The reason for this blog was a cycling tour! Can you believe it? 🙂
I’ll explain the connection between cycling and typography in a minute, so you will understand why this post is written. But first some theory about monograms. A monogram is originally a character composed out of letters, often the first letters of a name. In the example here you see some very old monograms. The first one is of Charles the Great, the last one of a bisshop.
(Credits: “Ornament, symbool & teken” René Smeets)
Table of Contents
Seeing monograms when cycling in Breda
I don’t belief in blindly imitating or copying anything somebody else made. But I do support getting inspired by others and modelling great stuff of others. I get that inspiration everyday, looking at pages on the internet, browsing through magazines, even when cycling through my hometown watching the vehicle lettering and signs on the buildings. After all typography is one of my main loves.
Sometimes I see logotypes and monograms I immediatly admire, sometimes I have an acute rejection. Yikes!
This week I cycled by a new real estate broker. Their name is Wij, meaning ‘we’, and yes, it is with that peculiar ligature I talked about the other day. The only place where the letter ij exists is over here, in Holland.
I hated their logo the minute I saw it. But why? I couldn’t get an immediate grip on that negative feeling. Therefore I had to analyse that logo and dig into my memory for other images and letter forms.
Here you see three different examples of monograms. The first is of the Arts Academy Sint Joost, where I studied. The sign is probably from in the seventies, when abbreviations and exaggerated styling were hot. The second one is Hi, a brand of the national telephone company. And the third is the new one I saw of Wij.
Of course you can question the readability. The j might as well be an i. Or you can even see it as the letter u. And abbreviations are rubbish, they cause too much confusion.
But as a graphical character the vignette is strong and balanced.
The space in between letters is just as important as the figure itself. This is called the negative space. Positive and negative space have to be in balance.
I am a big fan of the design of Hi. It is a really strong graphical drawing. It is not an abbreviation, which is an enormous big advantage. Very recognizable and on top of that, it’s friendly: “hi!”.
If the company is smart, they will keep both name and emblem for a long time, because it will not look outdated for quite a while.
And then have a look at that awful Wij. The typographical term ‘negative space’ has a significant meaning. Compare the negative space in the three vignettes. The trick is to balance it rightly. As you can see that is done totally wrong in Wij.
The oblique white cross that is created, gives an association they surely didn’t want.
The j is wider than the i for no reason at all. I don’t understand why the designer made these choices.
Emotion versus ratio
I had an initial feeling about Wij. That feeling came from experience, but telling people “I can feel that it is wrong” is not an argument.
I want to tell why something is right or wrong based on a rational explanation. And in the process I sharpen my knowledge and my brain by looking up all the information! After all that is also why I called my project CLEVERcreating; using both right and left parts of the brain. 🙂
Do you follow my way of thinking and can you related to that? Or do you think it’s nonsense? Either way, I would like to hear it.