Behind the Typedia Logo Design

by John Langdon

This is the deep story of the creation of the Typedia logotype. I had met Jason Santa Maria through our mutual friend and design colleague, Dan Mall. Dan had told me that Jason (at the time, aided by Khoi Vinh) was putting together a major compendium of typographic matter for a website under the name of “Typedia.”

The Brief

To begin, here are some excerpts from Jason’s first e-mail message to me on the subject of Typedia:

We need a strong logo, and I love my fellow Philadelphians. Luckily you are exceptionally good with logos and also with living in Philadelphia. So you were the natural choice.

First, some background…

The site is called “Typedia”. Basically, Typedia will be an always-growing, community-based website for the categorization of typefaces. It will be populated by its community of users (since it’s truly a gigantic task), but will be regulated by its editors, a group of trusted type aficionados and enthusiasts (this will eventually be a large group of people). By categorizing fonts based on a standardized set of criteria (which Mark is formulating), we will allow users to add font listing to the site. […] This is where it becomes powerful: because each font will have this associated criteria attached to it, we can put every font into context with one another by comparing and grouping that information. In short, you would be able to find fonts based on information about them (besides just their name) and also be able to find related fonts based on that same information. Over time, this could become a massive resource for font research, inspiration, and learning. The site will be run like a “Wiki”. […] Hence, the community-based aspect.

Khoi and I have been discussing direction for the logo. We feel it’s important for the logo to be representative of typography. not necessarily “all fonts” (like some awful ransom note or something), but more the essence of centuries of typography. Because of that, custom type work will probably suit us best since we don’t want to use any particular existing font.

At first I thought that there was little helpful direction in that briefing. So I started where I always start: writing the word in a number of different configurations—caps, lower case, mixtures—exploring shape relationships. But soon I realized that I was taking some helpful ideas from Jason’s description. I agreed with this point:

We feel it’s important for the logo to be representative of typography. not necessarily “all fonts” (like some awful ransom note or something), but more the essence of centuries of typography. Because of that, custom type work will probably suit us best since we don’t want to use any particular existing font.

I had designed a logo 25 or so years ago for Armstrong Typography, and rather than use any particular typeface, the appeal of which might be affected by trends in type selection, I had created a formal script that couldn’t be set in type, but did bespeak quality and excellence and a sensitivity regarding letterforms. Although I love using type in graphic design projects, in logo design, I’m never completely satisfied with any font as it exists. Quality in type design requires that many potentially distinctive details be distilled out of the letterforms, in order to allow for harmonious text in thousands of combinations with other letters, in innumerable situations, unforeseeable by the type designer. By contrast, the letters in a logotype can be designed to fit the specific relationships of the letters surrounding it, and a logo must exhibit some degree of distinctiveness in order to do its job well.

Based on this comment…

I don’t think anything will ever be neutral enough, so he may as well go the whole way, you know? Like, he can use fancy typographic elements, ligatures and so forth…

…I not only felt free to explore some typographic excesses, but felt they might really be called for in representing a site that celebrated the visual joys and aesthetic pleasures that can be derived from the infinite opportunities that type offers.

So, really, he can be as arcane and typo-geeky as he wants.

I’m there.

Here are (reduced images of) my actual pages of open-ended, open-minded, non-judgmental exploration.

These pages will give a glimpse into a couple of aspects of my creative design process. Page 1a is a half an 8.5” x 11” sheet that I pulled out of the recycling bag; 1b and 1c are both sides of a junk mail envelope that must have been immediately below that half sheet in the bag. Although I don’t feel terribly intimidated by the empty page—and often do my exploratory sketches in a sketch book or on pages of my layout pad—I do believe doing the early sketching on crappy paper reduces the pressure to put something good on the page right away. This is, of course, graphic design’s version of the advertising industry’s venerated cocktail napkin.

I work in all four directions on any given page. I’m not entirely certain how this habit got started, but I think it’s because turning to a new (blank!) page interrupts the flow of the sketching process—each new scribble being a direct reaction to all the previous attempts. It has the added benefit of allowing me to inadvertently see the letters and words from unorthodox vantage points, often revealing unanticipated graphic relationships.

Here, culled from those pages, are the sketches I sent to Jason and Khoi, presented in a more organized fashion, and numbered so that we can discuss them more easily.

And here are the notes I sent along with the sketches:

  1. Ornate: thick and thin, elegant, extravagant, Ed Benguiat, Tom Carnase, Tony diSpigna; could be a good bit more attractive than this sketch indicates, I think
  2. Little marks, slugs
  3. Like 2, Little marks, slugs
  4. I love this, but it’s probably too close to the fabulous T that the NYT Magazine has been using…
  5. Monoweight, slightly heavier than what you see here
  6. Like 5, Monoweight, slightly heavier than what you see here
  7. The history of type in one word… IMHO, predictable and boring
  8. Monoweight, about the weight you see here
  9. Monoweight, about the weight you see here. I would shorten the descenders a little
  10. An attempt at a contemporary blackletter… Boooring
  11. Monoweight, about the weight you see here
  12. Monoweight, a little heavier that what you see here. Probably comparable to #8.

8 and 11 are my faves

Initial Feedback

Khoi and Jason responded:

The direction that Khoi and I feel comes closest to where we want to take this is #1. But with that said, #1 isn’t quite it. As Khoi remarked, “It’s in the right neighborhood, but it’s not the right house”. We love the elegance and refined connotation of it, but at the same time we feel like legibility might be an issue, and we miss having a more consistent baseline. It probably could be less ornate and a bit more reserved.

We don’t want to tie your hands, so we will try to sum up the feeling we want from the logo:

Something that feels like a summation of type history. Should feel refined and knowledge-filled, and classic. Perhaps something rough and time- worn, but distinguished.

I actually really like the idea of time-worn, but still around. Like a distinguished gentleman… a look that shows its years, but is still badass. Like Clint Eastwood eight years ago.

I thought that was great feedback. It narrowed the field, confirmed a number of my instincts, and made me feel like we were all of a similar mind—a feeling that this would work out really well. Their thought that number 1 was closest told me that we wanted to communicate our enthusiasm for letterforms—an exuberant, joyful typography.

Feedback to Revision

It should be “something that feels like a summation of type history,” and yet not the obvious step-by-step metamorphosis through the seven letters. That suggested two things to me. The first was that the Gutenberg Blackletter was appropriate, but not as a pervasive thorough approach to the whole word. That very first typeface from over five hundred years ago had been quickly supplanted as Italian printers brought the classic Roman letters to the new field of type design. Wouldn’t it be appropriate, then, to have an initial cap T that paid homage to Gutenberg, but then quickly shifted to the evolution of Roman typestyles? This could be a fairly non-jarring shift, as initial caps are inherently a different animal from lower case letters, and often appear in the history of type use as intentionally decorative and distinct. My second thought was that in the history of type design the classical period is best represented by the typestyles of Giambattista Bodoni and Firmin Didot. Although thousands of typefaces have been created since the 18th century, we still refer to their fonts as “modern.” The many newer serif styles still fall into the classical categories: Humanist, Old Style, Transitional, and Modern. By choosing a style based on Bodoni and Didot, I would be referring, by implication, to all the historical developments that led up to their development.

The words “refined, knowledge-filled, and classic” seemed to support the “modern” style perfectly. I rejected “rough and time-worn” as being too close to the recently trendy looks of scratched and eroded wood type and other grunge-y “deconstructed” styles. Classic typestyles have stood the test of time with most of their time-worn letters going back into the lead-melting vat. “Distinguished”? How much more distinguished and gentlemanly than Bodoni and Didot can you get? Okay, I had to let “badass” go.

Logo, Version One

I wrote back:

Thanks for the feedback. Your input must have been inspirational, as I love what I’ve done with it.

With the new logo I’ve attached, I’ve kept some of the exuberance and elegance of #1, but given it a strong baseline, and made it much more readable. It is more reserved than #1 was, by virtue of its strong baseline and verticals, but it retains its sense of enthusiasm. I think that enthusiasm, and those flourishes say “we’ll go anywhere typographic. We love it all.”

Although you did not include Bodoni/Didot in your list of aesthetic inspirations, I think they’re certainly classic, and high points in the history of type aesthetics. Rough… No. But refined and distinguished, yes. I really can’t think of a typographic look that commands so much respect. And the (contemporary) Blackletter cap T is of course, a nod to Herr Gutenberg.

Thanks for the very helpful feedback. I’m loving this one. Hope you do too.

They did:

Hi John,

WOW. We are both very very very happy. This is exactly where we wanted to go with this.

I love the hint of the blackletter T. I am really stunned at how you meshed so many styles together. We realize this is a sketch, so we will keep the comments minor (and some of this stuff you may have planned to refine in the final version anyway):

Of all the letters, the “T” seems the least comfortable. It’s not as fluid as the “E” and the “A” and it seems like it should be the most fluid of them all. It seems to have a conflict between round, sweeping sensibility and a vertical, formal quality.

Which isn’t to say we dislike the “T”, we love the blackletter quality of it and don’t want to lose that, we just want to see it become a bit more complimentary. If it means losing the blackletter feel to do it, then I suggest we maintain the blackletter feel.

Also, the logo will likely be much smaller on the website, so we need to make sure those Hairline Serifs read well.

Like I said, very minor commentary, don’t kill yourself over it. This is so beautiful. Great work John!

— Jason and Khoi

Why aren’t all clients like this? Well, because not all clients are deeply in love with typography. But a combination of enthusiastic compliments and some very on-target and helpful specific critiques can’t be beat. They’re making me look good, here!

Version Two

As per my normal process, I enlarged that last pretty tight sketch a couple hundred percent and traced over it, making very precise measurements and refining curves like crazy with a #4 (extra hard) Ticonderoga pencil.

The cap T was the trickiest letter to draw. Comparing it to a traditional Gothic Blackletter cap T shows that heavy vertical much farther from the curved bowl in my version than in this Cloister Black example. I’ve moved it out closer to the center of the curved stroke in order to allow the curve to spiral around and intersect the vertical in a nice oblique and uncomplicated way that relates it to the flourishes of the P, E, and A. You can see that I’ve also “modernized’ the curved bowl by forcing its weighted area all the way to one side, as Bodoni and Didot did with their “Roman” letterforms. All I can tell you is that it was difficult to get that interior vertical stroke to not look terribly awkward (I hope you agree that I succeeded!).

The Blackletter T has been modernized and customized a good bit, and the rest of the letters don’t really look a whole lot like letters you could find in a Bodoni or Didot font showing either. The characteristics that tie them to that Modern group of typestyles are:

  • The extreme contrast between thick and thin strokes, and the very abrupt transitions from one to the other.
  • The “unbracketed” serifs (if you’re unfamiliar with that term, check out the shelves you’ve got hanging from those metal strips on your wall, or the ones in your fridge—those things holding them up are brackets. Most serifs have ‘em; Bodoni and Didot don’t.)

If you’re familiar with Bodoni and Didot, you’ll also be able to see my many departures from those faces. The very slight flares at the ends of the thin flourishes, for example, are a personal favorite detail of mine. Without them, the end of a thin stroke seems arbitrary to me, like, “well, guess it may as well end here…”. I prefer to say, “This is exactly where I want the stroke to end”—to make the last bit of ink (or toner, or whatever) to be like a punch line or dessert—kind of a little tiny celebration at the end of something joyful.

I’ve also got some vertical stems without serifs at all. This is where we stop making the comparison to Bodoni and Didot, and start talking about consistency and harmony in the design of a logotype. As I indicated earlier, the design of a logotype has quite different criteria than the design of a typeface. In a typeface, each letter has to look completely comfortable with any of the other 51 letters on either side of it. In a logotype, each letter has to look right next to only the two letters it’s between. So the design of that letter can be based entirely on those two relationships. Type design is strongly characterized by establishing and following rules. Logotype design is often all about breaking rules.

Serifs on the tops of the P and D would have negatively affected their relationships to the Y and the E, and in the case of the YP combination, kerning would be made more difficult as well. A right-pointing serif on the top of the A’s vertical might have worked, but I like the unencumbered purity of the relationship of the vertical to the encircling flourish. (Is that Freudian?) In addition, there’s a nice rhythm, reading from left to right, of serifed, and non-serifed strokes and letters. That rhythm is secondary to, and supportive of, the rhythm created by the alternating spiral flourishes.

The upper right serif of the Y is bracketed, as Giambattista also did with the ends of light strokes, apparently feeling that the light stroke needed the additional structure to support the serif. I’ve got a completely bracketed serif at the top of the E—not so different from what Bodoni would have done, I suppose, but really necessary here as, without it, the E would be the only letter lacking both a horizontal and a vertical stroke. I maximized that serif to give it as strong a relationship as possible to the vertical of the D next to it.

So far, all my work has been done with yellow pencils with erasers on the tops. It’s only when I have the final pencil drawing done as accurately as I’m able to, that I move to the computer. I scan that drawing and execute the finished art in Adobe Illustrator. One more note, though, about the final pencil drawing. When it was done, I noticed that the cap T didn’t tuck in with the Y as nicely as it had in the previous sketch. The T had been such a pain to get right, that I decided to deal with that little problem in Illustrator.

Version Three—The Final

I sent Khoi and Jason these two versions. Their comments:

The larger T is definitely the one!

This is really beautiful John. Khoi and I both love it. We have two minor revisions if you have time. I’ve attached a screenshot to help explain:

  • The areas where the bowl (?) of the T go from curved to straight are very stiff, especially when compared to a similar spot on another letter like the A. It might be nice to smooth those out a bit. Although, this may destroy the effect you were going for with the pseudo-blackletter. Feel free to discuss.
  • I think one of the points on the inside of the bottom P is off. Compare to the P on top. I only noticed this when I shrank it down smaller (btw, the logo reduces INCREDIBLY).

I really am beside myself with appreciation and admiration, John.

I’ve immodestly included their enthusiastic endorsements so you wouldn’t think they were just a couple of crabby professional nit-pickers. The thing is, they were right. Since we weren’t in the same room with pointy things to indicate what we were referring to, it took several e-mail messages back and forth for me to zero in on what they meant, but ultimately I saw it.

John, I think you’ve nailed it!

We are very satisfied. Are you happy with the logo?

Very. It’s very rewarding to work for people who are so appreciative of what I do and as critical about the details as I am.

About the author: Award-winning logo designer and ambigram originator John Langdon is the creator and author of Wordplay. He created the ambigrams in Dan Brown’s bestseller, Angels & Demons, and his paintings of words have appeared in several galleries and art museum exhibitions. Numerous samples of his work can be seen at www.johnlangdon.net.

Article and imagery © Copyright John Langdon

  • 1. Ryan Sims’s avatar Ryan Sims May 20, 2009

    I remember when JSM showed me the logo a couple months back – he was positively BEAMING. And he should be. The Typedia logo is exquisite and this blog post was mesmerizing—it was really awesome to see both sides of the story here in their own words. You nailed it: If only all clients could articulate their thoughts this well!

    Again, kudos. It’s a beautiful logo.

  • 2. Jaime Morrison’s avatar Jaime Morrison May 20, 2009

    There is so seldom any transparency in the high-gloss veneer that surrounds professional design projects that this write-up, which is positively naked in comparison, made for a really fascinating read. In that the logo is for an open community-driven site, this seems very fitting indeed.

    Beautiful work bolts to nuts. Kudos to cause and effect.

  • 3. Luke Dorny’s avatar Luke Dorny May 20, 2009

    This is absolutely stunning.
    I think upon first load of the site after getting the first email about it, i was so stunned and excited but ready to put my best critical eye forward to analyze the site, logo, etc. and was tense to see it load right before my eyes. Not knowing what to expect, it took me 2 seconds of looking at it to want to know more about the logo.

    Stunning. The logo captures so many different aspects as you describe them in lettering with quite a unique blend of type styles.

    This article is such a wonderful writeup. A perfect intro to the site.

    Great work, Sir. Langdon. A wonderful contribution to a wonderful project.
    Thank you!

  • 4. Tim Brown’s avatar Tim Brown May 20, 2009

    Thanks, John. I enjoyed reading this piece.

  • 5. mattdempseycom’s avatar mattdempseycom Aug 24, 2009

    This is so beautiful. Such a great read, thanks for sharing your process. The final logo is stunning, I love it!

    Really well done John, and congrats to the Typedia team for having such a great mark!

  • 6. Scott Cranfill’s avatar Scott Cranfill Aug 24, 2009

    Gorgeous! And the essay was fantastic. A very interesting look into the logotype design process.

    Congrats on the launch!

  • 7. drew stauffer’s avatar drew stauffer Aug 24, 2009

    This was a inspiring look into your mind and the process that you went through. Thank you very much for going into such great detail.

    I’ve found inspiration for another year :)

  • 8. simo’s avatar simo Aug 24, 2009

    Fantastic write-up and walk through of your process. Not very often that an article, in and of itself, gets me excited and jazzed about refining my own work and skills.

    Very well done, and thank you.

  • 9. megolla’s avatar megolla Aug 24, 2009

    I love this logo – do you have any plans to create t-shirts with it and sell it?

  • 10. bgalmar’s avatar bgalmar Aug 24, 2009

    Thanks for sharing your process. The logo is beautiful and it is great to see more than just the final outcome. This is a very cool project and I am excited to see it grow. I agree that a Typedia t-shirt is needed in the near future.

  • 11. Dan Rubin’s avatar Dan Rubin Aug 24, 2009

    Excellent write-up sir! This is one of my favorites out of the logos I’ve seen of yours — probably tied with my name as an ambigram on the title page of WordPlay :)

  • 12. hfrancke’s avatar hfrancke Aug 24, 2009

    Wonderful logo, wonderful story John. Love the detail. Thanks!!!

  • 13. Gonzalo González Mora’s avatar Gonzalo González Mora Aug 24, 2009

    Simply gorgeous! I also loved this post, thank you very much for taking the time to share this story with us.

  • 14. plasticmind’s avatar plasticmind Aug 24, 2009

    Enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look almost as much as the logo. I only wish the final version was black on white instead of vice versa… I feel like the hairlines get pummeled in their inverse form. Fantastic work!

  • 15. mdschall’s avatar mdschall Aug 24, 2009

    Beautiful Prof. Langdon!

  • 16. jennykate’s avatar jennykate Aug 24, 2009

    Fascinating!

  • 17. Indranil’s avatar Indranil Aug 24, 2009

    This is a brilliant write-up, and highly inspirational. The logo looks lovely, and the peek at the process involved makes me look at it with even more awe.

    Well done, sir!

  • 18. jen strickland’s avatar jen strickland Aug 24, 2009

    Thank you for sharing the inside-track on the development of the logo. It helps to see just how much sketching and revisioning you do. It’s hard to know where / when to stop. I’m pretty sure, though, you must have left out the few moments of “What?! They don’t see it?! *&&^” and “What?! Why is he doing that?! ^&%” Including a bit of that would be truly insightful! haha Thanks again!

  • 19. chriswallace’s avatar chriswallace Aug 24, 2009

    Not a huge fan of the final logo, but your concepts are all really neat. I agree with Jesse that the hairline strokes look bad in white on black on screen. I think the logo makes the site look dated, not necessarily “rich with typographic history.” Doesn’t really fit with the design of the site in general. But that’s just the opinion of one designer. This is a fantastic idea/resource and I will definitely be tapping into it quite often.

  • 20. foo fighter’s avatar foo fighter Aug 24, 2009

    Am I they only one who really doesn’t like the “a”? Looks too much like a “u” to me.

  • 21. noblanco’s avatar noblanco Aug 24, 2009

    very inspirational

  • 22. Jimmy Ofisia’s avatar Jimmy Ofisia Aug 24, 2009

    Thank you for sharing the process from start to finish.

  • 23. Kosal Sen’s avatar Kosal Sen Aug 25, 2009

    John, how about taking a shot at simplifying the T for favicon usage? Beautiful as the original T is, I think the limits of a 16×16 grid require a custom design, rather than a shrunken replica of the original.

  • 24. Adam Schilling’s avatar Adam Schilling Aug 25, 2009

    Thanks so much for this candid and inspiring walkthrough. The final logotype is stunning. Smiling, through and through.

    One small nitpick: when white on black (as in the header), anti-aliasing appears to be particularly key. For example, 3 pixels appear out of place on the bowl interior of the ‘D’.

    Thanks again. Wonderful!

  • 25. Metronome49’s avatar Metronome49 Aug 25, 2009

    Wow. Logo by the famous John Langdon. Thanks for sharing your process John, your work, as always, is jaw dropping, and my work is likely improved by being privy to your process.

  • 26. Scott Cranfill’s avatar Scott Cranfill Aug 25, 2009

    Is it just me, or has the anti-aliasing of the white-on-black header logo improced since yesterday? Looking very good, now!

  • 27. zeldman’s avatar zeldman Aug 25, 2009

    Thank you for sharing.

  • 28. Jeremy Mandle’s avatar Jeremy Mandle Aug 25, 2009

    Wonderfully inspirational process. This is how every client driven creative endeavor could be. Thanks for the behind the scenes peek.

  • 29. Yotam’s avatar Yotam Aug 25, 2009

    P e r f e c t

  • 30. bombfactory’s avatar bombfactory Aug 25, 2009

    Foo Fighter – I’m with you. The ‘a’ is the only thing that bugs me a little. Take it out of context and ask people what it looks like. I think you’ll get more than a few ‘u’ answers. But otherwise, excellent letterforms guys. I look forward to seeing this place develop.

  • 31. jpamental’s avatar jpamental Aug 25, 2009

    Great writeup. It’s far more common to see writing about the design process on a larger scale (i.e. a website) but I love the nuances conveyed in writing about such tiny (in size, not significance!) details. Wonderful communication on all parts.

    Cheers!

    Jason

  • 32. tony buchsbaum’s avatar tony buchsbaum Aug 25, 2009

    As a longtime Langdon fan(atic), I am always amazed by the dedication, focus, and insight he brings to his work. In this case, I am equally blown away by his cogent explanation and rationales for doing what he did. As I type this, I am fantasizing about other respected artists taking the time to do similar write-ups about their work. Far beyond DVD-like making-of documentaries, such essays would illuminate the very thinking that builds our world. Imagine 1000 words by Spielberg on “Close Encounters.” 1000 words by Lloyd Wright on Fallingwater. 1000 words by Streisand on “People.” 1000 words by Jobs on iPhone. Etc etc etc.

  • 33. tracietoo’s avatar tracietoo Aug 26, 2009

    Wow. The logo: gorgeous (wouldn’t expect anything less). But the story behind it? Truly inspiring. Thanks for sharing!

  • 34. Digital Engineer’s avatar Digital Engineer Aug 26, 2009

    A very nice logo! If I can make one small remark: I do feel the logo more powerfull when it’s black and set on a white background… (Like in the examples in this post).

  • 35. David Březina’s avatar David Březina Aug 26, 2009

    It seems that I am going to be the bad guy here. My apologies for the critique, but from a site devoted to typefaces I would expect better type treatment and about thirdly positive-only comments just make me think how designers perceive type. I will elaborate on the objective matters, but to sum up my complete aesthetic experience in one sentence (bit harshly and with a hidden reference to two opinionated teachers): the logo looks like it was designed without any love for typefaces.

    Here are the objectives:

    Regarding the concept: it is an interesting idea to match blackletter-ish initial with Didot and it is done to some extent, yet there are further conceptual flaws in the thinking.

    The decision to use a Bodoni/Didot style is perfectly all right, unless you shield it with such a flawed argument as: “My second thought was that in the history of type design the classical period is best represented by the typestyles of Giambattista Bodoni and Firmin Didot. Although thousands of typefaces have been created since the 18th century, we still refer to their fonts as “modern”. This is merely a linguistic trick. The style is called modern for nothing but conventional reasons. Pretty much for the same reason why we call the period between 5th century and 1453 Middle Ages (it is nowhere near middle! Middle of what?). The style is neither “modern” (as in Tschichold, Swiss style, Helvetica, …), nor contemporary (as in considered cool at this moment). In fact it has connotations such as: dated and fashion industry (esp. in its high-contrast form). I am not sure why would someone include modern typefaces into classical period. It is a matter of definition where the classical starts and where it ends, but I am sure that most of the type designers would choose Renaissance typefaces as the foremost representatives.

    Also this sounds like a reasonable approach: This could be a fairly non-jarring shift, as initial caps are inherently a different animal from lower case letters, and often appear in the history of type use as intentionally decorative and distinct.

    Well, it would be a reasonable approach, if the initial was not followed by uppercase! Or sort of a unicase, as the i (with dot above) and a are surely lowercase forms.

    “The words “refined, knowledge-filled, and classic” seemed to support the “modern” style perfectly.”

    Surely, the words support Bodoni/Didot style perfectly… as much as any other category of well-produced typefaces.

    Regarding the execution: “In a typeface, each letter has to look completely comfortable with any of the other 51 letters on either side of it. In a logotype, each letter has to look right next to only the two letters it’s between. So the design of that letter can be based entirely on those two relationships. Type design is strongly characterised by establishing and following rules. Logotype design is often all about breaking rules.”

    This is simply not true. In logotype (or some would call it a lettering design) the letter is still part of the writing system (the alphabet) = it is supposed to be legible. And it is also part of the whole lettering, related to all letters, not just to the neighbours. Of course, lettering allows for some exceptions, but it is still working whole.

    There is an important rule in graphic design: “enough is enough“ and it seems it has been broken several times here:
    – there is one initial representing the concept “from Gutenberg to Bodoni”, but why there is another initial E in the middle (in different style)?
    – why there are the oddly swashed P and a (which, indeed, is purely legible in given context and I keep misreading it as u all the time). It seems like some kind of ambigram aesthetics. I am trying to rotate the thing there and back. I might be an ignorant, but there is no reason for this. These swashes look completely arbitrary. Swash is supposed to flow (typically from the letter), these are stiff and inelegant (esp. P,a).
    – why so uncommon shape of Y?
    – why is P reaching above the other letters?
    – I see absolutely no reason for dropping the serifs. The reason for this is confused. How does a serif affect relationship with other letter? I think if people were to stand in a row and would not fit, we better cut one hand from each. Because, it seems to me, is what you are doing.
    – (and again) why mixing lowercase and uppercase?

    Simply there is too much going on and too little reason for it.

    Bodoni/Didot style is based on refined pointed-pen calligraphy which usually produces nice flowing curves. What trained eye sees here immediately are the bumps everywhere. They are particularly noticeable inside the letters(D,P,E,a). For me it is just an ugly shape nowhere near the refinement of aforementioned calligraphy.

    It is great that you are writing on the development process, but it does not make the writing necessarily right. It just starts a discussion to which I attempted to add several contradicting views.

    This logo is an indication that post-modern (which I though past at least ten years ago) is not yet over. I would not say a word if this was not a site dedicated to type. What I have mentioned is something any type designer (or enthusiast) can see and I am stunned that the author did not see it and that the audience is so uncritical about it.

  • 36. JanDW’s avatar JanDW Aug 26, 2009

    David Březina: Thank you for taking the time to come down from the ivory tower with your purity of knowledge to hang out with us common folk. I hope you didn’t get stunned too much. We’re very sorry if our love of type and lettering fails to match the oceanic depths of your sensitive soul and the absolute insightfulness of your all-encompassing mind. Unfortunately, I fail to see why you apologize for a critique that I don’t think needed to be given, especially since the apology came in front of the actual critique.

    You could have compared viewpoints, asked questions, but instead you chose a tone that is contemporary (oh yeah, thanks for the definition) in some ways, yet medieval in others. How do you explain that?

    Also John, how dare you play linguistic tricks on us?
  • 37. Gerben Dollen’s avatar Gerben Dollen Aug 26, 2009

    Sir Březina, calm down please. If you give, say, ten people the same assignment, you’ll definitely get ten different results. Get on with it.

  • 38. David Březina’s avatar David Březina Aug 26, 2009

    My apologies for the tone. Also to the author for the critique he did not ask for, yet I felt is needed (as I explained). I invested my time to offer an alternative view, not to show off or put anybody down.

  • 39. Abi Huynh’s avatar Abi Huynh Aug 26, 2009

    JanDW: I think Mr. Březina has offered a reasonable critique which poses many questions about the decisions in the logo (from the viewpoint of a type designer). He has clearly stipulated his reasons for his dislike of the logo, and I think he has some valid arguments. You said “[it was] a critique that I don’t think needed to be given”, I’m sorry but I don’t believe the comments section is for accolades only.

    Regarding the Typedia logo, I am generally ambivalent towards it, it does have a certain distinctiveness and charm I think. But with that said, it exhibits a few too many ideas; it’s one thing to change the ‘normal’ letterforms for a pointed pen / modern typeface, but also to integrate a blackletter initial, mix uppercase and lowercase, as well as utilizing an italic construction for the lowercase ‘a’ — may be a bit much.

  • 40. David Březina’s avatar David Březina Aug 26, 2009

    Let me explain the paragraph on pointed-pen calligraphy better, esp. the last sentence. It does not refer to the letters as a whole, but to the way the curves are treated. If you look at the inside curve in the bottom of E you can see that clearly.

  • 41. rohdesign’s avatar rohdesign Aug 26, 2009

    John, thanks for your narrative and pencil sketches which accompany your post. I find their combination fascinating, as they provide insight into how you worked through this logo challenge. Thanks for sharing!

    I too have issues with the look of the logo reversed on a dark field vs. dark logo on a white field. I’m seeing a variety of jagged artifacts on the thinnest curved strokes of the logo.

    Oddly, these same curves and thin strokes are clean and smooth on the black on white samples within the article itself.

    Could this be a sizing issue? The logo in the site’s header is a bit smaller than samples within the article — maybe small enough that the normally smooth curves and fine lines break down?

  • 42. JanDW’s avatar JanDW Aug 26, 2009

    Abi Huynh: It’s not the critique that bothers me, I don’t even disagree with large parts of it, it’s the way it’s imparted.

    The logo looks like it was designed without any love for typefaces.’

    This logo is an indication that post-modern (which I though past at least ten years ago) is not yet over.

    Simply there is too much going on and too little reason for it.

    Mr. Březina might ask questions but doesn’t seem to wait for answers

  • 43. Jason Santa Maria’s avatar Jason Santa Maria Aug 27, 2009

    @ David Březina: Thanks very much for the critique, I love good discussion of design, especially when viewpoints differ.

    As for the white logo on dark background use, John was only responsible for the logo, any atrocities thereafter were all me :)

    With that said, I’ve spent so much time just trying to get this site online that I never got back to trying to tighten up some of the tender curves for super perfect display. And I’m probably not as good at that as I used to be. I’m more than willing to talk to anyone that is good at it that would want to volunteer to help out with making it nice and crispy.

  • 44. Adam Schilling’s avatar Adam Schilling Aug 27, 2009

    @ Jason Santa Maria: Hi, I’m up for a shot at it. I find myself doing this sort of thing quite a bit these days. No problem if you’ve already found a helper.

  • 45. Alessandro Mingione’s avatar Alessandro Mingione Aug 27, 2009

    Thank you for sharing this.

    It is great to see things from an expert’s point of view (and, wow! especially from John Langdon!).
    This is an invaluable resource for students like me.

  • 46. John Langdon’s avatar John Langdon Aug 27, 2009

    In response to David Březina’s comments:

    A brief visit to Mr. Březina’s website informs me that he is a typeface designer, so his commitment to type design cannot be questioned, and his love of type can be inferred. Typeface design is a realm not only of great knowledge, great devotion, and great patience, but also one of great discipline. I can only imagine that these job requirements are magnified by David’s multi-lingual approaches to his craft.

    However, Mr. Březina seems to critique my logotype according to standards of type design. A logotype is called upon to achieve different ends than is a type design or a piece of typesetting. Beatrice Warde said nothing about logotypes needing to be like crystal goblets. From my point oif view Logotypes should be more like Fabergé eggs. I stand by my statement that type design and logotype design are very different pursuits — the differences greatly determined by the dichotomy between rule following and rule breaking.

    Let this be known to those who do not already know it: I love type. I love many typefaces. But I’m not a rule follower (in hardly any aspect of my life). The old wisdom states that in order to break the rules and break them well, you have to know, and understand, and respect the rules. I do know, understand and respect (and teach) the rules. That is what allows me to break them in ways that many people approve, and enjoy.

  • 47. John Langdon’s avatar John Langdon Aug 27, 2009

    I do respect spelling rules, and try to follow them. Apologies for my proofreading lapse…

  • 48. John Langdon’s avatar John Langdon Aug 27, 2009

    I suspect I’ll regret that Fabergé eggs comment… I liked it, but I don’t know that it’s the best analogy I could have chosen. Seemed like a good contrast to Beatrice’s wine glass…

  • 49. Aaron Martin’s avatar Aaron Martin Aug 27, 2009

    What an incredibly detailed and well written recap of the entire process. Thanks for posting it.

  • 50. David Březina’s avatar David Březina Aug 28, 2009

    Re 46: Mr. Langdon, I understand the essence of your point about logotype being more catchy and [text] typeface more quiet. (I already explained well enough why, I think, your previous argument was not correct.)

    The measure and the choice are important. One does not break all the principles at the same time. One should not even break more than necessary, in fact. And there are rules which should not be broken at all in certain contexts (e.g. legibility at this site).

    If I was to design a logo for a hospital I would not put a naked nurse there to make it more catchy. That would be indeed controproductive. Similarly, in the given context (contemporary type site), it is inconsistent to treat letters like at the butchers. Considering this is a type-devoted site, typeface design view is appropriate to great extent.

  • 51. Alessandro Mingione’s avatar Alessandro Mingione Aug 28, 2009

    I don’t want to compare my experience with yours, but i think that you (Mr. Březina) have misunderstood Mr. Langdon’s words:

    “In a typeface, each letter has to look completely comfortable with any of the other 51 letters on either side of it. In a logotype, each letter has to look right next to only the two letters it’s between.”

    By saying this he doesn’t mean literally that in a logotype each letter is related only with it’s neighbours, but that you can adjust letters to work together, something you can’t do when building a typeface, because a letter must work with every other letter of the alphabet: you can adjust a T to work with an A in a particular way because the same T won’t relate with a M (just an example).

    Remember that i’m just speaking for myself.

  • 52. David Březina’s avatar David Březina Aug 29, 2009

    Re 51: What you are saying makes much more sense than what Mr. Langdon’s complete quote above. I would be happy to understand it this way if there was not the sentence right after your quote:

    So the design of that letter can be based entirely on those two relationships.

    That is obviously a nonsense simplification. Or maybe just sloppy writing.

  • 53. Philip Dante Meick’s avatar Philip Dante Meick Aug 31, 2009

    I really enjoyed reading about this process. It definitely helps having extremely informed and smart clients. A brilliant logo for a great new type resource.

  • 54. gummisig’s avatar gummisig Sep 01, 2009

    This such a great resource. I just loved this article and seeing all the sketches and emails.

    Thanks to the folks that are making this site possible.

  • 55. Digital Engineer’s avatar Digital Engineer Sep 01, 2009

    Thanks for the argument guys. This thread alone is a valuable resource now. It states the differences between logo and font exactly. I wouldn’t be to upset by all the different opinions though. Where there’s 3 designers, there’s 4 opinions!

  • 56. Micha’s avatar Micha Sep 08, 2009

    I feel that this logo needs a lot more whitespace around it. A bit more room to breathe and do its thing.

    A graphic design issue, surely, but I thought this would be the right place to share my little thought.

  • 57. SparkyTeaching’s avatar SparkyTeaching Sep 19, 2009

    This is fascinating stuff – it’s not often you get a chance to see behind the scenes of a design process… Very candidly written – thanks very much for putting the time in.

  • 58. SiteArt’s avatar SiteArt Sep 25, 2009

    I think the logo should be bigger, and have a shiny reflection underneath it, to give it that web 2.0 look ;)

    …hehe only joking of course! logo looks great, and a fantastic write-up. Thanks for sharing this with us!

  • 59. brianlawler’s avatar brianlawler Oct 10, 2009

    What I like best about this piece of work is the sketching. It’s hard to communicate the importance of sketches to students of design so that they work out the application and the reason before committing anything to lines and anchor points on a computer screen.

    I like to challenge my students to design a logo on a napkin (all great work begins on a napkin!) and then, after working on the sketches, to translate their sketches to the computer.

    You have done an excellent job, and thank you for the exhaustive work you have done to get this new site started.

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