Graphic Design Blog Post

Image/Text Layout Exercises

As a lead-up to my How to Choose a Typeface flowchart, I did some experiments with type and image layout, using a simple grid system.

Below is a screenshot of the many different formations I played around with before deciding on my favourite three. It is a great exercise, as it promotes free thinking and total flexibility it your layout, as there are no expectations of the final design.

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 2.51.10 AM (2)


And here are the final three that I chose as my favourites.

Excercise 4_wrk1-16 Excercise 4_wrk1-17 Excercise 4_wrk1-18





Logo Design: Whitehorse Nuit Blanche

Whitehorse_Nuit_Blance_Logo_wrk2-14Here is a logo that I made a couple weeks ago, for submission to a logo contest for Whitehorse Nuit Blanche. Normally I don’t do spec work like logo contests, but this one seemed like a lot of fun, and for a great event in my home town.

There is 20+ hour daylight in July in Whitehorse, so the sun would be hovering about this high above the town at midnight when the festivities would be occurring. It was fun to play with the varying scales of items in this logo, and to get the colour combinations just right.

What do you think?



Graphic Design Blog Post

Hydraulic Fracking: The Research

I am staring to work on a graphic design project around the issue of hydraulic fracturing for oil and natural gas extraction. What follows is the research conducted by my partner Joel Eckel and me.

What is the nature and scope of the issue?

Hydraulic Fracturing, or “fracking”, is a controversial method of extracting oil and natural gas from the ground. It is performed by injecting highly pressurized liquids into depleted oil and gas deposits in the Earth’s crust to cause the rock to fracture and release additional fluids. The liquid injected is usually a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, ethylene glycol, and isopropanol. The quantities of material used in modern fracking are massive, with up to 8 millions gallons of water and 320,000 lbs of sand being used per well. While the technique is very effective, and has created a large upsurge in the amount of oil being produced worldwide, it is associated with many serious health and environmental concerns.

These include the contamination of ground water supplies, risks to the health of people living near fracking sites, increased seismic activity, increased atmospheric emissions and and reduced air quality.

Fracking has come into more common use in the last decade, as the world’s supplies of oil and gas have begun to dwindle. A company can use the practice of fracking to extract large amounts of additional oil and gas from deposits that had been depleted using traditional extraction methods.

This is a worldwide issue that directly applies to any country that has natural gas or oil deposits, and indirectly applies to all other countries due to the widespread environmental damage it can cause. The issue is particularly contentious in Canada, the USA, and Europe, where there has been oil and gas extraction occurring for hundreds of years, and fracking could extract substantial amounts of additional resources.

The arguments for hydraulic fracturing are :

  • It is necessary for providing the world with the energy it needs.
  • It brings economic prosperity to the locations where it occurs.
  • Burning natural gas is less environmentally harmful than coal, so it is doing good by offsetting coal burning.
  • Fracking uses extraction sites that have already been drilled, and does not cause as much environmental damage as starting a new drill site.

The arguments against hydraulic fracturing are:

  • The toxins injected into the ground leach into groundwater and poison all the animals and humans that drink the water.
  • The gases released into the air through the fracking process do damage to the environment and speed global warming.
  • The actual fracturing of the stone causes unnatural seismic activity that can disturb the environment.

Section sources:

Who are the players involved in each side?

There are three mean stakeholders involved with fracking. The Industry, The Public, and The Government.

The Industry:

The primary goal of The Industry is to extract natural gas through the means of fracking with the intention of satiating the increasing global energy demand. They do this in the most economical means as, like any business, the end goal is profit. However, the extraction of natural gas often incorporates some negative externalities, especially in regard to the environment. As a means to promote fracking, the industry hires lobbyists to persuade the government to create legislation in favour of fracking. This legislation affects the prominence of fracking by either restricting social and environmental regulation or by granting them autonomy.

The Public:

There are two main contributions from The Public in regard to the prominence of fracking. First, the public actually creates the demand for energy, which then creates a necessity for fracking as the demand for natural gas is substantial. Additionally, there are those in the public the gain financially from the profit that fracking creates in the oil and gas industry. This is often where the government finds most of its pressure to deregulate fracking. Conversely, there are groups in the public such as NGO’s, scholarly institutions, and community action groups. Most of these groups fund research on the industry, present their findings, or petition the government against fracking.  Therefore, there is a dichotomy created within The Public as some have intentions to profit form the industry while others see it as a destructive means to provide energy.

The Government:

The government is in charge of the legislative decisions that affect the fracking industry.  They are primarily concerned with preserving the countries natural resources, while simultaneously meeting the demand for its energy needs. They are pressured from the industry to promote fracking through lobby groups, as it is a profitable business, and they are also pressured by the public to restrict fracking as they see the externalities too destructive.  In some regard it is a fickle balancing act that is often contested.

Section sources:

What are the historical roots?

The practice of hydraulic fracturing for oil and gas extraction was first used experimentally in 1947. Its first successful commercial use occurred in 1949, when the Haliburton Oil Company licensed the technique and began to use it in many of its oil extraction projects, fracking 332 wells in the first year alone. The company reported 75% production increases.

Other companies caught on to the new invention, and by the 1950s, 3,000 wells a month were being fracked. Since then, over a million wells have been stimulated using the technique. The chemicals mixed with the water have changed substantially over the years, and now there are more than 600 different chemicals that are used in fracking fluid.  There is currently a worldwide discussion occurring about the acceptability of fracking, with no definitive answer forthcoming.

Section sources:

Are there any marginalized or oppressed social groups as a result of the issue?

Fracking creates two main groups that become marginalized.

Environmental Organizations and National Parks:

This group is marginalized because much of the fracking happens close to, or on national parks. The drilling operations require roads to be built, which destroy habitat; there are emissions created from fracking camps, which damage wildlife, and in general the practice of fracking necessitates deforestation to gain access to the natural gas.

The Public:

People who live near fracking operations often have contaminated water supplies. This kills livestock, pollutes water systems such as streams and ponds, and contaminates drinking water reservoirs. Also, fracking requires millions of gallons of water. This is often extracted from local wells, which drains resources from nearby communities.

Section sources:

Our Viewpoints:

Joel Eckel:

My stance on fracking is that it is a necessary means to provide natural gas to a nation with a substantial energy demand. Not only does it contribute to the oil and gas industry as whole, which is one of the most profitable industries in the country, there is still no way to replace natural gas as our primary energy source. For that reason, it makes sense to completely harvest the natural gas from one deposit rather than beginning to drill another.

Ben Barrett-Forrest:

My viewpoint is that the cons of fracking drastically outweigh its pros, and that it should be universally banned. There are dozens of ways in which fracking devastates the environment and compromises the health of the people living in areas where it is performed.

Instead of turning to ever more harmful ways of extracting energy from the ground, we should be focusing on environmentally friendly alternatives, such as solar, hydro, and wind.

Here is a mind-map we created to help us explore this complex issue:




Graphic Design Blog Post

Choosing a Typeface Flowchart: Refining my Design

In the couple weeks that I’ve been working on my flowchart to help people choose a typeface, my design ideas have evolved significantly.

I found it very useful to examine many flowcharts online to help choose which style would best suit my project. And then, with a general knowledge of how many elements would need to go into my chart, I hand sketched some different layouts, as seen below. I chose a layout with a strict grid system, as I thought it would better reflect the organization of typographical systems, and most of the other options looked a bit messy.


I also considered a number of font options before I settled on my final choice. The main options I considered were:

  • Frutiger
  • DIN
  • Whitney
  • Gibson
  • Ideal Sans

Any of these would have been good options, but Ideas Sans won out. It is very legible, but has a lot of funky personality too. It has tons of weights, and just fit a little bit better than the other 4.

Here are a couple links to other flowcharts that inspired my design of this one:

The image below is an early draft of what the flowchart would look like, where I had established the general grid format and shapes of elements I would use in the final product. It changed substantially since then, but it was a good experience to see what it looked like transferred from paper to computer.




Graphic Design Blog Post, Uncategorized

Brainstorming Tips: How to Come Up with Ideas

I recently complete work on a flowchart poster to assist people in choosing a typeface. I will post it shortly, but in the meantime I thought I would share a little bit about my creative process.

The following images show some design thinking exercises that were very useful in coming up with ideas and considerations for my typeface poster.

Idea Map:


The 180:


Other Points of View:


The Zoom:


50 Questions:


The Mind Map:


I also spent some time documenting my process of choosing a typeface as I was working on some design projects. Here it is:

“In all honesty, I choose most of my typefaces in a very time-intensive and thorough way. I have never used any kind of formula before. I put the right words in roughly the place where they will go in the finished design, and start going through every single font, starting from the As and going to the Zs. And I have over 800 fonts, so that can be a very time-consuming process. When I see one I like, I’ll “alt-click” and drag to duplicate the font on the side of my page, and then keep on looking. I thought that there must be some way of speeding up this process. I likely will still go through all of my fonts fairly regularly, but this could certainly streamline things a little bit. Below is an image of my scrolling through countless fonts and leaving them on the sides of my page.

Screen Shot 2014-03-14 at 2.12.16 AM
So I tried to think about what I was really looking for when I was scrolling through all those fonts. I came up with: personality/funkiness, professionality/approachability, strength/softness, body-text/titling, modernity/old-fashioned-ness. Of course, a person is looking for something different for each font they are choosing, but if I can provide some criteria, that will help in their thinking process.”



Thesis Blog

The Design Deck: The First Cards

After designing the custom suits, and choosing my typography, it is time to start designing the cards themselves. I think that the back of the cards is the most important feature, as it is repeated 54 times (including jokers) compared to each face, which is only seen once.

I decided to go for a very minimalist aesthetic for the deck, and I want the information to shine through without other distractions. Below is the back of The Design Deck. It has the name, the suits, and two containing lines, and nothing else.

Card Backs-15

I also designed 6 of the card faces, to establish the visual language that will be reflected throughout the deck. You can see below that I used the condensed version of DIN font, with my custom suits. I’ve left lots of white space around the edges, to make the cards simple and to clearly show the information shown on each one.

Card Faces-16



Thesis Blog

The Design Deck: Custom Suits

One of the most important features of any deck of playing cards is the appearance of the suits. I thought about using a set of stock suits from the internet. But after a look around, I wasn’t happy with any of the ones I found. Here are a few of the ones I wasn’t happy with:

I went about designing my own in Adobe Illustrator, using the pen tool to create them from scratch. I then looked at them in different situations, and at different sizes, and tweaked until I got what you see below.


I’m quite happy with them I think they are fairly smooth and well-proportioned. I gave all of the corners just a tiny bit of rounding, so they’ll look good when printed, and are easy on the eyes.