Yes, Creative Year is back for 2013 with a new portrait project. Why not swing by and be underwhelmed? I’m using the original blog site.
There will be no blogging project for 2012 – I have a few other things to sort out.
I was going to post this on Sunday but it seemed rather inappropriate in the wake of Gary Speed’s apparent suicide. Perhaps it still is, but needless to say it was drawn prior to that and isn’t intended to make light of it.
I have now added a subscription widget to the sidebar if anyone is interested in signing up. Perhaps I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t use an RSS reader, but I still think email alerts are handy. I’ve tested this one and it seems to work okay.
This is the logo for Suffolk County Council:
It’s bugged me for as long as I can remember. At first glance you might assume that the solid blue area of the crest is meant to be a shadow, but shadows don’t behave like that. There’s no detachment. Which means that it has to be an extrusion – but why does it not follow the contour of the crest which is rounded on its side? And then you notice the angles:
Angles a and b are converging and therefore consistent with a 3D shape, but c should be about 55°. I worked this out by making my own 3D version in Google SketchUp:
At this correct perspective we can see that there would be no need to curve the extrusion’s edge, but their version doesn’t work because they got the angle so wrong. And why is it so deep? Here’s my model again from a different angle.
I considered the possibility that the extrusion on the original logo is meant to look like an arrow, but then surely they’d have made angles a and c the same.
Conclusion: crap logo.
In the world of typesetting, the adjustment of spacing between individual letters in order to achieve a more pleasing visual result is known as kerning. This shouldn’t be confused with tracking, which is the uniform spacing that is applied to all characters in a block of text, or leading which is the spacing between lines (pronounced ‘ledding’ after the thin strips of lead that were used for this purpose in old printing presses).
I was rather excited recently to find a link on Twitter to this online game, where you can pit your kerning skills against a professional designer, and somewhat relieved to score 96% on my first attempt. Bad kerning always bothers me, so it was nice to have some validation of my perception of it.
Kerning is important because default character spacing values have different effects depending on which letters are paired together. Some letter pairs, depending on the font, leave unsightly gaps. A good example would be the uppercase A and V in Times New Roman:
The extremities of the serifs leave quite a chasm, but a simple adjustment makes for a nicer result. I also nudged the first A and the T a little to the left. You generally wouldn’t bother with this for body text because the problem isn’t as obvious (most desktop publishing programs have an option for optical correction in any case), but for titles, headlines and banners in printed text, a little adjustment is almost always needed. Thankfully most printed matter is produced by people who know what they’re doing, but bad kerning is a hallmark of amateurish design.
All of which I was reminded of recently upon receipt of a letter. At my workplace we recently had a work experience student from my old high school, who afterwards wrote to us to thank us for being so awesome. (I love those letters, they’re always so insincere – you can almost sense a looming teacher making sure that they don’t write anything unpleasant, though their efforts would be better applied to correcting the multiple spelling and grammar errors.) Sadly I was unable to focus on his kind words, genuine or otherwise, because the letterhead was so awful. Look at this monstrosity:
It’s actually regarded as a pretty good school, but that’s not the impression I get from this. It’s a good job I’m not a parent because I would much sooner judge a school on the design of its headed paper than its OFSTED reports. I can only assume that one of the teachers offered to knock it up themselves; if this is the work of a professional then I’m appalled. The gap between the first two letters of ‘Farlingaye’ is so vast that an entire year group of students could disappear in there. Did anyone do a risk assessment? If you’ve ever lost anything within a 100 mile radius of Suffolk, I’m betting that it’s in that hole. Which is just the start of the faults. In my view, ‘Farlingaye High School’ should all be in the same font at the same size. Currently, ‘High School’ is so far removed from the name that you’d never guess they were related. The strapline under that shouldn’t be wider than the name, and repeating ‘school’ is clumsy. As for the asymmetrical logo – what the hell is that? A rugby ball? A pair of mating whales? Or, more probably, the teardrops of St. Doris, patron saint of desktop publishing. I can only wonder in horror at the designs they discarded in favour of this, assuming that such a process even took place. Let’s see just how asymmetric those shapes are.
I rotated the right side through 180° and reduced its opacity to 60 per cent. I can’t think of a reason for it to be so lopsided, other than sheer carelessness. As far as I’m aware, that logo is on every tie and every jumper of every one of their 1600 students. In my day the logo was a stag, as seen in this shot of my sixteen year old self.
Okay, so a stag is an odd symbol for an academic establishment but at least it’s obvious what it is (rare blue coffee bean?). I may even write to the headteacher about this, and I never do that kind of thing.
I’m happy to accept that bad kerning and design is of little interest to most people, but I may make it the subject of further posts as I come across more examples. Boring my readers to tears has never stopped me before. Adverts in the local press and services directories can be excused because they can’t be expected to know better, but an academic establishment? Farlingaye, you must do better.