Almost exactly a calendar year ago we introduced Dan Woodger on It’s Nice That; showed off his desk-space, his process and some of his skateboarding Dinosaurs. Six months later he was contacted by an art director who’d seen that article and enlisted him to produce one of the most labour-intensive illustration projects we’ve ever come across, creating over 1000 unique images for an emoji app. By way of apology for this torturous commission, we asked him a few questions about how it went…
Tell us what Line is.
Line is a messaging platform that specialiSes in emoji and stickers (which are basically just bigger, more elaborate emoji). They’re already considered the “godfather of stickers,” but right now they’re working with a bunch of artists to expand their emoji library to include almost every expression and icon you would ever need.
How did the project come about?
Through you guys! I woke up to an email back in January from Jenny Yoo, one of the Art Directors at LINEs LA office asking if i’d be interested in working with them.
Turns out she’d seen my work on It’s Nice That last year and had kept me bookmarked until the right project came along.
We arranged for a phone conference later that day but I knew very little about the company so I didn’t really know what to expect. My jaw hit the floor when she explained to me what they had planned.
The project was to create an “emoji encylopedia” of over 10,000 new emojis. They began planning in January, and we’ve finally began releasing the emojis every week. Mine were the first to be released as part of the default emojis on LINE, and helped launch the project globally.
1000 individual images is a tall order. Did the scale of the commission freak you out?
It’s odd, On the one hand, oh my god yes, 100 illustrations a week, are you insane!? But I know that I’m really good at handling high pressure deadlines so my girlfriend and I braced ourselves for it. Essentially we knew that my life was on pause whilst I did this.
Talk us through the process for each one…
The Art Director and I had a system where I’d deliver a set of 100 illustrations each week. She’d send me a list of 60 things to draw based on a particular theme then I was free to come up with 40 of my own. Each Wednesday night I’d send over my latest batch, we’d discuss options for the next set and then by Thursday morning I’d have my new theme ready to start on.
I worked out a pretty efficient system for creating each emoji. First of all I’d print out a 3×5 grid onto an A3 sheet of paper then in each box I’d sketch out the designs. Then it was just the same routine as my normal work; scan the sketches in and retrace with Wacom tablet in Photoshop, then fill colour to finish. The only difference being that I had to work in a more simplified manner with thicker lines due to the small size of the final product.
You drew all of these by hand originally, why would you do that to yourself?
I haven’t found a better way! It’s part a labour of love and part obsessive compulsive behaviour. I know that by sketching them out first I have a set plan of what I’m going to do when I work it up to final. It also gives me the opportunity to correct any imperfections I make the first time.
How long do you think you spent on this in total?
Oh boy, I worked 18 hours a day 7 days a week, (sadly I’m not kidding here) so I guess it’d be around 1,260 hours give or take…
What’s your favourite emoji of the bunch?
There are a few, I love the derp one and this crying guy (who might best reflect my face during the latter stages of the project!)
Are your emoji’s better than words?
Haha big question! I’m not sure replacing the Oxford English Dictionary with my emojis would be everyones cup of tea! But for someone like me who has always communicated better with images than words it’s delightful to physically have a keyboard of my own drawings to use to talk to people.
What else have you got in the pipeline at the moment?
There’s a few really cool things happening at the moment. I’m working with LINE again right now to make some stickers for the app, which is a lot of fun! I also have a couple editorials on the go at the moment and preparing for my first ever talk at See No Evil next tuesday night.