A large box arrived some time ago that contained not only a large stack of mousepads eg had designed for a client, but also a large stink from the rubber that was used to back those mousepads. A stench like that tends to take your brain in strange directions.
In my chemical-induced haze, I began wondering why we had never designed a mousepad for ourselves. We are creatives after all. Our job is to make things. Most people in the office had begun using the client’s mousepads at their own desks. But while this certainly shows support, it wasn’t uniquely “us.” As I spoke about this with my coworkers, the big boss shouted from his office, “Design one!” Challenge accepted.
So what does the penultimate eg mousepad look like? I first went to the idea of ultra-clean, all-white design with our logo kept tiny. There’s an obvious problem with a mostly white mousepad – it gets rather gross-looking after extended use.
So it would need to be somewhat visually complex. It would need to have a certain “charm” to it. It would need to communicate our ag roots, and our genuine quality. It would need to make you feel peaceful.
Illustration is my thing. I love a well-crafted image with style to it. I started scribbling ideas for a farm scene. The idea was a little combine chugging along through a cornfield, with an almost storybook look. Sun in the sky, farm in the background, the works. I was in the middle of a vector kick as I was working on this project, and the result would be a totally vector document, textures and all.
My first hurdle was that I wasn’t sure how to compose the image. The fine art of composition was never really my greatest strength. I looked at some old landscape paintings to find a good “overlapping fields into the horizon” layout. Then I sketched out all of the sections. I added the corn, grass fields, buildings, tree, and combine (I drew a LOT of combines).
I needed a spot for our logo, and a small sign on the foreground hill worked great for that. Then came the sun (as they say). This idea came from “Ren & Stimpy”. In one episode, Stimpy is giving a thoughtful, teary-eyed speech. He looks up into the sky and the clouds part, revealing an amazing illustration of the sun. It was a round, squinty-eyed Burl Ives caricature.
I wanted to do my own homage, and I used a photo of Tom (one of the Ervin brothers) as my guide. We have a blue wall in our office that now holds a cutout image of that same sun. The ultimate payoff came when Tom’s daughter visited and remarked, “Hey dad, this looks like you!” That image is now affectionately known as “Tomsun.”
We got the mousepads printed. The boss was happy, my coworkers loved it, and it is now the standard on desks across the office. My favorite example is Kathy, who has one of those fancy wrist-cushioned mousepads. She has chosen to lay the new mousepad over the top of the old one. She still gets to use the cushion, and can see the new graphics. Awesome.
Doing little “goodwill” promotional stuff for the office is so much fun. When the result is well liked, it puts you over the moon. Or over the sun in this case.
The best part was, these mousepads were a more limited run than the first set. So they didn’t have to be quarantined for their odor. Great looking mousepads running free, the way it was meant to be.