During an illustration of a design, I've often found myself battling with the legibility of text over busy or textured backgrounds. This has influenced my choice of stock photography over better design more times than I care to admit. Over the years, I've gathered some tricks that get the job out there, but these rarely satisfied the perfectionist in me. White or light text frequently generates the contrast required and a simple drop shadow strenghtens the edges from one side, but there's a better solution that only came to me while playing with my phone's wallpapers; Outlines!
For text to retain it's legibility, the only real requirement is for the reader to recognize the shapes. White outlines, for example, keeps the black text alive, in the shadowy areas of the background. No longer do I need to clone out that cloud, my blue-outlined type will get the message across.
Adjusting the width of the stroke on an object in FreeHand, does not retain the authenticity of the original shape, however. It takes up some space of the background, and ditto on the shape itself, especially if the line is relatively thick.
So how does one achieve outlined bliss? Here's how:
- Clone the object that requires more contrasting joy (Edit > Clone).
- Change the colour of the new shape to the colour you require the outline to be.
- Click on the "Inset Path" button on the Xtra Operations Toolbar (Window > Toolbars > Xtra Operations) or select the tool directly from the menu (Xtras > Path Operations > Inset Path..)
- Inserting a negative value into the Inset Path dialogue will enlarge your shape instead of the expected inset.
- Once you have decided on a suitable width for your outline, click Ok, and move your selected shape behind your original shape (Modify > Arrange > Move Backward) or Send to back if you're certain there's nothing behind the shape currently (Modify > Arrange > Send to Back)
Remember to stand back as your text blows your socks off ;)
I've met with the marketing consultant and MD in an attempt to eliminate some of the options, before presenting to the board.
The first to go were the greens and blues, though effective, raised concerns about "confectionary" and "too colourful", with the yellows following suite for practical reasons (yellow on white in sunlight may as well be invisible) - apart from the Switch back-plate itself.
Some suggestions were made to highlight the "i" in the switch icon, by colouring the button and the top screw in the same colour as the typeface. As well as retaining an outline around the coloured lettering (as seen on a black and white version. Duo-tone backgrounds played second fiddle to the burnt orange. Everyone loved the starburst as a design element, but was dropped due to ambiguity (lighting company).
Red being the unanimous winner, despite a lot of debate around the possible emotional connectations with this fiery wavelength, along with the decision to work on orange wherever possible.
All in all, a job done well in my opinion - view the final here.
Jumping the gun as any good client would, Switch needs an interactive slideshow...yesterday!.
"But we've not finalized the colour selections OR the final catch-phraze", I say with disdain..
"There is no time, the presentation is at 13:00, and we've got to hurry!", he says.
Fortunately, these type of situations leaves little time for argument, and gives me pretty much free reign on decisions everywhere. So I've gone as cartoony as possible, hoping it will be easier to reduce the "approachable" as we go along - and if the presentation goes well...I'll have a cartoony corporate ID all round - win-win. The way I like it.
Meeting with the client went extremely well (for a change), and I'm happy to announce some focus in terms of concept and congruence towards orange and towards rethinking the slogan.
Yes, ladies and gentlemen - we have a winner :)
I still want to try and refine the illustration by trying some more rigid lines, to match the typeface, without losing the approachable feel.
That aside, let's jump right in with the colours I intend to try out. Some good old colour-wheel selections around orange, and on the far right, some reds for the relation to Obsidian.
Some rudimentary math will explain how these 7 (with white being an 8th) could pose quite a few combinations.
From these, the reds, yellows and oranges seem to work the best:
It almost feels like I'm getting nowhere, as oranges, yellows, greens and blues works well as secondary colours on all the chosen primaries. If I can, I'll avoid the blues (too much trouble with contrasting with itself and maintaining a warm feel. If I have my way, I'll vote for the oranges all 'round - I love working with orange. I just do.
So, based on pure personal preference, my final favourite:
I always tend to go for something approachable and obvious first, to get the creative juices flowing. What comes to mind when I think of a switch, would be the switches I use everyday..
Light switches and power-plug switches rating high, and where would we be with the good ol' power switch on hardware and appliances (with a symbol that's recognizeable anywhere).
The result may be a touch on the cartoony side for the client, and it may need a little more than just the typeface to relate to the current Obsidian branding. A few more rigid lines and the concept might work, however - I'll leave that for after some client review.
So let's look at some of the key elements in the Obsidian logo-type, as well as how it applied to some of the other sub-divisions and products of the company.
Applying the same principles, let's see what happens;
Perhaps with some fiddling and combining some of the stronger elements of concept 01, we'll have a winner..
That's more like it!
Be quiet - I was still warming up...Ignore the messy and feel the concept underneath ;)
Who could argue with a button? Emblazoned with the very familiar symbol. Hmmm...too familiar maybe. So in the execution, I've found myself revisiting high-school science class.
This concept was actually conceived in an attempt to follow one (or two) of the 15 emerging trends in logo design (some 6 with a dash of 8)
Here showing off some of my FreeHand skills - Nothing sells a logo like a little bit of shiny, after all.
In a variation where the icon is part of the text, like all the above concepts, the circuit component gets a little bit lost, so reverting to ye olde power symbol.
Stay tuned - after some client feedback, we'll explore some colour selection.
Probably the most challenging illustration this year, and hence, one of my favourites - all in pursuit of Shibumi. Understated beauty is where it's at.
Text in 3D using FreeHand is no mean feat. I do that all the time and has become a breeze with some creative cloning and the knife tool. Perspective has a few simple rules and really only poses a challenge when dealing with curves in space.
In this case, however, we're dealing with curved objects in space, on a curve..
I had to call in the help of PhotoShop to get some of the perspective right.
From there, it was a process of filling in the perspective in the substance in FreeHand, and voila! :)
The finished product was used on a t-shirt for the Obsidian stand at Futurex SA 2005. Using traditional blue shirts for the authentic Superman feel. I preferred the image on black, however. Pity really..
*Update* Limited edition shirt now available at Obsidian