I’m a little apprehensive about the second half of this project just because I don’t have much experience with Adobe Illustrator, but I’m excited to learn. I thought it would be interesting to have one main larger bird that is closer to the viewer and then more birds behind it. My first thought is to do a forest since it’s the Carolina Parakeet’s natural habitat. I’d also like to have their nesting in the side of a tree since that is something unique to them. I could also potentially work in a farmer or an orchard somewhere to convey that they were hunted to extinction. Here are some of the initial thumbnails that I have made for this project:

I think I’m going to go with the birds in a forest because it gives me the most flexibility with layout.


Today I started on drawing out my design full scale so I can trace it with the pen tool in Illustrator. I used an 11x17 sheet of paper and drew out my design:

I’m pretty happy with this, but I’ll likely add some more birds in Illustrator.


Today I moved my drawing into Illustrator and started to go over it with the pen tool. I wanted to at least get the bird done so I can get feedback in class tomorrow. The work was a bit slow going since I don’t have a ton of experience with Illustrator, but I just worked slow and used google to help me with tools when I got stuck.

I then started to add color and going over the trees in the background of the poster.

I kind of just jumped into my poster and started working because I thought if I spent too much time on planning that I would never get working. I recognize that I will likely go over the 7 color limit with how I have the design set up right now, so I’m going to have to recolor a lot of it. I may break the head into only orange and not yellow as well. I have not yet written my text, but the box in the corner of the page is where I’m intending on putting my text.


I finished up this composition so that I could get some feedback on my color choices in the next class. I don’t love how my poster is looking, but I also don’t hate it and I think it’s a solid starting point. I tried to make the birds their true colors and the background something more monotone/dull to emphasize how these birds look tropical but live in the midwest/east coast. Here are the variations I made:

I ended up simplifying the head of my parakeet to just yellow and removing the orange since it allowed me to have more shades to show depth in my trees. When I asked a couple people in studio I got the best response from the last color scheme with the blue background and brown trees. I used a color pallet generator website to suggest some colors that matched with my green and yellow of the parakeet. I think this helped me a lot in at least coming up with ideas for color layout. I don’t love the hunter/farmer, I should come up with a more creative way to express this threat to the birds.


I was a little disappointed that during the last class only some people got critiques, especially since I feel like we focused on the posters that were in a better spot. I felt that this was neglectful to the posters like mine that need more work. However, I got some useful notes from this class period anyway that applied to a lot of the work:

  • Think about text not being a square
  • First and second line heading should be closer
  • Don’t be afraid of open space
  • Be careful with dark colors
  • Try and show the animals habitat or behaviors
  • Think about middle ground
  • Be careful with abstraction of shapes in background

I decided to actually add my text in to begin to think about where it should go on my poster:

I should work on formatting my text better to fit my poster. I like that spot for the text, but it doesn’t look good overtop of the trees in the background. I also added in some feathers to my bird to give it more detail which I think helped the poster a bit. I’m not super happy with my poster right now, I feel like I’m missing something that most of the class has in their poster. I’m going to continue to work on it.


I wanted to frame my main flying bird a little better and add some depth to my poster so I added some shrubbery on the top and bottom of the screen. I also moved around the closest tree a bit so that I could fit the text on the left of the poster. I don’t love how repetitive the shrubs are but I don’t know a much better way to do that pattern/texture without drawing in each leaf.

I changed the colors around a little bit and moved the flying bird over in order to make the composition more balanced and hopefully show some more depth. I also moved the hunter over to the other tree because the bird tail was covering him after I moved the bird over. I wanted to play with adding some texture or shading to my trees which is what I was doing on the largest tree. I think my poster is starting to come together a little better, but I still feel like it’s off and I can’t quite figure out why.


I received feedback in class today from Q on my poster. I realized that I needed to do some work, but I don’t think I really knew how bad it was. Q said that I should:

  • Add more space around text
  • Change the greens and colors overall
  • Change the feathers bc they are too repetitive
  • Change the leaves bc they are too similar to modules/too simple
  • Make the trees in back smaller to exaggerate depth
  • Make it less abstracted

He also said that he isn’t really sure how much he can give feedback on since I have so much to change and fix which was a bit of a slap in the face. I’ve been struggling a bit with Illustrator and now I just feel more confused and frustrated because it sounds like I need to change my whole poster and I don’t even know how to make it better.

I later talked to Jacky a bit and she taught me some helpful tools on photoshop as well as some tips for making a successful composition which both of those helped me a lot. I didn’t feel as lost as I was before. I came up with these two potential new compositions and I’d like to make some more and then go to office hours for feedback. Jacky helped me with the first one and then I made the second on my own.

I think these both still need some work, but they are much better compositions than my previous poster.


Today I finally solidified my final design/composition for the poster. I played around with my design ideas and came up with these concepts:

I settled on the top design in this column because I felt like it was the most dynamic and realistic pose of the ones I came up with. I really liked the one with the wings out, but I felt like it replicated the same direction as the branch so it wasn’t as interesting of a composition.

This is just an image of my board as I came up with the composition, I used a lot of reference images to get the shape for the bird right.


I decided to go through with the first design with the bird almost in flight because it was the most dynamic pose for the bird to be in. Today I worked on adding some more detail to this composition and elaborating on the aspects that I already had down.

I started by adding in the different colors and details on the bird. The bird is the most important part of this poster, so I wanted to use multiple colors on it. I also wanted to keep the true bright colors of the bird since I felt this was one of thir most distinguishable characteristics. I then went on to take some of the branches from my last poster and apply them to the trees in this new poster to make them more realistic. I wanted to add in some detail to the tree in the front, so I took the time to put in some stripes, but I’m not happy with them since they are too geometric compared to the rest of the composition.

This is the next iteration I came up with. I changed around the colors a bit to allow me to add a darker color to detail the tree and add shadow for the bird. Do to this I had to take away the white from the eye, but I don’t this detail is necessary anyway. I also tried to add in some feathers on the bird by using the background color, but I think this is following line art a little too closely. I likely won’t keep the pattern I have on the tree right now either, it still stands out as being too geometric. I also added in another bird in the background to try and add more context and fill the background space.


There was a bit of a jump from the last composition to this one because I was doing so much work in such a short amount of time so I don’t have documentation of the in between. I changed the patterning on the tree to be less geometric and more representative of what a tree’s texture really is. I also added in a subtitle for my text and added in some more shadows on the bird and tree. I changed the color of the tree a bit to make it less red and more brown and muted to match the rest of the composition. I also changed the trees in the back in the bit to be more accurate of what the top of a tree would be like.

Next, I added in some feathers onto my bird. This was my most difficult part of making this poster because I had trouble taking something so flat and representing it without using straight lines. I attempted to use shadows to show the shapes as much as possible. I also added a hunter into the background to show how these birds were tragically wiped out. I then moved the bird in the background to align with the hunter’s gun and show more of a story.

This is my final composition. I added some texture to the trees to keep them from becoming too geometric looking, especially the ones in the back which seemed very stick-like. I added some more detail to the branch in the front through a twig, some more shading, and some stripes/bark. I elaborated on the detail that I was working on establishing on the bird through more shadows and defining more edges of the bird’s feathers.

Overall I’m pretty happy with how this turned out, especially for most of it being made in 2–3 days and my discomfort with Adobe Illustrator from the start. I’ve definitely learned a lot about this kind of illustrative technique and making a composition, on top of all of the technical skills that I developed with Illustrator.

CMU Design 2024