Counting In The Ocean Children's Book

"Bilangan Sa Karagatan" (Counting In The Ocean) is an colorful underwater adventure storybook for young Filipino readers. Written by Raissa Rivera Falgui about counting underwater animals, this book aims to help young Filipino readers learn how to read and count, and get to know more about underwater animals.


Aside from the animals that were mentioned in the poem, I didnt have much description to go by in terms of who the characters or what the location looks like for each scene, so I had a lot of creative freedom with art direction, character design, and environment design.

My initial sketches for the main character depicted a young girl exploring the ocean as seen above.

However the evaluators who reviewed my work were concerned that young readers would think it’s ok to swim in the ocean alongside wild animals without guardians or safety equipment. So we changed the young girl character to two young merchildren — a boy and a girl to appeal to a wider audience:

I softened and rounded out the shapes of the animals and gave them a friendly, harmless look to appeal to the target audience. Also, since this was a counting book for children, I made sure to space the animals out on the layout so that they were easy enough for the readers to count.


One of the publisher’s guidelines for the project is to avoid dark colors in the illustrations (particularly black) and instead use bright, happy colors to appeal to children. 

With this in mind, I made the spreads have varying color schemes to convey a different atmosphere with each animal. I felt that this would make the book more colorful overall instead of sticking to the blues and greens of the ocean.


For these two book cover sketches, Vibal preferred the first sketch but was open to using either, with some notes: if the first design was used, I’d need to make a space in the back cover for the blurb, barcode, and company logo. If the second one was used, they prefer to have merchildren drawn like in the first sketch.

In the end I chose to go with the second design because: 1) the corals in the back cover were a perfect backdrop for the blurb, barcode, and company logo without covering any important illustrations, 2) I felt it would make sense to introduce the readers to the animals as the story progresses instead of all at once on the book cover, and 3) we wouldn’t have to repeat the same illustration for the last page of the story as the front cover.

For the title itself, I designed some playful hand-lettering inspired by bubbles and the ocean waves. Looking back on it now, I could’ve chosen a bolder color so that the title stood out better against the ocean background.

For a more in-depth look, here’s a timelapse video of the book cover illustration (and I also filmed a quick vlog of the book launch here!)