Archive for February, 2010

[design] KWHSS: A Logo and Website Header For A Medieval Club’s Conference

Posted in art, branding, logo design, self-promo, web design on February 25, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2330.The Society for Creative Anachronism’s College of Heralds – the group within the society that does work announcing at tournaments and events, researches and documents names and designs for coats of arms – in my not-so-humble opinion, the closest thing America has to a true Heraldic college, one that grants coats of arms and such in the manner of the English College of Arms – is having a symposium coming up in June, the Known World Heraldic and Scribal Symposium, or KWHSS. I’ve spent a bit of time designing for that effort (disclaimer: The Wife™ is the “autocrat”) and I’m going to spring this on her, this combination of header image and insular uncial-style font that I’ve just bashed together:

The logo – gold crossed trumpets behind a a dragon’s head emerging from a red quill pen – combines three essentials. The trumpets are the traditional SCA emblem for the College of Heralds, the quill represents the scribes, and the dragon’s head represents the Shire of Dragon’s Mist – the hosting branch. In the SCA, the membership is organized into nineteen territories or “Kingdoms”: “An Tir” is the Kingdom comprising Oregon, Washington, the Idaho Panhandle, and a great swath of western Canada (from BC all the way over to Saskatchwan).

The character of the An Tirian lands has long been compared to that of Ireland, specifically the area the conference is being held in (Dragon’s Mist comprises Washington County) so the Irish-style Uncial type seemed a natural. I was fortunate to find the font at FontSpace, it’s called Irish Unci Alphabet, and while all the Gaelic-themed fonts there are very good, very few of them have numerals in the set. This one does, and I recommend it. It’s free (as in beer), by the way, and the license allows for commercial use.

* No Relation

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[design] The Museum of Forgotten Art Materials

Posted in Wierd and Funny on February 25, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2329.I’m a little dismayed. I thought that art materials were evergreen. I mean, an eraser doesn’t stop erasing just because you do all your design and art work on a computer. And these:

… rule, baby. You just don’t know! In the meantime, scoff if you will, but if The Change happens, or it gets past peak-whatever, I’ll still be happy drawing, and you’ll be crying about it. Oh, yeah, laugh while you still have electric power, bee-yotches!

In the meantime, the entire museum is very charming, and it’s here:

Enjoy, seriously.

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[web] A Great Website Design – Marred By Comic Sans

Posted in branding, typography, web design on February 19, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2328.It’s easy to complain about Comic Sans, I know, but when you see a website that could have hit it out of the park without it … well, you cry and die a little inside. Something must be said.

I give you the front page for Short Run Cards, one of the many purveyors of fast, inexpensive and (we assume) quality business cards you find today. There is nothing not to like about the website … almost.

Use the link in the previous graf to get a good close look in your browser. But, really, the graphic style is a home-run winner. Retro style, limited palette working it like a champ … and if you watch it long enough, the capital R in the dead-clever sign flickers. The message on the drive-in screen (a clever reference to the name, drawn from the world of movies) flickers and changes.

So, you move down to the text – and there it is. Comic Sans. Overused so much that it’s tired even where appropriate.

Now, I don’t have a specific beef against Comic Sans except that it’s overused. It was originally developed by Vincent Connare for the late, rather unlamented Microsoft BOB user environment (the one which, famously, Melinda Gates was project manager on before she married Teh Bill), it was, as legend has, inspired directly by comic lettering for an appropriate application (one meant to make a user-friendly front end program all that much more chummy and cozy).

Comic Sans has been used in circulars, flyers, warning signs … in as much as this isn’t such an inappropriate use, it’s fine, but in this context, what it says to me is that the design stopped at the site layout. Every part of a website communicates, and if a little more care were chosen in choosing the font to support the design, this would have been completely kicked up to the next level, rather than almost made it.

So, suggestions. It’s one thing to carp, it’s another thing to offer an alternative. Happily, there are alternatives for Comic Sans out there! A few of them are even free!

  • Visit:  Ban Comic Sans for this list of free fonts for both Mac and Windows. BCS has adopted a kind of Vandal-storm-the-castle approach, but they do offer alternatives for the overused font. Many of them are quite pretty and are designed well.
  • Visit: Blambot Blambot is nothing but comic-style fonts. There is a range of free fonts amongst the even-larger range of retail fonts. There’s a lot to like here too.
  • Visit: Fontscape Comic Sans Alternatives at The top three alone are more than able alternatives to CS that look good, have about the same approach, and by simply not being CS send the message that “hey, the designer thought about the font and didn’t just go with the default.
  • Visit and Read: Chris Barr’s “The Comic Sans Effect” at Also writes about Papyrus, the thinking man’s Comic Sans. And suggests alternatives.

Point is, even where it’s appropriately used, CS can communicate a lack of imagination, and on a website as good-looking as Short Run Cards’s is, that’s a pity. It makes a great website just a teensy bit less great.

(hat tip to DesignThatRocks, who pointed me to this website via one of his tweets)

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[logo] Gaijin 4komo KIRO-FM

Posted in broadcast logo design, logo design, Teh Funnay on February 18, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2327.The Reaction Guys on the KIRO FM logo rework:

They like it … they really like it.

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[web] Advisory: Firefox 3.6 Doesn’t Do Preview From Dreamweaver CS3

Posted in design tools, web design on February 18, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2326.This is something that may impact your workflow if you use Adobe Dreamwever CS3 (and maybe CS4).

Dreamweaver designers are well-familiar with the quick-preview button on the Dreamweaver interface, and with the increasing presence of Firefox in the browser market, more and more web designers have a reason to have it point at

I had just installed FF 3.6 earlier tonight and was designing along, working on a website, and clicked for the preview … nothing. Firefox came to the front but no web page loaded.

I tried re-pointing the preview in Preferences – still no joy. I tried repairing permissions – nothing. The edited HTML file was there, all right – but Firefox wouldn’t quick-preview from DWCS3. Searching teh Google showed me that it wasn’t just me: a fair number of Web designers had turne up the exact same thing.

Right now the solution that works the best is just downgrading to Firefox 3.5.8. Skinnable Firefox is nifty, but it isn’t a deal-breaker. I’m going to watch to see if Mozilla can give us a workaround that’s less work than pointing the web browser at “file://Sundial_Four/Websites/Whatever”.

Or, if you’re not bothered by this problem, just Dreamweaver CS3-away. Just remember, if you want a preview in Firefox 3.6 (which is otherwise quite sweet) then you’ll have to work around.

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[logo] KIRO-FM Updates That Logo …

Posted in branding, broadcast logo design, logo design on February 18, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2325.… and it’s better. Still not great, but better.

Lest you think I’m simply belittling it, let’s take a tour … A three-logo tour.

Some time back, Seattle’s KIRO was AM talk radio, and they had this logo:

… and I fairly rhapsodized about it. And why not? To align the slanted end of the red stripe with the leg on the front of the R is cleverness of the highest order. The well-done Space Needle icon is just icing on the cake here: the alignment trick sets up an internal structure that makes the whole thing hang together just on the alignment alone. This was a logo done right.

Well, KIRO moved to FM, and debuted this:

Which I took a dislike to for two reasons: First, the stacked FM just makes the thing ring with discord, and the rejiggering of the numbers and the type in the red stripe knocked the slanted end completely out of alignment with the leg of the R. The nifty in the logo had been killed and the body hidden somewhere, maybe on Mercer Island, who knows.

Well, our Seattle correspondent Ben alerted me to a new alignment of the parts – and here we have it:

They’ve applied some textual healing. And, like I said, it’s better. Not great but better.

On The Upside:

  1. The stacked type is gone, gone, gone. The problem with the stacked type, even for something as minor as two letters FM, is that it brings your eyes up short. You’re reading, left to right, and then ZANG you have to jink upward. It’s unnatural. Eyeflow is, as far as I’m concerned, as important in a typographic logo as it is in any textual context.
  2. The black type – red stripe – black type makes for a stable, ordered logo. Business-like. Presents a sober, serious image for a news-talk station, which is appropriate.
  3. I’ve not said too much about it before, but I like the Space Needle drawing. Or maybe I did say something about it, I don’t know, but I can see why they’d be reluctant to let that go.
  4. The way the Space Needle graphic breaks out of the boundaries keeps the logo serious without becoming too locked-down and boring.

Of course, a logo watcher and aspiring designer is never ever satisfied. We can find fault literally anywhere.

On The Downside:

  1. Is it just me, or does that 7 look a little too thick to be with the 9, 3, and decimal point on the top?
  2. I still miss the dead-cleverness of the original logo. I admit it. Maybe I love these things a little too much.

So, kudos to KIRO for recognizing the problem with the stacked type and going with this approach. It’s a logo that does the job that it was meant to do and doesn’t make the eye regret looking at it and, in logo design as I know it, two outta three ain’t bad.

Sometime soon I might redesign this logo just as a something-to-do, hypothetical project. I have wondered if I could do it better, in case anyone wonders.

H/t to Ben for the headsup.

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[logo] Iconic Logo = A Ton Of Money? Depends.

Posted in business of design, logo design on February 17, 2010 by Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis
2324.In an article at Logo Design Love I saw today, the blogger asks the following question:

Can we create a truly iconic logo without the backing of a very fat wallet?

And I’d say it depends on what you mean by create.

One of the most well-known and iconic logos from out of Oregon is, of course, the fabled Nike swoosh. Its creation is the stuff of serendipitous legend. The designer who created it, Carolyn Davidson was, as the record shows, a design student at PSU at the time who was billing Nike as a design consultant at the rate of $2/hour (remember that this was in Nike’s “Blue Ribbon Sports” era, and the year was 1971. Even $2 went rather a bit further then than now).

The famous logo itself cost the embyonic Nike all of $35 – once again, in 1971 dollars (Using the neato-mosquito calculator at, this is, by the CPI measurement, about $182 – still a bargain). Later, when Nike finally strode the Earth like Colossus, they had Carolyn to a company lunch where she was given a nifty ring with the Swoosh and a bunch of stock (the amount and value of which remain a secret, but I don’t think it’s presumptuous to assume that the amount was $A Whole Lot).

So, one world-renowned logo was obtained, at the front end, for $35 and the mad skills of one young designer.

Or did Nike’s relationship with Weiden+Kenney and Michael Jordan – where a metric ass-ton of money was spent, rather profitably – create the icon? Or, if the Swoosh wasn’t simple genius from the start, would it have been iconic from that point on? Or did that deft move merely give the icon its power?

It’s a little like lightning striking. But I think as long as you have a solid design, lightning’s more likely to strike. I’m sure anyone reading this can think of a handful of icons that had money and talent helicoptered in just to debut to a “meh” from the zeitgeist.

No matter how much money you spend, if you got a solid design, you just might go far. You’ve certainly improved your chances.

My advice: If you get your design work at a bargain – make sure you go back and thank the designer appropriately if it turns out that you make it big.

(I need not point out that the Nike logo is copyright Nike, yes?)

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