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.



Thesis Blog

The Design Deck: Getting it Printed

Having designed a portion of the cards, the next step is deciding on the best way to get them printed.

After some research, I found a few options. One of them is going through the grand-daddy of playing card manufacturing: Bicycle. They make a very high-quality card, and offer total customizability. The issue with Bicycle is that they require a large volume of decks to be made, or else they won’t do it at all. Since I am going to start out producing The Design Deck on a relatively small scale, I had to cross Bicycle off the list.

There are a few other options that I also decided against, due to inferior quality, or quantity required, including Printer Studio, Card Press, and

Once company was a clear winner in my selection process: They deliver a very high-quality product (according to various reviews), are reasonably priced, have options for different card thickness/quality, and allow me to make a limited run of as few decks as I want. I’m looking forward to seeing what the can produce!



Thesis Blog

The Design Deck: What’s in a Name?

After I came up with the idea to design a deck of graphic design playing cards, I needed to come up with a name.
I think that the name needs to be:

  • Short and memorable
  • Indicative of what the product is
  • Unique: it needs to be easily google-able and different from any other product
  • Fun: a little bit of pizazz or alliteration never hurts

Here is a few of the names that I was playing around with. I found most of them to be just a bit boring.

  • Graphic Design Cards
  • The Graphic Design Teaching Deck
  • Designer’s Deck
  • Graphic Design Education Cards

What I eventually settled on is The Design Deck. I think it short and catchy, and expresses what the product is. The alliteration makes it a bit more fun and memorable, and there is nothing else by that name that exists. What do you think, is it a decent name for a deck of graphic design playing cards?

One issue I’m still wrestling with is a subtitle. It would be good to be able to write “The Design Deck: Something something something”. I’ve been thinking about “Graphic design teaching playing cards”, but that is just darn wordy. Maybe “Design education playing cards?”. But that’s not very fun either. I’ll keep thinking on it.



Graphic Design Blog Post

Gibson: A Beautiful, Versatile, Canadian Typeface

I’d like to tell you all about the most recent typeface I’ve purchased, called Gibson.

It is a gorgeous, subtly designed typeface that is really elegant and versatile.


It is reminiscent of Gotham, by H&FJ, and Museo Sans, by Exljbris, but I would say it is superior to both in many ways. It has the bold strength of Gotham, but it works way better as a body font. And it has a true italic, not just an oblique, which adds real flair and class.


And the best part is, it is only $48, which gets you 4 weights, and their italics. In case you’ve never bought a font before, this is VERY affordable! The comparable package of Gotham is $200. AND, all of the proceeds go to graphic design education in Canada. The typographic deal of a lifetime!



Graphic Design Blog Post

Caecilia Font: Body Text Exercises + Gibson Typeface!

Here are some more experiments with the typeface PMN Caecilia, this time using it as a body text.

Here are some initial sketches that I did when I was thinking of ideas for layout of the text.


Caecilia is quite a pleasant font to use for body text for a few reasons, as follows:

• The letters have a smooth, even texture. When they are put together in body text, they create a relatively uniform, grey covering of the surface, which is quite pleasing to the eye. To get an idea of this texture, try looking at the examples with your eyes out of focus. Mmmm, smooth.

• The font has excellent kerning. Someone has taken many long hours going through Caecilia and figuring out how each letter should fit together, and it shows. This means that the typeface looks perfect in body text without out any modification. Quality of kerning is an easy way to distinguish between a professional and amateur typeface. Even if the letterforms look great, the kerning will often be incorrect in amateur fonts, while it is usually spot-on in a professional font.

• Caecilia has “true” italics and small-caps. This means that the italics are not simple slanted versions of the original roman font (referred to as obliques), but fully redesigned italics that have different forms from the roman.  The letters “a” and “f” are usually the most noticeably different between the roman and italic versions of fonts.

Take a look at Gibson, by CanadaType foundry, the most recent typeface I’ve purchased. The roman “a”s and “f”s are very different from the italics.


Also, GO BUY THIS FONT! It is only $48 for 4 different weights + italics, and it is really beautiful and excellent for titles and body text. I’ll do another blog post on it soon.

And here are the final results, using a hilarious quotation from Woody Allen. (And let’s just try to ignore the nastiness that is going on with Mr. Allen right now and appreciate this quotation as a separate entity.)

My typographic treatment of the text plays on the theme of moving backwards through life and finishing in an orgasm. The first exercise also gives a kind of summary of the passage by separating all the key nouns and putting them in small caps on the right side.




Thesis Blog

The Design Deck: My Idea

I’ve been wanting to design a physical product for some time now. I’ve designed a number of logos, posters, brochures, and even stamps and washroom signs, but I’ve never created something that I can distribute as an independent product that is usable over the long term.

I came up with the idea of designing a deck of playing cards that teaches the user about graphic design. I’m calling it The Design Deck.

I’m very excited about this idea for a number of reasons. Firstly, I think it is going to be tremendously fun to design. The is a long history of excellent graphic design in playing cards dating back to the 13th century, and the variety of card designs has blossomed in the past couple of decades. There are so many surfaces to work with on a deck of cards, and they have a wonderful dual use of being game devices, and also conducting information.

I did a little research on the market for cards such as the ones I want to make, and it seems there is a great demand. The most similar product out there is a deck of typography playing cards called Graphos, designed by a talented Canadian woman named Michelle Lam. Her cards, as seen below, conduct relevant information about the basics of typography, and are beautifully designed. These aren’t available for purchase right now, because they apparently sold out within a couple of weeks of their release. This seems like a very positive indicator about how much demand for a product like The Design Deck in the design community.
Here is a link to a bit more information about Graphos cards.


There are many other examples of great, modern playing card design that I am finding inspiration in.
Here is a great minimalist deck by Joe Doucet:

And here is a typographic deck by Cristiano Domingos:

Here is a simple and beautiful deck by Best Made Company:

There is lots of inspiration, and a good precedent for established market demand. And my research has also shown that there is no product that is similar to what I am going to make, which is excellent!



Graphic Design Blog Post

Caecilia Font: Design Exercises

In my recent studies of PMN Caecilia, I have undertaken a few design exercises using the font.

I based the exercises on 2 words: “disruption” and “subtraction”.

Here are my rough sketches of my concepts. I used a 14 x 14 grid for each design.


Explanations of Concept:

Top Left: In this frame I wanted to explore the confusion and miscommunication that disruption can cause.  I took the word “disruption” in its original, legible form, and sliced it at a diagonal angle, splitting each letter into two pieces. I shifted the upper letters over to the right so that they almost lined up with the base of the letter to the right. I then lined up and tweaked each letter piece, so it combined and formed a distinct, strange letterform with the piece below it. This results in a word that looks strangely familiar, but is entirely unintelligible. The disruption to the word caused strangeness and confusion.

Top Right: I wanted to look at a more pronounced, blatant form of disruption in this frame. I took the letter ‘p’ in the word “disruption and blew it up to a huge size, keeping it in its proper position in the word. I then also disrupted the ‘p’ by breaking it into little pieces and shuffling them up, down, and sideways.

Bottom Left: In this frame I placed a bold, positive ‘s’ in the centre of the page, and subtracted the word “subtraction” from it. It plays with positive and negative space, and looks at how more information can be stored in just one letter.

Bottom Right: For this frame, I started out with a black background, and subtracting white shapes from it until I had an interesting, pleasing shape. A more and more letters are subtracted, each individual letter loses its form and recognizability. In a bit of meta-subtraction, I then subtracted the word “subtraction” from the white space by adding it in black.

And here are the digital results of the sketches.

Typography Manipulations-15Typography Manipulations-16

It can often be helpful to sketch your ideas first, and get the rough concepts established. And then if you are better at Illustrator than with a pencil (like me), you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you digitize them and they turn out all right.