Tucked away in a small “canyon” in Montana, Bannack, was the first capital of the territory. For more than 110 years people have called Bannack home. For COMM300, a digital imaging class, students get to go to Bannack, stepping back in time to photograph it’s history, legacy and culture. 

Employers today are seeking employees who are efficient, skilled, and versatile. I wanted to bridge the gap between photography and design with Bannack, so I decided to create a set of 12 icons that captured the essence of Bannack.


Brainstorming and Sketching

Typically when people think of sketching, they think of doodles in pencil that fill the page. What most people don’t know is that sketching can also be a transfusion of ideas in your mind onto paper. The first step in my goal to create an icon set around Bannack was to create a word map that explores what Bannack is. The purpose of the word map is to allow your mind to write down anything and everything that comes to your mind. By sketching first, your design will be more concentrated, the subjects and message will be more clear and the time you spend working on the actual design part will be less intensive. 



After sketching with the word map (and some regular sketches), I used personal photographs as references to help me create my icon set. I first started with the nuclei of Bannack – Hotel Meade. For my first round of designs, I only used the pen and shape tool, and created simple black and white vector icon illustrations. After that, I went back in and used the shape builder tool to create the shapes, then I applied color.

Above is an example of my color process I went through with just the hotel. As you can see, the second round was still too busy; Vector icons should be simple and the varying width of stroke was too busy in addition to the weak value contrast it had against the red brick.

I then looked at some other icon sets for inspiration, and I decided to adopt a tone on tone value color scheme, abandoning strokes completely. While adopting tone on tone value, I also went in and simplified my icons, taking out distracting lines and deleting strokes. 



Here’s some insight into one of my favorite icons, A Ghost’s grave. I first started out by creating the shape of a headstone with the pen tool, then colored it with a wood-like color. Following that, I duplicated over my “value stepped wood gradient” that I created for the steps of the buildings. I absolutely loved this “gradient” and I wanted to make it a unifying element throughout the icon set, as needed. I then played around with different opacity masks in varying wood tones, before I decided on the last one. After the last one, I went in simplified it by just leaving Dorothy’s name. To learn more about Dorothy, check out her Find-A-Grave webpage. 

Check out more pictures of the amazing Bannack Ghost Town at Ghost Town Gallery or at the official Bannack website

Alex Brown

Alex Brown

My name is Alex Brown and I am visual communicator, graphic and brand designer, photographer, and marketer.
Alex Brown

Latest posts by Alex Brown (see all)