Behind the Scenes: Designing a Collection

December 28, 2020

Behind the Scenes: Designing a Collection

Hello—I’m Karen, the other face of Watch Me Bloom! 

Sarah is the ‘Recipes for Growing Me’ series creator and author; I’m the designer and illustrator. Together we create with little hearts in mind to celebrate the everyday milestones that promote growth. If you’ve read our very first blog and how Sarah and I met—her mother was my high school guidance teacher. Mrs. Dickerson went out of her way (and Durham Region!) to find me a co-op placement in the art department at Yellow Pages, where I first learned to draw vector art using Adobe Illustrator software. I went on to formally study graphic design at York/Sheridan, and yet, I don’t know that I would have considered myself an ‘illustrator’ per se. Fast forward >> it would be 20 years before I was introduced to Sarah and her recipe poems, and in the process discovering that, indeed, I could be an illustrator.  

My design style is recognized for its use of line, shape and colour. And my career has benefited from several influences working in architecture, interior design, industrial design, and the print and paper industry. In fact, they’ve all been integral to my growth as a creative person. I come from a family of makers and find joy in learning through shared stories with a passion for legacy.  

In this month’s blog, I share my experience and creative process in designing the book series and developing a product collection. 

Recipes for Growing Me ~6 Months edition—Baby’s First A-Z CookbookImage: Recipes for Growing Me ~6 Months edition—Baby’s First A-Z Cookbook

Put on a happy face!
When Sarah first shared with me the first of her recipe poems (and initial characters), I asked if she could potentially write a few more to complete an A-Z format. This meant more work on our part, but it made sense. Alphabets are the very beginning of teaching infants how to speak, read and write. Beginner books also promote early literacy; thus, the idea of ‘Baby’s First Cookbook’ was born. 

To establish the character style, I began researching common elements in babies faces. What I found is that happy babies have wide eyes and are always smiling. Design is meant to help communicate, and the simple visual element of a smile can encourage parents to try a new recipe or engage children. My niece Kylie, while reading the ~6 months book pointed out—“Hey! How come all of the faces have the same heart?!” Pretty astute for a then—eight-year-old. The design approach uses the same heart-shaped face (with a crown), same arms and legs for consistency, and promotes diversity with different coloured faces. For contrast, the characters each have a unique greenery element (style and colour of leaves, plants, vines, etc.) that speak to the variety, yet individual stages of growth in life. 

Continuity and structure are also important for children to recognize when reading a book, even if subtle. In our book every other spread alternates with a white, then solid background, to establish a pattern and familiarity of what comes next. Just like an infant’s diet will build on previous food choices, I reintroduce some of the established characters from the ~6 month book illustrations, in the next editions that follow in the series.

 Recipes for Growing Me gift box collection: Cookbook + Onesie bundle, Lunchbox CardsImage: Recipes for Growing Me gift box collection: Cookbook + Onesie bundle, Lunchbox Cards

“See a need, fill a need…”
A famous line from one of my favourite children’s movies, Disney Pixar’s—Robots (2005 film). Our book was designed to reach parents and caregivers of all ages—in a friendly, informative manner intended to reduce the stress of figuring out what to feed their baby, and also make feeding time fun! 

If a product is expected to have longevity, the design must work on more than one level; serve more than one audience; and solve more than one problem. We brainstormed how the characters could live beyond the book, and a few complementary products to add to the collection.

The Baby Show (Toronto) – October 2019Image: The Baby Show (Toronto) – October 2019

Onesies: Who doesn’t love a cute apple? For the people who like being matchy—ie., the apple is pretty iconic and matches the book cover perfectly; others prefer to mix and match. We contemplated other familiar characters such as the orange, thinking someone might want to gift it if the baby’s name was perhaps Oliver. We also tested a few pink and blue onesies to see what matching a coloured background in the book would look like. These debuted at The Baby Show in Toronto with great response!

Sourcing material and testing production methods ultimately affect how design “sells”. We explored polyester (which has come a long way), cotton, bamboo, spandex—as well as different printing methods like dye-sublimation, and traditional vinyl transfer and heat press. Knowing how the bodysuit fits on a baby will inform the scale of the graphic, and where to position it. All of our bodysuits are a 95% cotton and 5% spandex blend, with an imprint that won’t crack when stretched, or fade when washed. These production values are important to the quality and lifetime of the garment. 

The perfect baby shower gift—Baby’s First Cookbook and matching apple onesieImage: The perfect baby shower gift—Baby’s First Cookbook and matching apple onesie

Baby Shower Gift: To reach a wider audience, we bundled our A-Z recipe book with a matching onesie, to make it a giftable option for the friend, aunt/uncle, or grandparent looking for a unique baby shower gift. The balance of providing options for interest, without overwhelming, is an art unto itself. The short sleeve appleseed bundle is tied together with string, while the long-sleeve “A is for…Apple” design is packaged in a muslin casing (to hang on store shelves). This was a split A/B test to appeal to two different kinds of shoppers. Each gift option, when ordered online, comes with a complimentary baby shower card, gift bag and printed tissue paper. 


Lunchbox Cards social media campaignImage: Lunchbox Cards social media campaign

Lunchbox Cards: I’ve been known to visualize any and everything in card format. In this digital society we live in; having something printed, or as a keepsake, stands out. Words of affirmation from a parent, also stand out. This product involved writing catchy phrases such as “You’re the apple of my eye”, selecting the characters we would include, designing a LUNCHBOX logo, and then sizing/formatting for packaging. Beyond this, developing a social media graphic campaign was key. Although the characters and graphics pre-existed, it required a look and feel that was related, yet still its own. 

 Assorted character and personalized prints framed on wallImage: Assorted character and personalized prints framed on wall

Personalized Prints: Children of all ages love to see their name in print! It’s something quite special they will always remember. I like to introduce an element of personalization whether it be mail, or cards or gifts as much as possible. If a child has a favourite colour, or fruit or vegetable, we offer digital prints on our website—any character, any name. It’s so easy to download, print and frame!

Personally, publishing this book and creating the series is one of my proudest accomplishments. I had not spoken to Mrs. Dickerson in 20 years—and I thought, “How does she know I became a graphic designer...or even a good one?” But, she told me that I left an impression in highschool—the same kind that I hope to leave with any product I design. When I see the characters in my book smiling back at makes me happy! Watch Me Bloom is not just about nurturing the physical growth of infants; it’s also about self growth—for parents, families and what we are capable of. So, thank you for staying connected and here’s looking forward to 2021!

From all of us here at Watch Me Bloom
Keep on growing and we’ll see you soon!

Have a Bloomin’ Day,
Karen & Sarah

P.S. Want to gift something special to a new parent or expectant mom? Shop our website and SAVE 15% OFF ANY PRODUCT with code: BLOGHOG.  Say hello on Facebook or follow us on Instagram!

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