For our ninth card, we decided it was high time we picked a theme related to the industry we serve.
Our clients are architects, engineers, environmental consultants, land surveyors and construction managers.
A new area of professional liability exposure are projects that promise to achieve specific LEED rankings. Some jurisdictions are providing permit variances on achieving these rankings. However, LEED rankings are usually determined after the project is complete. And therein lies the potential for the perfect storm.
With that in mind, here’s the front of the card:
On the inside of the card, all of us employees are working hard on the gingerbread version of Hall & Company’s office building.
Well, most of us are working hard.
(Move your mouse over the picture to magnify.)
And on the back of the card, the reality of modern construction intrudes on the fantasy:
(Move your mouse over the picture to magnify.)
How we made it
As usual, we started the process early, with an initial meeting in June to sort through various ideas. When “building a gingerbread house” was mentioned, we immediately recognized it was perfect for Hall & Company, since our clients are all involved in various aspects of the construction industry.
Company president Mike Hall then improved the idea by suggesting that instead of a typical gingerbread cottage, we could build a gingerbread version of Hall & Company’s office building, which has a fairly distinctive design (at right).
John Redhed, our card designer, swallowed hard as he wondered how on earth he was going to turn that idea into reality. But the concept was too good to pass up, so he plunged into work on a mockup.
As usual, the first challenge would be the layout: how much of the building should we show? From what angle? What about the effect of foreshortening — will people in the background be too small? And how can we arrange all thirty-three of us so all our faces are visible?
To answer those questions, hand-sketching would be too cumbersome, so John used an architectural app to create a 3-D model of the building. Then he added a few human figures and worked on finding the optimal combination of framing, angle, and field of view.
Meanwhile, we brainstormed a list of typical activities on a construction site (sawing, pushing a wheelbarrow, drinking coffee, arguing, etc.). John then photographed a couple of teenage neighbors (thanks, Rachel & Luke!), as they acted out each item on the list.
Next, John added the photos to the architectural rendering, shuffled them around for approximately 4.5 gazillion hours, and got this:
As you can see, some of the figures are arranged differently than the final version. No matter how much planning is done, things never work out exactly like the mockup — most often because something gets improved!
Employee photography took place in September. Because we needed a high angle for most of the photos, we picked a spot on the side of our building, where the ground slopes down and away from the sidewalk. For extra height, our intrepid photographer Brad Camp shot from a ladder.
Each employee chose from an array of hard hats, vests, and tools to supplement their blue-collar attire. Various props (boards, pipe, etc.) were used as stand-ins for the “building materials” that would be added later.
John then directed the action, armed with the all-important mockup for reference, as Brad shot hundreds of photos.
With the employee shoot complete, John turned to the task of creating the gingerbread building. He had decided early on not to attempt to physically construct it — in addition to scale mismatches with the various materials, there were too many unknowns for him to be confident of a good outcome.
Instead he photographed the materials separately, each from various angles.
The exposed-aggregate path required several batches of royal icing and an assist from Photoshop before John got the result he wanted. In the process, a pound and a half of M&Ms mysteriously disappeared. Hmmmmm.
Cocoa powder was used for the ground. Here you see the four arrangements he shot for use in the appropriate parts of the scene:
…and the drainage ditch.
With all the building materials photographed, all John had to do was plug them into Photoshop and click the button marked, “Make gingerbread building.”
Okay, it was slightly more complicated than that. He also had to click the button marked, “Add all the people.”
And lastly, the button marked, “Add a billion nit-picky details.”
Well, almost. For the front of the card, John shot another photo of the cocoa powder, created the sign from scratch in Photoshop, then added the Christmas lights from another photo.
The letter on the back of the card was drafted by Mike Hall. Two years ago, he had a new office building constructed to accommodate the flourishing Hall & Company. A rather frustrating experience with the city planning department was the inspiration for this letter. (And no, his experience didn’t involve beet sugar.)