Category Archives: Art and Design

Quark 9.

WIll somebody tell Quark to go away? Nobody likes them anymore. I don’t, you don’t, let’s move on with our lives. Hopefully every year their terrible software becomes more irrelevant. Quark 8 just came out relatively recently, and now you’re on Quark 9? Given how much they charge for the software, I bet the take rate is going to be astronomically low.

At this point, making a transition is probably less painful than upgrading. Sad, really. How the mighty have fallen.

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Captain Crunch Retro Boxes

I’m very glad to see that General Mills has brought back the retro Captain Crunch boxes, featuring the old style graphic design and artistry.

Retro Crunch

Retro Captain Crunch

Now this… this is a cereal box. Even the promo item is nice and retro – cutout collectible cards! If only more cereal boxes were this cool.

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I’ve Seen It, and now I can’t Un-See It!

I’ve been doing new documentation art and covers at work. There’s something in our logo that I’ve never noticed until now, because I’ve never actually looked this closely at it. But now, I can’t NOT see it. It’s forever there. I’ll have to go and tweak every one of the logo files to get rid of it.

Here’s a visual aid.

You've seen it! You can't UN-See it!

You've seen it! You can't UN-See it!

There’s a kink in the curve. It’s probably been there since the dawn of time. A small handle tweak in Illustrator fixed it. But it was staring me in the face all these years. Simply amazing that I never noticed it until I actually took a look at it while making yet another new cover. Amazing how something so small and tiny can drive me absolutely bonkers.

I suppose you could say it wasn’t obvious until it was scaled up to the size necessary to use on the cover, but hey. You callin’ me blind or something?

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Doing some typesetting…

I’ve been working on a website/identity for a website of a friend of mine.

Sparkles Cleaning Service

Sparkles Cleaning

I wanted to give it an elegant feel; when you think of sparkles/sparkly things, you tend to think of clean, straightforward design. I used the gradient drops to create a starburst to invoke feelings of magic and fireworks, like the Fairy Godmother waving her wand and making everything happy. That’s basically what you will get – pay a little money and they’ll swoop in and clean up like magic.

The main Sparkles text was set with a large, swooshy script that I then modified. Unlike most scripts, this didn’t have connected letters. The lowercase a and r, for instance, were separate. I combined them and tweaked the kerning of all of the character pairs manually to keep character flow consistent.

Integrating “Cleaning service” was much more difficult. Choosing a secondary font was tough. I eventually settled on a small caps serif to keep that feel of elegance, as the contrast of using a sans serif didn’t quite fit the motif.

The logo can be reproduced in print in two colors (black and some Pantone orange that I forget), grayscale, or in RGB on the web.

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I watched Helvetica last night on Netflix Streaming. I should have watched it sooner, being an arteest/designer and all, but hey. Anyway, it was a pretty revealing film. I already knew a lot about the history of Helvetica, but the film did a good job of cutting across the various viewpoints of the typeface.

I do not use Helvetica very often. It is, of course, in my quiver of fonts, but I tend to use other sans serif options first. I guess I would fall on the side of the fence that says “Helvetica is trite and overused.” I grew up in an era where Helvetica is ubiquitous. It’s everywhere, and I can readily point out to you when Helvetica has been used and when a poor substitute has been slapped in its place. I can still appreciate good usage of Helvetica (NY Subway maps, for instance, use Helvetica very well), but it’s an easy and familiar trap to fall in to. Even when you don’t use Helvetica, though, your choices of type are often influenced by it. The great rise in Frutiger and its knockoffs over the past few years (Myriad, Microsoft’s new Segoe, etc) is an attempt, to me, to find a new Helvetica. The problem is that those Frutigers are not really a replacement for Helvetica. Adobe and Apple wanted the Helvetica standardization without all of the negative connotations – except Microsoft’s joined their train now and ruined their party.

Type is an essential communications tool, and it has to be able to communicate clearly. This is why I’m not really a fan of many display or title fonts, because the effects created by those title fonts are better done by hand lettering. Look at James Cameron’s Avatar. The movie’s logo is set in Herculanum (or something similar). Aside from reminding me of Avatar: The Last Airbender (which used Herculanum for its title cards and credits), it looked fairly dull and trite. Herculanum is one of those system fonts that I expect people making a powerpoint to use to “spice things up,” not a major movie’s logotype. At least customize the letters a bit – it looks like they just increased the tracking, slapped some illustrator effects on it, and called it a day.

One reason I like Harmonix’s Rock Band so much is that it has a consistent sense of style and design. They use the same typefaces across all of their games, save for Beatles (which deserved its own treatment, and even then, remains consistent with itself). Avant Garde is a classic typeface, but the modifications they made to it (leaning capital As, for instance) inspire feelings of albums from the seventies. This is all aside from the game’s general artwork, which draws from majestic progressive rock cover art. They’ve picked a style and improved upon it, as opposed to Guitar Hero, which has little consistency and attempts to turn everything to eleven. Guitar Hero 3 and GH: World Tour all used very difficult to read type and cluttered interfaces. Guitar Hero 5 changed it up once again, not to mention the various changes for the spinoff games. There’s something to be said for consistency and internal logic… which is a problem that Helvetica was created to resolve.

I am not much of a letterform drawer. I’ve done my share of type modifications, of course, but my own natural handwriting is terrible. My drawing skill also isn’t that great. When it comes down to it, I don’t know how I would be as an actual type designer. I can appreciate what they do and the way they reach their conclusions, and the thoughts echoed by several of the designers in the film – how do you objectively measure type – resonated with me. How do I know if a font is good or not? Is it like pornography, that I know it when I see it? Probably. The field is hugely subjective.

By the way, take Ironic Sans’ Helvetica test, and see if you can beat me. I got 19 of 20 on my first try.

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