Midterm Project

Brooklyn Birds (with Audio)

Problem: Create a vector-based illustration based on a photograph or scientific illustration of a endangered or former Brooklyn Bird.

Limits: Work with a reference image to accurately re-create the representation of the bird in Illustrator.

Skills: Demonstrate skilled use of vector tools, menus and palettes. Learn to create a professionally organized project using layers, naming conventions, color palette, and references. Learn to prepare a file for print and web-based animation (if time).

Research / Inspiration

Development of Skill and Craft

Part 1 : Illustration

  • Optimize a COPY of your reference in Photoshop by reducing the number of levels in the continuous tone. First carefully remove the background using pen tool > save path > create selection > inverse > delete. Next adjust/correct the levels. Then use Filter > Artistic > Cutout to keep as much detail as possible, while isolating the shapes that define the form (midtones, highlights, and shadows). NOTE: if your bird’s feet are obscured, include the ground, grass or branch that the bird is perched on.
    • Those more advanced students may wish to work directly from the photograph and creatively simplify the reference image, while still keeping an accurate representation of the subject.
  • Set Up your CMYK document by Placing the optimized reference file (photograph or illustration) and create a template layer. Also Place your original reference image on a layer, call it Color Reference.
  • Define your Color Scheme. Your final illustration should have an accurate color scheme with named swatches consistent with your researched sources. Take samples from your reference (Eyedropper+Shift Key) and add new color swatches to your palette. You may need to modify the color swatches to accurately reflect your bird’s form, coloring, and markings. Refer to your original reference image.
  • Begin by working in Outline View and using the pen tool block out the largest areas of your illustration on specific named layers. For example:
    • Create a layer called BirdShape. On this layer create the silhouette of the bird shape. Toggle to Preview. Select the object and apply a fill color from your color swatches. This color is often a midtone, but refer to your reference for accuracy.
    • Next you might create layers for certain “parts of the bird”: wings, head, body, eyes or instead organize your file based on tone: midtone, shadow, highlight. This is up to you.
    • You will continue to build up your illustration subject by defining the changes in value using shapes for highlights, midtones and darks. This process is similar to building a paper collage.
  • NO STROKE PLEASE! Opt for the development of form using filled shapes.
  • Do NOT use Live Trace or Live Color for this project.
  • Name your AI file: firstinitiallastname_midterm.ai and save to your midterm folder.

Part 2 : Add Audio

  • Download the corresponding bird song audio file and the student audio recordings from the list above.
  • Create a new Flash file: 600px x 600px. Create two layers named bird and button respectively.
  • Import your bird song to the Library: Import > Import to Library.
  • Import your ai file to the Stage: Import > Import to Stage. Only import the finished final vector layers to a single flash layer.
  • With the imported bird selected choose Modify > Convert to Symbol. Select Graphic and name the symbol: bird.
  • Select the button layer and choose the rectangle tool from the tool palette. Set the stroke to none and the fill to a color of your choice. Draw a square that fills the entire artboard. Select the square with the section tool and convert to symbol. Name the symbol Button and select Button.
  • Double click the Button symbol in the Library. Create two layers: sound and color inside the Button symbol. Create keyframes on each frame. Change the tint of the square for the Over button state in the color layer. Drag your bird song wav file from the Library into the Over keyframe in the sound layer.
  • Save your file to your midterm folder: firstinitiallastname_midterm.fla
  • Choose Control > Test Movie to save an SWF to your Midterm folder.

Part 3 : Written Description

  • Research your bird. Prepare a 1-2 paragraph introduction to the bird and 1-2 paragraphs outlining the effects of human activity on the bird population. Save this file as a text document in Word or TextEdit.

Expression of Form, Emotions, Concepts, and Voice

  • Your illustration, while limited to by the constraints of the project, should express your unique voice or graphic style using basic design principles.
  • Show a connection between the original research and the final illustration.

Thoughtful Assessment (Critique)

  • Bring all assignment parts to class.
  • Be prepared to present, discuss and analyze your finished work in terms of concept, craft, and what you learned.
  • State the following: your name, what you are presenting (title and design problem), which parts are successful and why, which parts are unsuccessful and why.

Work Hour Tally

  • In the info section of your file, define the hours committed for each portion of the assignment, including dates and times.


  • Your illustration folder is due in the DropBox on the date due.
  • Place all your files, including your references, etc. in a folder named: firstinitiallastname_midterm
  • Name your AI file: firstinitiallastname_midterm.ai
  • Name your Flash file: firstinitiallastname_midterm.fla
  • Include your SWF file in the folder too: firstinitiallastname_midterm.swf
  • Written description: firstinitiallastname_midterm.doc