Dominic Kesterton and Shun Sasaki combine typography and illustration to explore long hot summer days


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Dropbox Paper is a collaborative workspace that eliminates distractions that get in the way of creativity.

For London-based illustrator, Dominic Kesterton and Japanese graphic designer Shun Sasaki, the month of June represents the beginning of summer. Spending long days feeling too hot, the creatives wanted to evoke the feeling of keeping cool, visualising the culture of going swimming outdoors, in both Japan and England. Commissioned by Dropbox and It’s Nice That, the pair have combined their personal styles in a typographically illustrated collaborative poster. Created using Dropbox Paper, Shun and Dominic’s poster will be printed and available for free at Nicer Tuesdays June.

The heat of summer was the mutual feeling both creatives jumped to when discussing how to visualise the month of June collaboratively. Kickstarting the conversation, Dominic explains that for him, “it has been hot,” he says opening the Dropbox Paper thread. “I start sleeping with my window open,” even saying that he feels like “I’m melting sometimes.” However what warm evenings also bring is a culture of lazy days spent outside: “Everyone starts hanging out more and drinking outside and looking happy,” Dominic explains. Shun agreed, in Japan, the activity of heading to an outdoor pool becomes a regular routine during the summer months as “everybody swims in the sea or goes to the pool,” he says. The concept of creating “a poster that feels somewhat cool,” was set.

Noticing that the common theme between both Dominic and Shun’s summers was swimming, the pair settled on designing a poster using the motif of a swimming pool shape, the ideal visual element for “a cool poster on a hot day,” says Shun. Due to the language barrier between Dominic and Shun, the creatives pinged ideas back and forth sharing visual references on their Dropbox Paper doc. Shun, who regularly uses typography within his vibrant graphic design work, began this by forming 遊ぶ, the Japanese word for play, into a series of mini swimming pools coupled together.

Instantly, Dominic began illustrating, using his loose, shapely illustration style to form the pools into “lots of different things that are kind of warped/melted to fit,” he writes on Dropbox Paper. “The melted look kind of fits with the heat.” From here, Dominic began to look into the components that make up pools, looking at the snake-like shape of ladders before noticing the resemblance between Shun’s original sketch and aerial drawings of pool designs.

“I think it could be a cool idea to design some aerial diagrams of our own pool ideas together?” asks Dominic. "So, for example, one of us could draw some pool outlines for the other one to fill in with contours and steps etc.” From a graphic design perspective, Shun agreed, seeing the opportunity to also continue the shape of Japanese lettering, “Good idea! Let’s make a swimming pool together.”

To work on this collaboratively, and speak using visuals rather than dialogue, Shun began by drawing a bubble style typographic outline of pools spelling 遊ぶ in Illustrator, asking Dominic to “consider how you can harmonise my Japanese typography with your illustration and the composition of the poster,” explains the designer.

"It was kind of like working in the same sketchbook"

Dominic Kesterton on working with Dropbox Paper

The first iteration of their collaborative poster began by Dominic doodling on top of Shun’s work, moving forward to the development stage. It was here that using Dropbox Paper became particularly helpful. “It was smooth,” explains Dominic, “providing an easy space for us to collaborate, go back and forth quickly and sculpt each other’s ideas. It was kind of like working in the same sketchbook.”

It was while swapping and building upon files that the poster also began to build visually. “I think as soon as we started getting hold of each other’s files, and working with each other’s drawings it began to gain momentum and a direction,” the illustrator continues. By each working on colour palettes, textures and shape, one would add something, post it in their Dropbox Paper doc before the other added more elements or took away a visual counterpart they believed wasn’t quite right.

It was here that extra personable illustrations were added, parasols, flip-flops and floating lilos in a pool for instance, or one figure serenely balancing a foot in the water to keep cool. Adding these relatable elements developed from Shun noticing that “pool design stuff was a bit hard to be transmitted to the viewer,” he explains. “I think if you add more pool supplies etc it will settle it!”

Through this process of visual swapping, Dominic and Shun began to decide on a cohesive colour palette, one that describes the heat outside but also that refreshing feeling when you first dip in the pool. At first, this was tested with a grey surrounding the pool juxtaposed by a light blue. Shun then heightened this effect, adding a pebbled brick to the poster’s background, a deeper blue with the hope that the “impression is a bit more lively?”

Utilising the Dropbox Paper ​​gallery capability to swap images back and forth, Shun and Dominic found the ideal combination of pink and blue. The colour palette pairs a dusty warm pink, illustrated with linear bricks to evoke the feeling of being poolside. Whereas inside the pool, a glimmering blue was added with depth added by Shun extenuating the typographic shape of the pools including shadows that makes you want to jump in straight away.

“It’s quite chill, clean and considered,” Dominic says on the finished edition. “I think the idea of a complex of pools like this, all to yourself, is dreamy. I like how shapes play a big part in it, it’s about balance.”

The concept of balance is the perfect description of Shun and Dominic’s poster too, morphing practices of graphic design and illustration to create something visually impactful. Overcoming language barriers through imagery, the poster voices personable illustration using the template of typography creating a poster hybrid which appeals to fans of both disciplines.

Dropbox Paper is a collaborative workspace that eliminates distractions that get in the way of creativity. Because you can work with all types of content – from video, to sound to code – in Paper, you and your collaborators can easily edit and discuss all aspects of your project in one centralised place.

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