Yellow summer in Spain

Yellow summer in Spain

Traditional landscapes, food and customs

yellow summer in spainWhen I walk on a Spanish market, I think I am in a time capsule and catapulted 40 years back. The market looks exactly the same as back then when I was on holiday with my parents. It’s nice. It’s cozy. I like it.

I am in Spain a lot nowadays because my son lives there. He married a Spanish girl and settled down exactly in the middle of Spain. That’s why the markets look the same as in my childhood. You won’t see any Dutch or English market vendors here, as you see on the costas.
(ETA 5 years later: I now live in Spain myself as well)

My love for Spain, the Spanish food and the Spanish landscapes grew during time. There is a huge variation in the different regions and their customs. Nowadays we hardly come here in winter. Mostly in spring and summer. And the most significant color in those seasons is yellow.

Yellow fields

The region of Toledo is agrarian

yellow field
The blue sky enhances the color even more

Spain was called the wheat belt of Europe and if you drive from San Sebastian to Salamanca you see exactly why. On the plains it’s all grain. On the slopes in the Sierras – the mountain areas in several parts of Spain – there is partly grain and partly bleached out grass on the fields.

The walls of Avila in the evening

If you are like me and you like both nature and culture, you will love Spain. This spring we were in a cabin – una cabaña – in a village called Nuño Gómez. Some 50 miles to the north are the Sierra de Gredos (a national park), behind these mountains lies the beautiful walled city of Ávila and both Madrid and Toledo are about 80 miles away. Inviting us to a lot of hiking in nature and sniffing culture in the cities.

sierra de gredos
A traditional shelter for sheep and goats in the Sierra de Gredos

[bol_product_links block_id=”bol_56acddbf804a0_selected-products” products=”9200000017135932″ name=”spanje” sub_id=”mag” link_color=”003399″ subtitle_color=”000000″ pricetype_color=”000000″ price_color=”CC3300″ deliverytime_color=”009900″ background_color=”FFFFFF” border_color=”D2D2D2″ width=”250″ cols=”1″ show_bol_logo=”undefined” show_price=”1″ show_rating=”1″ show_deliverytime=”1″ link_target=”1″ image_size=”1″ admin_preview=”1″]

The perfect travel companion,  it’s a good thing these guides are well made, because our (Dutch) copy has been our companion on every trip to Spain and used extensively. What I like most about this guide are the 3d technical drawings of the buildings. It clarifies a lot about style and decorations.

Yellow flowers

My favorite is Mimosa

cabana las molinos
Our cabana was covered in buzzing Escobon

Mimosa blooms in February. We were too late for the lovely smell of those beautiful fluffy little flowers. Blooming this time – and our cabin was hidden in it – was the Escobon, a kind of Dyer’s Broom. You can see these flowers everywhere, constantly buzzing because of the enormous amount of bees they attract.


I looked up the translation both in Dutch and in English. Google translate said: Escobon. Not a big help. I guess it’s a typical Spanish flower.


Visiting in the late summer or autumn you will see a lot of sunflowers. Grown for their seeds and oil. Sunflower seeds are delicious. Unfortunately the Spanish add an enormous amount of salt to it, and I don’t eat salt, so I eat them a lot at home – in Holland – but not in Spain.

Without yellow there is no blue
–Vincent Van Gogh

Yellow decorations

Traditional acanthus motif

ceramics talavera de la reina
This acanthus ornament is used the most in Talavera

Talavera de la Reina is one of the three main ceramics centers in Spain. The Tajo flows right through it, bringing huge amounts of clay to the banks.

teatro Victoria
One of the theaters in Talavera
(BTW don’t you think it’s funny that the sign says TE ATRO instead of TEATRO?)

In the 16th century the decorations of the household pottery in Talavera was blue on white. Later a very specific yellow was added. There is an industry of painted street signs, fountain parts, wall tiles and decorated pottery. It’s very traditional and at the moment they have a hard time to survive. A friend showed us a factory where nowadays 12 people work. There used to be 160 workers!

The bricks factories outnumber the decoration factories, but these too have a hard time to survive due to the economic circumstances, especially in the building industry.

Even a simple churrería has a beautiful decoration outside

Churros, in Holland we have Stroopwafels, in the States there are Donuts, the Spanish have Churros. It’s made of fried, sweet dough.

Yellow fruit

Colors have an influence on us


Yellow fruit and vegetables are harmonizing, laxative and purifying. Bananas, pineapple and lemons are soothing and stimulate happiness and wellbeing.

I always think it’s clever when a market trader looks at the colors to display his fruit

Every color of food has its own blessings. Have a look at my article about orange food.

Yellow food

Difficult to make, but nice: Tortilla

tortillaA traditional Spanish dish is Tortilla. It consists mainly of potatoes and eggs, baked together they produce a nice, soft yellow color. Variations are adding some ham, onions or other things, but they always add that in little quantities.

My son’s mother in law makes them a lot. I am going to ask her for her recipe and will share that later. According to my husband it’s difficult to make Tortilla right. I wouldn’t know. Because I don’t cook!

¡Buen Aprovecho!


Do you link a color to a country? Let me know in the commentbox below.

Optical illusion

Color: Optical illusion

In 32 tips to get ideas to spend your free time is a drawing of a sun, giving the optical illusion that the inner circle is much whiter than the surrounding white outside the drawing. A former colleague even made an airbrush in which the inside of such a form was darker than the environment, and still it seemed lighter.

sun: optical illusion

So I wanted to examine that. How much black can I add until the inner shape seems darker than the outer space? It turns out that there may be around 5 to 8% black added to the white before the effect is eliminated. Pretty much, isn’t it? It’s way more than I expected.

And in the example above you can also see how much influence colors and shades have on each other. The shape on the right side is the tint I used in the inner circle!

The gray of Adelson

Another great example is at the bottom of this blogpost. I find it hard to believe my eyes, but the proof is laid out in the video.

Editing letters – at the end

Design: Editing letters at the end

logotype HeroYears ago, a director of the Dutch company Hero ordered two alphabets, one in bold, one in lowercase letters, that would seamlessly blend with the design of the logotype. Of course, the texts in those new letters were absolutely illegible.
Have a look at the piece of text that HW Lohman made for his guest blog to see what I mean.
An ordinary letter is called the ‘normal’ version of an alphabet for a reason!

example illegible text

The illegibility was alarming, even more damaging was the effect on the logo. The bombardment of similar letters let thefour distinctive letters completely lose their strength and character.

If I had been in that designer’s shoes, I would have refused the assignment. Unfortunately, not every client appreciates such behavior from a designer. So this attitude can be bad for your wallet in two ways: you are missing that specific job and you are likely to lose the customer. Or as one of my clients told me the other day: principles are not making you rich. 🙂


editing letters for the SPDSomehow, a logo should be distinctive. As soon as there is too much ‘noise’ surrounding it, the value diminishes.
I made this logo for the SPD (Sociaal Pedagogische Dienst, a Dutch organization) years ago. Soon after the introduction, one of the departments of the SPD wanted to have a logo of their own and asked another designer to make it. Unfortunately I do not have an example to show, but I was completely shattered when I saw it.

Grrr, I hate it when designers don’t know what they are doing. I love my profession so much that I can’t stand botch.

Notice what you see

editing lettersThe other logo also had three letters and an alternation between positive and negative letters. So far so good. But the spacing was awful and the endings of the various parts were not altered.
When I design, I take into account different circumstances. A logo should fit a truck or a big billboard. And reduced to the size of a ballpoint pen. It is bound to be copied or scanned. A logotype must endure it all. A good designed logotype can handle it!

The thing with digital design is that if the ending is too sharp you will never know where it ends up when resizing the form (blue example).
The SPD logo has 11 spots where it could go wrong! I have marked one in the example. I pay extra attention to such an ending by making it blunt, so that in each enlargement and reduction it stays in the same place.

Designing on the square millimeter

I often state my profession is designing on the square millimeter. And of course I know it doesn’t solve that world food problems, but still this is one of the nicest parts of my job.
Can you relate to that or do you think it’s nonsense? Please let me know in the commentbox below.

Annoying design doesn’t serve the reader nor the writer

Annoying design doesn’t serve the reader nor the writer

annoying design of an interesting book

Such an annoying book

I’m reading a book with really annoying design! The content isn’t bothering me; I can’t judge that yet, because I’m not beyond page 25 at the moment.

No, I find “De ultieme kudde“, which is a Dutch translation of “Herd” an annoying book because of the cover with a rear flap folded too tight, leaving part of the interior open and exposed. Something like the underpants of the youth nowadays because of their sagging jeans. (Ah, and this book is right about phenomenons like sagging pants!).

The chosen paper is an important part of the experience of a book

Also I think the book has an annoying design because of the chosen paper. It’s too slick and too heavy. The kind of paper a designer would choose when there are a lot of pictures in the book. For the 2 or 3 pictures this book contains, it is hardly a justified choice.

I have another book on my bedside table that uses the same paper (“Winners! How today’s successful companies innovate by design”), but that has a hardcover and a lot of pictures. The first ensures that it folds open nicely and the second makes the choice of smooth, slick paper logical.

Measuring the weight

Comparing the 400 page “De ultieme kudde” with “Du Perron 1956, Collected Work, Part IV” (just a random chosen book), which nearly has 700 pages, the difference in weight is significant: 765 gr versus 410 gr! And that is the third reason I don’t like the book, it is way too heavy.


The mentioned aspects are all about design and technique, not about writing skills. Too bad for writer Mark Earls, because I don’t expect he has had any say in the publication of translations. The fact that the publisher made wrong choices does not honor Earls’ work.
For the time being, I’m fascinated enough to keep up with the disadvantages. My story is merely a plea for good design.

(Thanks for one of my friends for the idea of weighing the book and thanks for one of my clients who mentioned the title, which led me to buy it).

Edit to this article 2017

Nowadays I don’t even want books anymore. I prefer ebooks. My Kobo is small and light. I can read the text in the fontsize I want. Bliss!

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Typography: Ligatures are an inspiration to me

logo story of your life
Logotype for a special product of a Dutch video-company

My desk is a mess. I’m really jealous of people who can clean up properly, because that is a quality I lack.
So if you would first see my desk , you wouldn’t believe how precise I am as a graphic designer. I am great on the square millimeter.

I designed this brand for a special product of a Dutch video-company. It’s a combination of a script font and a serif font. And has two ligatures.


In the old days of lead typesetting, some combinations of letters caused big problems. The f , for instance, had a flag that hung over, making it a vulnerable part of the letter.
If the next letter was an i, the curl of the f and the tip of the i would clash against each other, which could demolish the f. Such a letter pair was redrawn as a new symbol, called a ligature.

ligature inspiration
The combination of the letters f and i caused a big problem in lead typesetting, so the pair of them were redrawn to a new character. A ligature.

A well-known ligature over here in Holland is the old florin sign fl. Other ligatures are:

  • the character that is used in email addresses, the at-sign @
  • the ampersand or et-sign &

In some fonts, the origin of the ampersand, the e and the t, is still recognizable.

origin of ligature ampersand
The ampersand is a combination of the e and the t. ET is Latin for ‘and’. Laurel & Hardy, Barnes & Nobles, etc. In some letterfonts the original combination is very recognizable.

Ligatures inspiration

Nowadays ligatures are not current. Computer typesetting does not require ligatures any longer. Although programs like Adobe InDesign give you a choice to use ligatures in your text.

I love combining old knowledge and new techniques, which is the reason I make ligatures myself sometimes.

In “The story of your life” I have made a combination of the y in ‘story’ and the r in ‘your’. Both letters end in a little circle that I have redrawn into a new sign.
The other ligature is more difficult to discover: it’s a combination of the y in ‘your’ and the i in ‘life’. The dot in the i is made a bit smaller and fused with the tail of the y.

part of the letter combinations
2 ligatures


As I stated in the beginning of this blog: a graphic designer has to be precise. A lot of my work is often not noticeable. Adjustments I made in this logotype to make it balanced and matter-of-course are:

  • ‘the’ is positioned in a way that the e and the top of the t are nicely going together.
  • I shortened the flag in the first f so the space between the s, t and y is in balance. I didn’t want the transverse line of the f collide with the l.
  • Then the tail of the f is extended. There is now an imaginary horizontal line along the bottom of the f and life.

Little pleasures

It’s tiny details like these that make my work such a joy. It’s funny that the best results emerge when the changes I make are so natural that they are barely noticed. That’s why I always make a booklet for the client to explain the whole process and show him or her the steps I took.

Do you want your own favicon on your website?

A favicon is a small image identifying a website. Depending on your browser you see it in the tab at the top or in front of the web address. Mine is an image of the 2 c’s of CleverCreating. Have a look at the top of this page!

This only works on a website to maintain yourself. Not on for instance a blogger-website or a

favicon by CLEVERcreating

A favicon as my gift to you

I made 36 favicons for you to choose from. 🙂
Download a zipfile using this button:

User’s Guide:

  1. Choose a nice favicon.
  2. Download the zip-file with all the favicons in it.
  3. Open the zip-file by double-clicking it.
  4. Right-click the chosen letter or number and change the name to favicon.ico
  5. Put the ico-file into the root of your website.
  6. Usually, you will see the favicon at your web address (if necessary, refresh the browser). Sometimes your index page needs an additional code. Ask me for it if you don’t see it after refreshing the browser.
  7. P.S. Please only use it personal. These are not meant for selling!

If you are interested in more information then have a look at this wikipedia page.