Bitter Grounds - espresso fueled ramblings

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Shout out to an author/designer who has unknowingly helped

I want to send a big shout out to writer and graphic designer Janie Kliever for an article she wrote a couple of years back titled A Beautifully Illustrated Glossary Of Typographic Terms You Should Know (read it here).  I've read many sites centred around typography and design, usually taking notes trying to keep the verbiage straight in my mind. But I often fall flat, especially when it comes to typeface vs font and kerning vs leading. It's not unusal to see me pull my crib notes out from under the desk blotter while reading various articles. Kliever's page is crisp and clear in defining the terms, making the topic far more accessible. 

The page is wonderfully designed as well with illustrations that help drive the information home. Here's a sample:

A sample from Janie Kliever's glossary of typographic termsNicely illustrated, isn't it? So if you're like me and periodically scratch your head over a term you're sure you should understand but don't, wander yonder to Ms Kleiver's page. 

Read more by Janie Kliever -




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Humger Free Font by Graphic Pear - looking at new fonts

Looking around for some interesting fonts to play with and found a grunge font that appeals to me. I want to redo the site logo and not sure what path to take. Humger Free Font by Graphic Pear ( ticks a couple of boxes. For a grunge style font, it’s surprisingly clean. The designer resisted the urge to go over the top with the scratchy, jaggy effect. Another element I like is the strong, thin, vertical look to the lettering. It’s urban, clean and simple. I tend to look at it as slightly shop worn rather than grunge. More the effect I’m thinking of for the new logo.

Trying out a new font for my logo - Humger free font by Graphic Pear

Visually, Humger isn’t jarring. The progression from letter to letter is uniform.  I was playing around with a different grunge font (can’t remember which one off the top of my head) and discarded it because the spacing between the round letters like “o” and tall letters like “t” and “I” was all askew.  Drove me bats because the wording looked lopsided and sloppy. I had to keep adjusting the spacing. Eventually I figured, if it took that much work to do a simple job then maybe it’s time to look for a font better suited to the task. Humger seems to avoid this pitfall. 

One problem, for me, is it’s a capital letter font only, no lower case.  Since “espresso fueled ramblings” is always in lower case, it won't work.  Pity really.  

This is Graphic Pear's own offering. Shows the potential in Humger.  I think it's really meant to be BIG and bold on the page. Regardless, I like this one and will keep it in mind.

Humger font by Graphic Pear - sample


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Another trip to penisland – without the snickering

This morning, I began to ponder a response I rec’d via Twitter to my penisisland article yesterday. It presented an interesting design and marketing thought process:

A tweet from Pen Island Brewing Co that says "We know we have an unfortunate name, but we'll grow on you"Pen Island Brewing … which to my UTTER DISAPPOINTMENT offers nary a pint – embraced a potentially embarrassing url and ran with it. Their address is Someone obviously got the humour, spotted a market and built a brand around the it:

Logo for Pen Island Brewing

Their logo plays with the Pen Island / Penis Land pun, as do all the products they sell.

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Read more: Another trip to penisland – without the snickering

Ontario's new logo for the 150th bash - wow ... just ... wow

ontario150 logo for Canada's birthday baskOk, I tried to like this logo. I really, really tried. I went over it trying to find something positive about Ontario's contribution to Ontario's and Canada's big 150 birthday bash but ... wow. Oh wow.... I .... sigh.

I'm not being critical for the sake of being critical. I have some serious issues with the basics in this design. First and foremost is it's legibility to older eyes. The Ont. gov said it was looking for a design to appeal to millenials. Fine. Cool. But they seem to have forgotten the millions of us here that aren't under 20 who simply can't read the logo without a struggle. The logo completely ignores an entire demographic for an event aimed at all of us. And, this seriously pisses me off.

You're likely saying "come on, it's not that hard to read". It is. When I first looked at it, I had to think for a minute about what it actually says. When your market struggles to understand your logo, you've already lost.

Here's an list of what is wrong with the design:

1 - the 150 is not clear. It merges into the design so you see 50 but not the 1 before it. This creates a moment of "what".

2 - the claustrophopic design creates an optical illusion to my eyes where the words and numbers do a bit of vibrating, making it a even harder to read.

3 - it's unreadable from a distance.

4 - it looks dreadful shrunk down on a small screen, making it more difficult to read.

5 - the spacing and size of each character is erratic (the nicest description I could come up with). The differences seem to have no purpose other than to squeeze the design into an alloted space.

6 - the type is jagged looking. It has the appearance of being hand drawn with a thick black marker. Sorry, but this makes it look amateurish and sloppy. Not an image Ontario really wants to convey.

7 - OMG that zero! Words fail me.

8 - there is NO ENERGY, which, when I look back at my rundown, is the single biggest fail.

Come on,  where's the excitement about the celebration? Where's the vibrancy? The colour? Where's the sense of space and breath-taking beauty? Ontario is 1.076 sq kilometres (514,600 miles for my American friends) of cities, towns, villages, farms and wilderness, wild and wonderful woodlands, the Canadian shield, carpets of trilliums in the spring, red maple leafs in the fall, maple syrup, BBQs in the sunshine, strolls along the Sandbanks, paddling along a quiet shore in Algonquin Park, listening to loons cry at dusk,  thousands of lakes, snow, heat, cold, rain, ice fishing, rushing to catch a subway, the sounds of a streetcar grinding on the tracks, street festivals, Shakespeare & Shaw, sitting at Timmies with friends, espresso, microbreweries, wineries, food ... oh the food, lining up for Dim Sum, film festivals, a trip to the local amateur playhouse, bush parties, bhangra lessons in city chambers, Pow Wows, May 24 weekend & cottage country, cultures merging from every corner of the earth, history spanning back thousands of years to the first peoples and the Ontario goverment gives us ... our parents' basement.

So .. no. I don't like it.




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For want of a hyphen - design counts

A sometimes overlooked part of design is how a web address will look. It's a quirky thing ... web addresses. What sounds good in a meeting may, in reality, come off as a slightly risque internet meme. Or a punch line in a coffee conversation. I was sitting having my usual latte when I overheard a couple of suit and ties having a laugh at the end of the table. The final line was "or we could order from penis land". That brought my head up ... Turns out it's a pen company (and from the conversation a pretty fine one):

 Web address for pen company that spells out penisland

Here's where a simple hyphen would have made all the difference. Doubtful anyone would have stopped and though of the half dozen jokes I heard whip around regarding the unfortunate web address.

Here's what their logo looks like:

 logo for pen Island

It's interesting the designer carefully inserted uppercase and bolding to clearly define the company name. It borders on tragic, no one took a moment to look at the way the url looks in print. One simple hyphen would have created clarity - rather than the snicker inducing I encountered this issue many years ago ... ok about 2 decades ago ... when I set up my first personal website. I though cool, I'll use my first initial and my last name. The combination turned out to be incredibly embarassing. Lesson learned and now I look at addresses when I sit down to design anything. That includes email addresses. About a year ago, I was helping a customer set up her business emails and I pointed out the name picked would quickly become embarassing. She looked at me like I had just sprouted horns. I drew a small mockup business card and wrote in the address she wanted. After the red blush faded she decided that wouldn't do and came up with something that looked more professional.

Like I said, tricky things, urls and email addresses. The way they look in print should be considered when designing your site. Otherwise, you may end up living on penis land.

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"To make my meal in a box taste better, I decided to tweak the logo, rather than the ingredients."

- Jarod Kintz, This Book is Not for Sale

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I've left some content in their old categories. Instead of having readers hit the dreaded 404 Not Found error, I'd rather leave the pages where they lay. Here are the pages:
- Poster Design 2 - breaking out of a rut
- Something a little different - a poster for the site
- Slide show confusion - another candidate for Ring of Hell
- First Ring of Web Hell - the never ending slide show

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