Character design options for The Readerman.

Science and Communication - The deep history of Panama

Work in Progress 2019-2020
The initial project was to illustrate in the manner of children’s books. After all, the project, co-founded by the Panamanian national agency for science and technology, SENACYT (for its Spanish acronym) and the Smithsonian Institution, will be delivered to each and every school in the country. The goal, of course, is to help in educating the next generation of citizens not just about the wonderful pre-Spanish.
Family Sizes Comparison: Various character designs for present and the past.
Contact history of the country, but perhaps to plant the seed of curiosity that will lead to future scientists. In many ways, this is a pilot project to develop innovative, visual communication content and IPs that will either fill vacuums left by the education system, or compliment it.

The context is a little difficult. Panama has consistently been at the bottom of the OECD’s PISA rankings for years, if not decades. Skills in reading, mathematics, sciences and culture are very poor in Panama. And these numbers do not improve with age. While we haven’t been able to find any statistics on the reading level at post-high school level, we are confident to say that, simply put, Panamanian do not read. And do not engage with culture or science outside of very particular cases.
Our personal assessment is that, in part, this failure, while systematic, can be attributed to a lack of leadership from cultural producers in creating an attractive offering to the market. Indeed, in helping develop this market of would-be readers.It is against this context that Cooked Illustrations has been working with Dr O’Dea to create an engaging, formative story that will appeal not just to our target demographic of elementary school students, but, really, to a wider audience. Our goal is to inspire future generations of the deep meanings hidden in their everyday life, and, perhaps, inspire future scientists too.

One of our first considerations was that the story had to be local. As such, we worked to develop motifs throughout our visual design that harkened to a lived experience of Panama. Little details, such as the Time Machine in the story being built from parts of popular transport machines. Other such considerations have been taking regarding character designs and environmental designs. Something we really wanted to communicate was the feeling of harsh sunlight and heat that comes from living in the tropics. All elements that would help our audiences identify the book as something that takes place in Panama. That way, show that, yes, it is possible to have fun, fascinating stories told in Panama, by a… well, half-panamanian team.

That our main character was a girl was a very early decision. In part, because Dr O’Dea was initially basing the story on his daughter. But also because we want to make a political statement and encourage girls to see science research as something they can do, and have fun adventures doing. We hope that this will have long term effects and that one day, twenty years from now, someone will quote this book as an inspiration.
And that is, essentially our goal. Not just to create a unique IP or product, but to enact long-term personal change.
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Martina Character Study: Early character design for Martina. The boots were considered too eye-catching.
Page 06-07: A finished spread coloured by Jess Jenkins.