Of Fountain Pens & Logos

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.

This is an image of four fountain pens owned by the author
Some of the author’s fountain pen collection.

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.

This image shows some logo design sketches the author made.
The author’s initial logo sketches.

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. 

This image shows shapes the author drew while practicing
The author’s Adobe Illustrator practice using the Pen Tool.

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?

5 thoughts on “Of Fountain Pens & Logos

  1. Hello Erin. I really enjoyed reading your blog post and seeing where all your influence came from, from your heritage and profession to the designs that helped you better understand the tools used in illustrator. I like the that you gave us multiple color and outlines of your design.
    As for your questions and consideration, what color currently represents your brand, or do you frequently use with your brand or even industry? The orange color in the first logo makes me think about traffic cones or construction, maybe go with an orange like your last logo? I think you should keep the lower case “L” for Lark. Even with the nib I feel the piece is well balanced and having only 1 upper case letter could draw more attention to the L than the rest of the piece. To bring more balance, perhaps you could add a shadow or underline underneath “lark” to balance with the nib. While I don’t think this is necessary, it could help with the balance you are concerned about.
    Overall, I really like your design and how you’ve incorporated your name and industry into the logo. I am excited to see the final changes you make and the colors you select.


  2. Hi Erin,

    Nice to work with you again! I love your idea of the fountain pen and incorporating it into your design. I think it fits with you as a writer and has symbolic meaning for you.

    Regarding your question – “should the parts of the “r” and the “n” that overlap the nib become white space also, like the ink channel?” – I think yes. It’d be cool to have it become white space or for the nib to bleed into the other letters.

    Fountain pens make me think of serif fonts. How would you feel about changing the font to be a serif style font? I think it would bring that historical meaning out a little bit. I enjoy the colors as well! I think they’re fun and engaging.



  3. Hi Erin! I really enjoyed reading your thought process and I love that you incorporated the fountain pen directly into your design.

    As for the color, I think it really depends on what emotions you are trying to convey with your design. The orange feels a bit abrasive and “warning sign”-esque. I really like the use of purple, especially since purple is associated with wisdom and as a writer, that seems like it fits your brand. I also really like the gradient in the black and white version, so I would be curious to see how that would look with purple as well.

    I would also challenge you to try out some different fonts. I feel like a serif style font would benefit the design because it is reflective of writing done by fountain pens.

    Overall, this design is super cohesive and proportionate. You have a really great start and I’m looking forward to seeing your revisions!


  4. Hi Erin,

    Sorry one more comment from me. For the logo that has the nib in white with a black outline, how do you feel about making the stroke thicker? Maybe to 5pt? Since your font is thicker, I think this would pair well. Not sure if you want to explore that design more, but thought I’d offer the suggestion!


  5. When I look at this design a few days down stream, what I love is that I can easily read my name and that the shape of the fountain pen is quickly identifiable. I like having the fountain pen nib a different color from the font as it helps the two elements stand out, but I would like to keep the palette to a minimum given the amount of places and instances I will use this image.
    I’m thinking I want to integrate something that will make my design a little more three-dimensional. I may use a gradient on the pen nib for the final design, but I’m also going to experiment with a shadow, either for the nib or for the text, perhaps an edging on the text.
    I will also see if there is a serif font that appears to be handwriting as this was suggested by two of my classmates. I love the idea of trying things out, seeing what fits, and then polishing up!


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