“Can you make it more drag-queeny?”
Recently, and old friend sent me a message from out of the blue online. He was asking if I could do some print advertising for him. He knew of some of my past work, but was unaware if I was still working in the field. (For the uninitiated, the burnout rate for visual designers and digital content creators is high.)
Thankfully, I have been actively creating content for years, and was able to send him links to both my sites and other websites that I built for others. He told me his previous designer was no longer available, and wanted to know if I was interested. He had a price threshold that was low for this type of work, but said yes because I wanted the challenge, had not created a print ad in a few months and of course, he was a friend and local small business owner.
In between my first rough and saying yes, he sent me some examples of what he had used previously. I honestly was not impressed with what his previous designer had done. Of course, I wanted to be as diplomatic as possible, which is something I tell all new people in the field. You never know who the previous designer was (friend, ex-lover, the client themselves, etc.). It is always better to err on the side of positivity.
“Are you tied to these ideas?”
“May I try a different approach?”
“I think you are on the right track with your tagline, but from experience, I believe a shorter one with more punch might do the trick.”
I also asked questions, because honestly, I had never done work for a realtor prior, and was unaware of any legal hoops or parent corporation items that I would need to include in order to keep everything kosher. The client basically gave me carte blanche, possibly due in no small part because I was honest, open, up front and professional. The event is an adult fetish event, and I know a great many designers who will not take this kind of work, mainly because, and I am not making this up, they do not wish to be associated with “those kind of people”. Yeah, that happens.
As you can see by the image above, I went for a simple, bold and direct. Believe it or not, it was based on an old business card design I had saved from college years ago. The color scheme is important as well, and is repeated throughout. He loved it, and with just a couple of truly minor edits, it was off to the races. Unexpectedly, he immediately offered me a second project, which I took without hesitation.
Of the second event, a pageant event called a “Coronation”, had a theme, and sticking to the theme wins you points with the judges. This year’s theme is “Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them”. The client asked me, “Where do they find these things?” I gently told him it’s a Harry Potter world thing, and thankfully, not only my husband, but most of the people at work, have hipped me to all the things Hogwarts-related.
In keeping with the fetish theme, I came up with two ideas, right down to new tag lines that related to a beast/animal theme. The one above was more playful, and the one below was much more intense. (He was surprised that both were actually digital illustrations and composite images.) As much as he loved them, he believed that the event that he was advertising for here, which was a Drag competition being held in Vancouver, WA, on the other side of the river from Portland, OR., might not have been suitable. (This pageant features men and women, kind of like RuPaul’s Drag Race without most of the backbiting drama.)
He then asked me the following: “Can you make it more drag-queeny?” I have been doing this for 20 years professionally. This was the very first time I ever had a client ask me this.
I took a few days off from the project, and then thought about the attire many of the contestants wear: outlandish, fun, bright, colorful: always attempting to shine in a crowded field of peacocks. And that was the answer.
“How about a drag queen with feathers like a bird?”
“Feathery queens! I love it!”
In addition to the now bird/beast/animal theme, I added a rainbow (the standard go-to for any LGBTQ related ad) along with a type of magical aspect to it, again relating back to the whole wizard/Harry Potter concept. Again, with only a couple of minor text edits, the client loved it.
Sadly, COVID-19 has sidelined both of these events for some time now. The client did the client pay me in full and immediately. I honestly felt somewhat bad for him, as we had done some solid, exciting and fun work that the target audiences would not get an opportunity to see for some time. I did tell him I would re-work these at no charge if needed when the events could take place.
Yes, the coronavirus is hitting us all in different ways, especially when it comes down to getting work and just paying the bills. Regardless, I am grateful for this opportunity, and I am glad that I at least have this platform to display these. Nothing will make me happier, though, than to see these in print at their respective events. In spite of all the crazy what I do entails, once in a while, you get to work on something that actually is a whole lot of fun AND reconnect with an old friend.
Bucket list check-off: a more “drag-queeny” ad.
Love to you all.
Ben “Daddy Ben Bear” Brown Jr., owner