The making of the Moscow manhole cover design

Overview   Process  

Manhole covers for Moscow... And we can draw anything we want. What should we focus on that would be truly about Moscow?

Looking at beautiful covers used in other cities.

Sketching three ideas: Saint George from the city’s coat of arms in Russian avant-garde style, a mixture of ancient and modern Moscow architecture and simply nice duckies in a pond.

The artistic director chooses Saint George and suggests we develop more designs based on his image. Romantically covering George in autumn leaves and cross-stitching him.

Exploring other directions as well. Japanese enamel covers are too tempting to resist, so we render an image of Moscow holiday fireworks in the same style. And Sirin the bird. Though it looks more like Alkonost.

Artistic director: It’s a step backwards. And Sirin is an all-Russian symbol, not a specifically Moscow one. We can just create the whole series based on Saint George.

Drowning the artistic director and the art director in images of Saint George: a jigsaw puzzle, a description of the coat of arms written in Cyrillic calligraphy, a spiral engraving.

And to follow up: a non-existing ten ruble coin, a child’s drawing and an image of the victorious George: wine to the winner, hay to the horse and the snake hanging on the wall.

Artistic director: All are OK.

The art director asks to draw George in an ornament. The first approach.

Nope, he himself has to be made of an ornament.

There also has to be an ornament around the edge. It’s not only about beauty, but about function as well: in the winter large smooth surfaces of the cover will become extremely slippery.

Another idea with a George-based pattern.

Starting to create final versions of the drawings. Maybe, add a rim to the avant-garde one, like on Soviet porcelain plates? The childish one has to be more childish than naive.

It’s better without the rim. And the childish one has to have less of that Soviet style.

Drawing in vector while keeping the depth in mind. We also need to insert the letter K in the drawings to mark the covers as belonging to sewer manholes.

The puzzle’s rim doesn’t fit (it also can’t be flat to prevent sliding). The letter K on each cover has to match its style.

Asking the type designer to work on the covers with the text and the 10-ruble coin. The task is to write the text in the style of old Cyrillic calligraphy. Making the first sketch and immediately facing the question: how should we write the text given that the language has changed through the ages?

Going to the editor. She asks which century we are interested in. Choosing the time of Moscow’s founding. Receiving the correct spelling.

Another question arises, this time about punctuation: should we put a comma after the words Георгий Победоносец?

Editor: You can leave it out.

Did they use any punctuation marks at all?

Editor: The commas first appeared in the 15th century. Before that they used dots that divided phrases. Spaces also weren’t in use from the very beginning. And the whole Cyrillic script didn’t just appear overnight either )

Having decided on the spelling of the phrase, we need to clarify the stylistic features. Consulting calligrapher Oleksiy Chekal.

Having unexpected troubles with the ornament around the text. Looking at ancient coins, woodcut pictures, Celtic knots.

The artistic director chooses the last one. Continuing to draw the rest of the covers in vector.

Sending to the technical designer for visualization.

The artistic director asks to change the angle.

Drawing the covers in 3D and preparing the blueprints.

The presentation is sent for approval to officials of different levels. Half a year later, project realization starts on ulitsa Zabelina.




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