4 Ways to Avoid Signage Design Disasters

Creatives from some of today’s leading firms discuss where things have gone wrong in the ideation or execution of signage design—& what they learned from it.

We all make mistakes and (hopefully) learn something in the process—but it’s much more fun to learn from the mistakes of other people, right? 😉 In this follow-up to last week’s Signage Design Inspiration, Tips & Tricks from 5 Leading Firms, we asked those same leading firms about where things have gone wrong in the ideation or execution of signage design—and what they learned from it.

Below, you’ll hear from creatives at Duffy, Sussner Design Company, Test Monki and Design Ranch—all of which have been recognized in the signage & environmental graphics category of the HOW International Design Awards. (Remember—this year’s deadline is Sept. 11! See all categories here and enter your work today!)

Pay Close Attention to Scale

“One thing we learned very early on was that scale in relationship to the surroundings changes everything,” says Nathaniel Cooper, creative director at Design Ranch. For that reason, those at Design Ranch make mockups at actual size for nearly everything and then tape them up in their locations to ensure they have the size just right. “Nothing’s worse than being there on install day and the sign or graphics feeling too large or too small,” Cooper adds.


Duffy’s creative director Alan Leusink recalls scale being a big challenge when it came to the firm’s final application of the Mall of American entrance signage. “We were in the final stages of installing signage designed to span the new four-story glass facade entrance when materials, building regulations, finishes and the quickly approaching opening date all came into play,” Leusink says.

“Because it was applied in multiple sections, the paint gradients didn’t match at the intersections of each section,” he says. “Multiple attempts were made before its final installation. Through the process, we learned how critical the choice of materials are when working with signage so large. Using smoother, lighter material would have eliminated a lot of the issues we faced. It wasn’t traditional signage, so we should have looked beyond traditional materials.”

signage design by Sussner Design Company

And sometimes when considering the scale of a project, it’s best to remember that just because we can do something, doesn’t mean we should. “In our own office, we created an ultra-detailed repeating border that was cut from vinyl,” says Ben Alpert, senior designer at Sussner Design Company. “We ran it around almost the full perimeter of our space. It looks amazing, but our printer and her team spent a lot of hours weeding the tiny negative spaces in the design by hand. They will never let us live that one down. We try to keep the cut vinyl stuff bigger in scale now.”

Speaking of Materials … Test, Test, Test

signage design by Test Monki

Test Monki learned the hard way that testing, and then testing some more, isn’t just a good idea—it’s a vital step. When the team worked on their first chalkboard sign, the designer in charge of the project spent hours researching rope, birch rods, chalkboards, chalk, sealants and more. Once everything was gathered, the designer spent several more hours drawing the logo to perfection. Then came time to seal the chalk on the board.

“I asked her if she had tested the sealant beforehand,” says Suzy Simmons, co-founder and principal of Test Monki. “The deer-in-headlights look told me the answer. When we sprayed the sealant, the logo completely disappeared and the chalkboard now had a weird sheen. She wiped said sheen but soon realized that she would have to wipe down the entire board, putting her back to square one. At this point, the project was way over budget, but she re-drew the whole board again.”

The team laughs about it now, but is thankful to have learned a valuable lesson. They now ensure that every environmental graphic can be both produced ­­and installed properly.

Work Closely with the Signage Company

At Design Ranch, they’ve often found better and sometimes even less expensive ways of making something just by bringing the signage company into the process early on.

“It’s also important to continue to have check-ins along the way to make sure your vision is not changing through the building process,” Cooper says. “We make sure we’re always on location for the install as well. We’ve caught things so many times that we never miss the install.”

Overcommunicate the Details

Test Monki design director Gabby Nguyen recalls having to think quickly to correct a mistake with some acrylic menu boards made for Huti’s Free-Fire Grill. “When we sent the design file over to the client, we mentioned that the Illustrator file was designed at half the size,” she says. “The client failed to convey that message to the printer, so I got a call the day before the restaurant was to open saying, ‘Man, these menu boards are tiny.’ When I got to the restaurant, I realized that they printed and cut the acrylic to half the size.”

With no time to reprint and cut new acrylic, the team had to figure out a quick solution and ended up printing on foam boards. Nowadays, Simmons notes, they overcommunicate everything, making sure to include details in every document their clients and vendors receive from them.

Additional Resources: 20 award-winning designs from the Signage & Environmental Graphics category of last year’s HOW International Design Awards | Signage Designs from Around the World

Winning HOW’s International Design Awards
means international exposure.

Don’t miss the deadline: September 11, 2017.



Typographic Design by Spencer Charles, Kelly Thorn & Lotta Nieminen

Editor’s Note: This is part 57 in Emily Potts’ inspirational series. Every other week she features three artists whose work offers fresh, fun, and stimulating creative inspiration. Each artist picks the next link—someone who personally inspires him/her. Check out the fifty-sixth part in the series, featuring Chad Michael, Curtis Jinkins & Simon Walker.

Simon Walker is inspired by …

Spencer Charles and Kelly Thorn are the designers I have to work hardest not to steal from. I truly want to be them when I grow up. The word that comes to mind whenever I see their work is “exquisite,” which bugs me because it’s a word I don’t really like. It’s fussy and pretentious and old-fashioned, unlike the work of Charles & Thorn, which is none of those things.

One of my favorite works of theirs is an unassuming piece of branding for cinematographer Calvin Brue. With typography, the success of any given logo is often at the mercy of the letters you’ve been given: Some words or names are just inherently prettier than others before you’ve even begun. In that respect, I think C&T were fortunate here. There’s so much grace and restraint in this logo, I can barely stand it—a kind of magical geometry that defies math itself. But what really finishes it off is how they applied it to those marbled-background business cards. If you’ve never heard of Calvin Brue, there’s no telling from the face of his brand who he is or what he does, but you know right away you want a piece of it.

If Charles & Thorn are known for any one thing, it’s probably their series of book covers for Barnes & Noble. They’re all brilliant, and sumptuous to look at (another moderately annoying adjective), but if I had to pick one as a favorite it would have to be The Wind in the Willows. I grew up watching and loving the English stop-motion series as a kid, so my bias to this cover is truly built-in. Still, the composition is so perfect—the balance of colors, the sweep of the lettering, the right-on tone of the illustration—you see it and you want to grab it and just consume it. But that description could honestly apply to any one of their covers. I’m certain Barnes & Noble goes back to C&T again and again for more work, because they manage to hit the exact right note for every detail of every cover without ever repeating a detail—and yet it all hangs together so well on the shelf, there’s no question they belong together as a family.

[Call for Entries: The International Design Awards]

Spencer and Kelly have each chosen someone who inspires them.

Spencer chose …

Julien is doing some really incredible things with letterforms, and when I first saw his work, it made my head spin (in the best possible way). He posts alphabet exercises regularly to his Instagram (@boogypaper), and they are all delightful in their experimentation, and reference to weirder/older hands.

This video, which was executed was executed by him and a few other really talented people, melted my brain when I first saw it. For someone like myself who spends so much time fussing over static letterforms, to see these letters morph and change over time is really magical. Stop-motion lettering/calligraphy?! Yes please!

Again, any of the alphabets he posts to Instagram are going to be fantastic, and this one jumped out at me. The connecting, spikey italic is lovely, and the back-slanting capitals are equally compelling.

Kelly chose …

Lotta inspires me because of all of the hats she wears! She’s an insanely talented designer, illustrator, art director, and as of recently, children’s book illustrator. The holistic approach she takes with her work makes me want to get more hats.

Lotta imbued a sense of playfulness and a light heart in the branding of this fancy-pants children’s store. Her sense of color is so on point!

I love how the sparse, restrained nature of the word mark and the design is counteracted by the color palette.

Tune in next time to see who inspires Lotta!

Online Course: Letterform Designhttps://www.howdesignuniversity.com/courses/typography-101-letterform-design-1




Vallier Bistro’s Beautiful Brand Refresh

The following article appears in the Summer 2017 issue of HOW magazine.

Phoenix the Creative Studio’s brand refresh for Montreal’s Vallier Bistro earned them top accolades in the HOW Logo Design Awards.

Local ingredients. Seasonal dishes. Exemplary branding. All of it works together to create memorable customer experiences at Vallier, a decade-old bistro nestled in the heart of Old Montreal.

When Phoenix the Creative Studio took on the challenge of refreshing Vallier’s identity, the bistro closed its doors to the public for two months—and that’s essentially how much time the creatives had to complete the project, says firm founder and CEO Fouad Mallouk.

vallier bistro brand refresh

vallier bistro brand refresh

With so little time, the team worked on multiple pieces concurrently, and came up with a few unorthodox solutions along the way, Mallouk says. And with so many applications, formats and scales to consider, Mallouk emphasizes how important it is—for any designer working on a project like this—to keep sight of the brand as a whole. “Sometimes one particular application becomes the brand’s centerpiece, and it isn’t necessarily the logo,” he says. “We find that starting the creative process from the application that inspires you most helps the creative flow and generates very articulate brands.”

[Psst! Did you know Phoenix the Creative Studio designed a unique winners certificate template for this year’s awards? Enter today for your chance to win!]

vallier bistro brand refresh

vallier bistro brand refresh

The firm succeeded in updating Vallier’s look in accordance with the restaurant’s high-end, but friendly and affordable feel, and customers are charmed. The bistro’s website traffic has doubled every five weeks since its first-month accumulation of more than 15,000 visits—with an increase of more than 1,000% in number of sessions compared to the old site.

“If time was initially an important problem, the solutions we found to compensate for it yielded results that went beyond our expectations,” Mallouk says. Those results led to recognition in the 8th Annual HOW Logo Design Awards, and when all 20 winners went head-to-head in an online Reader’s Choice voting, Phoenix the Creative Studio’s work received 39% of HOW readers’ votes in the identity applications category.

 vallier bistro brand refresh

In light of their win, the team at Phoenix the Creative Studio has a few takeaways worth sharing: First, food photography makes you hungry. Second, Mallouk says you just “never know where a creative flame will spurt from”—so be sure to consider all design opportunities. And third, be careful not to follow the easiest path. “Clients probably know their industry better than us, but never forget, we know our industry better than them,” he says. “Therefore, challenging them when challenge is due and getting them out of their comfort zone is crucial.”


Title Vallier Bistro | Design Firm Phoenix the Creative Studio, Montreal; www.phoenix.cool | Creative Team Fouad Mallouk, account manager/founder; Christopher Nicola, art director/designer; Louis Paquet, creative director; Clement Piganeau, illustrator; Alexis Malin, photographer | Client Vallier Bistro

[Related: Check out all 20 winners of the most recent HOW Logo Design Awards.]


Save on your entry fee when you enter the HOW Logo Design Awards by 10/2!

phoenix the creative studioPhoenix the Creative Studio accepting their Logo Design Awards trophy at HOW Design Live.


This Artist Turns Aerial Photography Into Prints That’ll Last Forever

From a certain vantage point, you can’t quite tell what hangs on the back wall of Justin Brice Guariglia’s Brooklyn studio. At a distance, the 16-foot print looks like a textured painting with jagged edges you can reach out and touch. Upon closer inspection, you realize the image is flat, like a photo. In reality, the trompe l’oeil lies somewhere between the two. “They’re paintings derived from photographs,” says Guariglia.

This painting, in particular, comes from Guariglia’s recent flight with NASA’s Operation IceBridge mission. It’s a shot of the Jakobshavn Glacier, Greenland’s largest and fastest melting hunk of ice, part of a series of landscape prints Guariglia made for his Earth Works: Mapping The Anthropocene, his show opening at the Norton Museum of Art in Palm Beach, Florida, on September 5.

Guariglia, who got his start as a freelance magazine photographer in Asia, made the switch to fine art a decade ago. Photos printed in a magazine are inevitably thrown away; he wanted to create art that lasts forever. For this show, Guariglia figured out how to print his aerial photographs onto aluminum and polystyrene canvases. “The physical object in the photo is already gone,” he says. “But the actual image will last forever—as long as we don’t recycle it.”

The images, taken at altitudes of 1,500 to 40,000 feet, turn Asian countryside and arctic landmasses into abstract forms. Guariglia transforms farmland into gilded geometries and glaciers into ambiguous vistas of white. Many of the photos in the show came from the IceBridge mission, which flies low-elevation planes over Greenland to gather data on the country’s rapidly deteriorating glaciers. During the flights, Guariglia would lay prone at the feet of the pilots, snapping photos of the ever-changing landscape from the plane’s drop windows.

Guariglia doesn’t do much tinkering back in the studio. “I mostly just trying to reduce the image to its most basic essential form,” he says. He uses an industrial grade printer to map the images onto polystyrene and gold-leafed aluminum. The printer, handmade in Switzerland and roughly the cost of a “very nice” Brooklyn apartment, serves as the artist’s paintbrush. It dispenses a fine layer of acrylic ink onto the surface before ultraviolet lights bind it to the material.

The printer, he says, typically is used for imaging high-end signage. “I make it do things it’s not supposed to do,” he says, like printing on polystyrene or laying down 150 layers of ink at 900 percent saturation. “I’ve logged about 1,500 hours testing material and printing processes.” The end result is a photographic print that effectively lasts forever, despite the ephemerality of the subject matter.

Guariglia’s process, subject matter, and material choice are all meant to represent the anthropocene, the current geological age defined by humanity’s impact on the environment. The goal, as he explains it, is to implicate not just himself as an artist using the material (which will become part of the fossil record in the anthropocene age) but anyone who looks at it. The prints remind viewers that the issues humans face, due mostly to our own actions, are enormous. But captured, cropped, and printed onto rectangular panels, they’re at least easier to see.


Free Dielines for Hospitality-Centric Design Projects, from Neenah’s Explore 5 Series

[Call for Entries: The International Design Awards]

Neenah Paper makes a habit of releasing functionally (and beautifully) designed print and digital samples that provide practical inspiration for using their paper options. And—even better—to celebrate their latest series, they’ve given HOW some free dielines from their latest series that you can download to help you bring your creative vision to life.

The samples in question come from the Explore 5 series, which focuses on the hospitality industry. According to Neenah, “Explore 5 addresses the 5 E’s of hospitality—Entice, Enter, Engage, Exit, Extend—with five strategic, creative, practical, tangible ways for enhancing the hospitality customer’s experience at every brand touchpoint.”

Neenah commissioned Farmhouse Design to bring this portfolio of packaging design techniques, ideas and production specifications to life. The studio produced a broad variety of projects  that are traditionally run digitally: a hotel brochure, a tabletop event notice, a thank you gift box, a shower hanger, coasters, postcards, save-the-dates and more—all on high-performance paper in luxurious color, texture and detail.

The free dielines—which you can download below—were created specifically with digital printing in mind. Get yours, and see what you can create with them:

Top: Printed 4-color process on ROYAL SUNDANCE, Natural. Bottom: Printed 4-color process on ASTROBRIGHTS, Lunar Blue.

[Related: 16 Award-Winning Beer Packaging Designs | 7 Strategies for Powerful Packaging Design (Part 1)]

Two clicks HP Fluorescent Pink plus 4-color process on ESSE Cover, Pearlized White.

Download the dieline (PDF): Part 1 of 1

Two clicks Opaque White plus 4-color process on the new CLASSIC CREST Military, 100C, Smooth.

Download the dieline (PDF): Part 1 of 1

Looking for more? You can find the full Explore 5 series and download all of the dielines here.

Additional project credits
Printing: Fey Printing (www.feyprinting.com)

Pre-press and production: HP Indigo® 7000, Konica Minolta BizHub Pro C7000, Xerox® iGen4™

Online Course: The Product Design Process from A to Z


Logo Designs for the Total Solar Eclipse

This August’s total solar eclipse has prompted some impressive logo design and promotional work—while others are more generic.

On August 21st, the moon will move between the earth and the sun, creating the first total solar eclipse that the United States has seen since 1979. Unlike that eclipse, which was only visible in the northwest, this summer’s Great American Eclipse is cross-country. From Oregon to South Carolina, 200 million people live within a day’s drive of its path. And all of them are designing eclipse logos.

Well, not all of them. But the event does have the potential to bring 200 million tourists, so small towns across totality are turning to design to differentiate themselves. And like anything else in advertising, some of the art is better than others.

Before designing the Morehead Planetarium and Science Center’s eclipse logo, graphic designer Tana Rodriguez checked out the competition. “A lot of eclipse logos rely on black and orange,” she says. After all, both are easy choices: During a total solar eclipse, the moon fully covers the sun.

Morehead Planetarium is in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Rodriguez says she had two goals: “1. [To convey] that there’s a solar eclipse happening” and “2. That this is taking place in the Carolinas.” So instead of using the same colors as everyone else, Rodriguez went with navy, yellow, and “Carolina Blue” (Pantone 542), the official color of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

[Related: 5 Tips for Logo Development Success | 20 Enchanting Animated Logos | Online Course: Logo Design Basics]

That’s not to say orange and black can’t work. Carolina Blue is custom to its region, but for North Platte, Nebraska, Barry Keller at Infuze Creative made variations work. Keller says the landscape around North Platte is “made up of grassland and prairie over rolling sandhills, mostly countryside with an occasional cattle ranch (windmill).” So he layered shades of gray “to represent the area in a simplified and creative way with some subtle definition of the landscape.”

The resulting logo gives tourists some idea of what the eclipse would look like were they to see it from North Platte. In a sea of generic eclipse logos where you could remove the town name and replace it with Anywhere, USA, Keller’s work stands apart. It is just as uniquely Nebraska as Rodriguez’s work is specifically Carolina.

In addition to developing brand identity through color, Rodriguez also used Gotham and Archer, the fonts from Morehead Planetarium and the North Carolina Science Festival’s larger brand identities. “Morehead produces the Festival,” Rodriguez says, “and the Carolinas Solar Eclipse Party stemmed from the Statewide Star Party, which is an annual Festival initiative.” (Coincidentally, Keller used Gotham Bold.)

Rodriguez also uses North and South Carolina’s state shapes for the “o” in solar. Intuitively, most people don’t look at the Carolinas and think they look like an “o.” The states’ borders have too many rough edges. But by placing the sun’s ring around them, Rodriguez creates a logo where the states and astronomy are one. Here, the eclipse is a natural part of the advertised event as opposed to something otherworldly that takes the states completely over. Compared to generic logos with the ring as largest part, Rodriguez’s minimalism is refreshing.

“The diamond ring effect isn’t totally new or original,” she protests. But she’s not giving herself enough credit. As she explains, “[The sun’s corona is] one of the only visual references people have for eclipses.” That’s why so many people have used it. During a total solar eclipse, the corona–a plasma aura surrounding the sun–is the only part of the sun people can see. By placing the ring around the Carolina state shapes, Rodriguez integrates the ring into her design instead of manipulating her design around the ring.

Keller’s logo may not use the ring to turn states into letters, but it is a beautiful example of how great design often takes a dominant image and makes it a subtle trait. In its depiction of Nebraska’s loose, rolling prairie, the North Platte logo feels three-dimensional. Its corona is freeform as well, its orange-yellow shade unglaring. Keller calls this color “intense” because it pops, but its brightness does not overtake you. Instead it creates, in Keller’s words, “highlights that helped define things.” Such as why you should come to North Platte instead of somewhere else inside the band.

In the 700s BCE, ancient Chaldeans were first to discover that eclipses come in cycles. There’s probably been good and bad design in the world for that long too. In addition to Rodriguez and Keller’s logos, St. Joseph, MO; Wyoming State Parks; and the Hopkinsville, KY, Fire Department have also put out interesting work.

But those whose logos are more on the generic side have until April 8, 2024 to improve. That’s when the United States will see its next total solar eclipse.


Signage Design Inspiration, Tips & Tricks from 5 Leading Firms

From illuminated wall signs and eye-catching window graphics to the essential guideposts and blade signs pedestrians know well, good signage design and environmental graphics go a long way in both informing us and welcoming us in.

But what is it, precisely, that makes for a successful sign? Here, we attempt to answer that question by first looking at signage design examples from Duffy, Sussner Design Company, Test Monki, Gensler and TCA Architects—firms that so excel in creating impactful signage and environmental graphics that they’ve all been recognized in the signage & environmental graphics category of the HOW International Design Awards. These same leading firms also share with us what they believe goes into creating an effective sign.

(In related news, this year’s HOW International Design Awards deadline is Sept. 11! See all categories here and enter your work today.)

And be sure to come back next week for four ways to avoid signage disasters!

Perfection is a myth, to be sure, but that’s no reason to stop striving for excellence in our work. And while everyone has their own idea of what makes for a creative masterpiece, when you’re looking at a specific type of work, there are a few key ingredients that those who are kicking ass seem never to leave out.

The Right Information

When it comes to the functionality of signage design, one of those essentials is quite simply the details being presented to the viewer. “That sign you are looking at better communicate the information you are looking for in order to be successful,” says India Howlett, creative director at TCA Architects. So you have to ask yourself: Does my sign include every detail people need it to? Is all of it absolutely necessary? Is any of it superfluous? 

Pleasing Aesthetics

Howlett goes on to say that while the information being presented is of the utmost importance, aesthetics are nearly just as critical. She notes that “ugly signs” can certainly communicate the right information, “but of course beautifully designed signage can and will engage the viewer in a more meaningful way.”

Good Ol’ Legibility

Whether a sign is meant to help viewers navigate their way or identify what’s in front of them, and regardless of whether it captures people’s attention with its beauty and interest, it’s vital that its information be communicated clearly—which brings us to remembering the basics: “Legibility,” says Suzy Simmons, co-founder and principal of Test Monki. “Sounds obvious, but when you’re designing on a screen, at a smaller scale most of the designs look great. But when you blow that sign up in a restaurant or business, things can go wrong really quickly. That cute graphic element that looked great on your 4K iMac is now the size of a small roach.”

Designing so that a sign can be read by all also means following requirements set by the Americans with Disabilities Act, Howlett points out. “We are always designing for the visually impaired patron/resident,” she says. “It is very important that they receive the proper information to make their lives easier.”

Brand Connection

Can things still go wrong if a sign is aesthetically pleasing while communicating the right information in a legible way? According to Brian Brindisi, design director at Gensler, they can indeed if the overall piece doesn’t have a strong enough connection to the brand.

“It’s important that signage connects to a company’s brand,” he says. “Ways to accomplish this can be through, color, material, typography and integration. It may look like just a sign, but at the end of the day it is an integral part of navigating through a space.”

A Great Experience

Ben Alpert, senior designer at Sussner Design Company, takes things a step further with his view on what it’s all about: the overall experience, from the moment you’re welcomed inside.


“For the type of branded environments we create (like the United Sports Brands HQ graphics), it’s about building an experience through the signage,” he says. “For this project, we weren’t hired for wayfinding; we were hired to enhance the space with the corporate identity so the office feels like a seamless extension of the brand.”

signage design by Duffy


Creative director Alan Leusink echoes Alpert’s sentiment with an example of Duffy’s own signage design doing its job well: “The opening of Good Chemistry’s retail store gave us the perfect opportunity for curating signage to help create an educational and environmental brand experience, especially in a category where previous cannabis storefronts were a sliding window or gated entrance,” he says.

Related: Read more about Duffy’s intelligent approach to branding marijuana industry pioneer Good Chemistry.

“We live in a day and age where everything can be posted, tweeted or shared,” Leusink adds. “With signage, you have the opportunity to create something worth experiencing and sharing.”

Want even more signage design inspiration? Check out all the winners in the Signage & Environmental Graphics category of last year’s HOW International Design Awards


15 Logo Design Trends Emerging Today

We teamed up with the brilliant minds at LogoLounge to provide our readers with an extensive look into this year’s logo design trends and insights in the latest issue of HOW magazine. LogoLounge’s Bill Gardner and an esteemed panel of judges pored through 40,000 logos collectively to select the cream of the crop in logo design from around the world. This year’s judges were:

Garnder and the judges identified these unifying logo design trends among the winning designs.

Words by: Emily Potts, with Bill Gardner

Logos have to walk the tricky walk of being simple, yet comprehensive at the same time—i.e., instantly recognizable and communicating the brand’s essence. Some logos do this very well, but many don’t. After poring through thousands and thousands of logos, we asked Gardner and the LogoLounge judges what graphic devices were trending this year and if they felt they were eff ective for their intended audiences. Here’s a glimpse at the 15 logo trends Gardner noticed in five categories, including Surface, Form, Object, Dimension and Line. Check out the full trend report at LogoLounge.com.

1. Shadow Breaks are these instances in which designers use a shadow to create a dimensional break, rather than a hard-line break. “Because they have built this device in, you get this greater sense of one line crossing over the other,” Gardner says. “It’s more realistic.”

Botanika by Almosh82

[Related: 5 Tips for Logo Development Success | Logomorphs: Watch 13 Logo Designs Transform from Past to Present]

2. Fades have become quite popular this year, where parts of the logo interlace with paper or the surface they’re on. “I think it’s this idea of freshness or the idea of something coming from nowhere,” he explains.

Simply Analytics by Brandforma

3. Rising Color is really about the intensity of color when it is placed over itself. “You’ll notice that they all start with the same basic color point that takes different shifts in gradation, where they get darker as they cross over each other.”

Minneapolis Downtown Council by CAPSULE

4. Simplicity in form is a return to basics. “The little movie camera comprised of the heart and the rectangle and the two circles on top says this is about somebody who loves movies or filmmaking,” Gardner explains. “If I were just to take those same shapes and cast them out on the table like a cup full of dice, you’d never make that connection. It’s kind of brilliant how simple it is.”

Love Cinema by Maskon Brands

5. Simple Overlay is an old trick that has come back in a big way to really communicate transparency. He notes, “I think in particular, the designers of the MasterCard and MetLife identities went into the ‘Wayback Machine’ and said, ‘We’re going to express the aesthetic of these organizations in the most simple of fashions.’ Transparent overlays are shorthand for designers to convey financial transparency.”

MetLife by Prophet

6. Multicentric logos were in abundance this year. The concentric stripes and circles seem to evoke that idea of broadcasting—where something starts at a central point and communicates outward. These marks also tend to have monoweight lines.

Eocen by Ortega Graphics

7. Ellipsis in speech bubbles are having their moment in the sun, and Gardner says there’s some psychology behind that. “It’s this whole idea that the dots represent this active communication that’s going on. It’s kind of a placeholder and it’s saying, ‘I’m still holding the floor here for a minute. Don’t say anything.’”

United States of Stevenson Forum by Stevenson University School of Design

8. Text Boxes are another way to call out words in a diff erent way. Instead of placing words in a solid form like a crest, designers are creating new meanings by incorporating a block of color or reversing the text and background to create a logo. “This is moving beyond just setting a word inside a box or circle. It harks back to graphic programs that used that language, where words would be highlighted. It’s a simulation of that.”

Mozilla by Typotheque

9. Yin and Yang have symbolic references dating back centuries. “It’s this idea of a company being able to bring things together that may be divergent, and fi nding a way for them to have synergy. It’s the company and the customer living together. It’s bringing things together from different ends of the spectrum,” Gardner says.

The Mane Intent by Hatch Creative

10. Pasta Bends are a newish category in which designers are trying to create a new, perhaps more realistic rendering by adding three-dimensional characteristics using highlights, gradients, and shadows. “Each of these are more defi ned by the actual shapes that are coming together than the fact that they have substance,” notes
Gardner, “But I think the substance aspect may be indicative of, ‘We
create actual products.’”

Borlyte by Ortega Graphics

11. Wrapped logos are really like hidden figures that reveal themselves underneath something else. It’s this idea of an integral component lying underneath that becomes part of the greater whole.

Klarwin by Brandient

12. Microlines work together to complete a form that almost appears as a light four-color process. “It could be a way of defining that a company is spacial. It communicates a technical quality because of the incredible precision that’s required of them,” Gardner explains, adding, “Frankly, it creates some challenges with logos because it might not be highly scalable.”

Aurora Cooperative by Arma Graphico

13. Doubles is the idea of drafting two components in a single line that are interlinked with each other. “They recreate very easily, and they’re easily crafted,” he says. “They’re kind of fun to look at because you almost want to put your fi nger on the line and trace it yourself. It’s kind of like a puzzle.”

The Bright House by Studio Ink

14. Wings give the impression of something being uplifted, giving the logo an ethereal quality. These multiline logos have an aspirational sense and create a sense of flight.

Federation of American Women’s Clubs Overseas by Accent Brand Consultants AG

15. Color Split is part of a new evolution, expanding on the monoline approach and using color to create a new dimension or twist. “Google may have started this trend a couple of years ago with its favicon divided into quarters using primary colors,” Gardner explains. “It’s this idea of being able to indicate that even though it’s a single line, it can take on this kind of polychrome eff ect from a color perspective.”

Podegiki by Pavel Saksin

Read more in the special LogoLounge section of HOW magazine! Featured in this section is not only a sneak peek at the top-rated logos, but also some great advice from the judges—what to aim for and what to avoid when crafting a logo—and what’s trending, according to LogoLounge founder Bill Gardner. We also dig into the process behind some of the judges’ logos. Get a copy or subscribe today.

[Online Course: Logo Design Basics]


Space for Imagination in Gund’s Award-Winning Rebranding

The following article appears in the Summer 2017 issue of HOW magazine.

The team at Cynda Media Lab took home top accolades in the HOW Logo Design Awards for their rebranding of GUND, America’s beloved manufacturer of soft toys.

At Toy Fair 2016 in New York City, America’s oldest manufacturer of soft toys unveiled a new logo as part of a rebrand—one that was never supposed to have happened. Rewind to nearly two years prior, when GUND hired digital agency Cynda Media Lab. The goal at the time was simply to connect GUND to the younger generations via social media. After a comprehensive study of the brand, Cynda Media Lab pointed out that although GUND’s quality products had earned the love and trust of many, the company’s “serious” brand image was not an optimal fit for the business of toy-making—let alone the sort of social media presence the company desired.

“We convinced them to rebrand their company and truly show the world who they are,” says C.J. Yeh, founder and executive creative director of Cynda Media Lab. The resulting identity system highlights GUND’s commitment to creating a genuine emotional connection with consumers.

“When used properly, negative space gives your logo design room for imagination, and it can pack an extra layer of meaning into your design,” says C.J. Yeh, founder and executive creative director of Cynda Media Lab.

By accentuating the most expressive elements of GUND’s signature products, the logo itself pays homage to the company’s history of successfully capturing emotion in product shots. “During the research process, we began to realize that it’s people’s imagination that gives life to plush toys,” Yeh says. “That realization gave us the inspiration of using negative space to suggest GUND’s signature product, Snuffles.”

To pull it off, Yeh says the team spent countless hours establishing a “perfect surface” on which the company name and bear could coexist. “Every shape creates a counter-shape, and both are equally important,” says art director Christie Shin.

GUND rebranding


The meaningful new mark gives GUND a personality that works well for all applications, Yeh says. GUND’s longtime fans have reacted positively, and the 8th Annual HOW Logo Design Awards judge, Wally Krantz of Landor in New York City, selected the identity as one of 20 winners from among nearly 1,200 submissions. When all 20 winners went head-to-head in an online Reader’s Choice voting, the GUND logo received 39% of HOW readers’ votes in the logos category.

For the creatives at Cynda Media Lab, the experience working with GUND reinforced their belief in client collaboration and communication. “At the end of the day, branding is about reflecting and amplifying the best and unique qualities of the client’s company or product,” Yeh says. “It is not about the designer’s ego.”

Design Firm Cynda Media Lab, Englewood Cliffs, NJ; www.cyndamedia.com | Creative Team C.J. Yeh, Christie Shin, art directors; Fred Pirlot, designer | Client GUND

[Related: Check out all 20 winners of the most recent HOW Logo Design Awards.]


Save on your entry fee when you enter the HOW Logo Design Awards by 10/2.

cynda media lab logo design awardsShin and Yeh of Cynda Media Lab accepting their Logo Design Awards trophy at HOW Design Live.


Design Finds: 5 Creative Highlights from the Week

Welcome to Design Finds, HOW’s selection of design news and interesting creative discoveries we found this week. This week we’ll start of heavy with an extremely relevant data visualization, then wind down with lighter design news about Facebook, illustration and ASMR.

With world leaders threatening one another with nuclear annihilation, this project by Neil Halloran shows what the real, grave consequences of nuclear war could look like. 

Illustrator John Hendrix doodles during church services, and the results are simply stunning. Read more of his story and see more of the series at Doodlers Anonymous.

A new music video from LCD Soundsystem allows you to experience the band’s music like never before. With the help of Google, the band created a virtual reality experience called “Dance Tonite.” Check out the video below and learn more at Mashable.

This public shadow art project by Damon Belanger for the City of Redwood City has gone viral lately—and it recently earned a win in the HOW International Design Awards.

“Know the environment where you will be creating the installation and use it to your advantage,” Balenger advises. “In addition to focusing on the immediate space near your project, take into account the surrounding area. It’s easy to create something that works on paper that might not be appropriate for the location.”

See more award-winning signage and environmental graphics and enter this year’s International Design Awards.

design tips

We’ve admired the beer and liquor packaging work of Hired Guns Creative before, so we were thrilled to see that Craig Gunderson at Thirsty Bastards recognized their enthralling work as well. Read an interview with Hired Guns’ Leif Miltenberger on Craig’s site.