On April 20, San Jacinto College Vice Chancellor Laurel Williamson, QEP Director Ann Pearson and the QEP Committee announced that it selected Jill B Gilbert’s design to represent the program for the next five years (see the announcement here). The college’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), Thinking and Beyond, promotes student success through critical thinking.
Gilbert’s design addresses the “right brain” creative and “left brain” logical aspects of critical thinking, as well as the San Jacinto Monument, topped by a star, and a USB connector to symbolize how students are always plugged in—the connection between critical thinking and technology.
Viewed another way, the symbol depicts a launched rocket, shooting for the stars into the great beyond, with puffs of exhaust parting as the rocket travels upward. This second interpretation is an homage to Houston, aka the Space City; Jill’s Dad, a rocket scientist, and her little brother who followed in his footsteps.
Last week, one of my French friends sent me a link to a PowerPoint presentation on the hidden meaning behind several corporate logos. I knew about the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo; the smiley face and lowercase letter “g” in the Goodwill logo; the smile and arrow from A to Z in the Amazon logo; and the hidden number 31 in the Baskin-Robbins logo. I read enough French to translate the captions on the slides.
Today, I came across an English version in a blog post by Onextrapixel. It is a pleasant and quick read. The biggest surprise is the meaning of Toyota’s oval icon—it combines strokes for each of the English letters in the company name!
Another favorite is the Tour de France brand. The letter “R” depicts a bicycle rider and the letter “O” and the yellow circle represent two bicycle wheels and the sun; the ride takes place only during daylight hours.
Both of these brands have stood the test of time—they are crisp and memorable. Their hidden meanings make them more interesting.
Most designers do not just wake up in the morning, feeling inspired. Something they see or do gets their creative juices flowing. I often find my inspiration on the Internet, and I follow several design blogs. If you don’t know where to look, here is a compilation of 20 design and development blogs to follow. It includes several I have followed for years, plus some new ones I am eager to try… if only there were more hours in the day!
The Envato blog had a post about the stories behind Paul Rand’s logo designs.
Born in Brooklyn in 1914, Paul Rand is responsible for some of the most iconic brand identities, including IBM, ABC, Westinghouse, UPS and Next Computer. Though he studied art at Pratt Institute, he claimed that he was self-taught. He was inspired by European commercial arts journals and European modern artists and started his career creating magazine spreads. Soon he created magazine covers, notably for Esquire. At 27, he headed an ad agency, incorporating art into what, in the past, was mostly copy.
By the 1950s Rand moved on to logo work. And the rest is history, as they say.
Good design is good business” —Thomas Watson Jr., IBM
Paul Rand designed the IBM trademark, the Westinghouse “W,” the marks for American Broadcasting Company (ABC), UPS, Esquire Magazine, Harcourt-Brace and other memorable trademarks. A recent post on logodesignlove discussed a 1971/71 article by Stanley Mason on how Rand presented his work to clients. Long before the days of digital graphic arts, Rand created short-run offset print publications to present to his clients. Paul Rand avoided flashy presentations and let the work speak for itself, presenting booklets to the top decisionmaking executives. This was pure genius, as these printed materials helped cement the designs as finished products.
In the 1971/72 article, Stanley Mason wrote that the trademark “should be distinctive, memorable, and reflect in some way, however abstractly, the nature of the product or service it represents.” Rand’s rebranding of IBM added eight horizontal stripes and a brilliant blue to the previous trademark. This added movement and color made the mark more dynamic and memorable. It remains strong today.
The ABC logo is simple and understated, yet everyone remembers it.
The NeXT computer logo may not be as memorable since the company disappeared.
You can read more and download PDFs of the 70s article here.
As a consultant, it is interesting when talking with prospective clients to see if they want a “second set of hands” or if they want advice to help them address a business need. In my past life, as a management consultant in the software business, I sought the second type of assignments. The more problem-solving, the better.
In my role as a freelance creative professional, I still seek, and truly enjoy, “value-added” assignments where I can solve problems. I am still a consultant. The difference is, now I have lots of business and marketing expertise plus I have an eye for, and possess, Web and graphic design skills.
Whether you are developing a 50-page Website, a small mobile phone app or an annual report for a corporate client, you should get in the habit of developing a style guide.
Branding and style guides are important for projects large and small. They help to provide consistent messages about an organization and provide a degree of professionalism. Creative Bloq has a good post on this topic, with examples of thirteen style guides for famous organizations.
Client project style guide
The client’s goal was to refresh their brand and their Web site to draw more customers to their wellness practice and retail establishment. I prepared a simple style guide, using Adobe Illustrator. The Style Guide displays the brand, color chips for main and accent colors, typography and usage examples:
Here is how the styles look when applied to a “mobile first” Website design. Note how the colors and the leaf motif are repeated throughout the page. The design works well on a smartphone, on a tablet or on a large HD screen.
University style guide
On a whim, I researched my alma mater’s color and brand guidelines. The Miami University was established in 1809 by a charter signed by George Washington and has a long-standing with the Miami Indians in southwestern Ohio.
It was interesting to find that Miami University uses different reds for print, online and merchandise. And there are lots of formal and informal logos in different styles and sizes for print, Web and merchandise use. Certain “vintage” logos require special permission from the University,
Here is the “M” spirit mark often used on sportswear and signs.
The branding guidelines also link to the school’s Web standards. These standards cover fonts, graphic elements, headers, footers, etc. It was interesting to see the fonts used; Adelle, Gotham, Promesh and Adobe Bembo.
The Promesh font is new to me and it works well for athletic wear and athletic posters. You can download Promesh One and Promesh Two here.
Upon introducing the color, Pantone said, “A dramatically provocative and thoughtful purple shade, PANTONE 18-3838 Ultra Violet communicates originality, ingenuity, and visionary thinking that points us toward the future.”
You can find tools for designers, including color palettes for Adobe Creative Cloud and other programs, here.
More and more big companies commission their own typefaces, rather than relying upon the thousands of fonts readily available for marketing their goods and services.
Recent, notable bespoke typefaces
This month, The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) introduced its bespoke Unity font. Depending on who you ask, some designers love it, and others hate it. Coca-Cola has used a script logotype for decades, and a while back introduced a serif font with the word, “Coke.” Unity is a departure; it is a sans-serif typeface family with several weights.
In 2017, IBM rolled out its bespoke typeface families, named Plex, and YouTube introduced YouTube Sans.
In 2016, Apple introduced San Francisco typefaces at its Worldwide Developer Conference. These fonts were inspired by Helvetica, and were developed for ease of reading on small screens like the Apple Watch and iPhone, as well as on iPads and Mac computers. The same year, CNN introduced CNN Sans—also modeled on Helvetica.
In 2015, Google rebranded its famous “G” using a proprietary font called Product Sans. Product Sans has a strong resemblance to Futura. Google rolled out Roboto In 2013 for the Android OS. Also in 2013, Mozilla rolled out typefaces for its Firefox OS, called Fira Sans and Fira Mono.
Why use a bespoke typeface?
It’s all about branding. We are bombarded by thousands of advertisements each day on smartphones and other computers. We may see an advertisement for a fraction of a second before engaging with the brand or discarding the ad. According to Envato, simply having a recognizable logo is not enough. Companies have to stand out, so branding today requires notable logos, colors, copy and typography. “Bespoke fonts offer brands more control over their identity, and in some cases can even save them money in the long run.”
Companies must stand out
Will bespoke typefaces result in the death of Helvetica?
Helvetica (Neue Haas Grotesk) was developed in 1957 by Swiss typographer Max Miedinger and became the de facto standard of international typeface design in the mid-20th Century. It remains popular today—Helvetica Neue is the default Mac font—because it is both readable and legible at many different sizes and weights.
It’s not likely that Helvetica is going away anytime soon. It is still the favorite of many designers because of its versatility and simplicity. Just make room for the new, bespoke typefaces to coexist with Helvetica.