Alphabet Road Trip | the blog of Iskra Design

Category: New Work

The Orange Project: Graffiti Refined for Branding

inspiration board for graffiti logo

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.


brush and pen calligraphy by iskra

expressive watercolor calligraphy by iskra

bold brush lettering

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.

brush lettering by iskra

Brush calligraphy by iskra expressive watercolor caligraphy by iskra graffiti lettering by iskra graffiti-painting-by-iskra expressive calligraphy by iskra watercolor lettering by iskra

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.

graffiti painting by iskra graffiti-wall-iskra

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.

brush lettering for a logotype

Take a look at my portfolios to see more expressive lettering for advertising design.

Design Brief: Custom Typography, Clearly Handcrafted. In a Hurry.

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.

typographic reference for logo project

Custom Rustic typography by Iskra Designhand lettered logotypes finessing details for legibility, by Iskra Design

expressive calligraphy by Iskra


Hand lettered typography by Iskra, process case study by Iskra


Hand lettered typography case study by iskra



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.


Solstice Calligraphy: The Promise of Light

Brush Calligraphy by Iskra: The Promise of Light

Solstice brush calligraphy and original photocollage © Iskra Design

This time of year I always look backwards to July, at the same time I am looking forward to July. The light in the poppies, the scalding heat, the pond and the little breeze in the afternoon. Meanwhile, it could be snowing. And that is the magic of the Solstice. A place in between, to reflect and resonate in time, without, for a moment, going anywhere but now.