Archive for the ‘Typography’ Category

Process: Book Cover Design

December 4, 2016

In taking on this book cover project, I began by sketching a bunch of thumbnails. I was familiar with the contents of the book and when I had the opportunity I took a look through the contents. Usually, this read-through would probably be the first step.

After discussing the thumbnails with the author, we decided to go with the text of the title and subtitle along with graphic line drawings of various objects.

With a quick stop at the internet I procured examples of the objects I wanted to draw and headed off to Adobe Illustrator. After I drew the objects, I resized them so that they were the correct proportions relative to the other objects.

Next I scoured through my typeface collection and found two that had a hand-drawn, indie feel. Wanting the illustration lines to resemble the type lines, I created a custom brush and applied it to the objects using the Appearances palette.

I also knew that I wanted to have the colors of the objects offset so I drew rough approximations of the object contours shapes on a different layer using the pencil tool.

I imported the line work, text and color contours into Photoshop and began the layout, coloring and texturing process. More internet research let me see color options as well as locating paper and watercolored textures. I’ve always liked the combination of tight line work with loose watercolors and thought that aesthetic would work well for this project.

Initially, the orange concept got the most positive feedback in my focus group, but the author thought the calmer blue color scheme communicated the intent of the book. I added in additional texture elements and a light frame to add a bit more energy and to focus the viewer’s eye by connecting the various elements.

Typically, I create a new composited Photoshop file that has all of its layers cleaned up. In this case I extended the canvas on the new file to accommodate the single font/spine/back file required by the publisher.



Chicken the Brave

October 1, 2016

I thought this would be a fun band name or kids illustrated book so I created a little hand drawn/digitally enhanced logotype. I had been looking at the fun, loose vector art of J. Otto Seibold and was enjoying his hand lettering style. After looking the letter forms over and doing a quick analysis, I jumped into sketching, followed by rounds of scanning and redrawing (both digitally in Photoshop and by hand) before vectorizing, doing some (slight) cleanup, and adding vector flourishes in Illustrator.


chicken1 initial sketch


one of several rounds of digital correction and play


scan of a hand drawn cleanup on a light printout

More Typography play

September 11, 2016

This is a lyric from a song called “Southpaw”. The song lends itself to an Art Deco feel and some Russian Constructivist design elements and colors.

In working through this piece I designed an ampersand symbol and cleaned up the “R” as well. Some of the letterforms reveal their weaknesses (the Ss look heavy and the various weights on the “Ws” are problematic. C’est la vie.


Personal Typography project

September 3, 2016

One of the things I enjoy most about designing is the ability to create something out of nothing by first creating or assembling the component parts and arranging them in a visually interesting way.

Recently I’ve been hand-drawing typefaces and I thought it would be fun to create a font and use it as the base for creating posters from phrases, song lyrics and story titles. The key concept is to utilize or modify a single, self-created typeface to create a wide range of stylistic applications.

From an initial idea I created the letterforms below. Conscious of the fact that there are many flaws (especially in the odd stroke weights in several of the letters), I nevertheless decided to push ahead, modifying and improving the letterforms as I went. The 3 designs that I’ve finished so far were a lot of fun to work on and help me “learn” the strengths and weaknesses of the letter forms and relationships.

Vector Einstein Doodle

July 16, 2016

It’s been awhile since I played in AI but I was inspired by some illustrations to noodle around.

Screen Shot 2016-07-16 at 7.32.11 AM

Hand-lettering to Photoshop

June 21, 2016

Graphic for a visual presentation for elementary students. These are the main stages, although there were myriad intermediaries.

I began with a pencil sketched inked with sharpies. Once scanned I played around with the interaction of the letters. The slant created some dynamic interaction and minimized dead space. I printed the photoshopped sketch out, redrew the design using broad Prismacolor pens (chisel tip),  and rescanned. I realized that the “the” way out on the left forced an incorrect reading of the phrase. I threw the whole thing back into Photoshop and…voila!

Screen Shot 2016-06-21 at 9.48.34 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-21 at 9.48.50 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-21 at 9.49.44 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-21 at 9.49.56 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-21 at 9.50.37 PM

Valentine’s Day Logo – Vector Illustration

January 16, 2016

This was a personal project. Initially I was playing with a tightly spaced script to fill in the silhouette of a pair of lips. The final vector illustration is much more uniform and less calligraphic than the initial sketches. Even though the original silhouette idea was discarded, I like the sanskrit/arabic impression. There are some trapped spaces that bother me, and there are several things I might change on a future iteration to return the impression to a more organic script design, but I think the piece stands well enough.

Technical note: It wasn’t until later that I realized that I had made more work for myself. Since I ended up going with a uniform stroke and spacing arrangment, I could have used single lines, increased the stroke size and given a rounded cap to the strokes. C’est la vie.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Typographic Reconstruction

January 2, 2016

I like the typeface on this piece of ephemera from the turn of the century. The sample of letterforms was not complete so I used the power of digital media to do some rapid reconstruction for the upper and lower case.

My approach was to look for existing letterforms in the set that had characteristics that were likely shared by the missing letters. By recombining, flipping, and adapting this components I have arrived at a complete set that I can further improve and tweak in a vector-based program like Illustrator or Designer. In other words, the point of this stage is not to come up with completely realized letterforms (especially since the image I am working from is not ideal) but to get in the ball park for further refinement. For example, the “X” has three versions that I want to narrow down to 1 or 2, and I am not happy with how the criss-cross strokes are not continuos since I arrived at the letter by inverting two “V” shapes and shortening the arms.

Since some of the capitals had extended arms I created two versions for missing letterforms that I thought would have also had that feature. I am least satisfied with the lowercase “g”. The uppercase “L” also needs some work. From this point I will probably go into Illustrator and come up with a clean, unified version of the letterforms.

Sample Letter forms

Original Letterform samples from ephemera


Reconstructed Type samples with variations

Reconstructed Type samples with variations

Shoestring Seriography

September 25, 2015

I really enjoy screenprints and the process of making. However, the emulsion method used by professional screen printers is technical, time-consuming and toxic not to mention expensive.

There are several methods that are available which are cheaper, easier and, while having their own limitations, offer more immediate results. For the two colors I printed in this post, the red design was printed using a paper stencil while the blue design was made by painting Mod Podge directly onto the screen.

A large embroidery hoop that I acquired served as a impromptu screen frame. for a few dollars I purchased some organdy material which can be pulled reasonably tight in the embroidery hoop. The quality of the screen may not be as fine as professional grade, but it does the trick for down and dirty home printing. I topped off my rough-and-tumble painting kit with a “squeegee” made from a plastic vertical blind but I had cut up into short spatula shapes.

Some tips:

  • you can alter the viscosity of your acrylic paint with ModPodge.
  • pull your screen material as tight as you can
  • wider squeegees are best for consistent paint/ink layering.
  • thinner stencil material is preferable since the thickness of the paper determines the thickness of the paint layer. I think I will try newsprint next time. I may lose some durability but it may be worth it.
  • using the stencil method along with the PVA glue paint on method in tandem my produce great results. The painted method allows you to have floating shapes inside other shapes. The stencil I can’t do that very well. However you can get much crisper edges with the stencil.


I made some rectangular screens with some cheap picture frames. I used some old stockings as the screen material for one of them. The result is a mesh that is more rough, but workable for the paper stencil method or large designs with PVA glue. I suspected that the plastic “squeegee” that I had been using was causing air bubbles. I tried using a Styrofoam tray as an alternative since it is rounded and softer. Over time I think the screen will wear the styrofoam down, but it seemed to help.
I also tried Mylar from a deflated ballon for stencil material. It is at least as thin as newsprint and it is more durable. It tends to curl so is probably not suitable for fine detail, but adhered well to the screen once the initial “ink” was applied.

Process: Retro Robot Concert Poster

August 28, 2015

Preparing for another House Concert means creating another poster and flyer. Often I start by kicking around the words “House” and “Concert”. After a few dead ends I started thinking of “Retro Space Theme” as an idea. That didn’t go the way I had hoped, but did get me thinking about robots like the one from “Lost in Space”. Initially I thought I would make a crew of character robots to hold up and interact with the type. Since I’ve done character posters in the past, I recognized their secondary value as stickers/badges/giveaway items.

I tackled the project by research “robot-ish” components. The idea was to use the symbols palette in Illustrator to “frankenstein” a variety of figures from a collection of “bits”. I spent several hours making pieces, some of which I did not end up using, but since they are stored, maybe someday I will use them.


At this point I went back to my sketchbook since the robots I had tried to assemble were uninspired. I came up with an idea to do a “musical” robot, assembled from instruments (my first poster did something like this except with a Victorian house). I had hit on the idea of making the type for the word “house” be out of wire and the word concert out of metal. I hand-built the “concert” font after a quick sketch. Having already created a brush and 1/4″ cable symbol it was just a matter of finessing the script in order to be legible and have a flowy, cable-like personality. I went to work on the concert type and added gears and sprockets, repurposing my symbols to add that industrial touch.

Robo S


typography wireframe

After the type was assembled I jumped into Photoshop and began building and importing vector graphics as needed. I had collected some vintage paper textures and distressed paper folds. I also had researched retro swatches and constructivist motifs…kind of. My first attempt was on target and I was pleased with the robot and the comedic element he played (rather than the brooding overlord I had first envisioned). There was too much wasted space, however. The names of the performers were too small. I stepped back and took a fresh look.

First Try

I was much happier with the second attempt. “House” and :”concert” were grouped more closely and more space was given to the musicians. I added some gradients behind the main text to give it more presence. Additionally, since I was able to drop the text down, more of my background “widget” wallpaper was visible. That had been made by simply selecting a number of my Illustrator symbols and turning them into silhouettes then arranging them in a grid.

Second Attempt

Below are some details. I ended up putting a halftone pattern behind the robot to bring him out better as well as redrawing the curve of his glass dome for the same reason.

detail 1 detail 2