Behind the Design: Sad Santa by Tad Carpenter

Tad Carpenter, illustrator, designer and teacher from Kansas City, MO, spent a year planning his wedding and before he knew it, the wedding came and went. “I bet this is how Santa feels each year. His job comes and goes so quickly, there must be some serious post holiday blues he has to fight,” he thought.

While honeymooning in Greece in 2009, he wrote Sad Santa, an adorable children’s book published by Sterling Children’s Books in October 2012. “I can remember making little zines and picture books on my floor as a kid wanting and hoping I could make a real book one day. It truly is a dream come true,” he says.

Sad Santa Children's Book by Tad Carpenter

Sad Santa book by Tad Carpenter

Carpenter loves children’s books and wanted to create something that “would appeal to creative people of all ages.” The goal of Sad Santa was to allow creatives of any age to find joy in the book and, of course, to share a story. As a designer, Carpenter feels like his ultimate job is to tell a story. So when he’s creating a project, he feels like he needs to share the client’s story.

Carpenter also runs his own design studio that focuses on branding and brand strategy, so when he thinks of creating a book, to him, it’s like creating it’s own brand. “Creating a brand experience for all the readers and people who enjoy your story through all these various interactive platforms is where stories and products will thrive,” he says.

“I very much love mid-century based illustration and styling so I am always influenced by that. I played with typefaces and overall layout and flow of the book and how my illustrations would work from page to page. I wanted a very bold, impactful cover,” he says.

Sad Santa even has its own website (where fans can find the above animation). Carpenter created the interactive arm to the storybook because he wanted fans to have a place where they could read about what’s new in Sad Santa’s life. The website allows you to send e-cards, order Sad Santa products and see photos from book signings and other events from around the country.


Resource for Illustrators: Want to learn where to go from here as an illustrator? Read How to Grow as an Illustrator to see what you can do to expand your horizons.

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