Winning’s “Dark Side Design Contest”…and Coming Full Circle


I grew up with Star Wars. It was as a huge part of my childhood development. I am 31 years old, Episode IV is older than I am. I never had a chance to see the original trilogy in the theaters. My first memories of Star Wars came from watching The Empire Strikes Back on an old VHS tape, recorded off of television. It wasn’t until we received a collector’s edition VHS set for Christmas that I experienced a Star Wars movie without the bits of commercials. Regardless, these stories are so powerful that, for me, three decades have passed and the films are still exciting and have progressed from simply a piece of pop culture to a modern day mythology.

As a child, I filled countless notebooks retelling the most exciting moments and page after page of diagrams of ships, weapons, characters. I love the fact that 30 years later, we are all still drawing and the stories are still exciting. I eventually would grow up, go to art school and develop my abilities to a professional level, but I have to give credit in part to the subject matter that invoked an excitement and discovery of art at a young age. I see winning a Star Wars-themed T-shirt design contest at as a perfect example of how I’ve come full circle. With all the professionalism, I am still a kid, filling his notebook full of pictures of bounty hunters and Jedi.

Regardless of the what I am working on, and who it’s for, I always try to tell a story. When I look at a project in this way, a T-shirt, mural, or business logo all become very similar. For me it isn’t enough to have a flashy, cool looking image. As an artist and illustrator there is the technical component to working; composition and layout, making sure the rendering of the image is dynamic and exciting, but what made my design “No Place to Hide” successful wasn’t because I just drew it really well. The image was more than another static image of a cool-looking Boba Fett helmet. A loose concept comes first, then technical stuff becomes a sea of possibilities and obstacles I get to swim through to reach the finished design. The end result is a combination of critical thinking, luck, and the intangible stuff in the back of my brain.

My working process is fairly simple and intuitive. When I work, I start with a loose concept, on rare occasion I start with a thumbnail or two, but I usually start moving shapes around the computer screen and end up figuring out what it is going to be about halfway through the design process. I often find myself jumping between Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, then to traditional pen and ink, or I grab my digital camera for the one-off photo or texture or found objects laying on a scanner. Many times I end up scraping the project several times. If I do finish the first couple of ideas, they often go in directions that are unexpected. This sometimes leads to accidents that are worth exploring, or just worthy of being chucked into the trash and restarted.

In this contest, I had four entries. Each one looks quite different, as I was trying to reach a design that felt right. I wanted something I would have a visceral reaction to. I tried humor and horror, but I wasn’t happy with any of them…until I reached the design “No Place to Hide,” which ended up winning. I think what clicked with this design was when I asked myself: Is it possible to tell the the story of Boba Fett chasing Solo through different two movies in one image? It’s full of memorable moments and the execution doesn’t get in the way of communicating. The simple rendering of shapes and silhouette has a very slight nod to 1920s Art Deco posters, which always had such and elegant way of presenting their themes as grand and epic.

I can say from experience that the vast majority of commercial art projects a designer will receive in his career are not something he will remember forever, although maybe a few terrible and unwanted memories will linger on. Most work is just that: work. In this area I feel very blessed. I have found an area, albeit outside the realm of graphic designer or artist, that is fulfilling; I am still very active with artistic endeavors, and often I am encouraging teenagers to discover talents and abilities they have while helping them to develop their voice in society, and encouraging their development socially, mentally, and spiritually. There are, however, times when a certain project, or client, or contest comes through the door and creates a moment that you will remember forever. For me, this is one of those moments.

You can purchase “No Place to Hide” now at

Aaron Davis is originally from Springfield, Missouri. A designer and illustrator for over ten years, he has worked at various companies, including, most recently, Bass Pro Shops LLC. He lives with his wife Julie and their Boston Terrier, Brewster P. Wigglesworth in Prague, Czech Republic. They work as missionaries with at-risk teenagers across the country.

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