Conduct a term-length research project on a topic of your choice. Through a series of visual lab projects, explore the material and incrementally develop an appropriate visual style and vernacular. Finally, write and design a book that presents your findings.
DISNEYLAND: ESSAYS AND REFLECTIONS ON SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA’S ORIGINAL MAGIC KINGDOM is a 136pp book that, along with supplemental materials, explores this world-famous theme park from a cultural perspective.
Illustration | Photography | Packaging | Editorial Design + Layout | Copy Writing + Editing
I’ve been fascinated by Disneyland since I was a child growing up in Southern California. It seemed to me that discussion of the park fell into two camps--those that are unabashed fans, who do not take the place too seriously, and critics who can’t seem to enjoy the fun and beauty of Walt Disney’s vision.
I wanted to write a book that blended both serious social commentary and artistic appreciation. I neither wanted to be a hard-bitten cynic nor a gushing fan. I reasoned that Disneyland occupies a special place in the American imagination and deserves serious, measured study.
The content is divided into sections named after the original themed lands, and each is designed in that vein. Solid, colored folios at the footer of each page identify them for the reader and are a nod to the tabbed design of the park’s famed A–E ticket booklets.
Main Street U.S.A. covers Walt’s roots and the origins of his idea. Fantasyland considers illusion and surrealism. Frontierland explores Disney’s take on American culture and history. Adventureland looks at colonialism and the export of Disney parks around the world. Finally Tomorrowland discusses corporatism, science and technology.
Because the medieval block script of the park’s current typographic mark is so widely recognized, I saw little use in redesigning it for this project. The castle icon, however, is a custom illustration I created by referencing early park logos from the sixties which are no longer in use.
There is nothing that symbolizes Southern California’s post-war suburban boom better than Disneyland. And arguably, there is nothing more camp than the graphics of the period. I wanted the entire book to exude this retro feeling. Each section of the book, based on one of the park’s classic lands, features a uniquely period-appropriate header class.
Jackson Burke’s Trade Gothic is a clean, mid-century sans (1948), yet it contains numerous imperfections that indicate the quality of printing and layout at the time. I made the unusual--and controversial--decision to set all body copy in the extended version of Trade, which pushed the critical perception of Disney as kitsch even further. Captions were set in the condensed variety. Ken Barber’s Ed Script for House Industries added an additional dash of optimistic 1950s advertising style.
The palette consists of a series of hues to represent each themed region of the Disneyland park. Starting with pure colors, I shifted each towards a more pop pastel. Frontierland’s brown is a bit chocolate and Adventureland’s green is somewhat lime, for example, instead of recalling the realism of aged lumber or jungle foliage.