Under The Radar Books Banner Case Study

Under the Radar Books is a new Etsy shop created by Brittany Johnson. She wanted to create an online equivalent of the bookish lucky-dip, or 'blind date with a book.' Brittany has a YouTube channel and a group of loyal subscribers who trust her opinion when it comes to literature. Under the Radar Books takes that to the next level, offering a mystery book in a number of categories, including 'Brittany's Choice.' Her existing brand has a vintage aesthetic that is accessible to her contemporary audience.


To begin with I looked at what Brittany had built so far. There was already a set of imagery going on within her packaging, so I wanted to build on that. My style usually incorporates lettering and illustration, and I asked if she wanted just lettering, just illustration, or a combination of the two. She told me that she wanted a combination and that she wanted typewritten or printed lettering and neutral colours, both of which fit within the existing brand. The banner also needed to have a version that would work on YouTube and across multiple devices.


I started researching different printed and script fonts, but quickly narrowed it down to the typewritten options. I ended up looking at some beautiful examples of typewritten pages from the 1940s. I wanted to capture the sense of uniformity, but also of irregularity that occurs in typewriting, depending on how hard the keys are pressed, the quality of the paper and any quirks of the typewriter itself, for instance, sometimes certain keys are out of line. 


When sketching out the letter forms I attempted to draw the T slightly higher than the baseline of the text, but I decided that it looked odd, as there was only one T in the phrase. After image-tracing the sketch in Illustrator I put the T back in line and moved the three Rs out of line, so as to create the sense of both uniformity and irregularity. I also tried out some different lettering styles, but the typewritten solution was the one that fitted best with Brittany's objectives.

Making it Digital

The next part was the book illustration. I wanted to keep this quite simple and in black and white. The sketches are simply black ink, with different weights of fineliner. I always increase the contrast of image in Photoshop before importing it into Illustrator for an image trace. The image trace tool often requires some refining, but if the imported image has a high-contrast it can sometimes work as it is. 

Putting it All Together

I found some free paper textures online that had that vintage parchment look to them. The one that I went with has a nice colour saturation, but is still light enough for the black to really stand out.

I first created the Etsy version of the banner, which needed to be 760x100 pixels. In this version the text is all on one line and only the edges of the books are visible. I also added the white highlights on the pages to create some extra depth.

The YouTube version was more complicated, as it had to work across a variety of devices and platforms, from a full-screen television to the smallest mobile device. This meant that the important information had to go in the middle section of the banner. I moved the text onto two lines and made the books larger. The text will always be visible, regardless of the device being used. The books will be visible on larger devices.

The final images are versatile, and timeless. The style is vintage-inspired, but still clean looking and bold enough to be recognisable across platforms.

To see the final design in context take a look at Brittany's YouTube channel and her Etsy Shop.