Type suggestions

kitekey's picture

I'm a seriously cash-strapped entrepreneur who has hired a designer and gotten a workable glyph, but she's not as obsessive as I am about type, so I'm trying to help that part of the project along. We’re making final tweaks on the glyph, but this should give you a good idea.

I’ve looked at Helvetica, Optima, URW Linear, etc., but they pretty much all look the same with the letters I have (“Kite & Key;” possibly uppercase). I would not presume to learn your craft in any meaningful way, I have tried to do my homework ("RTFM") by reading and browsing many design books and purchasing and reading Bringhurst 3.1, but only get stuck and overwhelmed. Bringhurst was a disappointment, since he actively criticized logotype and focused mostly on typesetting books (preferably, it seems, books in history and the humanities).

Can anyone suggest a good typeface? Linear also looks a bit like one of our suppliers/competitors. I’ve got hundreds of samples, but they are all starting to blur together.

I'd like to use something with serifs, but that seems to clash with the modern spirit of
the glyph's design.

j_polo9's picture

It would be interesting to know more about your companies products and services to be able to give you better advice. Also Have you looked at any foundaries and tested any of their fonts to get an idea of what you like? Stop by some place like house industries www.houseind.com and try setting some of their type to see what styles you like.

I don't particularly like the glyph as it looks unfortunately like clip art. And it seems you are asking us to almost do the designer's work for them, But I'll try to support anything Benjamin Franklin inspired!

Miss Tiffany's picture

As your mark is highly geometric (specifically the key) I would suggest looking for something along those lines. You could also use something rounded for subheads or sublines.

bojev's picture

Hiring a designer who does not share your obsession with type would seem to be the first problem - the logo and the related type should work together and the best way to do that is to have them designed together.

kitekey's picture

Thanks everyone for the comments and suggestions. I will continue to think about the suggested typefaces.

As to the designer's skills, she has done very good work on other projects, but seemed to struggle on mine. I probably should have ejected a bit earlier, but she's young and I wanted her to get a "win" on this one (plus I know she can do some really good work).

In her defense, I was incredibly clueless about what I wanted at the beginning, and working with her has allowed me to get a pretty good grasp of what I'm after (I have another idea rather different from this one).

As to the "clip art" comment, the glyph reminds me of Apple, Motorola, Herman Miller, and Burton Snowboards, but I'm not in love with it and there's something else I'd like to try (I can explain it, but don't have the skills to produce it).

I guess the lesson is that Paul Rand did several things that the client rejected, and there's no shame in realizing when something's not working and having an amicable parting of the ways.

j_polo9's picture

*I was incredibly clueless about what I wanted at the beginning

lol that sounds like your first problem :p I think you are spot on on this project though. The young designer helped you develop your ideas which is really i think the hardest part so you got your moneys worth in her. But now it's time to try other things. Send a thank you, a check and keep at it!

Sorry about the clip art comment. I really shouldn't have used that term without specifying more. I mean that the mark is not styleized. It looks like a default reversed key and lightening bolt. The problem with the companies that you mentioned is that they were made with that 80's corporate trend look- although they still have some style, like apple's apple.

Also the companies you mentioned are competing in different markets. Again It would be easier to give you advice if i knew more about your business. Drop me a line and I can try some concepts for ya when I get a bit of free time. Then if you like anything we can work something out.


j_polo9's picture


Why not try a key made from a letter k... Why not have the lightnening bolt charging up the key, electrifying the key, sparks coming off the key, Some visual elements showing that the key really isn't larger than the lightening bolt... Make both a lightening bolt out of a k and a k out of a k, Or a cloud and key out of a k a lightening bolt out of an ampersand...How about just a lightening bolt lighting up a double k ligature? Leave the key implied. How about a kite somewhere? In fact I just realized their is no kite... that seems like a waste. Is there a reason for that?

cjg's picture

Good suggestions above... it does look like the marque needs a few more iterations. I'd actually recommend you don't limit yourself to a strictly geometric typeface— a sans would be fine, but perhaps consider one with more variation. Also think about including a very sweepy ampersand, either from a different face or a custom job.

kitekey's picture

Thanks for the suggestions, j_polo9. Just for accuracy, none of the logos I mentioned are from the 1980's: Herman Miller hails from the 1940s, Motorola from no later than the 1960's, Apple from the late 1970's, the Burton mark is from probably the last 2 years, and Nalgene has recently adopted something very similar: "Paul Rand with attitude" is quite the rage in some circles these days, at least as far as a nerd like me can tell. The half-century plus between Herman Miller and Burton says something longevity of such simple designs.

Again, no offense about "clip art." It's good to get honest feedback from disinterested parties (most people, even strangers on the street "make nice”).

Your point about the relative size of key and lightning is good...I want the mark to be distinguishable at a distance / small sizes / low resolution, which, with this illustration, led to a big key. And a simply reducing the size of the key actually looked worse than this. I do like how the angles subtly mirror the letter "K."

As far as the brainstorms, the designer proposed no shortage of concepts, including many very similar to yours, some of which looked pretty good. But we rejected them in favor of a graphical icon and distinctive, but relatively unmodified, logotype. So we don't need more concepts, just execution, and are very close to hiring someone else to do a very different-looking variation on some of the same basic ideas.

As the company name includes the word "kite," a graphic of a kite is considered superfluous.

Thanks again for the help; I will try to update this as we progress.

kitekey's picture

"Good suggestions above… it does look like the marque needs a few more iterations."

Agreed. It's improved from where we started, and she has sent me some variations with the lightning angled differently, but, as mentioned, I've been very patient with her and it may be time to give another person a shot.

"a sans would be fine, but perhaps consider one with more variation"
That's why I came here: I was looking for a sans with more variation. With the letters I have, most of the sans faces started to look almost indistinguishable; I'll consider the suggestions and am open to more.

"Also think about including a very sweepy ampersand"
I've considered this, and the ampersand has a long history of livening up dull sections of prose. But my tentative conclusion is to search for an attractive but plain and unobtrusive ampersand that won't compete with the icon. I want people's attention on the marque and the company name, not the ampersand, if possible.

Do you know of a sweepy ampersand that won't dominate the design? I'd like to see an example of what you had in mind.

GraphicFuzz's picture

OK - I know I'm probably gonna get slammed for this, but I have to interject.

Kourtney, what did you expect? You hired a junior designer to create your identity and gave her no real direction about what you wanted your mark to do. After much talk about Paul Rand, Apple and Herman Miller logos, Bringhurst and Glyphs she's was graciously given the task of formulating some workable concepts for you. Since she's inexperienced and doesnt know better, she goes off on a whole gamut of concepts, rather than clarifying what needs to be communicated. At this point, you've probably spent a long time developing and seen hundreds of treatments, you still dont have what you want (because you dont know), and you settle for basically a wordmark and an illustration of that name. So now you've taken one of HER designs and offered it up here for an overhaul.

Good design doesnt work that way. And I suspect you know that. It seems you have an appreciation for good design, but dont realize what a designer requires to achieve it.

Had you given her a clear design brief, with realistic expectations, and not saddled her with famously successful work as her goal, you may have gotten a good design that was meaningful and original. Surely, a win for both of your businesses.

kitekey's picture


You hired a junior designer to create your identity and gave her no real direction about what you wanted your mark to do.

As a non-designer with no training in art, I gave her as much direction as I could. I didn’t repeat it here because I was only looking for typeface suggestions to go with her icon.

After much talk about Paul Rand, Apple and Herman Miller logos, Bringhurst

I haven’t talked about Bringhurst or that stuff to her. I named Rand and the famous marques to defend her work against the guy who said “clip art" (and to correct his historical errors). As to not being specific enough, part of what I expected from a designer was to, well, design stuff. :)

Since she’s inexperienced and doesnt know better, she goes off on a whole gamut of concepts, rather than clarifying what needs to be communicated.

She generated concepts, and I gave feedback on those approaches and bounded the design. I considered the icon essentially finished, and only came here looking for type. I do stand by my statement that the designer seems less obsessive about typefaces than I am (hence my presence on Typophile). But it could just be the case with this particular project.

settle for basically a wordmark and an illustration of that name

The decision to use an icon and a prefab typeface for logotype was mine. If you don't like that, that's my fault, not hers.

So now you’ve taken one of HER designs and offered it up here for an overhaul.

If you read my original post, I was not asking for an overhaul of the icon, but only some suggestions on typefaces. I posted the logo (with Linear: my choice, not the designer’s) so that people could recommend appropriate typefaces for it; it was other posters who called the icon into question, and I have defended it.

Good design doesnt work that way. And I suspect you know that. It seems you have an appreciation for good design, but dont realize what a designer requires to achieve it.

Guilty as charged! Yet where would you expect an engineer turned salesman turned entrepreneur to learn this?

I have admitted that working with this designer has given us a much more concrete idea of what we need. We were really planning to use this icon, and still may.

I’ve been here defending the designer quite a bit, and in her further defense, this was kind of a low-budget project.

I still think that she is very talented, and would be horrified if anyone thought less of her due to my posting here.

jupiterboy's picture


Anyway, having recently been in Philadelphia and enduring the city-wide Bengasm, I do think you could re-work the idea a bit.

I think your desire for a serif font is smart. I would look a bit at the period and take a few typographic clues. So many nice scripts now.

I would also open the whole thing up a bit and look at the larger context, maybe even the weather, clouds that produce lightning, etc.

I think the sterile nature of the icon says public transit, wayfinding—maybe Storm's Metron would match nicely. I think, though, based on your comments that you know this could be something more memorable.

(Note to self: To many "I thinks" make one sound like a dope.)

Miss Tiffany's picture

To get this back to Mr. Bailey's original request:

If you want a serif you might consider Miller or Farnham. Something crisp with slight contrast.

jupiterboy's picture

Whitman Bold might pull it off.

j_polo9's picture

Read this. Then send the link to your designer friend! Have her create her own for new clients.

Maybe look into some Faces Ben. Franklin was associated with. Wasn't he friends with a few type designers? What about using something like Fournier?

kitekey's picture

My initial glance into the faces which Franklin used revealed none which seemed to work current modern icon under discussion, but I'd like to keep looking. Does anyone know of a good resource detailing Franklin's work as printer?

Thank you for all the suggestions and the link to the Design Brief document: I'll send it to the designer.

FYI, we signed a contract today with the runner-up from our original search, so we'll at least have an alternative to consider.

PS: Looks like he used a lot of Caslon and Baskerville, and P22 has released "Franklin Roman," with authentic texture. I'm still searching for more details.

GraphicFuzz's picture

Nice link, Jesse. Much more helpful than my contemptuous jag.

No hard feelings, Kourtney, it's just that I have a soft spot for young designers.
Best of luck with the project.

NiceTry's picture

Monotype Bell is a good one in the same vein but prettier and with a little more personality than Caslon or Baskerville:


kitekey's picture

I realized I never closed this out..timd had a good suggestion. We tried a lot of typefaces and agreed on a version of Eurostile for the text. I ended up paying the original designer about 50% more than we originally agreed on to get things finalized.

I also hired another designer and asked for something more elegant (to pair with something like Fournier or Baskerville). Despite clear direction and good understanding, he really couldn't get anything that really worked.

What we've got now looks pretty decent (my original post may have been a poorly-matched size/resolution for the forum's software). Perhaps in 5-10 years we'll have the desire to change and a healthy budget to finance it.

Thanks everyone for all the input.

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