Wrestling with the lowercase y and its devilish tail

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Don’t be fooled by the seemingly simple construction of the lowercase y.

A thick diagonal stroke meeting a thin, and longer diagonal stroke — looks pretty straightforward, right?

But I underestimated this bony little creature. I spent quite a bit of time on it in this project, learning how to draw a text typeface.

Questions swirled in my mind. Is the tail too long? At what height should the two meet? What angles?

Since the eyes trump geometry in type, there was a lot of eyeballing involved in my efforts.

In an early version of my character set, the “y” looked like…

Piecing together some clues on how to master this difficult craft

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A typeface is a mysterious creature.

A well-designed typeface can look like the most obvious thing. You wouldn’t think to question the shape of the serif, or the negative spaces. They look perfect. Like leaves, they look just the way they should be.

Except, typefaces didn’t just grow out of the soil. They’re a product of hundreds of hours of work, thousands of hours of education, and years of influence and typeface design evolution.

The art and science of making something memorable

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The popular 2000s series How I Met Your Mother is narrated by the main character, Ted Mosby. It’s Ted’s story, but another character often outshines Ted: his self-proclaimed best friend, Barney Stinson. Definitely the more unforgettable, between the two.

Ted’s wingman in his search for The One, Barney is also the wingman of making Ted’s adventures memorable. Who can forget the night the gang found out about Barney’s transformation backstory, his overnight metamorphosis from a monogamous, humanitarian hippie to a suit-wearing playboy.

On a passionate quest for one-night stands, Barney’s treasured possession is a thick leather-bound playbook of schemes to lure women into his bed, in an apartment that is designed and equipped to repel the women out of the apartment the next morning. …

Things are pretty serious these days. All the more reason to embrace play.

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Have you ever had a weird colleague who had toys on their work desk?

Well, I was that weird colleague. The image above is my desk organizer, 5 years ago, made with lego.

I love working in the creative field, because work is play. You can’t create unless your mind is playful—eager to explore and experiment.

Creative work involves crafting stories, playing with words and images, working with colours, tones, and textures.

I like having Lego on my table to tinker with while thinking. I throw a tennis ball at the wall repeatedly while mulling over ideas. …

You’ll get more than just a penny for your thoughts

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Image by Suzy Hazelwood on Pexels.com

Most designers feel they lack the ability to write. And if they were to write at all, it might be approached with a little resentment and seen a task that takes away their time and energy from their first love: the world of visuals, ideas, shapes, and the playground of visual composition.

It’s hard for many to see how both written words and design work can ooze meaningfully out of a single person. One is usually one or the other: Ad agencies team up copywriters and art directors. Design studios thrive on this dynamic duo of creative collaboration.

Writers are from Mars and designers are from Jupiter

These two people groups do seem to originate from completely different planets. The hardcore designers I know are visually obsessed — and it bleeds into every core of their being: obsessive-compulsive about the colors in their wardrobe. Intensely picky about every visual detail, from the shape of their hair to the details of a product label. …

“The Creative Brain” documentary reveals the creative heart

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Photo by Ameen Fahmy on Unsplash

In The Creative Brain, Neuroscientist Dr David Eagleman explores the brain’s role and behavior in creativity by interviewing professionals in a wide range of fields — refreshingly, some of which are not labeled as creative fields, such as engineering, nanotechnology, and education.

It’s not a showcase of brilliance or an ode to superstar creatives as one might expect, but real stories of how people used creativity to experiment with new and better ways to do things, to help others, and turn lives around.

Creativity: process and results

The stories and interviews highlight the process and results of creative people and their pursuits. A scientist adapts a toy’s design to create medical solutions. Prisoners who learn the arts find a sense of self-worth. …

Thoughts on the movie Downsizing and the power of marketing

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Image from Pexels.com

A not-so-young couple decides to allow scientists to shrink their bodies to a height of 5 inches.

The main intrigue factor as I watched Downsizing was the why behind the decision of Paul Safranek (played by Matt Damon) to go tiny. Why? Why would you give up your normal volume of flesh for an alternate life as a miniature human? Why would you risk death (or any other possible physical malfunctions or abnormalities) to undergo an irreversible medical procedure that has only been tested in the short term? …

I always thought I knew what a Graphic Designer is. Until I heard a definition very different from my own.

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Photo by NordWood Themes on Unsplash

Letterer and Illustrator Jessica Hische, interviewed on Chase Jarvis Live, described the role of a Graphic Designer as “an amazing creative curator of stuff, working with good photographers, art directing, and choosing good fonts.”

Jessica was once a Graphic Designer herself, working for the legendary Louise Fili. In the same podcast she also said she may have just bypassed the graphic design phase of her career journey altogether if she knew back then what a career in illustration was about. She loves working for clients. …

A key ingredient in communication that inspires and delights

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Olivetti Exhibit, Design Museum London. [Photo by me]

“Wit” is kind of an under-used word in graphic design. I hardly come across it in design books. Yet its presence is everywhere where design is alive and well.

Wit is “a natural aptitude for using words and ideas in a quick and inventive way to create humor,” as defined by the foremost authority on words, The Oxford Dictionary.

It’s what makes a visual creation delightful. It’s not LOL-funny but more like a playful smile. Warmth and wisdom, with 10% of a giggle.

There are many skills a designer develops — one’s sense of space, colour, texture, balance. The skill of curating elements to communicate an idea, and part of this is the subtle art of wit. …

A Moveable Feast Book Review (Sort of)

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The book and its apt 1920s-looking typeface

“How different it was when you were there.”

Ernest Hemingway, about Paris

Our plane took off from Charles de Gaulle airport. My 10-hour flight began, and so did my 10-hour movie marathon.

First in line was Wonder Woman. I nearly jumped in my seat when I saw the Louvre in the opening scene. Hey, I was just there, I thought to myself, delighted, with a tinge of sadness about having to leave that city that was my home for the last 8 days.

In my 39 years of existence, it was my first trip to Paris. I spent all 8 days in Paris, enjoying the city as though I lived there. I was visiting friends and they let me stay with them, so I got to do everyday things like eat their home-cooked food, ride buses and trains, buy stuff at the grocery (and try that cool orange juice-squeezing machine), visit shops and restaurants, have coffee and hot chocolate, and walk in the freezing November air. And that’s how I made an acquaintance with the city and experienced the strange becoming familiar, one street at a time. …


Janina Aritao

Writer • Communication Designer • Type Explorer | janinaa.com

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