By Brigitte With eight years of Geocaching HQ experience, graphic designer Roxxy is one half of the creative creatures that make up the design team here at HQ! She’s been designing souvenirs, geocoins, art, and more since 2010 and she is the artist behind the mythical beings of Hidden Creatures. We chatted with Roxxy to learn how Geocaching souvenirs come to life!
Going back to the beginning, were you always interested in art growing up?Always! I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been drawing. My mom used to give me her old art supplies and a big stack of blank paper, and I’d sit on the living room floor and do nothing but draw. She never stopped encouraging me, so I never stopped drawing.
What is the first geocaching souvenir you created?I think it may have been the Arizona souvenir for the US—it was inspired by the kind of post card you’d buy along the side of the highway if you were driving through. We made all of the US souvenirs in alphabetical order, but we released them in order of statehood, so one of the first ones anyone saw might have been Pennsylvania or Georgia…
How many souvenirs have you created for geocaching?I’ve lost track, to be honest, but it’s over one hundred by now. I started with about one third of the US states, the Canadian provinces and territories, and the states of Australia (that’s around 36 right there), and after that I’ve lost track. That’s where we start to add souvenirs for more countries, plus promotion souvenirs, and event souvenirs.
What is your favorite part of designing souvenirs?When I was designing country souvenirs, I really liked the research. It gave me a reason to learn about a place I haven’t been to, and find out what their customs and traditions were, but also what the fun or silly stuff was about a place that made it unique. Sometimes it was really hard to find just one thing to feature for the souvenir itself, because there were so many wonderful choices. I hope I made good ones.
For promotional souvenirs, like Mary Hyde or Mission GC, I really enjoy figuring out the best way to bring the idea to life. For example, during Mary Hyde, I found out that the best way to make something look like a hand-drawn map, torn into four pieces, and then beat up, is to actually make a hand-drawn map, tear it into four pieces, and beat it up! I spent part of an afternoon making stains and rubbing sandpaper on a map I had created (and photocopied, just in case I went too far).
I have to say, my favorite part about designing any souvenir, is seeing how people respond to them. I like to make things that make people happy.
What is your favorite souvenir to design? (Promotional, Country, Etc)Promotional souvenirs are my favorites, because that’s when I get to try different things. I don’t just design the souvenirs for our promotions, but I often get to design the geocoins and social media images as well. If creating a souvenir is like making a cake, then creating the artwork for a whole promotion is like throwing a party.
How did you decide on the different Hidden Creatures?There are so many to choose from, that we had to give ourselves some guidelines just to even get started. We began by narrowing it down to four types of environments—forest, oceans, deserts, and mountains—and then started looking for which creatures could be found there. We also looked at creatures that appear in different cultures and mythologies, and tried to use them whenever possible. Then we tried to pick the 12 most recognizable creatures that didn’t look too similar to each other.
It was a lot of research and work, and that was before I even started to figure out what they were going to look like.
What was your inspiration behind the World Turtle?I knew I wanted a creature that somehow combined all four of the environments, and I wanted it to be big, so that left me with only a few options. A creature like the World Turtle shows up in a few different mythologies, either as the turtle that supports the world on its back (with the help of four elephants), or as a whole country or island that rests on the back of a giant turtle living in the middle of a lake or ocean. The idea of the World Turtle felt big and wonderful, and I knew we had to have one.
What is the process for creating a souvenir?The first step is always research; we need to know what we’re trying to show before we can show it. I often do a little extra research on my own, to make sure I haven’t missed any details, and I’ll gather up some reference as I start to get some ideas. We also figure out the best way to show our souvenir.
For Hidden Creatures, I started with sketching—yep, everything starts with a real life pencil on real life paper—and I tried a few different ways of putting something together. It’s easier to explore a lot of different ideas when I can compare them to each other right in front of me at the same time. This is usually the most time-consuming and important step for me, because it’s where most of the idea takes shape.
Once I have a sketch done, I’ll scan it into the computer, refine it digitally, and then start to add ink, color, and effects.
Which Hidden Creature souvenir is your favorite?I’ve spent so much time with each of them that I can’t pick just one. All of the Hidden Creatures have something about them that makes them my favorite, and that thing is usually something that happened along the way to creating a wonderful, magical creature for you to enjoy. I still think of the moment I got the sketch just right, or the hours it took to get the fur just right, or how I figured out how to paint crystals.
I do like finding out everyone else’s favorite. I think it’s always a little surprising! People who I thought would like the Mermaid the best end up falling in love with the Yeti, or someone wasn’t very interested until they found out there was a Kraken at the bottom of the ocean. I like to see how excited people are about finding their favorite.
In the end, the best part of bringing a souvenir promotion to life—whether it’s the souvenirs or the storyline—is hearing all of the fun geocaching stories that come out of each adventure. Hidden Creatures starts June 27! Share your favorite mythical creature souvenir with #hiddencreatures on social for a chance to be featured on the Geocaching blog in August!