War & Peace | Skillshare Projects



War & Peace


I'm going to be creating a letterform for the book War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy. The book is something that I have been working on for a year and a half. It is insanely long and has an unbelievable amount of well developed characters. The book begins as the aristocracy is still enamored with trying to make Russia one of the influential nations in Europe by mimicking the royal court in France. Things change as Napoleon begins marching East to invade Russia. 

The story centers around 5 very different, aristocratic families that endure the waves of war & peace (or more like peace, war, peace, allusion to warring the in near future) as they ripple through Russia. 

Certain characters are more effected by their happenings than others. Pierre Bezukhov is a character that is an illegitimate child of a Count. He is named as his fathers successor, but is uncomfortable and unhappy within the aristocratic society. He struggles to find meaning within his life through marriage, religion, joining the Masons, and war. Natasha Rostov in the beginning of the novel is a girl who is just coming into her own in society. She is known as a free spirit who enjoys and excels in the pleasures of life. She suffers through misfortunes; some of her own doing and some by war and external forces. She ultimately ends up happy, but with the mark of worldly understanding. 

Other characters, like Natasha's mother, Natalya, and Pierre's first wife, Helene, remain completely unchanged by the happenings around them. Natalya is hell-bent on making rich matches for her children. This is somewhat understandable as the family as we learn that the family is and always has stretched themselves thin financially. Natalya goes so far as to dissuade her son from marrying someone he loves and has promised to marry. She uses guilt to leverage her children into making the choices she wants for them. Helene, on the other hand, is the toast of high Russian society: bright, gorgeous, and witty. Pierre reveals to the reader that his wife is actually incredibly stupid and vapid, but because of her beauty and lack of consideration for anyone but herself, she always gets her way. Despite what happens around her, Helene continues affair after affair, even rumored to have slept with her own brother. Distressed at the idea of having children, Helene dies after taking too much medication (it is implied that she was taking medication to have an abortion). 

I haven't decided on what letter to do. I've had vague inclinations towards to letters W and P (obviously), but also R as a representation of Russian identity throughout the book. 

 SKETCHES (Round 1)

Sketch 1: Much of the "peace" part of the book revolves around lavish parties and people. I did an "R" out of confetti to represent how often and socially consuming the parties were at the Russian Court. 

Sketch 2: This "W" contains a lot of information. The two halves of the W a battle over the center point of the W representing war. They way that the two halves interact also represents hand positions of dances done at the parties during peace.

Sketch 3: After creating a a letter that contains both war and peace, I wanted to take the letter representing "war" and make it visually represent the "peace in the book. Like the other letters, the visual aspects of peace comes from the sheer amount of parties had by the Russian court. Parties for women in the Russian court revolve around dresses, lace and ribbon. 

Sketch 4: I kept the same visual aesthetic as sketch 3, but changed the letter to P for peace. Not quite sure how I feel about it, but third parties encouraged me to include this one. 

Sketch 5: Weapons of war. While there were guns involved in Napoleon's invasion of Russia, swords still played a large part of the fighting, the uniform, and status. 

SKETCHES (Round 2)

After all the awesome feedback I got, I went back narrowed down, refined, and did some more exploring. I settled on two different letters with the idea of trying to represent the duality of war and peace in one letterform. 

Sketch Set 1: These are some sketchs of an ampersand combining ribbon and swords. The top and the bottom one, I feel read too much as E's because the ribbon comes across as the dominant form.

I enjoy the middle ampersand much better though. It reads as an ampersand and the ribbon and sword are weighted evenly. 

Sketch Set 2: I took some of the unsuccessful ribbon and sword ideas from the ampersand and applied them to a W. With a W, the sword stabbing the ribbon is much more successful in reading as the intended letterform.

For the second sketch, I worked off of sketch three from the first round of sketches. I made the letterform more weighted with angled serifs. I think this weight contrasts with the delicate lace in the background much better than in the previous sketch. 

For the third sketch, I tried to capture some of the pacing of the book with the graphics of the previous sketch. It's not as strong as I would like. I stopped working on it because I hit a wall (which I'm still stuck at). 

For the next stop, I'm going to sketch the middle ampersand and the first two W's larger to try and determine color, shading, and to nail down really find detail in the lace. As always, feedback is appreciated. 

SKETCHES (Round 3)

After round two, I sketched in detail three of the last 6 concepts. 

I played around with the sketches on the computer and came up with a version I'm excited about.

I showed my partner the sketch. "There's kind of a lot going on." 

"It's War and Peace. There's a lot going on in the book," I replied. 

Next step: digital & playing with color


I made the design digital and began playing with color. I'm still playing with colors because I'm not super happy with these. I picked one color scheme to work on bigger to add more dimension to the interior of the W; it felt much flatter than the rest of the form. 

I need to work on some of the shadows within the fabric to make the folds stand out a bit more. I also need to make the swooshes on the bottom of the interior decoration line up. I'm kind of at a designers block right now so any and all suggestions are appreciated. 


After playing around with colors and not really being happy with what I came up with, I had an "Ah-ha" moment. I hadn't been putting the letterform in context. So I revisited color and style after I set the background and lettering. 

I was so much happier when I saw how everything worked together rather than struggling with the micro problems that were really easily solved. I want to revisit how the sword interacts with the letterform. Maybe make the interior decoration of the W be where the sword pierces the strokes rather than just have the sword weave in and out of them. 

Any and all suggestions are always helpful. 


So I decided that I really wasn't happy with the vector letterform that I created. So I tried going back to my sketches. Instead of choosing a whole new concept, I tried executing the W in a different, analog way. 

I like the texture of the type and detail much more. I also didn't like the background with just the red (because I love patterns and details), so I added a map with the path that the Russian army took during the time when War & Peace was set. 

All feedback is appreciated. I want to keep working on this because I've had so much fun. 


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