Photo provided by Krista
Photo provided by Krista

A look behind the cover art with Krista Dajay

Interviewed by Andres Leon

Krista Dajay illustrated the cover for this month’s issue and is a senior at LBSU who is currently in the BFA for graphic design with a minor in biology. With an interest in STEM and the arts, she is a graphic design intern at the Office of Sustainability at LBSU and is working on a thesis project related to infographics - combining her interests. I asked her a few questions about the creation of the cover art and how it was made.

What was the process behind creating this piece?

When I was given the prompt, I spent a lot of time just thinking about visuals and compositions. I tend to not put anything down until I have an idea I really like, which might not be the most effective, but it's worked for me! I think it's because I'm waiting until there's a concept I feel passionate about because once I finally have something down, I rarely go back on the idea and just run with it.
For this piece, I knew I wanted rows of gifts, and that I wanted them to start breaking down into trash, but I redrew the bows and boxes for a couple days until I figured out a style I liked. Then I outlined, colored, added texture, saved as PNG, opened in Photoshop, did a bunch of layering and color stuff, and badabing-badaboom the cover was done. Then I reread the email with the brief, saw I got the format wrong, went back and fixed a bunch of things, and finally sent my final design in four color variations.

What were your inspirations behind the piece?

When I think of magazine covers, I think of flat illustration styles like The New Yorker. They tend to have bold, illustrative styles that say a lot with so little, so I kept that in mind while I worked, but I didn't really search for visual inspiration. There was a list of words in the brief -- consumerism, money, broke, holidays, mass production, assembly line, repetition, capitalism -- and I worked off of that because it's stuff I already like to yell about with my friends. It wasn't until I was at the color editing stage that I started to see a resemblance to some Japanese illustration styles with the gritty black linework and saturated colors, so I tried to lean into that.

How did you first approach it versus how it turned out?

The idea I had in my head was solid, but it wasn't specific: just a wall of gifts that ends in garbage. I was trying to figure how I could do this efficiently because I'm a mess and pressed for time, but eventually I was like, fuck it, I'm going to have to draw and shade every ribbon here. It wasn't so bad after I actually did it, but the idea overwhelmed me for a second. I had no idea how it was going to turn out, and I wasn't even sure it was good until I sent it out and got feedback. My approach was to take the idea I had and just keep chipping away at it until it was something I'd be proud to put my name on. So I was very excited when you guys said you liked it!

Was there a main message that you wanted to get across?

My goal was to make something where, when I look at the page as a whole, I feel the weight of all the waste that's created during the holidays. One of the words in the brief was "repetition", so I wanted to create a wall of gifts that hinted at the sheer volume of packaging and gift wrap used by everyone who participates in the holidays. When I redrew it a bunch, it was because I wasn't sure if I wanted it to be a slow breakdown of the gift boxes as it progresses from top to bottom, but I decided to start the unwrapping later. For the sake of the cover and composition, the top row of gifts had to be cropped, but in the original design, there's another row of five gifts, so the gift wrap that starts to break down is the right half of the 24th box. So there's this big pristine wall of presents that's meant to reflect all the glamour of Christmas décor, and as soon as Christmas eve hits, all of that is scrapped doomed to decay in a landfill.

What are your thoughts on consumerism, and more specifically their impact on the holidays - and how did you incorporate it into this piece?

Hate her! But I get it. We're surrounded by ads that tell us what to do to make our lives better or what will bring us happiness. We want to find the perfect gifts for our loved ones, and we're so tired and in need of things that when an ad places the perfect gift right in front of you, it's hard to not get it. We're so burnt out, why would you want to add any more stress by thinking about the environmental consequences of your actions? Ultimately, I can't blame people for wanting to do things that bring them joy, and it shouldn't be our individual responsibility to clean up the mess made by corporate greed. But I do think we should do our best to shop more mindfully, and hopefully that can give us more control when we're deciding what we buy and why we need it. Learning from indigenous practices is another thing that I think we could all benefit from. Anyway, I was just keeping all that in mind when I was making this cover – a false sense of glamour thrown over a big pile of waste.

Where can people find more of your art?

I mostly keep my art on Instagram @dovexgrenade, but sometimes I share different things on my Twitter with the same handle. My portfolio (kristadajay.com) has both my design work and illustration work, but the home page is kind of musty right now. Hopefully I can get to it before this is published.