Nov 25, 2021

A rejected logo doesn’t automatically mean it’s a bad design. It may not be right for the intended client, business or time.

This was a concept for a project I was excited and proud to create in 2020. It was for a fitness community where sweat and fun is a big part of their environment. It’s a place where likeminded people connect, allowing for positive support so that different cycles in one’s workout journey can be developed & refined over time.

The diverse relationships, personal goals & fitness offerings steered my thinking towards a distinctive mark that can adapt to different areas of emphasis (hydration, nutrition, cardio, movement, strength & restoration) as well as a variety of personalities and applications. The idea of getting fit and feeling better together through a robust and flexible icon, allows for so many possibilities. Print, web & promotional items, large or small…a good logo works everywhere.

The craft of designing a unique logo is about creating a distinctive graphic symbol that truly reflects what the brand service, story or personality is to their target audience. A mark they can own and stand behind with integrity.

I originally posted this on my Linkedin and Instagram feeds in February 2021. 9 months later, I still love this logo and what I shared. So did many others on both platforms, opening up good dialogue and starting new conversations.

For the record, I’ve had 2 rejected logos live another day successfully. Both are on this website, both used by happy clients. This logo is unused...for now.

May 25, 2018

It was my Grade 5 report card that hinted my path as an inquisitive designer. I was described by my favourite elementary school teacher as being a good, hardworking conscientious student. Great. Love hearing that and no doubt my parents would too.

Then came the sentence that brought forth a feeling of shock and horror in the same way a spider walking across the floor does for me. “Nancy gets bored easy.” Um, WHAT?!? I saw it as insult until I was informed that was NOT the case. I need to be keep my mind stimulated and fill it with things of interest and enlightenment. Sure, then that IS me to a tee.

Flash forward and that remains true in any design project I work on regardless of scope, whether it be a massive rebranding assignment lasting several months, to a corporate brand involving multiple sub-brands, or a one-colour logo for a startup business. I’ve been a lifelong learner and continue to enjoy learning/teaching new things with every client, project and design challenge. This year has been good so far from a creative fulfillment standpoint (bit of a slowdown as Spring arrived) but the change truly began as far back as Fall 2016 over dinner with a designer-friend.

We challenged each other to do more self-directed projects alongside our daily work routines. Ambitious, but hopeful, I thought about some ideas and jotted them down. Then real life happened and it was put aside. Halloween (a year later!) soon rolled around and I was giving a design presentation at my alma mater. It came up again when a design student innocently asked me if I’d ever considered doing personal projects. I smiled knowingly and said, “You know what? I haven’t for a long time, but I really should.” As soon as I said the word “should", plans were put in motion and I said YES more often.

Since then, a “what if” conversation sharing my enthusiasm of ideas with a local printer became a reality, leading into an ambitious yet beautiful typographic design piece for Mitchell Press. It involved 14 different paper stocks, 66 fonts (some readily available, many lesser known or very limited release) and 66 digital colour print combinations. Also in the wings is a short-run photography book, a brand identity for a creative speakers group and an already sought-after handlettering letterpress card design for a paper company.

Like the first “what if” scenario, this project began over a conversation about the kind of things I value as the target audience (putting myself in the tough client/consumer role). It soon evolved into a series of excited emails, me sketching out ideas, taking a picture with my iPhone and sharing my thinking on a call to my paper rep as she sat in her car after a meeting. It was approved and hundreds of handlettered words were soon produced.

I also took to social media sharing the whole process in real time as teasers to build interest, as well as a way for me to be accountable to ensure real design success every step of the way. The experiences I had throughout (creative, production, supplier and friend relationships altogether) could not have gone better, and the results of keeping myself 100% invested in every part, big or small truly paid off. Also deeply rewarding is my personal distribution of these passion pieces rather than the easy route of bulk mailing. As much as possible, I delivered them in person to key people that I wanted to thank to their faces and let them know how much their support, encouragement, friendship, inspiration and kindness meant to me. Their responses of anticipation, surprise, and delight coupled with hugs, a few kisses and warm impromptu conversations over coffee or a meal, made for some of the most heartwarming and gratifying times in my life. At one point I wished that I documented the visits with selfies or videos as one does these days...and yet the beauty of experiencing these personal connections is far greater than having to record everything as some kind of proof that it happened. One recipient said to me, "You know, this will pay you in dividends."

In the end that’s what I always hope for. That this investment of self-directed projects never becomes boring or taken for granted. That I am able to show other skills and interests that could lead to similar kinds of work or just remind clients that I'm still here. That great collaborative relationships with other creative people, producers and industries keep happening. That everything I do is worth it to me and to someone seeing or receiving it for the first time. That it inspires others and keeps me inspired to keep on designing projects for likeminded creatives and perhaps make a business out if it. Who knows? One thing I do know though, is this truth...

Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.

Oct 10, 2017

NEVER USE FUTURA by Douglas Thomas

Who doesn't love the typeface Futura? Certainly not Nazi Germany, U.S. Election campaigns, NASA, mid-century design, American malls, Nike, Wes Anderson, Barbara Kruger, Volkswagen, CSA Archive or Aaron Draplin. The previous list is long, but for good reason. This classic geometric san serif has the ability to create rather broad visual languages in a chameleon-like manner, perhaps moreso than any other typographic family in existence. Industrial products, modern fashion, elementary schoolbooks, sports messaging and pretty much everything in between is well-served with the ever-changing character of the world’s most hardworking typeface, Futura.

Their recognizable letterforms have been embraced everywhere and continues to this day (Bon Appetit Magazine, Vanity Fair fashion ads and the influence of geometric sans in current rebrands, just to name a few). As we celebrate this typeface's 90th anniversary, a set of impressive typographic books are being released this Fall. First out of the gate comes “Never Use Futura” from graphic designer, writer, historian and educator Douglas Thomas. I first saw him talk about his love and appreciation for Futura at Typecon Seattle in 2016. His talk was at times humorous, revealing and most enjoyable, very much like this well-researched book. It reads as an expansive essay covering the history of the typeface's creation, its wide usage over the years and where it stands today within the crowded world of digital fonts.

I quite enjoyed nerding out on the many historical details about competitive versions of Futura from different international foundries, as well as the abrasive responses directed towards print publications using “the eccentric, malformed, ugly, and illegible type reflecting cubist art.“ Blasphemy! (Surely, I jest.)

“Never Use Futura” is a satisfying and delicious introduction to all things Futura. In some ways, finishing this book was like that feeling after seeing the film “Memento” when one starts looking at everyday life with different eyes….noticing the finer details that seemed inconsequential. And yet that typeface was hidden in plain sight more than first realized. Whether a lifelong devoted fan or you just like it for its agile robustness, this book will make you always want to use Futura.

Oct 10, 2017

by Carolina de Bartolo

There are so many introductory books on typography and type design, and particular titles are often recommended to students. It’s not to say that the usual classics aren’t worthwhile (they are), but this is a good one that deserves notice.

In 2011, university typography instructor Carolina de Bartolo released the remarkably useful and beautiful, “Explorations in Typography.” Aimed for those arranging type for print, it was a smart and intelligent method to visually demonstrate different ways of setting text with attention to typographic styles, arrangements, spacing, and size. Generously sized for real-world page design scenarios with delicate design features throughout (including yellow gilded edges), an equally useful iPad app version was also released. 6 years on people still read, and reading off screens (both desktop and handheld) are just as vital if not more so than print. Along with the welcome design advancements of typography on websites, tablets, touchscreens and apps, the finer details are just as important as the ability to “learn by looking.”

This completely redesigned and expanded edition diligently explores and enhances the what, how and why of effective typesetting through numerous examples and tips. Suitably supported with an essay from Erik Spiekermann (as in the original edition) and the always-typographically knowledgable, Stephen Coles (responsible for compiling typeface descriptions and an index of alternate fonts either low-cost or free for educational use) you couldn’t ask for a better set of teachers who know what they’re talking about.

With a new robust design (hardcover binding + exquisite finishing), thinner paper stock, increased font styles and sizes, this edition is an essential guide and type specimen for those who want to seriously up their game when handling basic to complex layouts & grid design. While geared for educators and students alike, it is also beneficial for publication or web designers working with large amounts of text that require clarity or typographic hierarchy while maintaining appropriate visual interest.

Continuing with the qualities of being both a resourceful and beautifully produced book, a solid online version provides live testing (with slider bars & clickable tabs for a selection of core fonts), a type combination guide and a PDF of downloadable teaching materials in conjunction with the book’s content. Replacing the iPad app for the first edition, this website itself demonstrates the precepts shown within the 24 chapters covered. In the end, the best design books are ones that have lasting power as a teaching opportunity, a trustworthy guide and as a permanent part of one’s learning & inspirational library. The second edition of “Explorations of Typography” belongs in that category.

Jun 21, 2017

Busy times balance out with more relaxed times. It's been a fruitful year and I couldn't be more grateful to work on personally fulfilling projects with treasured creative partnerships, as shared on Instagram. It's also a time of great reading, learning, inspiration and creative explorations: online classes with Skillshare, web presentations from TypeEd, Typographics NYC & Type @ Cooper, DesignThinkers came to Vancouver, TypeBrigade meetups continue to raise the bar, and more outstanding design titles enter my Goodreads queue. Impressive updated editions from Paul Rand & A Smile in the Mind, fantastic monographs on Paula Scher (very highly recommended!), SPIN & Lance Wyman from Unit Editions, and lots of typography offerings. A new magazine from Fontsmith called TypeNotes, Typo365 volume 2 from the folks at Etapes and Ivan Castro's The ABC of Custom Lettering...the hits just keep coming! However, today's review is about a highly anticipated book from the wonderfully amazing Martina Flor. Enjoy!



A new round of quality designer monographs and retrospectives are making waves again, with superb collections from Paula Scher, Chip Kidd, Aaron Draplin & House Industries. Perhaps through the influential popularity of online video conference talks and courses like CreativeLive, Skillshare or Masterclass, the desire to keep learning on ones own schedule has led to some outstanding "how-to" books from super skilled rockstar lettering artists like Jessica Hische, Ivan Castro and the latest from talented & prolific hand-letterer, Martina Flor.

Rather than a best of portfolio or case study book (while that IS a key part, it’s not what leverages the content), “Golden Secrets of Lettering” is an inclusive, educational primer unlike the many technical Speedball-like/how-to Calligraphy books that are primarily filled with step-by-step photos or use repetition as way to learn. This book focuses on the thinking and craft of lettering (the “golden secrets”) from a modern day master using well-written and visually crafted explanations at an introductory-intermediate skill level. There’s a fair amount of her handwriting and sketches throughout that not only give you a personal tour of her process, it makes you feel like you've got exclusive access to her learning/teaching notes in a truly experiential way.

The fundamental difference is the emphasis on learning and understanding first before developing execution or honing technique. It stresses the what and why before the how, with many “aha” moments brought to light as one reads through this easily digestible and enjoyable book. Numerous tips and thoughtful, detailed explanations in everyday language make this book a keeper and a valuable resource at any learning or experience level. It also inspires and urges one to practice practice practice, and to find his or her own unique lettering voice rather than copy a particular or singular direction of how to create lettering. Case in point is her encouragement to start sketching without the use of rulers or grid sheets, or sketchbooks. It’s all about working loose, relaxed and without any pressure towards permanence or rigid perfection. That all comes with experience, as spoken by someone well-versed in this craft.

Flor also discusses the DNA of letterforms, relationship structures, and learning how to trust optics vs. mathematical measurement in common-sense language. Her succinct yet aspirational writing style makes understanding clear and lettering goals achievable for all. She also walks through the process of creating the cover lettering as well as the professional side of doing this for a living, making one aware of real-world challenges along the way. First released as a German edition, then quickly followed by English-language, there is an upcoming version for the Spanish market, ensuring that an introduction to Martina Flor’s secrets are heard in any language. Take note this book may not be for ALL lettering enthusiasts, particularly those who are at, or seek more technical, higher level details in lettering customization. I would turn to Tommy Thompson, Ivan Castro or Helm Wotzkow’s classic, “The Art of Hand Lettering” as well as curated Instagram or Pinterest boards as a resource for advanced lettering work. If this is the first book you ever read on lettering, it will definitely get you off to a good start.