Design Dictionary

Hey Guys! Thank you so much to those of you who have stopped by to read this blog, it’s been fun posting my ideas and observations about design I see in my everyday life and I look forward to keeping this up!

A new addition to the Design Quest is a page dedicated to the vocabulary of the design world. While attending school I’ve learned the proper term for much of the design I see and I wanted to pass that knowledge on to you! I just saved you tuition to art school don’tcha know! So please check it out, a link can be found at the top of this page right below the Design Quest header, and tell me any words you may have seen in my blog or elsewhere that you would like me to define.

Creation of the Rio 2016 Logo

So even though the London Olympics just drew to a close, (is it weird that I already miss them?) and we have four long years to wait for the next set of games, the next host city has been selected and is starting their preparations! I recently saw the logo a group of Brazilian designers created to represent Rio and the games:

I’ll admit, at first I didn’t get it. It looks a little like a healthcare logo or something for kids? That is all until I stumbled across a great video.

The video, linked below, is basically an interview with the design team who created the logo for the Olympic games that will take place in Rio 2016. They exemplify the passion and symbolism that I believe should go into great design. I love when each part of a design is chosen deliberately and has a deeper meaning, beyond something that looks cool. Please, click the link below to see the video!

Rio 2016 Logo


Do you like the logo? Does the explanation given by the designers make the logo better?



Letter Cult

I recently found an amazing website featuring hand lettering done by some amazing artists. If you’re interested in what you see below you should absolutely check out  Letter Cult when you get a chance!


First off, this series of photos shows that much of the typography you find in logos, or logotypes, is commonly custom hand drawn for the client’s use. This, as Doyald Young points out in my post below, is something everyone can understand and desire…custom! I’m working on a logo now (keep an eye out to see a page of all my work coming soon at the top of this page!) that I’ve decided to hand letter. I’ve always admired beautifully drawn letters and have really enjoyed the work so far. The Barista logo below has such an old-timey and comfortable feel, perfect for a cup of jo! Notice though the drawing, the initial computer artwork, finalized logo and finally the mug it’s applied to! The first time my work is printed on a mug I may die of excitement.




Next, I found a GORGEOUS label drawn by Matthew Tapia featured on Letter Cult that is a great example of the type of design I would show my parents while explaining just what a designer was and how I was going to be able to make a living.


The lettering in the logo is all hand drawn! Guys, this designer DREW all this! I’ve always loved to sketched letters and have always felt self conscious by the results. Starting with my current project though I’m going to stick with the hand lettering, practice makes perfect right? It’s so much prettier then using typefaces already found in your computer, you have the freedom to creative anything!

Master of Logotype

Many of the logos we find most interesting or unique are a special category of design known as a logotype. A logotype is a word or brand name that is designed and written in a typeface completely unique to that logo. It may not immediately look unique, as it takes years of practice to recognize the intricacies of typefaces, but a designer has set out to design letterforms and spacing that will belong to only this particular logo.

Hands down, the master of logotype was a designer named Doyald Young. As a child he came from humble beginnings in the middle of Texas, where he worked odd jobs. He began loading milk trucks, then worked for the railroad before finally settling at a newspaper. At the age of 22 Doyald realized he needed to gain some sort of schooling if was ever going to make a decent living. While in school he was introduced to lettering and what resulted is true beauty.

Doyald Young

Doyald Young

What makes all of Doyald’s work so fascinating to me is that he does it all by hand, and every logotype he creates is absolutely custom to the clients wants and needs. He says in an amazing documentary, that even though there are over 100,000 (WOW) different typefaces in existence, he doesn’t use them in his designs. As evidenced in the video link below, Young may base his letterforms off a familiar typeface when appropriate, but he still makes hundreds of small changes that make the letterforms something completely new.

Doyald Young, Logotype Designer.

The Prudential logo and Doyald Young do a wonder job of showing that just because something is simple and dare I say plain looking, it does not mean that a lot of thought and hard work were absent from the process. It’s brilliant that Young used a typeface that most of the country learned to read with (learn something new everyday!) because he knew it would bring a friendly familiarity to the logotype. As a whole Young does a fantastic job of giving his letterforms a character and personality of their own with in turn make his logotypes so relatable and perfect for their purpose.

But What Does It All Mean?

Like more then half of America, I like to enjoy an espresso drink once in awhile. What I really mean is that I’ve become addicted to Starbucks’ Caramel Macchiatos and I am currently willing myself not to drink one more then twice a week. The focus of this post though is the graphic design element all who have walked into Starbucks have noticed, the logo!


It features what a first glance appears to be a crowned woman with long wavy hair and some…well, claws? Admit it, you weren’t sure what those were doing there either! You have to admit also that the above logo doesn’t look like the Starbucks logo you immediately imagine when you hear the words Grande Iced Upside Down Caramel Macchiato. No, the above logo just made it’s debut in 2011 but I’ll admit I hadn’t paid too much attention to it until recently either. I realize that’s my whole purpose of this blog, to notice design around me but I’ve been trying to avoid this place remember? I hear not looking at the siren on the cup helps.

True Starbucks hipsters know that the logo has changed it’s appearance slightly a few times over the years. Those same hipsters also know that the woman featured in the logo is actually a mythical siren modeled after a Norse woodcut of a twin-tailed mermaid. Senior writer, Steve M, of Starbucks cites that in the 1970’s when Starbucks was designing their logo they wanted something that paid tribute to coffee’s history of traveling by sea and the strong tie ports and the ocean have with Seattle, where the company originated from. I’m still thinking the symbolism of a siren calling to passing ships, or in today’s world passing tourists, promising what we’ll just call sweet pleasure and later killing you, financially anyways, was a huge part of the decision.

As the company’s popularity grew, the logo began to change. Below are the four logos Starbucks has used in the last 40 plus years.


In 1971 the brown, sometimes referred to as cigar, logo was introduced featuring a full length portrait of the lovely siren lady. Turns out what now get mistaken for claws are actually her twin tails, spread wide, for the world to see. She is also bearing clearly defined breasts, complete with nipples, which I’m sure got complaints since they were relatively quickly phased out when Starbucks started really growing in the Pacific Northwest. Notice in 1987 her hair is acting a little more modestly. Apparently in 1992 the spread legs were deemed inappropriate, fine by me, resulting in the logos of the last 20 years featuring a well cropped focus on the face of Ms. Siren. I’m a minimalist in many ways and really like the newest Starbucks logo. They seemed to have reached the brand recognition level of no longer needing their name on the logo and I’m sure that is always an awesome feeling.

To me, Starbucks, and the various small logo changes they’ve had over the years, is a perfect example of the symbolism and thought that goes into creating a logo. Companies rarely arbitrarily choose images to associate with themselves, instead they want a logo that embodies their mission or beliefs. In Starbucks’ case it’s officially a tribute to coffee’s roots and the maritime passion found in Seattle and it seems to fit the company well.

It’s everywhere!

Hello! Welcome!

I don’t mean to alarm you or anything but…did you know you’re being surrounded? Yes. Quite deliberately, and sometimes in a subconscious mind control way. It’s completely legal and you’re not in any danger but you might want to keep a look out….

Graphic Design is literally all around you at all times. It is the art of visual communication and in some form or another has been around for thousands of years. Cave men didn’t realize they were sparking a phenomenon when they painted what appear to be hunting tutorials on the walls of caves in France, but since then using visuals to convey meaning has been an important part of human life. Symbols were created in ancient cultures to facilitate business, such as how many cows your neighbor owned you after you sold him 50 bags of rice, and even individualized stamps that acted as signatures. Sounds an awful lot like a logo to me though!

Design Quest is on a mission to bring design that may be going unnoticed by the average person into the spotlight. I’ll start by pointing out something we’ve all been somewhat aware of, at least while writing a Word document. Fonts, or typefaces as the design industry refers to them, are infinite. They also have personalities and instances when they are appropriate and where they are not. To designers an infamous example of a typeface deemed appropriate more often then not is Helvetica. Below is the trailer for the documentary devoted entirely to this widely used font. The film, titled Helvetica, does a beautiful job of illustrating the impact a single typeface can have on our world. I also highly recommend watching the documentary in it’s entirety to get a better picture of the design world in the words of professional designers.

The point? Typefaces, which are a conscious design choice and example of graphic design, are everywhere! Helvetica is becoming widely known as a font that’s been over used and company identities are becoming too similar because of it, but that’s another story. What’s more important is that you, as a part of the target audience for every example in the video, begin to realize just how many design decisions are being made in the world today. Design is on advertisements, store signs, mail trucks, mailing envelopes, road signs and billboards. Designers spend lots of time determining the most effective typeface for a project.

Consider the effectiveness of the following, does the typeface change your perception of the company or it’s products?


Comic Sans has a deserved bad reputation of not belonging in serious design. It’s name even claims that it’s really only good for comic books and maybe elementary school projects.

Be honest, does the iphone look nearly as technologically advanced when you use a typeface based on the ancient Egyptian paper?