Inspiration = Plan B
There’s what you plan to do and there’s where the process takes you.
Branding and brand awareness is absolutely a tool writers use in sharing their work, and this is a big part of why I’m in this program at WSU and was excited for this assignment.
In full disclosure, I planned to make an icon to fit Explorer, my brand archetype. When I sat down this week to browse dozens of literary images for inspiration, something caught my eye.
In one of the logos, I noticed that the ink channel in the fountain nib looked just like the letter “i”–the third letter in my first name. Something clicked in my brain and I was off in a new direction.
You see, I love fountain pens. I use them when drafting in my notebooks, cherishing the scratch of metal on parchment, the flow of ink to fiber. I still use those owned by my father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. My multi-great-grandfather, John Adams, used a nib pen to sign the Declaration of Independence, and my multi-great grandmother used one to chronicle her journey across the Atlantic from Galway to America having packed one in her steamer trunk alongside big dreams. Fountain pens are not just a treasured writing tool for me, they are a part of my heritage.
What’s in a Name? Practice.
To build brand recognition as a writer, one strategy is to include your name in your logo. As “Erin” and “Lark” each have four letters, this fit neatly into a square. So, I threw it back to my preteen years doodled my name until it looked right – or like a bird ate it.
I liked the idea of an icon-ready design so set my Artboard to 800px by 800px and added gridlines to orient my work.To distinguish, visually, between my first and last names, I chose to combine print and cursive type. I’m often told I have proper “teacher handwriting” and so I hunted for Adobe fonts close to my style. I chose Trade Gothic Next Soft Regular for the “erin” with the font at 350 pt to fill the top half of my Artboard. I wrote “lark” in Fairwater Script in 350 pt below my first name. I used lower case as having the capital letters placed weight on the left that wasn’t balanced. I used Horizontal Align Center to center the type and inserted a Hair Space between each of the print letters in “erin” for kerning in order to better balance the width of the cursive letters.
Next, I wanted to use the “i” to ensure alignment and sizing of the pen nib to fit the text. I watched this tutorial on tools available for hand-drawing these shapes.
Moment of realness here. The Pen Tool and I are not friends. No matter what I tried in our tutorials, I’d somehow click too many times and in all the wrong places and end up with a mess. I definitely get the irony since the icon for the Pen Tool is, in fact, a fountain pen nib.
To psych myself up and hone my skills, I did a lot of practicing. I wanted get better at making predictable results. Completing this tutorial helped as it gives practice templates to use. While I’m not up to their squirrel challenge, I got to the point where I increased my precision of tool use.
Finally, I created one shape that had a curve and three straight sides, then used Reflect on a copy. I slid each into place to the edges of the “i” to create the channel. I used the Ellipse Tool to create a circle the size of the dot of the “i” and slid it over the dot. Then, I used the pen tool to create a rectangle above that circle and sent the rectangle to the back to close the channel between the shapes. I made a copy of the circle, scaled it down in size, and snapped it to the end of the channel to be the pen nib before deleting the “i”.
I wanted a Shape Builder refresher before finalizing the nib, so I practiced with this tutorial. Back in my design, I used the tool to make the channel part of the transparent background. Lastly, I used Shape Builder to unite all the nib pieces into one shape.
Next, color. I first chose orange for the nib because this article, this article, and this article say orange evokes warmth. Friendliness and approachability is what I want at this point in my writing career as I seek mentorship and representation. That said, I experimented with a few other versions, including a purple as that shade evokes mystery. I also tried a black-and-white gradient nib and a version with a black stroke, no fill nib. Lastly, I changed the font color, for contrast.
As I know I need something with scalability, final steps involved playing with sizing and printing out my logo.
Reflection & the Squint Test
Questions I’m considering between now and our next draft are:
- How does coloring affect perception of this design?
- Should the parts of the “r” and the “n” that overlap the nib become white space also, like the ink channel?
- Now that I’ve placed more weight with the inclusion of the nib, should I capitalize the L in “lark” to balance?
- What proportional shifts might better support my design?
This is where I invoke my longtime watercolor painting instructor’s voice:
“Stick it on the wall, walk really far away, and squint. Do you see interesting shapes?”
So, dear reader, how do I fair on the squint test?