INTRODUCTION: When I started my career in graphic design there were a lot of Photoshop tools that I thought I’d never touch. If it didn’t clone, buff, stitch, fill, recolour, enhance, warp, stretch, squish, enlarge, shrink, mask, sharpen, blur, merge, or patch I didn’t really see the purpose. However, I had always been an admirer of beautifully crafted abstractions. The digital art that designers were creating for a new aesthetic. 3D blobs of colour, paint marbling, glitch effects, bizarre patterns, wild lighting effects, and simplified geometric designs are all examples of abstractions that add to the designer’s repertoire. In this post, I explore the easiest way to create abstract colour blobs and take a look at a brush tool that is often overlooked–the Mixer Brush tool.
Getting to know the Mixer Brush tool
For anyone that thought the standard Brush tool was a powerful way of painting digitally…meet the Mixer Brush tool. Capable of sampling more than one colour at a time while simulating real paint mixing and brush wetness this tool is the answer to “What would a professional painter simulation program look like?”. There are a multitude of settings to explore here and I would encourage anyone that wants to create digital paintings to do a deep dive into the various settings to create their next masterpiece. However, for this tutorial we are just concerned about using the Mixer Brush tool with the Hard Round Brush Tip Shape with a Dry, Heavy Load set at Wet 0% , Load 100%, Flow 100%, Smoothing 100%, and Spacing at 1%.
This setting will simulate a steady flow of thick paint. When a gradient or mixture of colours is sampled for use with this brush setting it will create a variety of colour combinations based on the direction and orientation of your stroke. Try going from right to left, left to right, bottom to top, top to bottom and any variety of orientations for different colour combinations using the same colour sample.
STEP ONEFind or create a nice gradient or mix of colours and sample it using the Mixer Brush tool (using the settings above).
STEP TWOUsing the Mixer Brush “paint” a few curvy lines.
STEP THREE Add depth with dropshadows in one of two different ways. Either use the dropshadow function in the Blending Options window or create drop shadows using the shapes of the gradient lines. Below shows the latter.
To create dropshadow blocks, Command + click on the image in the layer you wish to make a dropshadow for. This makes a pixel selection. Create a new layer and fill in the selection with a dark colour. Deselect the layer and offset that layer from the original multi-coloured line layer. Apply a Gaussian Blur to the dropshadow block of dark colour and change the Opacity of the layer to 50% or lower and the transparency to Multiply.
BONUS STEPSUse the Liquify filter to make the brush strokes more blob-like before adding dropshadows. Make the brush tip large when working in the filter panel and click and drag very slowly and slightly in order to get subtle deviations and smooth blobs.
Layering your dropshadows to make the depth more realistic. When objects are layered on top of each other in 3D space their shadows cast differently according to their distance from each other. In order to create this illusion easily and quickly, we need to apply layers of shadows and remove the objects from each dropshadow layer according to their position in space. The closer the top object is to the object below the smaller the offset from the object casting the shadow.
Flipping the bird, the single-digit salute, giving the finger or flipping someone off—no matter how you phrase it, the gesture is the same. Middle finger extended to the sky with the other digits in flexion or converted into some sort of gnarled claw. Often regarded as a symbolic act of defiance, disdain and rebellion, it has been ingrained into the psyche of punk rock and pop culture for a long time. Ignoring the fact that the ancient meaning of the gesture was slightly more nefarious and offensive, we now see celebrities jumping on the middle finger bandwagon. It seems as though no one is interested in subtlety or hiding their disdain anymore. Either that or there is some sort of street cred and perceived edginess behind the act. But, I digress. It is a way of defining yourself as someone that “doesn’t give a F✱CK!” and that’s not always a bad thing. While we often look up to the people that break from the pack and march the beat of their own drum. There is a certain degree of bravery in going against the norms to forge your own path. This is where the “pretty bird” damask patterning makes the most sense—at its core, it is a way of saying I forge my own path haters be damned!
Damask has deep connections with decadence and the exotic. Before the industrial revolution people sought after the most unique damask patterns to help define their own aesthetic. A modern equivalent to finding these unique fabric patterns would be in discovering underground music, seeking out burgeoning fashion designers and creating your own individual aesthetic that refuses to conform to popularity. After all, “variety is the spice of life”. Flipping the bird, even a pretty one, on conformity and banality is living life with a punk rock edge. Be a flipping pretty bird and let that damask pattern fly.
As the second piece in the punk damask series I wanted to pay homage to the mixtape. While audio cassettes have recently had a modest revival with hipsters and record companies for their low-cost in production and their difficulty in conversion to digital format, long gone are the days when people would share mixtapes.
I can remember how much it meant to me to get a mixtape from a friend. You could almost measure the depth of a meaningful friendship by the number of mixtapes that were carefully prepared and shared. The amount of time it would take to fill a 60 or 90 minute tape with carefully curated songs was always appreciated. How close the new music would match your personal preference or challenge your perceptions of music would also indicate how well your friend knew you. Sometimes songs were strategically recorded from the radio when they aired for the first time. Other times it was a collection of new favourites.
Explicit content was all the rage in middle school. It seemed like the parental advisory sticker was less a deterrent than it was a call to action.
Sometimes it was a way of sneaking music into the house that otherwise would have been banned from consumption by juvenile ears. Often purposely mislabeled “Tiffany” or “Wilson Phillips” these tapes would contain the likes of Mudhoney, Soundgarden, Nirvana, Ministry, the Ramones, Public Enemy and Pearl Jam. Explicit content was all the rage in middle school. It seemed like the parental advisory sticker was less a deterrent than it was a call to action. When a favourite band didn’t have the sticker they were said to have “gotten rid of their edge” to placate the PMRC. Looking back it seems as though it was just another form of rebellion that no one paid much attention to.
The mixtapes had a life of their own too. Played in a rogue player they could be warped, chewed and mangled, forever changing the playback and quality. My mixtapes were no strangers to the Canadian winter neither, often suffering from hypothermia and never fully recovering. Seeing as those mixtapes were unique (often the only ones of their kind in existence) they would still be played through the stretched and garbled sections and parts held together with Scotch tape. It meant I had a special version of a song that no one else had.
However, my mixtape collection is no more. I no longer own a cassette player. My love for all kinds of music has remained. But lost are the mixtapes of my youth.
The value of graphic design should never be up for debate. It surrounds us and is a valuable part of communicating in a modern world. I guarantee that if you stopped for a few seconds and looked around your office you would see many subtle unobtrusive ways in which graphic design has permeated your workspace. It’s in the layout of the apps on your screen, the logos on your office supplies, the designs on your favourite mug, the colours of your pack of breath mints, and even in the clothes you wear. Products aren’t made on a whim neither. They are carefully illustrated and designed on-screen and paper way before they are ever prototyped. Every part of our modern life is influenced by design be it good, bad, and even ugly. In order to discuss why design should be used for GOOD, we must first talk about the practice of design and its ability to motivate people.
Design skills, much like creativity can be nurtured and developed. I’ve seen students that knew very little of design, become excellent designers through perseverance, desire to learn more, and practice. Another reason I believe design is a unique skill that can be developed is based on the fact that it doesn’t rely solely on artistic merit. Some people would even argue that art and design are separate in their focus and function and should not even be compared. Although the goals of art and design can be similar one would argue that design aims to create pragmatic clarity in the world around you while art focuses on creating a profound emotional response. Furthermore, there’s a fallacy of thought going around that ALL graphic designers can draw (paint, sculpt, photograph etc…) and vice versa. But, I know this is not true. Sure there are a lot of graphic designers that can draw and a lot of traditional illustrators that can design, but these skills are not mutually exclusive. So where am I going with this train of thought…Oh yeah… NOT EVERYONE is a graphic designer. Yet some of the tools that people have at their fingertips can make them think they are. If everyone is using the same tools the same way creativity stagnates and no one is making anything worth paying attention to. It is this recognition that improves the value of professional graphic design.
Graphic design is considered a profession by those that value its power to influence perceptions and change minds. You need to look no further than a political campaign to see how much emphasis is placed on looking the part. Patriotic, confident, trustworthy, readable, legible, simple and in the correct party colours are all characteristics of good political campaign graphics that can help influence opinions and reinforce party values. Some graphics have become synonymous with a specific community or group. For example, just seeing the rainbow flag in a storefront is an indication that the store is LGBT-friendly. Similarly, some colours have become synonymous with specific political parties and to deviate would be confusing to their constituents. Heck, even evil regimes know the power of design in trying to add legitimacy to their twisted causes, commanding attention, and instilling fear of dissent. It is for these reasons that I am careful and deliberate in how I apply my design skills. If you aren’t using your skills for good what’s the alternative?
Of course, every designer has to squeak out a living from their craft. But I don’t think a compromise of values has to occur to make it work. Honesty and authenticity is a mark of good design. Social enterprise is on the rise and more companies are adopting a truer approach to design. Yes, there’s always going to be hyperbole, metaphor, allusion, and humour to help point out comparisons and convey visual messages in relatable terms, however, when the end goal is rooted in truth it can be argued that this is good design. I would also argue that so long as the design doesn’t seek to do harm, but instead brings a smile to our faces or makes us think then it is GOOD.
Imagine if every humanitarian nonprofit organization saw enough funding each year to keep staff and do the best work possible for the communities that they serve. We would likely see poverty decrease, health and well-being improve, education systems get better, greater equality, cleaner environments, sustainable growth, and an improvement on the happiness index. However, this is not the case. In fact, we see many nonprofits struggle to keep going or settle for something less than ideal in order to keep doing the valuable work that is required of them. Of course, there are a number of nonprofit organizations that do overwhelmingly good for themselves, the costs of their marketing and overhead are often quite high, but the amount of money that gets invested into their projects is also high. These high earning nonprofit organizations are often the ones that can afford to run national campaigns and work with an agency of record or support an entire marketing department complete with their own dedicated graphic designer. They’re polished, legit, and make their donors and contributors feel special. They have a name that people have heard of and know. It’s great to help them and contribute to their causes but a small contribution doesn’t go very far. Consistently volunteering will go further, but it isn’t always possible to carve out the time (especially if you’re an independent contractor). This is why I will sometimes offer my skills and expertise on a limited basis to projects of importance for nonprofit organizations. This is why I choose to use my graphic design skills for good. By empowering organizations with fresh design work based on their immediate needs you are able to give them confidence, legitimacy, professionalism, and a visual voice they otherwise would not be able to afford. The hope is that in turn, they will be able to raise the funds necessary to grow their profile, do more for their community, and become successful enough that they can afford to pay for professional services when required.
However, there is a set of criteria for nonprofits that I follow in assessing whether or not I will do the work pro bono:
Is the nonprofit organization improving lives? Their cause needs to be something that is for the betterment of people within the community and the organization cannot be seen as discriminatory in any way.
Does the nonprofit organization employ other creatives? The organization can’t have an agency of record or currently work with a graphic designer. If an organization has paid for graphic design in the past or can afford to pay they do not need my help for free.
Are they registered? They must be a registered nonprofit organization or be in the process of becoming one.
Are they a large nonprofit organization? The nonprofit organization must be small. If there is a large number of people on staff or the funds that are raised each year are such that marketing should be within their budget I likely won’t work with them. This may seem harsh, but I want to work with nonprofits that really need my help and avoid being taken advantage of or stealing a job from someone else.
I also have to consider my approach and what gives my services value by asking myself a few questions first:
Do I have the capacity to take on the task? I need to have the means to help and make a difference. I am by no means a social enterprise. I need to make a living with my creative skill set, which is why I need to limit how much work I do for free over the course of a year.
Does the nonprofit organization I want to work with know the value of my services? It is important to place value on the services rendered even if no money changes hands. I try to dedicate $5,000 or more in free services to nonprofit organizations each year. I will usually send an invoice even if the invoice is just a statement of costs with a 100% discount.
Is this something I believe in and will it be FUN? Finally, a pro bono project needs to have a fun factor. If the job is going to allow me to be my most creative, be experimental, add to my portfolio, and allow me to learn more that is often payment enough. The job also has to help do some GOOD for a cause I believe in.
To conclude my ramblings, I have found that it is important to realize the power of design in making positive changes in the community. By helping those in need while following specific criteria we can help to direct focus where it is needed most to make the biggest impact. If we are always seeking to convey messages of truth we can feel good about the work we do. This is the importance of using graphic design for GOOD.
There are a few schools of thought when it comes to providing logo options to clients as a part of the design process. Some would say that it confuses the process and can leave your client doubting your expertise, after all, you’re the expert and they are looking to you for guidance. Others would say that by creating a few carefully crafted options you are showing your creative chops while illustrating how well you’ve listened to their ideas and answers to creative questions.
I’m in the latter school of thought when it comes to logo design….with a few important caveats.
1) Not every stage of the design process requires options.
By providing options in the early stages of the design process you are involving your client in the decision-making process and gleaning more ideas about their preferences that they might not have articulated in the creative brief.
However, once an option has been selected there is no real point in presenting more options unless you’re simply making refinement adjustments to your client’s selection. Presenting more options at this point might frustrate and confuse your client.
2) Make sure your logo options match the creative brief.
Nothing is worse than having to explain why none of your designs incorporate the client’s set of must-sees. If you can’t back up your creative solutions based on previously agreed-upon terms be prepared for rejection.
However, when each option follows the creative brief and represents a snapshot of possible options you’re showing that you have considered a multitude of viable solutions. When your client has this concise set of options to choose from they feel included and heard.
You can include a rationale that provides evidence to support your choices following the creative brief and allow your client some time to make a decision.
3) Make sure your logo options are recognizably different from a distance.
Simple colour tints and shades don’t make too much difference in the early stages of logo design. If a set of options are simply subtle permutations of another option pick your choice of one for presentation. The time for details comes last.
4) Don’t include logo options you don’t like.
This sounds like a very stupid thing to say, however, sometimes as designers we get so caught up in creating multiple options to prove our creative worth that we include something we would not have chosen for ourselves. Put a limit on the number of options you will present and stick with it. If an option is not working out ditch it.
You should only present the logo options you would be proud to use yourself. After all, a project done well can always be used for your portfolio. A project you don’t want to be associated with will only haunt you.
NOTE: There is no image for this section. I do my best to delete the option that I don’t like and erase it from my memory. Why would I hang onto my worst work? A question for another post perhaps.
5) Try to leave colour out of it.
Logo options should be in black and white in the concept phase unless expressly requested otherwise. A good logo should stand out without including pops of colour. By removing colour you are forcing your client to assess the options based on form and function alone. Colours can be polarizing and everyone has their preferences. I’ve seen some great designs tossed to the wayside because the client said they weren’t the right colour.
If you are going to have colour in the early stages try to show what the logo would look like in black and white as well. There will almost always be a time when a single colour black or white logo can be used.
6) Don’t turn your logo options into a pick your combo lunch special.
This tip is difficult to get some clients to comprehend. When we are given options and we don’t see the exact option that resonates with us or we get paralyzed by choice we have a tendency to want to take different elements from various choices and mash them together to make a new option. The conversation then becomes similar to the takeaway combo lunch special where you choose a drink, a main, and then a side dish – the possible combinations seem endless. The result is the soul-crushing Franken-logo that often leaves someone displeased with the outcome. What’s worse is when you’ve devoted your time to creating the logo abomination only to get the same unsatisfied response from the client and you start the process over again.
One way to avoid this is to be confident in what you present and make sure each option is on a separate page with rank indicators in order according to your favourites. It’s like being the chef that says “no substitutions” and also has a recommendation or special of the day. I always add a tab at the top of the page that indicates my first choice and I always have a rationale to back it up.
When this approach doesn’t work I still try to keep the Franken-logo away from the villagers by asking what the client likes and dislikes about each logo option with a promise of a new option that takes those thoughts into consideration.
7) Write a concise rationale.
Not everyone thinks or creates in the same way. If they did the world would be boring. However, it is for this reason that you might want to consider your reasons for design choices and how those are based in fact rather than your personal preference. A client has the luxury of choosing based on preference and that is a fact. The designer needs to create based on a combination of facts and preferences on order to develop the best-rationalized outcome.
Let me break it down using a couple of examples: EXAMPLE 1 FACT: Black and white create the highest contrast possible while colours opposite each other on the colour wheel create the highest contrast colour combos. PREFERENCE: I like blue. OUTCOME & RATIONALE: Dark blue on white and Dark blue on bright orange have been used to create the highest possible contrast while using your preference of the colour blue.
EXAMPLE 2 FACT: Bebas Neue Pro is a modern condensed sans serif font family that has been compared to Helvetica but is more affordable. PREFERENCE: I want a modern font that’s like Helvetica, but I don’t want Helvetica. OUTCOME & RATIONALE: Bebas Neue Pro was selected because it is modern and readable like Helvetica, but its uniqueness and affordability make it ideal for your new logo.
By stating things clearly in terms that address both fact and preference you are able to provide a rational and pragmatic reason for your design choices that brings validity to your logo design option.
SO WHY EVEN PROVIDE OPTIONS?!?
In the early stages of the logo design process, you are still getting to know your client and better understand their business. You are also in the process of establishing a business relationship. If your client is going to trust your decisions it is important to include them in the creative process. You are the expert, however, you are going to have to prove it.
Logo options help guide the design process and give insights into the mind of your client. You’ll be able to understand their preferences for future design solutions by the choices they make.
By providing logo options you are illustrating the value and importance of your design process. You are also showing your dedication to getting the project completed correctly the first time.
Alternatively, by presenting one logo option you are effectively saying that you know everything about your client and that there could only be one possible solution for them. This is dangerous territory to be in. If you get it wrong your client may think your hubris isn’t worth working with you. You can also expect to have to go through many logo changes and reiterations to make it to the solution. If you get it right kudos, your mindreading skills are on point. JK. This can happen from time to time, however, you can expect you to get it wrong more than you get it right.
Finally, these tips are not rigid rules. As best as I try to follow them and find they work for me there are always exceptions. You may find another way to produce logos for clients that works best for you. The main idea is that options are not a bad thing and by creating options you are giving your creative problem-solving skills a boost while involving your client in the design process.
Great opportunities to truly collaborate don’t come around too often. But when they do they are truly special.
When I met the You Are Collective for the first time we knew there was an important connection that needed to be made between the LGBTQ2IA+ community, its allies and mental health, but it took time to figure out what that would look like. We knew we wanted designed apparel we would all be proud to wear ourselves. We also knew we wanted to dedicate a portion of proceeds to a cause that meant something to the LGBTQ2IA+ community and had a close tie to the mental health initiatives of You Are Collective. The result was a thoughtfully designed collection of T-shirts, stickers, and hats of which a portion of the proceeds goes towards the local LGBTQ2IA+ and allies youth group. We felt it was important to support this group whose main focus is to create a safe space for individuals to be themselves and support each other.
I love breaking out all the colours of the crayon box for Pride-themed designs. However, this project was about more than trying to be colourful it was about making apparel that makes a statement. When we really break it down the cornerstone of Pride is equality and acknowledgement that LOVE = LOVE no matter who you are. So I decided to create a graphic that would say that with a combination of words, shapes, and colours in its most simplistic of forms. Many experiments were done before reaching a final design that incorporated a 3D multi-chromatic heart intertwined within the word LOVE housed within a box. The technique that was used to create the twisting 3D multi-chromatic heart design was something I had always wanted to learn how to do, but I needed a good reason to do it. Fortunately, this technique fits so nicely as an expression of Pride and the spectrum of identities that are part of the LGBT2QIA+ community I felt it could finally be explored.
The ALLY treatment needed to represent what an ally was in a separate way from the LOVE design. I wanted to create something that an ally to the LGBT2QIA+ community could wear with pride as a way of including them in the celebration. I often think of an ally as someone who is there standing with you in the rain on the bad days as well as celebrating with you in the sun on the good days. It is friendship and love in action; providing strength, support, and understanding when we need it most. This is why the word ALLY was set in a similar way as the LOVE graphic but within a rain of rainbows instead of a heart. It signifies the importance of the strength and support of an ally when the rain starts to fall.
The result is a collection of designs created out of love and respect for the LGBT2QIA+ community and the allies that help support it. A collaboration with an exceptional social enterprise donating a portion of proceeds to help support the well-being of LGBT2QIA+ youth, their friends and allies within the community.
As a graphic designer there is no end to the number of add-ons, brush sets, ornaments, images, filters, and other design tools out there for purchase. Some are amazing and save you a bit of time when trying to create that perfect look, but who has an unlimited fortune dedicated to buying tools you might only use once. Sometimes creating the brush you are looking for can take less time than searching for it on an online digital marketplace. In this tutorial, I go through the simple steps to take in creating an animal print pattern brush. Be sure to save your work often and make duplicate layers for each step so you can return to a previous step without using ⌘ + Z over and over again.
1) Find source material.
Find an image of a pattern from which to draw inspiration. Pexels is a good place to start as it has many images that can be used for free. For this tutorial, I am using just a section of zebra stripes for inspiration.
2) Draw your pattern in Illustrator.
Using the image as inspiration, set up an Illustrator file at 4″ x 4″ and Place (Shift (⇧) + ⌘ + P) the file on the Artboard. (The dimensions of the image don’t really make a difference.)
Lock the layer by clicking in the small square next to the eyeball on the layer that contains the image in your layers panel.
Window >> Layers then click on the [ ] in the layers panel beside the eye.
Set a maximum height to your pattern using guides by simply dragging guides from your ruler along the top of the workspace window. You can set up your ruler as follows…
View >> Rulers >> Show Rulers
In a new layer…
Window >> Layers then click on the [+] at the bottom of the layers panel
…start drawing shapes with the Pencil Tool (N) by loosely following the stripes in the zebra pattern while keeping the height of each stripe the same. Draw the stripes from the top guide to the bottom guide on the Artboard.
Don’t worry about the details. your stripes don’t need to look the exact same as the natural stripe patterns of the zebra image.
3) Duplicate your pattern and find the repeating point.
Once you are happy with your pattern. Duplicate it by selecting the entire pattern and placing it directly beside itself.
Hold Alt/Option (⌥) + click (and hold) + hold Shift (⇧) + drag in that order one after the other
Using the Pencil Tool (N), add in another stripe or two between the duplicated patterns to fill in the gaps. This should make the duplicate patterns look like one continuous pattern.
Select All (⌘ + A) and Group (⌘ + G) the patterns together. You should then consolidate the group by using ⌘ + 8 (Compound Path >> Make). This Command works by taking a group of several individual pieces and consolidates it so it can be treated like one object.
Using your ruler on the left side of the workspace click + drag a guide to an anchor point on a repeating stripe within the pattern. Place a second guide on the exact same anchor point on the repeating stripe’s clone.
You should now have a frame made of four guides that contains the exact pattern you will use to make your brush. Draw a rectangle that fills the frame using the Rectangle Tool (M) by clicking and dragging from the top left corner of the frame to the bottom right corner of the frame.
Select All (⌘ + A) and click on the Intersect icon in the Pathfinder panel (Shift (⇧) + ⌘ + fn + F9). This will create a cropped version of the pattern that will be used to make the seamless pattern brush.
4) Create a seamless pattern brush.
Drag and drop your new pattern into the Brushes panel (fn + F5). A dialogue box will pop-up with Scatter Brush, Art Brush and Pattern Brush as options. Scatter Brush– is exactly as it sounds. A brush that scatters a pattern along a predetermined path. Cool for creating sparkles, specks, and dust in randomized patterns. Art Brush – takes an object and stretches it along a path. It is great for recreating a single brush stroke with no repeating elements. Pattern Brush – takes an object or pattern and repeats it along a path. It is great for funky borders and repeated elements in a predictable repeated pattern.
You’ll want to select Pattern Brush and click OK.
The next dialogue box will ask you to name the pattern. Name it something that will be easily recognizable, “zebra_v1” for example.
After you’ve named your pattern there are only a couple of settings that need to be changed in order for the seamless brush to work. The first setting to change will affect how the brush will handle sharp corners on the path outside of a shape.
Outer Corner Tile >> Auto-Centered
The Auto-Centered setting works best in adapting the brush to corners. The second setting to change is the Inner Corner Tile which will dictate how the brush will handle the corner on the path inside of a shape.
Inner Corner Tile >> Auto-Centered
5) Test your brush.
Simply draw a line with the Pencil Tool (N) and while that line selected find your new “zebra_v1” brush in your Brushes Panel (fn + F5). Click on it to apply the new brush to your pencilled path.
Voila!! A seamless pattern brush!! You can now manipulate it using the Stroke Panel, expand its appearance to use it as an object, and apply it to shapes or any complex path. This technique can now be used for animal print, florals, damask, and just about any other simple pattern.
If your brush didn’t quite work there are a few things that can be done to troubleshoot the problem. I’ve found the biggest issue can be in creating the perfect frame for the repeating pattern segment. Go back a few steps and try again. Feel free to DM me with your seamless pattern successes and failures.
I have always been intrigued with the ornate patterning of damask. The medieval botanical and whimsical flourishes intricately woven into beautiful infinite patterns are striking even by today’s standards. Damask’s versatility as a reversible fabric with an inverse colour pattern on the other side makes it even more interesting. While damask has a reputation for being ostentatious and overly dramatic, I felt it would be an interesting side project to attempt to blend damask patterning with a “punk/rock” sense of rebellion. A sort of damask for the masses. This first experiment discusses the origins of damask and attempts to blend traditional with the contemporary.
Damask pattern has traditionally been associated with the wealthy and elite. Originally created in China and traded in the prosperous medieval craft centre of Damascus, the pattern’s namesake, damask became synonymous with the exotic and luxurious. Medieval kings and queens sought to acquire damask tapestries and textiles of their own because of their versatility and attractive design. In fact medieval royals went so far as to get monks to steal artisan secrets and smuggle silkworms to have ways of producing their own unique patterns. Damask textiles have seen a number of resurgences in popularity over the centuries. During the Baroque period, a period which was highlighted by artworks of grandeur and exuberance, damask was used in many different ways–including upholstery, wallpaper, and curtains. However, it was arguably at its peak in popularity during the Industrial Revolution. It was at this time, mass production made what was once considered a rich person’s textile into an affordable textile for the working middle class.
The modern technologies of today have led further towards the democratization of damask by making the pattern even easier to draw and produce. Traditional motifs have been cast aside for whatever patterns catch the eye of the consumer. Furthermore, damask has stepped away from the classic reversible fabric to one-sided prints in some instances. My experiment seeks to further the dialogue on what can be classified as damask through edgier and more “punk/rock” subject material. Not having access to a loom or a weaving mechanism myself (at this point in time) I am hoping to showcase the possible use of modern damask patterns through images and digital mock-ups.
My first damask pattern in a series of patterns is a damask skull. This is what damask looks like when someone decides to meld traditional flourishes with edgier modern imagery. Skulls have become a bit of cliché in punk and rock so it was important to make sure the skull wasn’t too obvious and that it still contained traditional flourishes seen in older damask patterning. What has been created is something that was once held in such high regard as a luxurious, now given a new life in a different subculture.
Creating the right logo for your business is a creative exercise that requires research, patience and a deep understanding of your brand message. Knowing what you wish to convey in your logo is the first step in focusing your narrative and clearly communicating your expertise. As well as a key identifier, your logo, says “I know what I am doing”.
“All I need is a logo!”, Maybe you’ve said it or you’ve even thought it. “After all once I have a logo for my business I have something I can put on my website, business cards, packaging, signage, social media pages and letterhead. Once I have a logo I can brand everything easily.” This is a common misconception about the role and use of a logo that is often made when it comes to starting a business brand.
A decent logo can say “I’m doing things well”. A great logo will say “I know what I’m doing and I’m doing it right!”
Nothing says “I DO NOT know what I am doing” more than incorporating some tired cliché into a logo. We’ve all seen them. The fingernail half moons, planets, rocket ships, swooshes, houses, trees, leaves, acronyms in boxes, checkmarks, stylized swoosh people and a tired long list of things that have been exhaustively done already. Using any design cliché also runs the risk of appearing as though you are trying to copy someone and capitalize on their success which can become a copyright infringement nightmare. It is best to avoid cliché altogether and create your own logo following a few unique identifier tips.
“Too many elements does not a logo make” should be a mantra running through your head when designing your own logo.
Here’s something you might not have been told before, but I firmly believe creativity is something that CAN BE learned and developed. Thinking creatively is key to portraying the unique selling features of your business. Try to use some creative thinking exercises. Forego exhaustively trying to make one thing “happen”, like perfecting that realistic representation of what your business does into icon form, and explore your options. Symbols and shapes don’t necessarily need to be obvious representations of their real world counterparts. They can even be abstract so long as they don’t detract from the overall purpose of the logo. However, if you decide to go with a logo that includes a symbol or shape icon that looks like a real world object try to make it your own stylistically. Visual double entendres, ambigrams, abstract designs and well-executed letter marks can make your logo into something special. Looking at several logos that use these techniques can provide you with inspiration. For example The Guild of Food Writers, Spartan Golf Club, MyFonts and The Pittsburg Zoo use visual double entendres. Nine Inch Nails, Abba, Aerosmith and New Man Clothing make use of ambigrams. Mitsubishi, Nike, BHP Billiton, Chase Bank, MasterCard and Sony Vaio are clever abstractions. The logos for Chanel, Toyota, Gucci, Hewlett Packard, IBM and CNN make good use of unique letter marks. But perhaps you don’t even need an icon. Keeping in mind that a logo doesn’t necessarily have to have an icon opens up some more design options in terms of fun typography for a word mark. Just look at Disney, Sony, Visa, Canon, Coca-Cola, Dell, Facebook, Budweiser, Ray Ban and Fed Ex for example. Each word mark is instantly recognizable and uses unique fonts, simple letterform adjustments and/or custom type design in a way that makes sense for their company. Another takeaway from studying logos of big name brands is their simplicity. “Too many elements does not a logo make” should be a mantra running through your head when designing your own logo.
Knowing what you are doing requires that you do your research well. It’s not enough to avoid the design clichés and try to make something original. You should look at the logos of competitors and search for things that may be similar to what you are proposing to design. If your proposed logo looks similar to something that is already created you will need to explore other options. It’s not a bad idea to have people you trust look over your logo to make sure it doesn’t look like something they’ve seen before or like anything that could be mistaken for something else too. This doesn’t mean you couldn’t emulate a certain style for effectively creating, for example, a retro-style logo. What it does mean is you’ve taken the time to make sure you haven’t created something that has already been created. The important thing is that your logo makes sense for your business and is as original as possible. If you don’t have an original logo the same will be assumed of your business.
Following these few tips can help you on your way to creating something much more than a decent logo. A decent logo can say “I’m doing things well”. A great logo will say “I know what I’m doing and I’m doing it right!”.
Stay tuned for the next blog What does your logo say about you? Insight THREE: My logo says “I communicate well”
In business, our actions must be deliberate and well thought out. Whether it is to create awareness, make money, foster relationships or simply reward customers, every action requires some thought before being executed. Actions a business makes are also open to public fanfare or scrutiny. Therefore, it is important that the overall image of a business matches its overall purpose and is created with deliberation.
How to convey that in a logo is no small task. If a logo looks rushed or falls short of considering the details people will wonder if that’s how that business operates. If a business’s logo is a bit messy, the letter spacing is slightly off, it’s a little pixelated, there are weird looking letterforms or the icon/symbol is a bit difficult to decipher, people will wonder if that’s an indication of the attention to detail a customer can expect from that business. It is easy to venture down this path of “good enough” to save on time and cost. However, creating a quick logo and calling it a day is somewhat of a “false start” because re-designing a logo after it has been printed onto merchandise, signage, business cards, products, letterheads etc.. is a costly endeavour that shouldn’t have to happen if the logo is done right the first time.
Being deliberate in all aspects of your logo and trying to keep it clean and simple is not as easy as it seems. However, it is of utmost importance in assuring that nothing is misconstrued. This means spending time with your logo and making decisions based on how clear and sharp it looks up-close and from a distance. Making sure that your logo is a scalable vector file is one way to achieve this (files such as an .eps, .svg or .ai). Keeping a logo clean and simple also means assuring that your logo doesn’t look like something unintended. Clarity in design should eliminate any missteps in visual double entendre. Just take a look at the logos that pop up after typing “worst logo designs” in a web browser and you can see just how something that might have been created with good intentions could go horribly wrong. There is such a thing as being “too close” to a project, whereby you no longer see the faults in your design. Taking a step back and looking at your logo from multiple angles can help you regain perspective. Getting someone you trust to look it over and give honest feedback could also help. The important thing is not to leave anything in logo design to chance.
Demographics with specific needs may respond better to businesses that speak directly to them and understand them.
Considering your audience and their affinity to certain things such as typefaces, colours, and letterforms will save you from alienating the people you are trying to reach. Your audience might be predominantly online which generally means they read sans-serif fonts on a regular basis. It also means they are accustomed to seeing things with higher contrast which means the use of bolder colours might work well in your logo. Demographics with specific needs may respond better to businesses that speak directly to them and understand them. For example, if you had a business that was designing a special software that helped people with vision challenges you would want to make sure your logo was well-spaced, a bit larger and had a great amount of contrast. You would make sure nothing in your logo was too abstract and that no unique letterforms were used. You would also make sure to use a monochromatic colour palette with very few tints or shades, possibly a one colour logo that passes the test of an online colour contrast checker. (You’d also want to make sure you adhere to good accessibility design practices beyond your logo, but for the sake of this article I am only going to focus on the logo). By taking the time to think about where your logo is going to be seen, who is going to see it and in which media it will be seen from the beginning, you are able to make some deliberate and purposeful design decisions that should give your business the identifier it deserves. This means considering things aside from personal preference and making some decisions based on research and fact.
Knowing your audience demographic and catering to their specific needs and interests in designing a logo shows how deliberate and purposeful you are in business. Although most people will not take notice of some of the best design, poor design is off-putting and easy to spot. Carefully executed design is another way of showing just how much you care about your customers and the success of your business.
What does your logo say about you? Insight TWO: My logo says “I know what I’m doing”