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10.12.2014
Here are just a few examples of recent designs from the Keep Calm-o-Matic creative community. Rather than keep up a traditional blog, this page serves as a home for writing and as a repository for answers to frequently asked questions about me and my work.
The main symptom of My Career is Meaningless Burnout is feeling like Ia€™m not contributing anything positive to the world.
What usually cures it is finding a way to have a real tangible positive impact on a few people. So, the solution for #2 sometimes turns into the cause of #3 if I let the deadline pressure build too much. I start with a few smaller more accomplishable tasks to get the motivation ball rolling and then try to ride that through to the larger to-dos. You mention how critical the curriculum and environment at Temple was in shaping your early career as a designer. Tyler was a great school for me because it was small, had passionate teachers, and my graduation year happened to have some very talented and competitive designers.
Students that attend more a€?famousa€? schools can sometimes let the school determine their future rather than themselves. In the end, where you graduate from doesna€™t matter nearly as much as the quality of work youa€™re producing and the person youa€™re becoming. Youa€™ve heard about a€?inbox zeroa€?a€”the mythical creature that some people swear theya€™ve seen and who the rest of us, in our heart of hearts, know doesna€™t exist. Every morning, usually from 9am to 10am, I download all of my emails onto my iPad mini (for which I have one of those teeny logitech keyboards) and take it to a coffee shop or breakfast spot with no wifi.
I know not everyone is getting emails like these, but Ia€™m positive that you are getting emails that require more than a trigger finger yes or no answer. By consolidating different kinds of requests into task lists, Ia€™m able to make decisions about what to take on by weighing requests against each other instead of handling each one as they come.
If an email does not address me by name (if it starts with a€?Dear sir or madam,a€? or even just a€?Hello,a€?), or is obviously an email blast going out to many people, I immediately delete it without reading.
After 10am, I try to spend as little of my day possible answering email, so I establish a couple of a€?check inboxa€? times throughout the day incase therea€™s something that needs to be handled straight away. Again, everyone has tried to come up with THEE SOLUTION to solving the insanity inbox problem. Turn wifi off.The less you are distracted from the task at hand, the faster it will be done and you can go back to doing creative work.
Ia€™m hoping you have thoughts to share on coping with a much less experienced designer who wants me to just say a€?That looks great, sweetie!" and give him a cookie. If this person doesna€™t seem to get what youa€™re communicating to him (he keeps making the same mistakes, even after encouraged to not make those particular mistakes), be more stern. It sounds like questions might be the way to roll with this particular person (a€?Whata€™s your motivation behind this particular typeface and typesetting?a€?). One of the best parts about being a freelancer (or a€?Running a One-Person Studioa€? as I prefer to say) is having a flexible schedule. Since I have no deadlines on Mondays, theya€™re great days to catch up on email and all the other nonsense you deal with as a business owner. One thing Ia€™ve definitely noticed about myself is that I can stay up all night working on a client project (because therea€™s a deadline the next day that must be made) but have a hard time staying up all night for a for-fun procrastiworking project, which means that, unless I am working on for-fun projects during the day, they get put off or are started and not finished. If I feel like a puffy lump of a human with rock-like knots in my shoulders, I dona€™t work as efficiently, I have trouble managing stress, and I dona€™t sleep as well. This schedule will of course not work (or be very difficult to adhere to) during days Ia€™m traveling for conferences, but Ia€™m in one place, San Francisco, for nearly the whole month of August so ita€™s a perfect time to experiment with strict schedules.
I've been lucky enough to land imitators of my work in the last few months, some of which have worked with larger companies on very visible campaigns. I used to get people sending me style rip-off-ers all the time, but theya€™ve definitely started to taper off. There are brave souls that take on large companies when rip-offs happen (like Modern Dog) but if you followed their journey (which thankfully had a happy ending) it was full of heartache and stress, they had to sell their studio to pay legal fees, etc.
The best advice I can give you is to copyright your images so that if a clear cut case of stealing comes across your plate, you have some ground to stand on legally.
My name is Person, Ia€™m 21 and Ia€™m going to be graduating from college in the spring with a degree in Graphic Design. But one of my teachers just told us that the first few jobs we take after we graduate will dictate the work we do for the rest of our lives, because that will decide what our portfolios looks like. Should I listen to my teacher and ditch this job and start hunting around for an internship at a studio that might not pay as well? Ia€™m so sorry this is so long, but I really cana€™t thank you enough for reading through it. What your professor said is partially true, but ita€™s also a very very high pressure statement.
What your professor said puts way too much pressure on you to get an amazing job straight out of schoola€”which is REALLY REALLY hard!
I recently graduated from a graphic and package design program (whoop!) and Ia€™m really struggling with applying all that Ia€™ve learned to a€?the real world.a€? I interned at a fairly large branding and design company for six months and found myself drowning.
Questioning your abilities is far better than blindly moving forward thinking youa€™re awesome and never stepping back to question the work that youa€™re doing.
I have to step back constantly and look at the things that are good in my career and the things that I feel like Ia€™m missing or can improve upon.
I want to introduce you to your brother from another mothera€”another group of humans that, like you, is quite under-appreciated: the type designer.
Web designers are familiar with a€?easter eggsa€?a€”the little things they build into the code for people in the know to see and delight in.
Before I introduce you to a few type designers, Ia€™ll answer the question that every person in the type world is askeda€”a€?Whata€™s your favorite font?a€? If you are a designer of any sort, youa€™ve probably been asked this question more than once.
Think of typefaces as items of clothing and your self-proclaimed favorite font as a hilarious ironic t-shirt.
Since Ia€™m comparing fonts to t-shirts, Ia€™ll compare type designers to fashion designers.
If youa€™ve seen me speak in the last year, youa€™ve seen me use Jacksona€™s beautiful Harriet Series all over my presentations. Youa€™re probably familiar with their typeface Bello but there are so many others worth checking out.
Josh and his studio make incredibly beautiful typefaces, including Freight, a serif super family and Omnes, a rounded sans that has a wonderful weight range and great personality. When I judged the TDC Type Annual a couple of years ago there was one typeface that made me say to myself a€?I cana€™t wait to go home and use that!a€? That typeface was Brandon Grotesque. I dona€™t know a single type-centric person that wona€™t praise the abilities of Kris Sowersby.
Lapture from JAF is a beautiful and weird text face and Herb is one of the coolest typefaces ever. You couldna€™t spit without hitting one of Housea€™s typefaces in my college design department. Christian and Paul have some truly beautiful typefaces and have carved out a niche in the newspaper industry for producing excellent newspaper type. If you got married in the last five years, chances are high that you used one of Alea€™s typefaces on your wedding invitation. Marka€™s Sweet Sans is one of my favorite facesa€”Ia€™ve always loved Engraversa€™ Gothic but found myself wishing it came in more weights or just had a bit more to it and then Sweet Sans debuted to answer my prayers. There are some beautiful typefaces out there, but not all of them will be perfect for your project. There are a bunch of things I take into consideration when choosing a text face that help me narrow down the candidates.
Gotham comes in eight weights (I own it in seven, hence the two red weights that either arena€™t available or arena€™t in my library), herea€™s how desktop definitions of weight might compare to web-friendly numbered weights.
A generous x-height (the height of lowercase characters) is very important when choosing a text face.
Therea€™s a difference between a sloped roman and an italic, and that difference means the world to me. Typefaces definitely have personalities and Ia€™ll get into ways to conceptually brainstorm about type shortly.
Sometimes when you stare at a block of text some letters pop out to you more than others because the letter looks heavy where separate components (like a stem and a leg) join together.
Notice how the stem on the n is less wide at the top to compensate for the weight at the join. Consistent type color also has a lot to do with the counters, or the spaces within the letters. Some typefaces come in a variety of widths (Narrow, Condensed, Regular, Extended, etc.), but when I talk about type width Ia€™m not only talking about these drastic style changes within a familya€”Ia€™m also talking about the difference in letter width between different a€?regulara€? width typefaces.
Using sans-serif typefaces for body copy can be a little tricky because without serifs it can be more difficult for the eye to quickly distinguish between two similar letter forms.
Hosted web fonts are definitely the easiest to implement and usually just involve adding a line of JS to your site in the head in order to install. Self-hosted typefaces put more control in the designera€™s hands but are a little less effortless to install.
You guys are probably all pretty familiar with Typekit since they sponsor a lot of web related events and have one of the bigger presences in the web font world. Webtype is not a library subscription model, you pay individually and annually for each font you use on a site (pricing based on page views), but the fees are still quite low for what you get. Fontdeck is similar to Webtype in its pricing structurea€”you pay per font per month based on average page views and therea€™s a free trial period to test typefaces before you commit. MyFonts is like a mega department store for type and like any mega department store not everything they sell is amazing. Ia€™ve said some disparaging things about Google Fonts in the past, mostly because I think type designers already have a hard enough time getting paid so their a€?everything is free forevera€? model bothers me. Ita€™s not my intention to make a comprehensive list of all web fonts services out there, and there are plenty of others including those set up by individual foundries. Alrighty, now that you know where to look and have established some general guidelines for what you are and arena€™t looking for in an anchor typeface, you can start getting a little arty. Sometimes youa€™re working on a project and you can add another layer of conceptual fun by sticking to type that was created during or accurately references the historical period your project is meant to convey.
Trying to be historically accurate is one of those things that will go unnoticed by most folks, but as we established earlier you dona€™t care that most people wona€™t know the extent of your labora€”youa€™re happy that there are a few true nerds out there that will be tickled pink by your efforts.
When I worked on the typeface for Moonrise Kingdom, trying to find a script that felt true to the time was a little tougha€”most of the script typefaces that came out in the late 50s and early 60s (the story takes place on a small island in New England in the early 60s) were brush scripts, which didna€™t feel right for the film. I created a little type samplea€”typesetting the title and the first few paragraphs of The Great Gatsbya€”to show you how historical accuracy can add an extra layer of oomph to your design.
Click through to see more designs, create your own, share designs and purchase customised products. There are a lot of ways to answer this, but Ia€™ll present an answer to the most common way the question is poseda€”a€?How do you deal with creative burnout?a€?. Usually though, this is caused by creating a house of cards on my calendar with deadlines butting up against one another.
I dona€™t often bring on help for a project, but if I really needed to, I could probably scrounge up a few folks to help with production to alleviate some of the pressure.
Names have been anonymousized, and Ia€™ve subtracted praise since it would be icky of me to just post praisey emails. I would hope a studenta€™s future success lies more in the person than in the school, but when I compare my program to what (I assume) other, more prestigious graphic design programs are like, I cana€™t help but think that I am missing a chance to grow into someone that I will never be able to realize otherwise. Environment invariably has an affect on you, but how much it affects you depends on you as a person. This isna€™t a bad thing always, as they are paying good money to be at a great school, but it means that their education isna€™t always tailored to their individual needs (Ia€™m talking specifically about students that follow a more standardized class path without experimenting a lot). Ita€™s a major part of your biography now but fades away after you have a couple of years as a professional under your belt. If your friend asks you if youa€™re available next month to go away for the weekend, you probably have to consult your calendar and check with your significant other before you give a yay or nay. Also, for things like a€?Code Fixesa€? (usually little bugs or misspellings on my site or one of my side project websites), I make sure I dona€™t derail my whole day by falling down a jquery k-hole trying to fix a minor bug Ia€™ve only had one complaint about.
If someone is asking me to do something for them, and doesna€™t devote a couple of seconds to address me personally, I feel 1000% comfortable ignoring their request.
Ita€™s helped me a lot, which is why Ia€™ve included it, but unless youa€™re getting 50-100+ emails daily (emails that require responses personally from you), youa€™re probably fine just following the rest of my suggestions.
Ia€™m not saying this is the end-all-be-all path to inbox zero, but it has sure as hell helped me find my way back to a more productive daily schedule. I struggle to hold back comments when clients tell me to do things that are obviously wrong, or take my work and make it a€?uglya€?. Yes, client deadlines impose some structure to your calendar, but for the most part (if youa€™re willing to work strange hours) work and life can blend smoothly togethera€”a haze of business and pleasure from the moment you wake until the moment you inevitably pass out in front of your open laptop screen. I was suddenly surrounded by people with a€?real jobsa€? (full-time salaried positions), who didna€™t have the flexibility I had (and who loved filling their weekends with fun non-work-related activities).
I would have afternoons so jam-packed with a€?just touching basea€? calls with clients that I couldna€™t hit a work groove without being interrupted. I would make the ultra-schedulea€”a strict hour by hour timeline that would keep me in line and make sure that every day I accomplished something other than answering a few dozen emails.
As I said before, I love working on weekends, but I love it a lot less than I used to now that I have fewer work-a-holic freelance friends in my life. Sometimes I have a huge burning desire to work on something and can power through it in one 20-hour start to finish work marathon, but a lot of my for-fun projects cana€™t be finished in a single work session. Ita€™s when I write best, when I enjoy sketching most, and when I can read for long periods of time without getting drowsy. Ia€™ll let you know how it goes, and hopefully some of you find this inspirational in a weird way. While you of course a€?own the copyrighta€? to the images you create unless you're transferring them to the client in a contract, ita€™s difficult to pursue copyright infringement cases without having filed for copyright of the images officially.
I love doing lettering and illustration, especially chalk board signage and stuff like that, and I think that in the future Ia€™ll be happiest doing freelance work on my own. Ita€™s true that every job you have will affect your portfolio if you let it, but you could be a lion tamer during the day as long as you found time to do design at night.
Youa€™re young, take whatever job you think you will learn learn the most from and even if ita€™s not a a€?dream joba€?, therea€™s plenty to learn. Tiny design studios pay lower salaries as well but you will learn a great deal by working at them.
If having a stable income takes a giant load off of your shoulders and allows you to be creative at night, keep that stable income job, but if ita€™s making you hate design and you come home exhausted and unable to work on your own stuff, quit it for sure.
I was working full time and freelancing a€?full timea€? (6-8 hours after work) for over a year before I quit my day job. While everyone there said I kicked ass as an intern, I really didna€™t feel like I was getting the direction that I needed; it was literally sink or swim.
In the way you tell your story, it seems so divine; the way you seamlessly moved from one place to another and eventually found your way to doing it all on your own.
Just judge yourself against yourself, not against people you feel are leagues away from you.


Half of my side projects started because there was a skill I wanted to practice or something that I was excited to make but no one was hiring me to make it. You are used to spending entirely too much time hovering over a keyboard googling endless combinations of words to figure out why something looks beautiful in Chrome but like a flaming pile of poo in Firefox. Type designers and web designers have an amazing amount in common, thata€™s why ita€™s super wonderful that theya€™ve been collaborating more lately. Well, almost everything type designers make is an a€?easter egga€? in one way or another, because most people think a typeface is just 52 letters, some numbers, and a few punctuation marks.
I know there are plenty of people that can easily name their favorite typeface (usually Helvetica) but Ia€™m not one of them. While ita€™s ill-advised to wear the same item of clothing every day, ita€™s absolutely normal to have a favorite fashion designer (or several favorites).
You probably know them best from their typefaces Gotham (embraced by the Obama campaign) and Archer (originally commissioned by Martha Stewart but now used everywhere.) I love these guys. Ia€™m a big fan of Dolly, which is a very friendly serif, and Liza if only for the opentype insanity they programmed into it. His sans-serif display face Mostra Nuova is beautiful and vintagey and he has a slew of other great faces. Hea€™s a young kiwi thata€™s released a string of hits including National and Founders Grotesque, and I love Galaxie Copernicus, which is a super pretty serif. Their talents dona€™t stop there though, check out Marian, a lovely hairline that, while impractical for the web, is still worth appreciating.
If youa€™re a web designer, especially if youa€™ve attended past AEA Conferences, you have already heard a lot about putting the content first and making websites that dona€™t sacrifice legibility and ease of use for fluffy ornamentation. If the x-height is too low, the typeface will appear smaller overall and the caps will have too much emphasis which interrupts smooth reading. I love typefaces that have really lovely true italics that are easily identifiable in blocks of text.
When it comes to text type, I usually want something even-tempered and laid back but not lacking in personality. This can make type feel spotty and any good type designer will prevent this from happening by making little micro adjustments to the letters to make sure that they dona€™t feel optically heavier at the joins. If counters are too closed, it can make a letter seem heavy or affect legibility and letter recognition. Ia€™ve used the term a€?legibilitya€? more than once already, and while I wona€™t go off on a tangent on what makes a typeface more or less legible, I can say that ita€™s all about pattern recognition. Since I dona€™t work for one of the main web font providers unlike almost all people that write about web fonts nowadays, I can give you a bit of a different perspective about web font services. You then just have to follow the provided instructions for calling the fonts in your CSS and youa€™re ready to roll. Typekit uses a library subscription model for typefaces, which is absolutely wonderful for web designers. While they dona€™t have the biggest library, they do only serve up quality typefaces and specialize in the texty end of the spectrum.
This is definitely a pricing structure that is more in favor of type designers, but they do what they can to make it painless and inexpensive for the average user. They have a wide selection of type and seem to focus more on quality over quantity, carrying a lot of the classics but also a good mix of new solid typefaces. They stress how forward-thinking they are in terms of open-type support, that they have the best font selection with over 20,000 typefaces, and that they have unparalleled language support. Dona€™t start with the whole a€?the internet should be a place for a free exchange of ideasa€? line, and I know plenty of you guys think we should open-source everything ever, but type design is one of those professions that really does take a lifetime of experience to master and every typeface takes endless hours and sometimes years to create.
On my website, I use H&FJ web fonts, which are not yet available to the general public but will be soon.
Brainstorming for type is not dissimilar to brainstorming for an editorial illustration or a book cover. I dona€™t make pretty a€?mind mapsa€? where I try to draw visual connections between my thoughts, I just let my mind wander and write down any word that pops into my brain when reminiscing about a book I just finished or when brainstorming for a companya€™s logo. Most people think about Cooper Black as embodying the 1970s aesthetic despite the fact that it was created in the 1920s.
If you were making a porn website that specialized in films created between 1980 and 1985, wouldna€™t it be fun to choose a text face that was created during that time frame? I should also probably mention that if you do make a very wrong decision when it comes to type, non-nerds will notice, they just wona€™t know how to verbalize whata€™s wrong.
There are four versions, a completely un-styled version, a fully styled version that uses the default typeface Georgia, a version using typefaces that people perceive as being accurate to the time but are a little off, and a version using historically accurate typefaces. Everyone experiences burnout of some variety over the course of their careers, many of us experience it regularly. Ia€™d say that if youa€™re not in the very particular position Ia€™m in (being a public figure), get involved in the creative community around you or mentor someone with less experience than you (therea€™s always someone, even if you feel like a n00b!). If one projecta€™s deadlines suddenly get bumped around, everything falls apart and Ia€™m scrambling to catch up. If you really do need a break, because you have been sick forever and feel like a shell of a person, sometimes you just have to call it like it is and tell the client that in your current state youa€™re incapable of delivering something awesome to them. I see plenty of students at incredibly reputable design universities that have portfolios that arena€™t as good as students from smaller less well known universities.
I would have been too intimidated by my classmates, the more well known professors, and the prestige of the school itself.
When you question the institution youa€™re in, or know that it has its shortcomings, you pay more attention.
And honestly, I find portfolios of students from smaller schools far more impressive when theya€™re good, because I know they really had to work to get it there rather than relying on the art direction of impressive teachers. When that a€?youa€™ve got maila€? chime would sound and fill you with warm and fuzzy feelings because someone, somewhere, took time out of their day to write you a nice note or send you a chain letter threatening your doom if you didna€™t pass it on?
After years of experimentation, Ia€™ve come up with a system that has allowed me, for about year, to keep my inbox under 20 at all times (which is an outrageous accomplishment, as previously it always hovered between 300-500). I write up the email, save it as a draft, and send it when I get to my office and am back on a wifi connection.
Everyone has their go-to to-do list app they love, but I just use Reminders, the one installed on all Apple devices, and sync it between devices with iCloud. Ia€™ve never had a situation when a client couldna€™t wait an hour or two for a response, or didna€™t call me if it was a true emergency (if theya€™re an existing client, they have my number). This has really helped me stay on top of my inbox because when I sign in, emails are arranged hierarchically so I can separate high-priority client stuff from casual correspondence. If the email app that you use buzzes and dings every time something new comes in, disable notifications. If the type is ugly and impossible to read, therea€™s too much going on, and the skin tone of the models looks like theya€™ve been pickled, my aim is not to a€?hurt (his) feelingsa€? or to a€?be competitive witha€? him and yet he accused me of both of those things and complained to our boss. As far as an underling, in the beginning you do have to adapt to the style of criticism that hea€™s comfortable with to get anything done. If he freezes up or gets defensive, make it clear to him that ita€™s as important to be able to defend your work as it is to be able to create it, then tell him youa€™ll come back in a few minutes when hea€™s gathered his thoughts.
For years I prided myself in my flexibilitya€”I woke up without an alarm, took off work mid-day occasionally to treat-[my]-self to mani-pedis, worked until 3am if the spirit moved me.
I found myself, more and more, conforming to a normal office work schedule, running into the same problems I had the last time I kept a 9-6 workday (i.e. After a morning of panicky email fire-fighting with east coast clients, Ia€™d slump into my chair taking a a€?well-deserved breaka€? and fall into a social media vortex for hours. Type design, for example, is a always a bit of a long-game processa€”one that I have a terrible time sticking to or integrating into my calendar.
No client deadline or social affair can make me reschedule an hour set aside for exercise because the second I do so it all goes to shit. Frank Chimero pointed out Benjamin Franklina€™s attempt to impose structure on his daily life, which is awesome, but wasna€™t precise enough for me.
This new calendar, which Ia€™ve called Ultra Schedule, is the skeleton on which the body of my week (the things I actually have to get accomplished) can be built.
I already have gotten plenty of positive feedback about the Yoga > Waffles time block on Saturdays and the distinction between a€?Lunch with a Booka€? and a€?Lunch with a Persona€? on weekdays. The best thing you can do is try to educate the person that ripped you offa€”theya€™re likely young and just don't know any better. Usually large companies have an in-house legal team that can devote endless hours to writing hard to read letters saying that what they have done is perfectly legal.
But right now I have a job lined up for after I graduate at a giant company doing UX stuff (which I kind of hate) but this is the kind of deal where I can get a good salary and health insurance and stuff that I honestly could really use. Therea€™s no reason why you need to include the work from a crappy job in your portfolio if youa€™re finding time to make good work on your own. Even cubicle jobs teach you a lot about how to deal with different kinds of personality types in office environments, how to write respectful emails, etc. When I started out, I went the tiny studio route because I was fine living like a broke college student until my mid-twenties and because my day job also had 9-6 hours (instead of 9am-10pm hours that you often see at small creative agencies), which enabled me to freelance at night and eventually go on my own.
I had enough saved that I didna€™t suffocate under the pressure to make money in my first few months out.
Not getting proper direction made me feel lost, and eventually I started questioning my abilities as a designer. Was there ever a time when you had overwhelming doubts about where you were going in your career, and questioned whether you were competent enough to pursue all you dreams?
Now at this point in my career, Ia€™m torn between wanting to write and educate more since I love to help people like yourself find their way or feel less intimidated to start projects, but I get very depressed when I spend too much time talking about work and not enough time actually making it. You write your own CSS and after the project is done you comb through it all to make it a€?prettiera€?. Web designers are pumped that they can use more than a handful of fonts on the internet, and type designers are pumped that this new group of people using their fonts actually know how to use computers.
Both groups of people, if theya€™re good at what they do, go above and beyond to make something amazing, even though most people have no idea what a a€?contextual alternatea€? is or would never notice that youa€™ve made two sets of images, one for retina and one for non-retina displays.
Ia€™m a believer that if you have a favorite font, youa€™re probably using it inappropriately or way too often. You think you look like a goddamn model in that t-shirt because it fits like a glove and ita€™s the perfect amount of thread-bare.
If you fall in love with a pair of pants one season, chances are that next season you can buy pants from the same designer and be similarly pleased.
I love everything this man makes and when he showed me Harriet for the first time I wanted to both punch him in the face and kiss him on the lips. Figure out what kind of content is most prevalent in your project (more often than not plain ola€™ body copy) and choose the typeface that satisfies the needs of that content.
I like to work with typefaces that have inbetweener weights and if possible the full range from 100-900 just so that I have more flexibility while designing. If the x-height is way too high, your eye wona€™t be able to distinguish quickly between caps and lowercase, which can make you lose your place while reading. What makes an italic an italic is that its structure is more closely related to scripts or writing than a romana€”it has identifiable entrance and exit strokes rather than perfectly symmetrical serifs and usually has a single story a and g. Finding typefaces with the right personality balance can be incredibly difficult because if you add even the most minor bits of flair to a lettera€”even the slightest curvature to a serifa€”it can make the type feel like ita€™s sporting a screaming purple mohawk when set in paragraph form. One reason Helvetica (the version you all have on your computers) doesna€™t work well for text is that its letter-spacing is just too damn tight. Most of these changes are imperceivable by the average viewera€”and they should bea€”but they make a world of difference to the type. Therea€™s some saying about how beginners design with black-space in mind and experts design with white-space in mind, but I forget the exact wording. If youa€™re designing a website with narrow text columns, you might want to pick a typeface whose regular width is a little on the narrow side so you can get more words on each line without having to scale text down, which helps keep hyphenation reasonable and type more legible.
In his 2009 article a€?On Web Typographya€? for A List Apart (which was expanded upon for an upcoming book), Jason Santa Maria quotes Zuzana Licko who stated a€?We read best what we read most.a€? Perhaps 50 years from now, Helvetica will be considered the most legible typeface on earth because of the insane Helvetica fetishism wea€™ve witnessed over the last few years, but for now our (western) eyes and brains are trained to skim quickly and effortlessly over serif typefaces and recognize patterns and shapes within the letters. If you cana€™t tell the difference between these characters, you may run into some trouble when setting the text. One of the major disadvantages with self-hosted web fonts is that if the type designer chooses to update the typeface, you must manually update the typeface on your site (upload new files to your host) vs. For a low monthly fee you get access to a large library of typefaces and can create endless a€?kitsa€? for all of the websites you work on. Like most services with this pricing model, they do allow a free one month trial for their fonts so you can see everything in place before committing. It looks like at one point they priced their typefaces individually but are now offering a subscription model and their top tier subscription includes access to unlimited desktop fonts (a library of over 7,000 typefaces) delivered through a proprietary system called SkyFonts. Also, theya€™re completely fine offering web font licenses to any typeface (with the designera€™s permission of course) even if the typeface was not originally intended for web font use. The typefaces available through Google Fonts were made by type designers that were paid a one time flat fee for their work along with the promise of exposure to a large audience (and we all know how I feel about that incentive). I definitely advise that if you fall in love with a typeface and notice that ita€™s not available through any of the major web fonts retailers, contact the designer to see if therea€™s a way for you to use their font. The less pretty and organized this list is, the more likely I am to actually let my mind wander. Blackletter, before it was embraced by every Hot Topic-shopping high schooler, was just a fancy laborious way people wrote in the 12th century.
It wouldna€™t need to be some crazy shoulder-padded display face, just a subtle wink to the era. I like to compare making a typographic mistake (like accidental inverted stress on a letter, which is when the thickness is in the wrong place) to having an eye a half-inch higher than the other on your face. Typefaces from the 40s would totally have still been in use in the 60s, especially in a small conservative town in the northeast. I also targeted the text differently in each version so you can see different ways to apply CSS to text.
If you feel completely detached from any sort of creative community (or any supportive community), you are most at risk of this type of burnout. If I know I have a little too much time to work on something, sometimes Ia€™ll put it off until the deadline pressure is higher and my body kicks into survival mode. Sometimes the client has more time, but sometimes they dona€™t so you should be ready with a few recommendations of people they can hire in a pinch. The main thing to do is examine what kind of environment works best for you, and what you can do to maximize your potential in whatever environment youa€™re in.
I tend to do better in environments when I have to be a bit scrappiera€”where I dona€™t have endless resources at my fingertips. You seek out the good, you avoid the bad, and you really take control of the direction your educational path is taking. My system may not be one size fits all, but there are some things Ia€™ve implemented that I think could truly work for anyone and help you unbury yourself from massive piles of email. What I hadna€™t mentioned before, is how ruthless I am about making sure that all administrative tasks happen on Monday. If someone sends you an app or link to check out, it can end up being the catalyst for an hour long internet browsing session. If theya€™re an incoming client and cannot wait an hour or two for a response, I probably wouldna€™t want to work with them anyway.
Nothing beats hand-sorting, but if you use gmail you probably notice that google tries to do this automaticallya€”guessing which emails are high-pri and which ones arena€™t.


The compliment sandwich is always good, where you start and end with something complimentary (a€?First, I want to say, thanks for asking my opinion so early in the process, I appreciate that you are looking at this as a collaborative efforta€?), then lay on the negativity, then end with something positive so he doesna€™t feel like you just crushed his soul to a pulp (a€?Overall, I think you're definitely in the right direction, we just need to push it a bit more in these waysa€?).
If you are truly at the end of your rope though, and need to tell him just how much hea€™s screwing up, do so. You should also make it clear to him that next time he has an issue with you, he should bring it up with you before going above your head and telling your boss (respect the chain of command!).
Weekend days were my most productive, with no frantic client emails to derail my concentration and little twitter activity to distract me. Ia€™d get into a good work flow in the late afternoon, look up, and notice it was already 7pma€”Ia€™d worked (actually made stuff) for only two hours that day.
I needed to find a way to block off time specifically to work on typefaces so that I can finish up the dozens of half-baked fonts Ia€™ve started and not finished.
I built in time for fun work during the day on Wednesday and Friday so I can actually finish and release a few typefaces this year.
If you do it in a way that is kind, you might end up making an ally instead of an enemy and they'll tread more carefully on future projects. I try not to carry animosity toward the ones who dona€™t because that kind of stress makes you die young. I always figured I could just do freelance on the side until I can make it doing just that.
I feel like Ia€™m wasting valuable post-graduation time, but I need a roof over my head too.
How can I take what I love and make it into a living like you did, what steps should I take?
Professors say things like this because 90% of design students dona€™t have the motivation to go home after their day job and make a cool promo, or work on freelance work.
Also, some people need to take higher paying less fun jobs when theya€™re young because of their life situation. Since Ia€™ve left, I been trying to pick up the pieces to regain that go-get-a€™em confidence I once had. I know these are incredibly intimate questions, and feel free not to answer them, but being an over-sharer, I had hoped you wouldna€™t mind. If what youa€™re missing is direct interaction with a mentor or someone whose opinion you trust, there are a few ways around this.
While the full slide deck is not shown below, about a quarter of the original slides are used as editorial illustrations.
You would be shocked at how many people try to download .zip files onto their iPhone to install fonts.
Now that you, the web designer, are about ready to add a€?seeking type designera€? to your OK Cupid profile, Ia€™ll get into why it matters to know the people behind the fonts youa€™re using. Maybe you only buy shirts from one designer because they perfectly hide that Freshman 15 youa€™re still trying to rid yourself of at age 30. This first typeface youa€™ll choose is your anchor, a term Ia€™m borrowing from Tim Browna€™s little compendium of knowledge Combining Typefaces, which is an excellent and very quick read.
Sometimes I want text to feel a little bolder or more emphasized but I dona€™t want it to be a€?bolda€?. A generous x-height allows you to set type at small sizes (for captions and the like) and have it still be very legible. True italics also ensure even color (matching weight) within text when used with their roman counterpart.
Sometimes you want your type to sport a screaming purple mohawk, but I can confidently say that those times dona€™t happen often. If you feel like you have to add letter-spacing to 16px body copy, you might be working with a typeface that is too tightly spaced, or too tightly spaced for your taste.
If you have a site that has columns with vastly different widths, finding a typeface that comes in a variety of widths can be incredibly helpful so you can use narrower width type on narrower columns and normal width to ever so slightly wide type on wider columns. There was a fake London2012 twitter account posting some incendiary things this year that looked completely legit because the sans-serif twitter uses (Helvetica Neue) doesna€™t pass the Il1 rule. First, ita€™s probably good to understand the difference between hosted and self-hosted fonts. The team of people behind Typekit goes above and beyond to make browsing for fonts easy and fun and they post very handy articles on their blog. They do endless testing and tweaks to make sure everything looks amazing on both Mac and Windows. You can also buy a perpetual license for typefaces, but most people opt to license for limited time periods if they foresee a redesign a few years down the road or want to save a little dough. Some fonts are offered as a perpetual license (which means you pay more up front but arena€™t charged annually) and some are offered in a semi-subscriptiony way where you pay for page-views and have to re-up once you hit your limit. Because of this fee structure, the fonts that are good often only come in one weight or arena€™t available with an italic. Also, if you notice a typeface is available through multiple retailers, you could do the type designer a serious solid by contacting them to see which of the services offers them the best cut of your cash.
As you read, you write down key points and visual cues you might be able to pull from in the futurea€”not just plot points and character names that could easily be found on Wikipedia, but also notes about how the text makes you feel. After Ia€™ve exhausted every possible banal and bizarre thought point, I think about which of these words would be an a-ha moment for a savvy reader, sometimes voltroning a few words together to create a very unique and unexpected concept. Type without immediate cultural associations can definitely evoke a feeling and a backstory, you just have to spend enough time with it to let that story materialize. I worked on a project with Google recently, and while I had to use some Google Web Fonts which were modern interpretations of type that could have existed in the 1920s, I did convince them to license Cheltenham as the main typeface.
People might not be able to place right away what it is, but something about your face isna€™t quite right.
This sort of conceptual reasoning in typeface selection is something that clients love to hear about and can help you convince them to think beyond the standard a€?web safea€? typefaces.
While the a€?somewhat accuratea€? version might scream 1920s a bit more loudly than the historically accurate version, therea€™s something nice about making historical references that are more subtle and less cartoonish. I only do this in dire dire circumstances (like when I got norovirus and threw up every 15 minutes for nine hours). While it has a reputable graphic design program that I enjoy, ita€™s not quite the intensely challenging, creative atmosphere I thought it would be.
If a client writes me on a Tuesday and says that they need me to fill in some paperwork, send an invoice, fill out a questionnaire, etc, I say a€?Great, I can take care of this next Monday when Ia€™m doing all of my admin worka€?a€”99% of the time the client is completely fine with it, and Ia€™ve now made sure that Tuesday is spent doing actual billable creative work, not doing unexpected admin nonsense. If a client sends you files to review, your concise email session has now turned into a a€?review client work and do revisionsa€? session. If theya€™re already having meltdowns before a job even starts, treating every correspondence like a crazy time-sensitive emergency, that gives me a clear signal about how the rest of the job will go.
Not everyone requires the compliment sandwich, but some people freeze up when theya€™re only dealt negative criticism. If my schedule was already this tough to wrangle, what would it be like when I was managing the lives of micro-humans on top of my career? Therea€™s plenty of time for exercise, most of which Ia€™m already doing so ita€™s not too much of a stretch to push myself to do a bit more. Frankly, I'm flattered and simultaneously depressed at any given moment and try not to think about it.
The best medicine is to just keep working and know that any time and energy you spend getting panicky rage over people ripping you off takes away from your ability to make work. I wouldna€™t ignore a true rip-off, definitely send a letter to the artist (a much more stern one than you would to a style rip-off, but still give them the benefit of the doubt that theya€™re probably young and made a mistake and are not an awful human). They need their job to be what fuels their portfolio because they have a hard time doing it on their own.
Some people need amazing health insurance because of health issues, some people need a high salary because theya€™re supporting a parent or small child. You could reach out to any designer in your area and see if you can buy them lunch in exchange for a portfolio review or see if they would be game for on-going critiques. If you have improved, what do you think helped most to move your work forward and what can you do to continue improving?
There is always something that youa€™ll be frustrated by or overwhelmed with in your career, just find a way to step back, look at whata€™s bothering you, and see what steps you can take to fix it, even if theya€™re small and gradual.
You are a unique and wonderful kind of humana€”someone intensely focused on details that most people will never ever notice.
No matter how amazing you think that t-shirt is, if you wore it every single day and to every event, be it a happy hour or a black tie affair, people would start to notice. Maybe you only buy shoes from one designer because they are the only shoes youa€™ve ever owned that dona€™t give you a foot-sized blister. All other typefaces you select must first pass the a€?does this jive with my anchora€? test.
The white space within and surrounding a letter is incredibly important to the overall design of the type, just as important as the black partsa€”spacing can absolutely make or break a typeface.
The goal when setting type is to make it beautiful and readable, and one of the things that helps with legibility is per-line word-count. One of the major advantages of self-hosted web fonts is that if the type designer updates the typeface you must manually update the typeface on your site, leaving it up to you to decide if you want to update. Sometimes I feel like I should be sending Typekit extra money because theya€™re so inexpensive it feels like Ia€™m stealing from them. Type is rendered differently on Windows than it is on Mac, so sometimes something that looks beautiful and smooth on Mac looks completely weird and janky on Windows. I know from personal experience that their self-hosted method is not the easiest to implement. All this said, ita€™s definitely one of the easiest services to implement on your site since therea€™s no need for a membership, login, or payment. Above all, remember that working with type retailers and designers that focus on quality over quantity is key. Most people arena€™t used to thinking about type conceptually, and ita€™s absolutely more difficult to design with abstract forms rather than narrative images. Cheltenham had the right amount of personality for the project and was made in the very early 20th century so it was totally feasible that it could have been used in the films. The more you know about the typefaces youa€™re using, the easier it is to justify their use. Thankfully, Ia€™ve found a community of friends who feel similarly, and we all support each other.
Good teachers can be found at every school, be they big or small and sometimes you dona€™t even realize how good they are until an interested student like you really reaches out for help. Sometimes it delivers me little twinkly moments of joy in the form of kind emails from strangers, but mostly it slowly chips away at my soul. Any tasks like these that come in during the week get added to my calendar the following Monday so I dona€™t forget about them, and their request email is archived. There are scheduled times during which I can be fully immersed in email and for the rest of the day Ia€™m forcing myself to ignore it. When youa€™re first starting out, youa€™re so defensive about your position in the industry because all the good stuff just started happening, but if you can keep the ball rolling and keep making awesome work, what once was a soul-crushing fury will turn into a barely noticeable annoyance that can at times legitimately feel flattering.
The key is to take a job that doesna€™t make you hate design and supports your development as a designer in one way or another, even if ita€™s just sugar-daddying your night time passion projects. I find that critiques from peers can also satisfy a good deal of this since so often the problem for me is really just showing the work to ANYONE before I send it to the client.
It can be super intimidating if youa€™re always comparing yourself to other people, especially other people that for one reason or another have had more time to practice or more opportunities to learn under a mentor.
You say to yourself a€?I dona€™t care that no one will ever appreciate this backbreaking work Ia€™m doing except other intensely nerdy people like me.
Youa€™d probably get gentle remarks from your friends about how you should expand your wardrobe horizons from time to time. Either way, you know you can go back to those designers time and time again and find something you love and that works perfectly for you.
Remember that just because a giant headline is the first thing your reader sees, that doesna€™t mean it should be the first typeface you choose. Also, the more weights you have the more flexibility you have with color choices and reversing type out of imagea€”you wona€™t have as many issues with how anti-aliasing affects the perception of type weight.
What I consider to be a screaming purple mohawk, you would probably consider the most subtle nearly invisible change in tone. Cyrus Highsmith has a great section about establishing good spacing within and around type in his book Inside Paragraphs, which is a very quick read and a great intro to typographic principles.
That said, anything that is cheap for you the user is probably also not returning a ton of dough to the type designers. Webtype goes to great lengths to make sure this doesna€™t happen and that their type looks great even in the harshest environments. I shake my fist at them for making something so easy to use that I have to dislike on principle.
Just because ita€™s easy to find shitty stock photos of ethnically ambiguous business men shaking hands on top of a globe doesna€™t mean our conceptual thinking should stop there. It could even be a non-designera€”having to explain my process to them, and having to talk about my work lets me see holes in the concepts and areas that can be improved upon. Ia€™m sure you learned a ton at the big branding place that you worked though maybe it was more about how you want to run a business in the future and what kind of job environment is best for you. I care, the nerds care, and thata€™s enough for me.a€? If you are thinking to yourself a€?Wow! Strangers might think ita€™s the only t-shirt you own and that youa€™re some kind of mysteriously well-groomed homeless person. If you get to know the type designers that make things that you love, youa€™ll never run out of beautiful typefaces to work with. I know that using a lot of fonts (each weight of a typeface is considered 1 font) can affect page load timea€”talk to your web font service about how you can streamline your site so that using multiple fonts doesna€™t slow things down.
Georgiaa€™s italic is one of the reasons that typeface will always win for me over other standard serif text faces. You are the husband that wona€™t notice I got a haircut unless I chop it all off and blondify myself. Sans-serif typefaces with two-story aa€™s and ga€™s usually read a bit quicker than those with single-story aa€™s and ga€™s. While I love Typekit, and use them all the time, there are definitely web font services that have a payment structure that leans more in the favor of the type designer than the consumer.
You get what you pay for, and sometimes you end up a€?paying fora€? free fonts in different ways. You can even write down random words that pop into your head that seem completely unrelated to the book. The other thing about your hilarious ironic t-shirt: it was cool like five years ago but now we all think ita€™s boring and dated. Testing type in different conditions will always be necessary, but if you choose high quality fonts less of the testing will fall on your shoulders. Some deep crevice of your brain thinks those words may be relevant, and since youa€™re only brainstorming why hold yourself back?



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