept to be more finished in order for it to be better presented? Layering and finishing effects can be a way of quickly adding detail to an otherwise flat image.

Sometimes a client won’t know exactly what they are looking for until they see an example or two. These occasions don’t come around all too often and are the best opportunities to put a little more thought and exploration into a concept piece.

Casette tape line art

Many times when asked to create and graphically design a booklet, brochure, or document there are rules that follow in regards to colours, branding, and style, this can limit options available and become a challenge when trying to make something stand out among the crowd.

Recently Giraffe and Elf was given the task of designing a cover image for a college dairy, without any restrictions placed on brand identity or conforming to previous designs. With the end result going through various iterations and looking different from the initial designs, it was still a perfect opportunity to use the time to explore some new illustration techniques and layering filter effects in Photoshop.

The technique used for the cassette image was created by drawing a single cassette using vector lines and separating out each flat panel as a ‘shape’ layered on top of each other. Each of these panels was taken into Photoshop as a ‘shape layer’ and using a combination of filter FX like drop shadows, bevel highlights, and gradient overlays the flat shapes appear to have a three dimensional look.

Casette Tape Illustation exploded view

By balancing the size and opacity of the highlighted rims and shadows on top of other panels it gives each flat shape a little depth. The technique is helpful when details like a little highlighted rim or shading would help separate foreground and background objects or adding dimensionality to something flat.


Pop Art, cartoon photo styling


What does it take to turn a photo into a cartoon, we hope this video helps explain some of the processes involved.

After seeing the awful result of an online service promising to 'make a cartoon of your pets' a friend received, we took on the task of drawing and styling a photo of man's best friend into a cartoon with a worthy tribute to Lichtenstein.

The process is very straight forward and with this time lapse capture of the pop-art styling we hope to share some of the techniques used.


Is Subtle Branding Under Stated

Giraffe and Elf Logo T-Shirts

Simply adding a company logo image to every item available makes everything look same same.

While this supposedly increases brand awareness, does repeatedly flashing the same image at someone really promote it, or should it first and foremost be something cool whilst making the brand secondary.

Giraffe and Elf Coffee Cup Design

When we started developing Giraffe and Elf and finalised the company logo we put together some silk screens to try out the logo on different apparel.

As we've investigated further products and promotional items we've come to realise than simply having the same logo image across a range of items begins to look repetitive. We live in a world where printing has advanced to the point where every type of surface can have an image on it. Having that same image constantly repeated simply diminishes the impact it has.

Giraffe and Elf's mantra involves designing and developing, simply copy-pasting the company logo onto item X Y and Z seems like a shabby way out. Why not take something that still identifies the company and include it into something that on initial inspection isn't noticed.

This could add value to each style of the company logo while keeping it fresh, individualising a simple branded promotional item.

Tailoring a design to suit the items on which it is presented is often attributed to a product line but overlooked when the company logo is involved. This is most obvious when a long rectangle logo is shoehorned into a square or circle shaped item.

Graphic design is to be used to an advantage, adding a statement of quality, care, texture, tone, and more to anything that is being produced. Having someone take a second look at an item, because it isn't simply a repeated image, is going to leave them with a more memorable impression.