This is the illustration that landed me my first job at The Columbus Dispatch. I originally submitted it as part of a class project in graduate school. Our class was able to use real content from the paper for one of our projects and have the staff designers and art director critique the pages. This page led to an interview, which led to an internship, which led to a job.
The concept came to me as I prepared to fill out my brackets for the annual tournament. I just couldn't get passed the idea that the east region was completely stacked with great teams. It felt unfair that only one squad would be able to slip through to the Final Four. That's when it hit me<&em>a bunch go in, but only one comes out. I imagined a bunch of balls dropped simultaneously into a giant funnel. Most would get jammed up, but one would find a way to squeeze through. Coincidentally, tournament brackets also take on a funnel shape, so the visual analogy worked.
To execute the concept, I developed an illustration method that blended photography, 3D-illustration, and sculpture. First, I made a small-scale clay model that I lit with a couple studio lights. I made many small spheres and stacked them upon eachother so that I could study the play of light and shawow among the batch of balls. After coming to a good place with the stacking, I photographed a basketball in several different orientations. Then, I mapped team logos onto spheres in Illustrator and randomized the location and then isolated each logo. Each spherized logo was placed onto a corresponding ball photograph and stacked in Photoshop. Lastly, highlights and shadows were drawn manually to recreate the play of light and dark from the original sculpture sketch. The funnel was also photographed and placed, allowing the rest of the design came together quite quickly.