Creative Connection

September 26, 2016 /Design /Illustration /Inspiration /

How the Northern Lights poster for the Nordic Creative Talent Award was born

Every brush stroke had to be movable so it could be adjusted to all kind of sizes. I only had a few weeks to create the poster and it took a little longer since I only could work on it in my spare time, but it was really funny.

If you are studying at one of the Nordic design schools you might have seen the beautiful poster for Nordic Creative Talent Award 2016. The poster that looks like a painting was created by Martine Strøm from Norway for Adobe Nordic.

How was your process?

”After receiving the brief from Abby Priest, Adobe Nordic’s ad agency, I started from scratch, like I always do, with a ball pen to sketch ideas and concepts. Then I did a kind of mood board by collecting references on Pinterest. Then I just start trying to put things together in Photoshop,” says Martine Strøm.

”For this project I had several ideas in the beginning. One of the was the Northern Lights – a common characteristic for the Nordic countries. I created abstract shapes with handmade brush strokes and after some different approches it ended a bit different than the Northern Lights idea.”

Martine Strøm sent these ideas back to Abby Priest:

First ideas
The first idea made with brush strokes was chosen by Abby Priest. Their feedback was it would give a lot of creative freedom when designing all the marketing material.

Martine then spent a few evenings painting, scanning and masking out in Photoshop before sending the first rough sketches:


In the video below, you can watch her brush technique:

The brief was very open so narrowing it down helped Martine a lot with the process. They asked Martine to play more with the award prize ’the Brick’, and not just show it in a traditional way.

”In the second round I made an ”impossible object” out of the brick, and suggested to print it in gold foil. Also the paint strokes and background colours can vary, and be used as a poster series.”


Martine Strøm also tried to put the brick ”out of centre” only showing parts of it:

Abbey Priest were pretty happy about the posters above, and discussed it further with Adobe Nordic. The feedback was to let the Brick be more part of the artwork.

”They also wanted me to test the paint strokes as a pattern, to make it easier to apply to all surfaces and keep the same expression – like the Way Out West posters.”

”At this point the visuals was pretty far away from the original ”Northern lights” idea, but the paint strokes are still the main focus. The expression on the previous sketches were too ”serious”, rather that young and fresh.”

After this feedback Martine made two patterns to be used as ”key visuals”: a busy one, and a pattern that enables the viewer to see each paintstroke:

She then sent Abby Priest some sketches on how they could be used on a poster:

She also demonstrated how easy it would be to create Direct Mail materials and banners from this concept:

After a meeting with Abbey Priest and Adobe they decided that the whole ”system” should be like this:

”This was approved, and my part was done,” says Martine Strøm proudly. Abbey Priest applied this design to all surfaces of communication.


This is the final poster.

How long did it take to make this beautiful poster?

”I spent at least 30 hours on the whole project. I painted the brush strokes – and scanned them into Photoshop. The demasking of the brush strokes was the most time consuming process and was also done in Photoshop. Every brush stroke had to be movable so it could be adjusted to all kind of sizes. I only had a few weeks to create the poster and it took a little longer since I only could work on it in my spare time, but it was really funny.”

Do you also show the process of your work in your portfolio?

”Absolutely! Usually my portfolio is up to date most of the time. But planning of how my work process is done is very important part of my portfolio. I keep all my sketches for my portfolio. I would say around 50 per cent of the documentation and presentation of the working process is thought out before I begin a project. The rest is done when the project has finished.”

Martine Strøm won herself a Nordic Creative Talent Award in 2015 (read more about Martine here).


Martine Strøm

Martine Strøm

Do you know a young, talented Nordic designer who deserves recognition for their creative skills? Then it is time to nominate him/her or yourself for the New Creative Talent Award 2016!

The award is given by Adobe Nordic and CAP&Design, the leading magazine about graphic communication and design in the Nordics, to the eight most creative talents from Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland under 28 years old at award ceremonies in Stockholm, Copenhagen, Oslo, and Helsinki later this year.

The Nordic Creative Talent Award celebrates the most outstanding talents under 28 years of age, active within the fields of graphic design, digital art, photography, video, motion graphics and imagination. Anyone can nominate a young talent practising in the fields of design, graphic design, digital art, photography, video, motion graphics or web design for this award. A jury will select two winners from each country (Sweden, Denmark, Norway, and Finland).

Upload your own portfolio or nominate somebody else now! Read more about the Nordic Creative Talent Award here.



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