Watercolor,unique lettering and collage © Iskra Johnson
Our meme-maker in chief has ensured that this little word duo remains current. From an abstract design perspective, it is always helpful when words are the same length and lock up with an interesting positive-negative charge. By flipping a few backwards it added even more interest. Watercolor, hand lettering and collage.
If like me you have been reading and watching news obsessively for far too many months, you may want to go rogue for a minute and just think about pleasure. Cake, for instance. Maybe you are planning your wedding, or someone else’s. Maybe all you want to think about is frosting, and satin kitten heels, and how many bubbles you can fit in a champagne flute before it just becomes air. Maybe you want to feel giddy and strew ribbons around the room and you don’t want anybody telling you otherwise.
I stumbled upon this wonderful quote by Nigella Lawson and it made me unreasonably happy. Experimenting here with new styles of calligraphy and hand lettering and lots of color. Yum.
Pleasure the British way, dapper and a bit buttoned down.
Or maybe better in French? Luxurious. Plush. Of course if you are going to obsess about cake, that leads inevitably to champagne, and going a little bit crazy with pink.
There are so many ways to work with color in custom lettering design. Each color twist gives a different feeling to the words, elegant, playful, a cheap date or something luxe. It’s all in the subtle detail.
More new work in the pipeline, coming soon! To see the latest you can always follow me on Instagram, or Facebook. Drop me a note if you have a project in mind.
I am excited to see big changes at The Workbook, where I have been part of the illustration and design community for many years. They have just launched a dramatic redesign of their online portfolios, and I am very impressed. Take a peek at my portfolios at Workbook.com.
Here are a few pages of icon designs I put together for my new portfolios that show how calligraphic thinking can lead to unique ways of looking at archetypal symbols.
Above, a small part of one of my favorite projects, created for Neiman Marcus for their spring fashion catalog. Each butterfly represents a different personal style of fashion.
When I created a logo for the University of Washington School of Music I did probably 50+ variations on the treble clef. This is one of my favorites, in a set that mixes colorways and media to evoke the experience of music.
How many times have you seen a cute panda logo?? There are still new ways to visit this little guy. Some of the many approaches I did with sumi ink, showing how personality and a unique line quality can revive a familiar symbol.
This client had a last name starting with S, and a passion for seahorses. These are some of the different ways I looked at incorporating the two elements.
These days when virtually all design and illustration portfolios are shown online, having a beautiful platform to show work in-depth is essential. The platform itself can inspire new ways of thinking. I can’t wait to see how designers and creative directors respond to the new Workbook design.
A Logo Project Inspired by the Street
This month I had the opportunity to use my obsession with street art in a logo design for a client. Seven large ad agencies had recently merged to form a new agency called Sandbox. One of the original seven, GA Communications, wanted to create a specific look for its community outreach division that would express the attributes of its internal culture. Among the ideas given as reference: “Collaborative, Creative, Fun, Social and Confident.” A logo for the name, “Orange” had already begun in-house, based on a standard script font. It was close to what they were looking for, but it didn’t feel distinct or proprietary and the design team wanted to see a new approach reflecting the energy and creativity of graffiti. I was also asked to make a little movie or otherwise document my process.
Photographing the street is one of my favorite ways to spend my time, and in my archives I have thousands of pictures of graffiti, abandoned buildings and the shredded poetry of telephone poles. I knew there was a good chance that the final logo would end up being quite conservative, but this project seemed like the ideal opportunity to open things up and go wild. I did a photo shoot looking for everything orange on the street. I experimented with many media, ranging back and forth between the different languages and moods of graffiti. This was heaven.
I started out with black ink, working quickly to find new twists on the fonts that had been sent as reference.
Switching things up I started working with actual orange, what a concept! With colored ink and paints the weight of pigment in the water makes for a different feeling in the brush and leads to subtle differences in how the letters emerge.
To start this project I went out to study walls for a day. I think I have fallen in love with balloon letters. They are insanely creative and all kinds of design problems get solved in an instant on the fly with a spray can. Even if you are trying to be a bad#ss you can’t really convince anybody if you use this style. Balloon letters are fundamentally friendly and silly. The world could use a lot more of that.
The final choice of style came down to these two. On the top, dry brush on watercolor paper, and the lower one, pen and ink on offset paper. After many iterations to finesse legibility the lower one was chosen. The influence of graffiti is very faint, but I hope some of the spirit of adventure can be read between the lines.
Take a look at my portfolios to see more expressive lettering for advertising design.
Identity design for packaging can be creative and exciting work, as long as you don’t allow yourself to be attached to a final product. Probably 90% of ideas generated for packaging are never used. It is an exacting process with many rounds of negotiations between creative, marketing, and client. In spite of the fact that so much of the effort goes purely into development, it is often my best work. There are always puzzles to solve, and the teams of people involved are smart and fun and don’t hesitate to offer me a challenge. This was a rush project done mostly in one day. If it had gone further the curves and edges would have been finessed except for the rustic version, which is intentionally rough.
This last version was my favorite. It might not read easily from ten miles away, but it makes the most of some limited options for ligatures. I am not a fan of what I call the “dental floss school of lettering,” in which every wild and frivolous opportunity to make a flourish is followed, at the expense of being able to make sense of the words. It is rare to get an arrangement of letters where the forms will gracefully interlock. Most letters are lazy: they’d rather sit proud in their natural, beautifully proportioned forms, and as a designer I never want them to look like they are working hard to make a relationship. In this case, particularly, the name feels like it has dignity. It may be high proof, but it’s sober.
As mentioned in the intro, in packaging many are offered, but few survive. Nonetheless, a great chance to work with lovely letters. You can see more snapshots of work in progress on Instagram or Facebook.