Tiny Little Details

Underappreciated Logos

I came across these two logos recently, the Guild of Food Writers one via NOTCOT, and the Victor one via an Engadget link to this deadly device. The Food Writers one is beautiful; simple, clean and clever - something any organisation would be proud to call its own. The Victor one has a few issues, like the strangely discordant ct, but the V is entertaining and nicely done. So there we go, two nice logos.

So what’s the problem? Well, to look at the websites of these two organisations you’d think they were ashamed of them.


On the Food Writers site I didn’t immediately recognise the logo as being the same one - it’s disguised with that nasty gradient, the cheap glow and the atrocious lettering next to it. I can’t quite reconcile the motivation that commissioned such a great logo from 300million with that of allowing the website to end up looking (and working) like that. Maybe it’s a supplier issue. Maybe they’re working on a new site? Maybe I should pitch a new site to them.

The Victor logo isn’t treated quite as badly, so while it has completely unnecessary bevels and shadows applied at various sizes and angles on the site and other materials, on the product itself it’s used cleanly and simply. If you look closely at the Victor® Multi-Kill™ Electronic Mouse Trap (!) the power indicator is a glowing green version of the V from the logo, so there’s hope. It’s such a shame that in every other application, it’s smothered with cheap, lazy effects.

T-Mobile, Vodafone and Santander

Johnson Banks posted this quick (but effective) re-do of the T-Mobile logo on their Thought for the Week site. Despite a deep and abiding fondness for the colour pink, I’ve never liked the T-Mobile logo - the whole thing looks like something an ’80s financial recruitment firm might have used - changing the typeface to, say, Rotis would only complete the effect.

Before and after, by Johnson Banks.

Now for a thought of my own: I was wondering about the other major (UK) mobile operator logos, and released that I was starting to confuse the Vodafone logo with the Santander one. Maybe it’s because I’ve got a bit of a cold at the moment and my brain is addled but what with Santander advertising heavily (and buying UK banks at rock-bottom prices) and Vodafone not having any strong campaign on at the moment, is the central-white-symbol-on-red-ground space at risk of being usurped?

OK, I’m not being entirely serious, but there is a point where a company gets so large that it is no longer associated in people’s minds with its original economic sector, but more the category known as Huge Multinational Mega-Corporations, and this is where brands can really start to get confused in the marketplace. The logos are of course different, but in this case (in Europe) we’re used to banks bought by Santander having their brand (but not their name) changed to fit the parent company, so the potential for confusion grows, “Oh, it must be another company Santander bought…”


Sweet Type

When I saw this chocolate type I had a thought that it would be fun to try and print using it. Just use warmed rice paper and off you go. OK, the type wouldn’t last very long, but each piece would be unique, and edible. Oddly, and just out of interest, it claims the letters are set in “FF FagoMo Bold”, but unless there’s another foundry out there prefixing their font names with FF, I can’t find it on FontFont’s site.



I love this timetable cover for Deruluft - the double bird motif is really quite lovely. The use of the motif in their brand imagery apparently starts out strong (good) and then falls out of favour entirely between 1933 and 1935 (strange) - even in the 1932 brochure it’s reduced to a small image on the flag, then finally being nicely refined and promoted to the central image on the 1936 timetable.

The type is interesting as a monoline form too - the serifs are enormous, and the one on the ‘a’ is just strange, especially given how close it comes to the ‘T’. I really like the numbers though - the balance between the 9 and the 6 in the year is particularly pleasing.

The airline was a joint venture between Germany and the Soviet Union, which didn’t survive the changing political situation between the two countries:

Deruluft’s route network remained fairly intact until the airline discontinued operations in March 1937. By then, relations between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union had deteriorated to a point where a joint venture was politically impossible. Deutsche Lufthansa took over the route through the Baltic countries, but a service to Moscow was reopened only after the unexpected German-Soviet nonaggression pact of August 1939 had temporarily brought the two countries closer to each other.timetableimages.com

Of course, I had to trace the cover. Mind, much of the appeal of the original is down to the artifacts produced from the printing process, which I didn’t replicate here. I gather there are now filters for Photoshop to create them though.


Original image via ffffound.

Vexed Punctuation

Coudal linked to this interesting article on Art Lebedev about some common problems with typesetting punctuation, such as centering, tracking and bolding. I agree wholeheartedly with all of them, though I’m interested at the solution to the problem of how to punctuate smileys. I may be an old traditionalist here, but I think if you’ve got smileys in your text, you’re not going to be typesetting it. If you have to then you may as well set the smiley in Wingdings and treat it as a normal glyph, rather than leave it as two punctuation marks. Still, when typing in plain text and you’re prone to using smileys, here’s an idea of how to use punctuation with them.


Notice on the Art Lebedev site that the paragraphs are numbered? That’s interesting, no?

The Beta Label As Poor Excuse

Steve sent me a link to the all-new official site for the Prime Minister of the UK, which, incredibly, is in beta. Get that: The official online presence for the leader of (allegedly) the fifth richest country in the world is a crummy beta site with dodgy kerning, inconsistent use of typefaces, colours, rounded corners, spacing, and, well everything apart from general crumminess. Look at the masthead. It’s in Clarendon, Times New Roman Bold and Georgia. The typographic soup continues with the addition of Arial for body text (and oddly, some headlines too), and on a graphic, Copperplate. There are boxes with rounded corners at the top but not the bottom, containing images that also have rounded corners but where the curvature doesn’t match the container (and appears to be damaged by JPEG artifacting on most images). The site is a mess.

The masthead at the time of writing.

The idea of adding features to the site such as YouTube, Twitter and Flickr feeds is a good one, and yes, these things can be a bit messy to integrate at first, but it’s not hard to get those things up and running in any design. The hard bits, especially for a site as prominent as this, is to ensure security, that the background infrastructure can handle the traffic and (importantly) all your content is written and entered into the site. Is this a site that got designed and implemented by several groups who never communicated? It looks like there may have been a design done at pitch stage, but largely ignored throughout development. A good, consistent design is vital for any site, and sticking to it is a must throughout all stages of development.

Still. All these things can be fixed. The design can be clarified, the layout can be rationalised, attention can be paid to consistency and quality, the HTML and CSS can be cleaned up, but it beggars the question, why did they launch an unfinished site and call it a beta? This is not what betas are about. This is arguably one of the most important sites representing the UK and should be implemented to the highest of standards, and yet they launched a crap blog and tried to cover their arses by calling it a beta. Very poor show indeed.

Hong Kong Patterns

I’ve had a link saved to these pictures for quite a while, and of course they’ve been linked from countless sites over the years, but hey, they’re still worth linking to again.

The thing that I’ve noticed about them is the effect of the small thumbnails all together. You click them and in a way some of the mystery is dispelled, as the smaller size allows you to see the overall pattern. They could be microchip designs or supermarket shelves, so I put them together at a couple of sizes below. To see the details there’s an original size one too.




Banknote patterns fascinate me. I can get lost for hours in all the details, seeing how the patterns fit together, how the lettering works, the tiny security ‘flaws’ - they’re amazing. Central to banknote designs are Guilloche patterns, which can be created mechanically with a geometric lathe, or more likely these days, mathematically. The mathematical process attracted me immediately as I don’t have a geometric lathe and nor do I have anywhere to put one. I do, however, have a computer, and at the point I first started playing with the designs (mid-2004) Illustrator and Photoshop had gained the ability to be scripted. So off I went, using the hypotrochoid equations on Mathworld to create rather rough and ready patterns - scripting at this point didn’t have a very usable set of functions for creating beziers, so I had to use crummy line segments. The process took ages and served just to prove to me that I could do it, but the results were too poor to go much further.

Then, a couple of years later I discovered Grapher on the Mac. Aha! Now here was a program that could create the patterns I was after and export to EPS. Well, kind of. It could create the patterns, most of the time, and export to EPS, though not always. I got a couple of patterns out of it and had a look round for other options. Again, not much - not much that I could afford, that is.

The basic hypertrochoid equation. This makes a nice rosette.

Then we get to now. I give Grapher another go, and at last, I can create and export patterns:


There are still some extremely frustrating limitations though. First of these is the resolution of drawing the graph. I’m sure for most graphs the default resolution is fine, but when creating these patterns you need tiny increments. Tiny tiny ones. If the line is going from one side of the graph to the other and back again a thousand times in a couple of radians, you don’t want the graph program to start dropping line segments, or corners, or anything really. Grapher does allow you to increase the resolution, but it’s not sticky - change anything in the equation and it pops right back to the default. Every. Single. Time. The same thing seems to happen with the line thickness too - I wanted all the designs to be at 0.1, but it kept changing it back to 1.0. Frustrating! There are a couple of other UI things I’d change, like having an option to keep axes at 1:1 ratio to each other, even when you resize the window.


Another, deeply irritating frustration with the whole process is to do with Illustrator. Try and open an exported EPS in it, and you get “An unknown error occurred”. Photoshop can accept the EPSs as placed objects, and InkScape can (eventually) open them, so Grapher seems to be outputting valid EPS files. I suspect that the number of lines in the graph is causing the premier vector editing app in the industry to fall over. Oh dear.

Still, after all this, I can still get the patterns made, and get them into an image editing program, which is quite something. Now I just need to find the magic numbers to create just the right patterns I want.

This beast creates the pattern above. The 'm' is not strictly necessary for this one, but varying it is good for experimentation.