When we launched Dogster and Catster Magazines just over a month ago, we knew the sites needed some awesome background art to complement (but not overshadow) all the new content.
Happily, we didn’t have to look far to find an artist who was up to the challenge: SAY Media’s Creative Lead, Nigel Sussman. While the company’s media lab and user experience teams worked hard on our redesign, for months we were collectively stumped on what the wallpaper of Dogster and Catster Magazines should be. We tried everything — enormous single photographs (nothing screamed “must have”), patterns, and stock art. Some of the themes we toyed with were too abstract or distracting.
Anyway, see those little doggies, bones, and paw prints cavorting all over the blue background on either side of this story? They were Nigel’s hand-drawn solution to our dilemma and we couldn’t be happier — after the new site designs went live, we held our breaths, waiting for our very opinionated community to say something negative about the background, but the response was overwhelmingly positive. (One Dogster member even liked the background enough to ask permission to customize the middle portion of their pet page with it!)
Nigel also designed the story headers for all our regular weekly columns, and we’ve kept him busy, illustrating stories for Dogster and Catster.
Here’s one of his drawings from Kelly Pulley’s story, “I Lost My Husband to His Midlife Crisis, But There Was No Way He Was Taking the Dogs, Too.”
And here’s a seriously cool time-lapse video of one of the illustrations he did for Dogster Editor-in-Chief Janine Kahn‘s Doghouse Confessional piece, “Whenever I See Dachshunds, I Feel Sad Inside”:
It’s no surprise that Nigel was a creative type from childhood. “From a very young age I would draw, paint, and sing, and try to play the guitar and piano,” he says. “The biggest factor in my artistic development was that I was always encouraged by my parents. My father is a professional musician, and my mother studied art and textile design, among other things. I think they still have stacks of scribbles in the basement at their house in southern Pennsylvania.”
He earned a degree in illustration from California College of the Arts and worked as a freelancer before transitioning to website design and advertising. He joined SAY Media’s predecessor, VideoEgg, in 2009.
Nigel also created the awesome mural in SAY’s basement office, which houses Dogster HQ. He and fellow Studio artists Mary Harburg-Petrich and Eric Ulrich “brainstormed on a concept, then I created the final design in Illustrator. The intersecting angled ‘ribbons’ is a motif I’ve used many times before in my work, and I thought would be an appropriate way to show some ‘movement’ and fill the space.” (We agree – it’s a very big basement!) “The three of us spent the better part of a weekend getting it on the wall. I wish we had been given enough time to do the entire wall and not just a portion!”
We trust Nigel to come up with some great ideas on the illustrations he does for us. He says he’ll read the articles a few times, then look at dog photos online for inspiration. “I always try and immerse myself in the content to help get ideas,” he says. “With enough focus, something usually just comes to me.”
And while Nigel says he loves both cats and dogs, “if I had to choose, I would say I am more of a ‘dog guy.’ The persistence and patience that dogs have are attributes that I try to embody in my work. A big part of creating great work is dedication and routine/repetition. A reliable dog could easily be a symbol for my art creation methodology.”
We’re very lucky and proud to have him as part of our creative gang.
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