ze·nith /ˈzēnəTH/ noun 1. the time at which something is most powerful or successful.
The Zenith Project is the product of the combined passions and skills from both myself and my sister, and what we have learned throughout our time in Freestyle, mixed together to create our final, most successful project.
At first, my sister and I planned to make an album together that would include original music and artwork. We are both very passionate about music, and we thought that an album would be the perfect Zenith project in the beginning. This changed when we both wrote our 5-7 page research papers in our English class and realized when studying the topic of albums in depth that we did not have enough time to make a product that we would truly feel proud of because we would rush the process.
Realizing that our original idea that we had stuck with since junior year was now no longer doable, we searched frantically for a new project idea. We then realized we had three main inspirations that all lead to the same product. These inspirations were the documentary books we created last year because of how rewarding the process of creating the book and holding it was, our three cousins we babysit (ages 2, 6 and 11) inspired us to create something to educate them in a way they could understand, and finally we were inspired by our German Shepherd Rogue and more specifically my passion for dogs (which was also the topic of her book last year). Each of these inspirations lead to one idea: make a book with less text as the documentary, inspired by kids, and about dogs. We finally decided on our Zenith project: we were going to make a children’s book educating kids about dogs.
The goal for our Zenith Project was a children’s picture book with illustrations and character design created using Adobe Photoshop and InDesign. To make our book stand out from other children’s books, we felt it would be interesting if made a story that would include characters that existed outside of the book, so in the case of our book, this meant real dogs. We began searching for a variety of dogs to add to our book, a mix of working dogs and pets.
Besides the main character, which is our pet Rogue, the second dog we knew we wanted to add to our book was Jericho. He is a Labrador Retriever, and a puppy in training to become a Guide Dog when he grows up. His current handler, Ms. Johnson, is the secretary for the counseling office and has become known at Mountain View High School as the lady with the guide dog puppies. For the past 10 years, she has volunteered with Guide Dogs for the Blind and has raised puppies that have eventually moved on to help a blind person in need. Simone is a TA in the office at MVHS and interacts with Jericho every day, and because of this, we felt he would be the perfect addition to our book!
To learn more about Guide Dogs for the Blind, click the image below!
An account on Instagram that Simone has been following for a very long time is a service dog named Percie. She is a Golden Retriever, and she and her owner Claire have a significant platform in the service dog community. One of the main reasons why we felt Percie would be a perfect character for our book is because Claire works to educate people on service dogs and invisible disability through her posts and YouTube videos, and takes time to answer questions and do her best to help educate the public.
If you would like to see more of Claire and Percie outside of our book, go check them out on Instagram: @service.angel.percie, or click the image below!
Doggy Day Out
In our project, we felt that we wanted to include a portion which would act as our civic responsibility, and benefit our community in some way. To do this, we participated in a program that allowed us to help a shelter dog in need, while also giving us a character to include in our book, and an experience we will never forget.
This program is called Doggy Day Out, and it is within the Humane Society of Silicon Valley and is described as:
“Volunteers give our active, large breed dogs a mini vacation from the shelter by taking them on day or overnight outings in the area. Hikes, beach days, some chill time in a home or dinner at a dog-friendly restaurant are all common outings our dogs enjoy.” – Humane Society Silicon Valley
To visit the Humane Society website, click the image below!By participating in this program and including the shelter dog in our book, we would use our book to not only educate the reader on the different types of dogs and working dogs, but we would also bring awareness to the many dogs in shelters in need of homes and possibly help a dog find a home in the process.
Weeks before our actual day out, we decided to contact an experienced volunteer for recommendations and tips because of the likelihood of receiving a dog that was reactive to people or other dogs. She gave us tips and recommended a few parks that she often brings the dogs to. Because we reached out and messaged her, we made the entire experience much easier for everyone and planned to go to a park near the shelter that she recommended because of the low volume of people and dogs.
Walking into the Humane Society on our Doggy Day Out to pick up the dog we would be taking out for the day, we had expected to receive one of the usuals for this program: the social husky, one of the many pit bulls, or even the three-legged Doberman. What we did not expect was for a big black German Shepherd that resembled a bear to come barreling out of the door, eager to leave the shelter, at least just for a while.
His name was Vinnie, and he truly was a gentle giant with the biggest heart. In our short time we spent with him, we were able to see how different he was outside the shelter as he opened up to us, and we eventually saw just how sweet and loving this pup really was. After spending the day with him, we were even more motivated to add him to the book, as we felt he exemplified the fact that not all shelter dogs are the same.
Because of how much our experience impacted us, we created a video using clips from our day we spent with him:
After we solidified our Zenith project idea, we knew that we wanted to include a police K9 as one of our characters in our book. Because I wrote my Documentary book last year on police K9, I already had many connections to local K9s. This original plan completely changed however when we saw a post of Kiah, and we knew the second we saw a picture of her that we wanted to include her in the book.
We loved the idea of using Kiah as our police dog because she helped to show that K9’s are not always the typical German Shepherd or Belgian Malinois. On top of being a breed that is considered “out of the ordinary” in police work, Kiah started out as a rescue with a really rough past, which made her a character with an even more inspiring story about overcoming and defying the odds.
One major phase of this project, before even beginning to create the final product, was in-depth studying of different aspects of our project, mostly children’s books. This was because we had a whole new idea and were no longer doing an album, which meant we needed to do much more research. Originally, we were given an assignment in our English class to write a research paper surrounding the topic of our Zenith project. We both wrote 5-page papers that we, unfortunately, did not end up using because we made the decision to change our project afterward. The change in projects meant that we had to work independently to seek out any information we needed using many different resources. First, we used the internet to find the essentials and basics of making a children’s book. The second major source we used was the public library. We checked out 12 different children’s books to reference style, formatting, and to help us solidify an age range.
At the beginning of the process of creating the book, just like any other story, we needed a storyboard. A storyboard is a sequence of drawings used to draft the sequence of events and in our case, was used to help with brainstorming illustration and solidifying where specific content would be. At first, we had a big storyboard which included a whole set of 30 pages planned out. After beginning the process of painting the first pages however, we realized that our original storyboard was not sufficient. It lacked an obvious plot line and conflict/resolution, one of the key factors needed in writing children’s books. Because of this, we created a new storyboard which had a clearer conflict/resolution that would be interesting for children to read.
Below are the final storyboards we created that we used for our book.
Below are extra storyboards of specific pages with more detail in the backgrounds, solidifying our ideas for what we wanted to include in the illustrations.
After creating the storyboard, we began the process of painting the pages using Adobe Photoshop. The process of creating the illustrations of this book was very tedious, but in the end very rewarding. Isabella worked to create the illustrations in this book, and overall created 60 pages using Adobe Photoshop and an array of brushes and other tools.
This process of painting applies to all of the pages throughout the book, which results in an overall of 60/62 pages including digital paintings. Because many of the pages varied in number of characters and detail in the background, some of the illustrations took up to 6 hours to paint. Overall, the process of the illustrations was extremely tedious and took all extra time available to us, including spring break.
The main portion of this project was the children’s book, which we are extremely proud to be able to say that we wrote and illustrated. Along with the story, this book also includes tips for young children on how to read dog body language and how to approach a dog, and how to act around a service dog. We hope to soon get this book published, as we want to make it available for people to purchase in the future.
The final book, titled “Rogue’s Great Big Adventure!” can be reached by clicking the graphic below.
In the process of illustrating the book, we realized that we created line art for each of the characters and pages that would only be thrown away in the end. Because we didn’t want to simply get rid of that artwork, we gave it a second use and created a coloring book. In order to create a coloring book that could go along with our book, we wanted to include an equal amount of activities and coloring pages. To get inspiration for our activities, we took a trip to our local craft store and looked through their selection of coloring books and made sure to take note of interesting activities that we used to enjoy when we were younger. After collecting our research, we made our coloring book using Adobe Illustrator and combined activities with line art from our book to create the final booklet!
After creating the final PDF and formatting the booklet using Adobe InDesign, we decided on printing our sample booklets on tabloid paper, which is larger than average (11in x 17in) and in order to print we went to our local FedEx and printed 4 copies which would be used as our examples. We then punched holes along the spine of the booklets to add yarn as binding, which made the end product appear to be very kid-friendly.
Because we wanted to create a final book “bundle”, we wanted additional products to include in addition to the book. One of the first products we knew we wanted in our bundle was hand painted bandanas that can be worn by people or dogs. To create a bandana that could go along with the book, we designed a logo that would be featured on all the separate pieces in the bundle to tie them together.
After drafting many different logo designs, we finally decided on the cute, clean, simple design of a paw print with a heart in the center.
After solidifying the logo design, this began the tedious process of painting the bandanas.
Because we had already designed a logo and had a file in Adobe Illustrator, we thought that creating dog tags would be the perfect addition to our overall project bundle. So we bought a pack of blank dog tags and used the laser engraver to etch the design into the metal.
These are the final dog tags after they were engraved.
Minus the physical copy of the book, this is a photo featuring our final book bundle which includes the activity booklet, bandanas, and dog tags.
Overall, we learned many valuable lessons through this project, in both the different aspects that were successful and the challenges we faced.
Challenges we faced:
- Isabella was mainly nervous because the only animal she would go out of her way to practice illustrating was bears, so making an entire book on dogs was intimidating
- Taking on such an immense project in such a little amount of time was stressful and overwhelming more times than not.
- Including outside sources and relying on them to provide photos and other materials was a challenge, as contacting people brought along the fear of not receiving a response, and making many backup plans.
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to anyone! Communicating and contacting people was crucial throughout this entire project.
- If you “bite off more than you can chew” don’t be intimidated by the amount you have to do. Try to map it out and make an extremely detailed schedule to keep you on track. If you still need help after that, reach out!
- Stress can only help so much. At some point, it does more harm than good.
Once the Zenith project was completed, we created a slideshow which we presented to the rest of the Freestyle classes, including both juniors and seniors. The video below is the entire presentation we gave to our peers and teachers.
The podcast section of our Senior year in Freestyle was a continuation of the Zenith project for us. We were given the assignment to create a podcast, and after discussing with our English teacher, my sister and I were able to create a podcast that served as a reflection and overview of our overall project. At the time the podcast was assigned, we were in the very end of the Zenith project, and being able to record a review of our entire project when the process was so fresh in our minds helped to be able to explain in a detailed, organized manner. Using ProTools, we chopped up and mixed the recordings and also used the Xpand! plugin to add a light music element. The final podcast includes three main parts: the reflection and overview of the project itself, the audiobook of our children’s book, and finally an interview and review from our 6-year-old cousin.