Archive for the 'News' Category

A New Logo for American Contemporary Ballet

December 18, 2013 on 6:12 pm | By | In Gigs, News | 2 Comments

Earlier this year I had the pleasure of meeting Lincoln Jones and Theresa  Farrell—respectively the Artistic and Associate Directors of Los Angeles’ American Contemporary Ballet. They describe themselves as producing “original contemporary classical ballets in Los Angeles, California–works that are built upon the foundation of classical ballet, and which extend the art into our own time”. When we first met their studio space was less than ideal, but it wasn’t long after meeting them before they lucked into a fantastic space on Wilshire Boulevard directly across from the main entrance to LACMA. At the time they had a professionally designed logo that did the job, but their new space presented them with a challenge: outside, directly in front of their floor-to-ceiling windows was a fountain, and centered in the fountain was a large, white, blank “monument” whose purpose obviously was to support signage for whoever was the tenant of the space behind it. Occupying their beautiful new space, and realizing that the “monument” in the fountain was the wrong proportion for their existing logo, Lincoln and Theresa asked me if I’d be interested in designing a new logo that would also work for them as signage. Lincoln described the process of our working together on this project:

“In my experience, it is rare to be delivered a design product and love it unreservedly, at first sight. With Michael it happened twice, on the same project. We needed a sign to fit the large monument in front of our new building across from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Our current logo didn’t work, given the size and shape of the monuments face, and I hadn’t been able to imagine even a vague outline of anything that I liked for the space.”

Previous Logo and Blank "Monumnet"The previous logo superimposed over the blank “monument”.

“I asked Michael to make some suggestions, and he came to the studio and made a sketch in front of me. What he drew was something that I had never considered, but which was beautifully alive, eye-catching, and seemed to capture the spirit and aesthetic of our company in just the right way. It was also totally unique within our market. I told him to do it exactly like that, and that it would also serve as our new logo.”
Thumbnail Sketch

Well, in case you were wondering how anyone could tell very much from the thumbnail above, I did “fill in” quite a bit with a verbal description of what I was envisaging. I went back to the studio and subsequently started developing that very loose thumbnail into a design that was a bit more coherent—
Rough SketchTighter Tracing

Then taking it several steps further, I digitized it in Adobe Illustrator, trying to make it work with several different iterations:
Logo—4 Variations

…but for various reasons I was less than happy with where this design was going. At this point I’ll let Lincoln take over, describing what happened next:

“He called me a few days later to say that while he liked the art he had done, he didn’t think it was right for the location. His reasons made sense to me, so he sent me a second design which retained a few qualities of the first, but was totally different in the overall feeling.”

Final ACB Logo

I had decided to keep the script lettering of the word “Contemporary”, but shifted it to read along a horizontal plane instead of moving upwards at an angle, and I had decided to simplify the words “American” and “Ballet”, rendering them in my adaptation of one of my favorite fonts Bernhard Gothic. Making these rather large alterations didn’t totally change the nature of what I had imagined for the logo, but helped to make it more legible and coherent—especially from a distance. So this is how it worked out in the fountain in front of their new studio space:
The New ACB Logo/Signage

I also convinced them to use a second color scheme on the “monument”, alternating on its sides. I felt that this should be a “living logo” that could perhaps change appearance if its immediate environment called for an adaptation.

Lincoln continues by saying: “Despite the fact that it was a highly different approach, I again felt that it beautifully represented our company, and was a strong expression of our values, in addition to being a standout design. I love having it out in front of our building, and as our new logo. It still catches me by surprise, and delights me when I walk by our building.”

More recently we made another adaptation of the logo to work with a beautiful painting created for their 2014 Season by our mutual friend Kenton Nelson. I felt that the color logo would detract from the beautiful simplicity of Kenton’s work, and so created a one color version. I then organized all the information along the bottom in boxes whose colors were derived from Kenton’s palette—note that all the copy set at the bottom of the poster is set in my font DeLuxe Gothic:
ACB 2014 Poster

A better look at that one-color version—note the details where “Contemporary” goes over or falls under the adjacent words:
ACB One Color Logo

And here are a 2 color and a 1 color T-shirt design created using just the logo:
2 T-shirts

Lincoln concludes by saying:

“I think Michael’s work is tremendous, but sensitivity to the project, its requirements, and the honesty and originality of his approach make just working with him half the fun.”

For those of you who would like to read more of what Lincoln Jones has to say about his ballet company, his philosophy, and about this design, I’ve included his lengthier statement below.

“When I decided to start a ballet company, it was because I wanted to make and to see a kind of ballet that I wasn’t currently seeing anywhere. Now in our third season, I think our product, our values, and our approach to the art form are even more distinctive than when I started. Our graphic art, indeed all of our graphic, photographic, and illustrative material is very important to me because I want it to not only communicate that we are different, but specifically how. I want it to be a flag representing our values to both our audience and our potential audience. To really see what we do, you have to come to a performance, which means these materials have a big job to do the rest of the time, in terms of getting our message out.

The sign that Michael did (which also became our new logo) is totally unique within our market. The ‘Contemporary’ in our name is there because we make new work, and I want people to understand ballet as a contemporary art form. It was important that the design be in a vernacular that would feel very contemporary to people, to contrast the view that I think most people still have about the art, that it belongs more to the 19th century, or even earlier. Still, it had to have a timelessness about it – a classical strength, which is what we strive for in the ballets – something that will make sense to contemporary audiences on their terms, but which also has a substance and depth that transcends the simply current.

The ‘American’ in our name is also very important, in that we are continuing the forward-thinking work that was done in the art form in the United States in the 20th century, but it goes deeper than that. I have a strong connection to the values that this country was founded on – independence, principled thought, and a break from convention to forge new, better paths. These are not values that are necessarily automatically associated with ballet, which is often thought of as being heavily traditional.

I thought Michael did a beautiful job of creating a design that felt both contemporary and American, but it is also such a strong, balanced design with a timeless feel that it can rightly be called classical.

It is also a beautifully integrated design. The way that the ‘Contemporary’ playfully bursts between the strength of ‘American’ and ‘Ballet’ can suggest a new view of the art. But the playfulness isn’t cheap, it is strongly located within the other two words, which to me suggests not only playfulness, but substance, which are the two qualities that any great dance must have.”

Alphabet Soup Type Founders

DC Comics 75th Anniversary Book Jackets for Taschen Publishing

August 5, 2013 on 5:07 pm | By | In Gigs, News | 3 Comments

Comic Books were once considered throwaway trash aimed at adolescent boys. Now comic books are considered one of the premier art forms of the 20th century. So it wasn’t surprising that Benedikt Taschen decided to enshrine this art form in “75 Years of DC Comics – The Art of Modern Mythmaking”—one of his Extra Large scale books: “…in honor of the publisher’s 75th anniversary, TASCHEN has produced the single most comprehensive book on DC Comics, in an XL edition even Superman might have trouble lifting. More than 2,000 images—covers and interiors, original illustrations, photographs, film stills, and collectibles—are reproduced using the latest technology to bring the story lines, the characters, and their creators to vibrant life as they’ve never been seen before.”
I was tasked by Taschen AD Josh Baker with helping to create letterform graphics for the cover of this monumental edition. These graphics needed to integrate seamlessly with the vintage cover image so that the new cover design might appear to have been “original”. The publisher came up with an incredible image of two sign painters painting a monumental protrait of Superman. They also found some vintage lettering of “DC COMICS” which I was to design around. Also included was an original “DC” logo in a circle which I needed to balance off on the other side of the cover with wording that read “Over 700 Pages in Color”. What I came up with seemed like the only logical layout for this. I looked at dozens and dozens of pieces of vintage comic lettering from DC’s past and distilled them to what I felt would work the best:
75 Years—Design Development
I decided to create the final lettering not digitally, but with pen and ink, to try to approach the less than perfect forms that these letters would have had—here are the various elements:
75 Years Completed Book Jacket
75 Years Elements

“75 Years of DC Comics” is divided into five sections, each covering a time span of between 1½ to 2 decades. Taschen decided to expand each of those five sections into its own separate, more reader-friendly sized volume, with much more artwork and commentary. Each volume then needed its own special cover art and graphics, and I was again tasked with trying to integrate titling with an appropriate look for each of the five new volumes. The jackets for each volume were to be made of metallic stock matching the contents—so the Golden Age was to be printed on gold metallic stock, the Silver Age on silver stock, and so on.
DC Comics Book Jacket Panorama
The process for creating the graphics was much the same as what I did for the “75 Years” jacket—creating five different titling units, each in keeping with the time period it represents, and four more “slugs” to play off opposite the various DC logos (we kept the same slug for “Golden Age” as we used on “75 Years”), each also in an appropriate style to its context. Lest what you see below not confuse you, on the first and last volumes Taschen changed the cover art they selected from what they originally supplied me with. To date, only the first two volumes have been published, “Bronze Age”, “Dark Age”, and “Modern Age” will follow, released one at a time.

                                      THE GOLDEN AGE OF DC COMICS
Golden Age Design Development
Golden Age Rough/Finish

Golden Age Book Jacket

                                      THE SILVER AGE OF DC COMICS

Silver Age Design Development

The Silver Age
Silver Age Book Jacket

                                      THE BRONZE AGE OF DC COMICS
Bronze Age Development
Bronze AgeBronze Age Book Jacket

                                      THE DARK AGE OF DC COMICS
Dark Age Design Development
Dark Age Lettering
Dark Age Book Jacket

                                      THE MODERN AGE OF DC COMICS
Modern Age Design Development
The Modern Age

Modern Age Book Jacket


Alphabet Soup Type Founders

New Font Release: Dark Angel

June 3, 2013 on 3:05 pm | By | In News, Notes | 1 Comment

Alphabet Soup Type Founders and Michael Doret are proud to announce the Release of Dark Angel, a “blackletter/hybrid” font.

Dark Angel is the first completely new take in decades on the traditional “blackletter” font style. This font had its genesis years ago when the style was born in a sktech Michael created of a new logo for the California Angels baseball team (renamed shortly thereafter the Anaheim Angels). That Angels logo was never completed, but its rough sketch rose from the dead and become the basis for this brand new font design—and was also the source for the name. Below you can compare the forms from that original logo pencil and the corresponding letters from the new font. Many accomodations had to be made to keep these forms working together as a font but, as much as possible, the spirit of that original character design has been kept.

It’s kind of blackletter in feel, but as a display font it’s so much more. It is far more legible than most “Old English” or “Gothic Script” styles, and incorporates many features never before seen in them, such as swashes, tails and a plethora of ligatures.

Type purists may be critical of the lack of adherence to traditional forms, but this font should be seen only as “in the spirit of” blackletter, and attempting to create something that hasn’t been seen or done before—something that feels traditional, yet at the same time fresh and unexpected.

Dark Angel can be purchased in its regular solid form, or as Dark Angel Underlight—a “handtooled” font. When these two fonts are purchased together as a Family package, included will be a third font—Dark Angel Highlight. With this font layered over the basic font, two–color typesetting will be created when the highlight and the base font are assigned two different colors.

With Stylistic Alternates you can go either “Plain” or “Fancy”, changing the look of your copy to suit your needs. Compare the two samples below. Some characters have multiple alternates.

And furthermore…

Utilizing Dark Angel’s various features, words can be put together to build creative configurations, wordmarks and “Logos”. The free-standing underlines you see in some of the examples shown here were set independantly and then manually moved into position.

Dark Angel has enough language support to make the builders of Babel envious—its 1,163 glyphs can be used to set copy in 59 different languages. From A to Z: Afrikaans, Albanian, Basque, Bemba, Bosnian, Catalan, Cornish, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Faroese, Filipino, Finnish, French, Galician, Ganda, German, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Kalaallisut, Kamba, Kikuyu, Kinyarwanda, Lithuanian, Luo, Malagasy, Malay, Maltese, Manx, Morisyen, North Ndebele, Norwegian Bokmål, Norwegian Nynorsk, Nyankole, Oromo, Polish, Portuguese, Romansh, Sango, Shona, Slovak, Slovenian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Swiss German, Turkish, Welsh, and last (but not least) Zulu.

–For more detailed information download The Dark Angel Manual PDF (1.1 MB).
Dark Angel on Alphabet Soup
–Dark Angel Design and Art: Michael Doret/Alphabet Soup Type Founders
–Dark Angel OpenType Programming:Patrick Griffin/CanadaType

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