A Coloring Book for Sioux Falls (AIGA SD Idea Fund project, 2018)

The AIGA Idea Fund was an excuse for me to brush off one of those half-formed projects that never left the pile of “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” ideas. I have a hunch that every creative has a pile of discarded projects like that. I wanted to create a coloring book, but didn’t know how to narrow the possibilities enough to get started. The Idea Fund gave me three key details to get me started:

  1. A topic: The Idea Fund supports projects that benefit the Sioux Falls community.
  2. A deadline: Our projects had a deadline of Sioux Falls Design Week 2018 and a committee of people who wanted to see me succeed.
  3. A budget: With $1,000 to offset printing and other costs, the risk of taking on a completely new self-publishing project lowered immensely.


Part I: Creative Process

My illustrated coloring book would celebrate vibrant activities in and around Sioux Falls. It would be printed and sold locally. It would focus on summertime in Sioux Falls when we emerge from hibernation to enjoy places like the zoo, Falls Park, farmer’s markets, the Butterfly House, downtown, and the Sioux Falls bike trail. There’s also a focus on objects: hot air balloons, bakery treats, and the Sioux Falls People’s Flag. I hoped the subjects I chose would resonate with Sioux Falls natives and transplants and that it could become the sort of souvenir and gift that would stick around and get used.

I thought about what makes a coloring book successful: a balance of detail and interesting shapes, a mix of patterns and scenes, objects that can be any color. I tested pages on my kitchen table with crayons, colored pencils, and markers. What made it to the fridge made it to the book. As I began laying out the 20-page book, I worried that some of the layouts felt generic and may have lacked an obvious Sioux Falls connection so I added “fun facts” highlighting the connection between illustration and city history.

The cover would be printed on uncoated paper—it too would be color-able.


Part II: Publishing and Distribution

I leaned on the advice of members on the local AIGA board on how to purchase an ISBN number and barcode, how to set up an account with the SD Department of Revenue, and for their connections to local shops where the Sioux Falls Coloring book could be sold. My first run of 250 books was printed just a few weeks before Design Week. Much of the production process was done privately—I invited designer friends and family to weigh in on certain parts but self-directed most of the design. Publishing turned this project loose and put it in the hands of the community, where it belongs.

The beauty of a coloring book is that it’s only half finished. What I hoped to provide was an outline for what could look like a rainy indoor afternoon activity and a chance for someone to represent the world the way they see it, or the way the wish it was. I hope it encourages someone to put their phone away for a time and focus on color. I hope it brings someone joy.

Alison Raaen is a graphic designer and illustrator based in Sioux Falls, SD. Pick up your own copy of the Sioux Falls Coloring Book here, or see more of her work (some of it edible) on Instagram.

Do you have an idea that could benefit your community? AIGA South Dakota is now accepting applications for the 2019 Idea Fund.

Published March 1, 2019