Graphic Design / Interactive Design / Fine & Applied Arts / Parkland College

GDS 273 Illustration I
Project 3: Holiday Card Illustration


Instructor: Liza Wynette


To develop conceptual thinking skills. To apply composition and illustration skills to real-world visual communication problems.

Secondary objectives

To utilize the Adobe Creative Suite as an illustration and production tool.


Design an illustrated holiday card and matching envelope for the President's Office at Parkland. One design from this class will be printed and mailed in mid-December.

  • Message: The card should be uniquely Parkland. Focus on Parkland's philosophy, the campus, students, etc.
  • Copy: Open. "Season's Greetings" is a possible solution, but other copy written by you is welcome.
  • Art direction: Art should be contemporary and non-traditional.
  • Format: Open. But the card must fit inside a "standard envelope" and it must be printable in-house by Parkland's print shop.
  • Envelope: Must include the Parkland logo and the return address (2400 West Bradley Avenue, Champaign, IL 61821)
  • Credit: Add the words "Design: Jane Smith, Parkland Graphic Design Student" in 7pt Helvetica somewhere on the card.

Your design must show an understanding of unity, emphasis, balance and color theory. Your art must also engage the target audience and communicate a visual concept creatively.

Note: High resolution stock photos and illustrations are available from Photospin. Contact your instructor for more information.


1. Client Meeting: Meet with Tom Ramage and Nancy Willamon, who will describe their objectives and needs. You may ask questions at this meeting. As a class, we will write a brief based on the information we received during the meeting.

2. Marketing research: Research existing holiday cards. Be sure to review trade publications (Print, How, Communication Arts), annuals (Workbook, Society of Illustrators), and web sites like I-Spot or Altpick. Scan examples that you think are successful. Publish your research on your personal process page for critique (be sure to caption each image and cite the source). Be prepared to explain why these examples are successful. 

3. Incubation: Absorb the information you have gathered and sleep on it. Allow your unconscious mind to make connections for you. 

4. Develop the concept: In your sketchbook begin to conceptualize ideas for this project (see examples of sketches). Make at least 10 sketches of all possible directions you might take this project. Edit your concepts down to your best three ideas and redraw them on 8.5 x 11 white paper using a felt tip pen. Scan (scale/crop in Photoshop: no wider than 1000 pixels), increase the contrast (see tutorial) and publish your concepts on your personal Process Page for critique. Be prepared to discuss how your design fulfills the client's marketing objectives. Also print your sketches for your Process Book.

5. Proof: Based on the critique of the above, use the computer to execute at least two versions of your best idea (present at least one proof with an alternate font choice). Publish one multi-page low-res PDF (instructions) linked from your Process Page for critique. Be prepared to talk about what design principles are utilized in your design. Also print a high-quality color proof for your Process Book.

6. Final critique: Based on the critique of the above, revise your design (if needed), then print a final proof on 11x17 paper for critique (see printing tips). Prepare a presentation to justify your design decisions. Also publish one multi-page high-res PDF (instructions) on your personal Process Page.

7. Client Presentation: Prepare a third fully conceived "comp" and prepare a presentation to "sell" your idea to the client. Craftmanship counts! Give yourself plenty of time to prepare your work.

8. Grading: Based on the critique above, refine your design (if needed). Submit two copies of your work for grading. One proof will be returned to you after grading. File the graded proof in your Process Book for individual review along with all the preliminary work you did for the project (research, brief, sketches, preliminary proofs, final proof). Review your Process Page and make sure you have an accurate record of your process. Also submit one multi-page high-res PDF (instructions) via Cobra's dropbox. You will not receive full credit for this project if any of the above elements are missing.  

9. Portfolio preparation: If you are happy with the results of this project, consider including it in your portfolio. If necessary, continue to make refinements until you are 100% satisfied with the project. Be sure to back-up all your files for future editing.

10. Extra credit: Submit your project into next year's student show by printing an art gallery quality proof and mounting it on foam board. Also prepare an archival quality JPEG (see example) (1000px wide, no larger than 200K) and submit your project using the online entry form at Your project may win a cash prize and be published in a showcase of student work on Parkland's website.

Last updated: 8/9/17 ■ Webmaster: Paul Young