Creating Dr Brian Jones: Inside a designer’s workflow

We recently launched an email campaign to promote the last of our Mac minis, but wanted to do something a bit different to a ‘Save £££!’ message. Our designer Simon Curd was charged with bringing a character to life that would tie together the emails with four different story strands. The result was Dr Brian Jones Jones – a swashbuckling adventurer from the Harrison Ford/Tom Selleck stable. We grilled Simon about his workflow in creating the eshots, and the Adobe Creative Suite 6 software and Wacom Intuos4 tablet he used to get the comic strip-style results, and that all-important ‘tache.

What was your initial brief?

“The brief was to produce a visually engaging story that could run for several emails and help promote the Mac minis that we had in stock. Once Dr Brian Jones had been chosen as the protagonist and his first adventure had been written, we had a whole session coming up with ideas for how the email could look and – after a quick fancy dress session – a comic book style illustration seemed the most apt solution.”

How did the idea for Dr Brian Jones come about?

“In my brief folder I found a document containing lots of different ideas for this campaign dreamt up by our copywriting team – I’m glad it was Dr Brian that got chosen. Having a character on a quest of this kind works well in a short strip because he has a simple, focused goal (in this case the age old quandary of how to acquire a Mac mini), and it works well over several episodes because the locations, situations and time in history can change drastically to keep it interesting.”

What were the first steps in creating Dr Brian?

“I started by making rough pencil sketches based on pictures of this other character called Indiana Jones, who bears some striking resemblances to Bri’ – I’m not sure whether the copywriters had heard of him previously. It was convenient for me that his attire made him so easily recognisable, but during the sketching stage our head of marketing looked over my shoulder and thought my drawing looked too Harrison Ford-y, so I rushed on the moustache and no one seemed to have a problem that he had become Tom Selleck.”

What did you use as inspiration for the artwork?

“Making a comic of this kind wasn’t something I had done before, so finding the right reference material came in really useful. I looked at drawings by graphic artists like Adrian Tomine and Daniel Clowse when I first needed to come up with Dr Brian himself, and there’s obviously a whole world of action hero comics out there that I could refer to whenever I got stuck, but it was also daunting trying to finish my first comic strip and comparing it to the work of such accomplished illustrators.”

Tell us about the tools you used…

“After I had roughly sketched each cell in pen on paper I would scan it in and trace over it in Illustrator. My Wacom Intuos4 tablet sped up this process no end and helped keep some of that hand-drawn quality that might have been lost otherwise – going about a project like this with a mouse would have been a lot more fiddly. When it came to colouring, I would often sample a colour from an actual Indiana Jones still and then use Illustrator’s colour tools to create a palette that worked around it. Because I was working on so many files with a lot of repeated elements and colours, Illustrator also made it easy to organise my work and make templates with things I knew I would need already there.”

Did the look of the comic strip change much as you went along, and would you have changed anything?

“I think I was able to work quicker as I went along rather than the look of the strip changing, which was useful what with having deadlines, and I did try to make all four comics look consistent next to each other. Having said that, there are things I would like to have done differently looking back – put in more detail particularly in the backgrounds, change how certain cells are composed etc – but they’re all lessons I can use for the remake in 20 years.”


Did you get any feedback about the campaign?

“We had good feedback from our customer base during the campaign saying it was nice to receive marketing emails with an such an unconventional approach as this, which was really reassuring as the emails did look so different to the usual ones, we didn’t have any past results to tell us what to expect.”

– If you want to tool yourself up with the hardware and software Simon used to create Dr Brian (or if you want to sign up for our newsletters), call us for more info on 03332 409 306 or email

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