• Lise Richardson

Susan Calman's Mrs. Brightside - a podcast cover design.

In late 2019 I was approached by BBC Studios to produce the artwork for a second series of Susan Calman’s podcast, with the aim of improving upon the existing branding and producing a consistent range of assets to promote the show online. The brief was to reflect the bright and cheerful tone of the podcast through a smiley portrait of Susan herself, surrounded by some of the reoccurring topics from the podcast - things like her cats, being Scottish, Strictly Come Dancing, her wife, and the Crab of Hate (which was also part of her book cover design). Essentially, the idea was to make it look as "Susan" as possible.

First rough: Susan Calman's Mrs. Brightside

With a short turnaround time for the project, I set about working out how to represent the topics of the podcast in a clear and fun way that felt in keeping with Susan's personal brand. Looking at her book covers for Sunny Side Up and Cheer Up Love, which both feature some hand-drawn elements, I decided to branding to the podcast artwork. The colours she uses on both books also influenced the decision to use turquoise and yellow as our key colours.

Susan Calman's books that I looked to for an idea of her brand.

Sticking with that hand-drawn look as my method and chose a rough crayon brush on Procreate, drawing simple and clear icons of cats, crabs, microphones and glitter balls. Every item on the brief was drawn this way, as well as stars and hearts, leaning into what you might see drawn on a chalkboard or in the margins of a school notebook, doodle-able things. This was the first piece of the artwork that I produced and it was a hit with the client, so it stayed broadly the same throughout the process.

The original podcast artwork for Mrs. Brightside

The show already had a large following ahead of my involvement in the design, and the appeal of Susan Calman herself lead the direction of my artwork. Initially, I was provided with the original cover artwork, featuring an old photograph of Susan, which BBC Studios were happy to keep on using. However, when I got to grips with reproducing the image as an illustration, I found it wasn't the best reference to produce the cheerful, bright likeness of Susan we were aiming for, and we agreed to switch to a better fitting photograph. Once we'd switched, the look of the final artwork came together very quickly. I had used a textured background up till the very final stages, where I also made a variation on a flat background to make sure the little icons around Susan were as clear as possible on a phone screen as well as on desktop.

The flat background variation of my final design.

The additional assets made to promote the show included versions of the artwork without text, as well as a wide social media format. In order to deliver consistent results, I worked across all the sizes of artwork necessary throughout the process, using Photoshop and Indesign alongside Procreate all the way from the rough stage through variations to the final product.

With a fast-paced project such as this, my biggest learning curve came with negotiating several layers of sign-offs with a large production company. This taught me to account for the additional time it takes to receive feedback on variations and amendments, and to process the opinions of a large team in a productive and swift manner.