Overcrowding in schools illustration process

In early November Willamette Week needed a series of spots illustrating the problem of overcrowding and under enrolled schools in the PDX area. 

The concept was to portray nine local schools showing them in a range from desolate-tumbleweed to bursting-at-the-seams. I started by checking out reference images of each school and noting the most recognizable parts of their architecture. If I was going to show them in caricature, I reasoned, they should be similar enough to real life so that a local could tell which school I was talking about.

I showed WW some rough sketches and got feedback. As the enrollment numbers got higher, I wanted the severity of the bulging school to get worse and worse, ending in the most overcrowded schools literally exploding or having their top blown off! I debated which version of school was the most extreme (It's a tough call between Cleveland HS and Lincoln HS).

It actually got me a little sad, remembering the climate of schools and security these days. That's why it was important to me to depict the schools in a cartoony and light-hearted way. Also, to take it another step away from realism, I chose a limited palette which steer things into looking more iconic and less literal. I tend to over think these things, really. The final spots used in the article are here