Reverse Engineer: Mr. Gambino Gets Reverse Engineered

childish-gambinoGig Poster for Childish Gambino, Rap Artist

Let’s talk about general composition helps the eye.

First, the main subject, the stereo person, is facing toward the information (date and time etc). After being easily read with a well-chosen font, the subject and the microphone chord lead the eye up toward the middle and to the other text.

Next, the colors chosen are soft and almost pastels. There is a slight retro look to the colors and style, and for the most part, the colors are limited and help to unify the poster, and allow the single red text to stand out from the rest, telling the user what is the most important/main information. Along with the unified colors, the background of curved shapes matches the curved paths of the mic cord.

Now that we’ve talked about unity, here are some things that stuck out to me.rep-shoes

The shoes are relatively simple. The only texture added to the shoe is on the edges. It seems that since there is less texture in each object, it adds to the cartoonish feel of the design. Most of the form of the subject comes from the shadow placement and shape, along with some of the strokes added, such as below the pockets and near the zipper.

rep-shadow-stereoThe next thing is the shadow on the stereo. It seems like an odd shape because the stereo is often assumed to be a flat and straight edge, but this particular stereo has a very slight curve. Then there are a few lines inside the shadow that add a little more texture and shadow.

Last thing. Let’s look at their color palette.


This is a pretty cool thing. Although the color palette I made shows 7 colors, they used five colors for the whole design. My palette has a few repeated colors. I separated them into three parts: Background, shadow, and Highlights. And the they are placed on top of the color used as the stroke color in the design. Between the darkest and lightest warm color, there are two mid tones. The Background has only two colors, and the lighter color is used in the laces, microphone, and shoes, along with a few other places. The lighter shadow color is also used near many of the highlights. It is interesting to think that, with work, a design can go very far with just the shadow, highlight, and a couple midtones.


Reverse Engineer: Book Cover, Bear, and Tiger


This book cover blew my mind more the longer I looked at it. Here are some key things that I noticed about it:

The eye is made as the focal point and is in the right space and has the right contrast. The typical place that the eye moves when looking at an image is usually the mid to upper left. This is where the eye was placed.

Each piece of the landscape portion fits with the tiger. One example of this is the clouds and the water, as if they are patches of white on the tiger.  (see blue circles)222

The foreground is mostly silhouettes with very little extra, but it is used effectively. The two tones for the bear and some other shapes like the clouds add to give depth and shape to each object.  (See below)


The text used fits the design feel very well, and even seems to match the sporadic flow of the branches and leaves.

111If we look at the direction that everything is facing, it leads our eyes off of the page to the right, allowing us to appreciate the view with the subjects in the picture, however the tiger is facing the opposite direction, which leads us back onto the image.

Reverse Engineer: Repeating Edges, Repeating Color

Nina Geometrieva made this brightly colored beauty full of repeating shapes and edges. Looking through a list of graphic artist portfolios, this one called my attention (and not because it’s really tall). Looking at each individual shape, the design is simple, but it is organized in such a way that it leads the eye back and forth from the top to bottom as the bright colors attract the eye back to the middle of the image.

What space really looks like
Many bright colors and a great use of repetition in this piece, which is titled, “What Space Really Looks Like.”

Color and Shape Repetition

The very clear element of design used in this is repetition and unity. First, we see the same colors being used throughout the design. The image on the right is a sample palette of the colors repeated throughout the picture:

color swatch
Color Swatch by similar planets. 1st column: basic colors
2nd column: variant colors
White: Only used in one shape

With the spaceship in the middle, it seems that this could be the focal point, however, the bright blue of the first comet seems to battle with the spaceship. There is only one use of the color white, which is surrounded by another of the brightest colors. (same blue as comet tail) This was an effective decision because white could have been a distraction without being used sparingly.

Another thing about the palette is that the space color is not solid black, but blue, and has many different colors from the radiating planets. This is especially seen in the large red planet and the small blue star that radiates light blue is one of the smallest circular shapes, but its light around it is about as big as the red-orange planet above it.

Anyway, that’s enough about color. 

Let’s talk about shape. 

When designing, it helps to repeat shapes, patterns, or colors in order to create unity. This picture was a great example of repetition in shape because of the shapes used in transition of color and object edges.

the repeated shapes
Three different samples of the repeated shape edges for color transition

On the right is the thickened lines as the repeated shape. It is used for all transition of color, and also to give planets shadow and texture.

The only thing that doesn’t have this type of edge is the ship in the middle, but it still has a rounded edge.

A couple other notes about design, etc.

Everything is oriented to about a 45 degree angle, and some edges point and lead the eye by being thicker or by having less distortion from the repeated edges.

There are opaque shapes surrounding some of the planets. and offsets where planets intersect with this opacity (these are the variation colors in the second column).

Reverse Engineer Icons: Marvel Icon Sets, Simple rules that Unify

When making an icon set, sometimes a set of rules need to be made so that they can feel unified. I will be showing some of the basic rules that the artist followed in order to make these icons work well together so that it feels like a complete set.

Design/Composition Rules

  1. All icons must be circular shape, and must have a circular border outside the character’s main shape.
  2. Facial structure is symmetrical. The placement of the eyes, nose, ears, etc is the same on each side.
  3. Hair does not follow this rule, and rule can be broken only for emphasis on personality (See Deadpool)
  4. Light source is coming in from the left
  5. Simple design, minimal detail
  • Comments on Rule 3: Making this asymmetrical adds interest and humanizes them instead of just being a picture.
  • Comments on Rule 4: The Ghost Rider has his own light source


Color Rules

  1. All of the colors are darker on the right side, except direct skin.
  2. Highlights, if any, on left side, shadows on right
  3. Same colors for eyes and skin
  4. Repeat similar colors Example: Blacks and reds
  5. No stroke color
  • Comments on Rule 1: This seems to make the costume pop out and the face is less emphasized.
  • Comments on Rule 2: Notice Hawkeye’s highlight on the left side and upper tip of his mask – it’s the same color as the left side of the H.
  • Comments on Rule 3: Eyes and skin are the middle swatches of the picture
  • Comments on Rule 4: If you notice, the blue set has reds placed on the outsides, and the red set has the two oranges (Iron Man and Black Widow) and the two cool colors (Captain American and Thor) on the edges trying to balance the set both horizontally and vertically. (also considered a rule of design/composition)
  • Comments on Rule 5: Except Ghost rider, who also doesn’t follow Rule 3.


One of the interesting decisions that the designer made was on Captain America. In the A of his forehead, the main color is white. Instead of just choosing a darker white (grey), he used a blue. This is a great example of keeping the idea of a monochromatic scheme within each character.

Contrast in Size and Color, Reverse Engineer


I searched through a few artists on google, laughing about the great amount of puns that are found in design portfolios. After procrastinating a while, I stumbled across a portfolio website called It had a lot of great vector illustration, but something about this particular illustration stuck out to me. It’s mostly because I’m still trying to interpret some deeper message because of what you can see in the puddle reflections.


One of the interesting things about this illustration is its contrast. Since the light source is coming from the back, the majority of shadows are in the foreground. Look at how much the solid black color was used as shadow on the figures (shown in red). This seems to add a lot of contrast on the individual figures, as well as helps the foreground and background area, which makes the focal point stand out from the rest of the picture.  

3-figures-compared_chop-figures-compareContrast in object size: The objects that are closest to the viewer are much larger, which also creates a visual hierarchy and focus, as well as showing perspective. The main focus is the boy in the yellow shirt as the largest figure with the most emphasis, and the children in the back are much smaller, but almost equal in size to the buildings because of the suggested distance from the viewer. There is also another figure directly below the ball that is close to the same size as the main figure. It seems to suggest that he is visualizing himself celebrating. The whole image inside of the puddle, aside from being blue, is much darker than the rest of the figures and has very little detail.

6-visual-leads-arrows_trace-what-points-2-focalUnity and organization: The clouds in the background all seem to point toward the center of the picture (red), helping the eyes to be led back to the focal point. Since all the figures are facing the main figure (purple), it helps lead the eye back to the focal point instead of off the page. Even the hands of the puddle are pointing at the focal point. (Yellow).

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