This thing is almost over and I’ve been mourning the end for about two weeks now. I really wish I had been able to write each week since my last post, but all that really needs to be said is that we were on that grind. That hustle. That game.
My involvement with Techstars has been probably the best work experience I’ve ever had, and I’ve had a lot of work experiences. I’ve met and worked closely with some of the smartest people I’ve ever been around, many of whom I expect I’ll be friends with for quite some time. In the span of three months, I’ve learned tons about the business of startups, funding, and even more about the interpersonal dynamics of good teams. All of these teams have been forged in fire over the last three months. I’ve been witness to mad awkward and emotional meetings, heated arguments, moments of elation, ill-kept facial hair, and paintball bruises. It’s been a roller coaster, bruh.
Real talk? I have made very little money for my time. At the worst moments for me during this program, I thought about telling people to fuck off, especially considering the amount of time and effort I was putting into helping some of the teams. Here’s the thing though, there were like three of those moments over three months and they were literally just moments—fleeting instances of thoughts like, “This is bullshit. I’ve spent more time on this single project for this one team than the whole three month commitment is worth.” That’s real, financially speaking. The big deal though, and why I didn’t tell anyone to fuck off, was that I loved almost every minute of it. Even while it was happening. I loved it.
Over the last few years, I’ve redefined for myself what success looks and feels like. Probably due to my longstanding outlook on life, my previous shitty work environments, and my penchant for dressing like I’m retired, I don’t go in for the bullshit anymore. I want to do good work for people who don’t suck. Techstars has enabled me to do that over the last three months. It was stressful a lot of the time. I lost sleep. I likely lost a little more hair. I smoked too many cigarettes and probably drank too much. I could’ve been doing all that working somewhere stupid though. Truth be told, I would do what I do for free. Getting money for my work is icing.
Being part of Techstars has been awesome. That’s my main point here. Given the amount of work and stress, would I do it again? I say hell yeah, fucking right. I consider some of these people core bros now. Many of the people I’ve been spending days with are painfully awkward, likely mildly autistic, potty-mouthed, argumentative, strangely-dressed, outright nerds, but core bros nonetheless. Birds of a feather and such.
We’ve got a few days left before demo-day, and then most of the teams go back to wherever. These folks from California, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Israel, England, Washington D.C., and here in Texas, all have a place to stay with me if ever they need one. If I’m ever out their way, they should expect to put me up and take me out for dinner. As far as I can tell from seeing and talking to alumi of previous Techstars programs, this shit is for life. You meet super smart people with similar talents and goals, get to know them in a stressful environment, share trials, triumphs, donuts, air mattresses, and kegs, and then the program is over. Obviously, you’re going to stay in touch; shit got real for a while and friendships were forged. Techstars knows what it’s doing. Seats, the managing director here, knows how to pick smart people. I’m one of those people. No big swig.
I was working. A lot; like, not just a lot for me, but a lot for even a normal person. The teams here at Techstars Cloud have been on their respective hustles as well. Some of the teams had some hard deadlines these last two weeks, all while dealing with the normal day-to-day business of business. As far as I know, everyone met their deadlines. Managing directors got memed, Werewolf was played, and good times were had. I mean, people were even having gangster-ass pool parties to celebrate milestones out here, bruh.
People are generally back in their grooves, especially as compared to the recent unpleasantness of the work/life strife. The teams seemed in pretty good spirits, but the tension is still pretty palpable. There’s still tons to do. I’m just doing me. I’m taking it easy, managing my time, and trying to afford as much as I can of it to each team based on need. It’s hard to keep it together though. Some days, I’m one snooze button press away from not having enough time to do what I’ve promised I’ll do for a team.
I get it, though. You’re like, “Okay! What’s the secret to effective time management?” I’ll tell you.
Slip-on shoes. That’s it. Shoes without laces, in general. You’re welcome.
I hate to start this post with a claim so cliché, but: SHIT GOT REAL.
I know enough about the brains behind this bootcamp to expect that a certain amount of stress is deliberately designed-in. You can’t schedule back-to-back days of back-to-back meetings on accident. I’ve heard from teams that shit is pretty hectic for them on a personal level. Some people are traveling in and out of town to visit family, significant others, conduct business meetings, and shore up existing relationships, all while clocking at least 12-hour days at Techstars Cloud HQ. I’m sympathetic to their struggles, but I’m all for them getting chewed up. I remember having a conversation with Jason Seats (my boss for the next two months, and the Managing Director of this program) about how a certain amount of stress is probably pretty useful for these teams. Sure, I get to witness the ruckus from slightly outside of the fray, but I know from my own experiences that it’s best to forge with actual fire. It’s really useful to know how you and your core group of comrades respond to intense stress before getting into an intensely stressful situation. It’s also the best way to set a baseline for what you know you can handle, especially if the level in your training is high—but you’re given the tools to manage it. You can always look back on your training and know that shit will never be as bad. That’s a pretty special experience.
People who’ve been through some shit emerge with a kind of “survivor’s wisdom” that you can’t get without really going through some shit. You’re not going to acquire that wisdom from a book, by watching some documentary, or by asking questions of survivors. Yeah, we’re talking about business stuff. It’s not hand-to-hand combat, or living in a jungle hunting game with your bare hands. Still though, on a rough day, life in the “pit” at Techstars is a only couple of ill-advised comments away from turning into some full-blown Lord of the Flies scene. The kitchen on our floor looks like a frat house kitchen most of the time, and I’m guessing most of these founders are going to go through pretty serious ramen and fruit snack withdrawal when this thing is over.
For me? I’ve never been so busy and so happy in a work environment. The stress game is old hat to some degree, which isn’t to say I’m immune to it or anything; I just have multiple high-stress baselines I can look back on, and scars to remind me to look. I’ve been trying to figure out how to continue doing what I’m doing day-to-day after this program is over because I already know I’d do this Hackstars gig again if I could. The working environment is so different from what I’ve recently been exposed to. The best bits of my experiences with clients, and at places I’ve worked in the past, are all kind of rolled up into this one with Techstars. I’ve got brilliant colleagues, general autonomy and trust, the length of my lunch and cigarette breaks is determined by actual pending work and deadlines, and I know that there are resources for help if I don’t know something. These demands are going to be top of mind the next time someone offers me a gig. For me, the stress is good. It’s not the kind of stress that comes from having a problem you can’t solve, and I’ve had plenty of those. This is the stress that comes from having a problem you want to solve and knowing that you can. For me, I guess this stress is just excitement. I don’t jump out of planes, or drive fast, or whatever. I do design. That’s my work and my respite.
For those sweating the stress, especially when it comes to doing what you love most: Look sharp, and smarten up. Dealing with all of this stress is the work. You don’t like the work? Quit your job. Micah Baldwin (@micah) of Graphicly was here through the weekend and gave an awesome talk covering some ways to keep the work/life balance in check, so it’s obviously on people’s minds. I have no doubt that this group of founders will be well-equipped to handle whatever torment the jungle of the new economy will inevitably send. There have been some hurt feelings, some shouting matches, and some reconciliation. It’s interesting to see people who thought they had everything all figured out a few weeks ago, get punked out by the realization they were missing a big chunk of reality in their business models. It’s inspiring though, to see those same people work through the problems they’ve found. It’s awesome, really, because I think some of these people weren’t 100% sure they could solve the problem until it was done. It’s still daunting though, especially considering today (Monday, February 11) begins the fifth week of a three-month-long engagement. My mantra for this week, just as it is every week: Keep it glued; shit is real.
Today begins week four of Techstars Cloud here in San Antonio. It feels weird to keep counting weeks because I honestly haven’t had any “weekends.” I’ve been getting most of my design work done at home when the family is asleep, because my weekdays are typically filled with a series of short meetings. It’s good though.
Most of the startups came to the program with a pretty good idea of what they were doing and how they planned to build their business. Last week changed all of that for a lot of people. Week one and two basically threw everyone into turmoil, and week three was the week for many of the teams’ individual members to reconnect. Team members got to take a brief rest, get a drink, tell a joke, etc. Week four looks like it will be productive. After three weeks of mentor meetings, these companies have a solid, but in some cases wildly different view of what they’re going to be doing. If the requests for me to do design/copy work in my inbox are any indication, this should be a busy week. I’m ’bout that design life, though. I’m not sweating it.
My guess is, teams that are the most flexible when the business’ focus changes, will be the people that succeed. True colors always come out when the heat is on. If you have the right people on your team, those true colors are manageable, and even beneficial. A single, less than optimally fit person can quickly turn into a long term problem, especially if a team is trying to work around one of their own freaking out. It’s an old story, and it still happens all the time. You’d think people could manage to keep shit glued by now. With this program, Techstars seems to be the glue. I’m not privy to all the mechanics of how and why Techstars does what it does, but there’s an obvious ethos of making sure people are in the right lanes when it comes to their individual tasks, and they are apparently pretty good at figuring out how to optimize/leverage the inevitable gumbo of personality types for success. This is interesting to me, because I’ve worked a lot of places where management has said they do that, but I’ve never worked a place that actually did.
It’s going to be a good week. Week three was like the first half a phoenix story. This week is the rebirth from ashes part. I’m sure there will be several swings like this throughout the duration of the program. A fair approximation for you to visualize is any martial arts/sports/personal struggle movie where there is an extended montage of training, set to an inspirational song. This week is that part. Fuckin’ “Eye of the Tiger” and shit. Or whatever your jam is. Mine is “You’re the Best Around.”
Today begins week three of Techstars Cloud 2013. Shit is getting real. Introductions are over. Lines have been drawn in the sand. Sleep patterns are starting to deviate from the norm. I couldn’t be happier with the job.
This last week was pretty busy, but really productive. It’s refreshing to work with so many teams that actually listen and appreciate the feedback I’m giving them, rather than the experience that is typical for so many designers. See Clients from Hell if you’re not familiar with the bullshit. The teams here at Techstars have been great people to work with. I think there’s a foundational understanding that everyone involved was chosen for their talent and expertise, so it feels really good when you can explain the why of a design and it’s appreciated and accepted. I’ve never had a problem with someone not liking a design I’ve done, as long as it’s been because of a logical beef and not some ultra-personal, indefensible reason. This group of people don’t seem to have an interest in jamming up progress on their work just to hear themselves talk, so it’s working out pretty well. These teams are pretty smart people and want to do good work and be successful; I think they expect that my goals for their work are the same.
I’ve met some really cool mentors already who are behind some of the cooler things out there. The stack of personal business cards I have is getting pretty serious, representative of beasts in the SaaS, VC, and entrepreneur world. I’m not really in that scene outside of developing visual identities, but it’s cool to have exchanged cards with celebrities in that space.
Here’s to another week with Techstars. I plan to get deeper with a few of the teams so that I can manage more of their collateral, but many still need general help. The best part of the workflow for me right now is that I have to change directions on a moment’s notice. Even when I’m not actually designing, I’m talking and listening to team members with different needs, different markets, and different accents in some cases. It’s a really fun exercise in staying on top of shit, and sleep be damned; I can’t start missing things now. The grind is upon us and we are likewise upon the grind.
My first week with Techstars has come to a close. I had originally planned a mid-week post on getting to know everyone, but that didn’t happen. Things were pretty hectic. Last week was a rush of teams, mentors, lectures, meetings, chats, lots of coffee, and fewer cigarette breaks than I’d like. It was definitely good though. I’ve never shared space with so many talented tech people since the time my mom took me to a Windows Chicago/95 lecture. It was great meeting everyone, and hopefully I’ll get names sorted in my mind by the end of the coming week.
While there are a few teams that will likely be on my radar more than others (either because they need my help more or because we have more in common culturally), all of the teams are full of super talented, super intelligent people. I sat in on a few mentor meetings and I was immediately impressed with how apparently humble the mentors were. They were warm, welcoming, and sincerely interested in the challenges likely to befall the startups they were meeting. They addressed everyone with concise criticism, concern, and real-talk. You might know I’m always a sucker for that real talk.
I did a day of 30 minute meetings with each of the teams on Friday. We discussed their particular design concerns, and hopefully I pulled my weight offering advice and strategy to get their visual dilemmas figured out. I headed out of town with the family for a much needed off-grid weekend, but I’m excited to get back into the shit with the startups.
I’ve been secretly excited (as excited as I get, which seems marginally interested to most folks) about this new thing I’m doing. Starting January 14th, I’ll be working in the Hackstars group for Techstars here at the Cloud branch in San Antonio.
If you don’t know about Techstars, you can read up here, and here. Roughly, the program this year goes down like this. A group of young companies will be in town for about three months. In that three months, they’ll go through Techstars’ brand of startup incubation. They’ll get professional mentorship from some of the most successful people in the game, and they’ll get advice and help with all sorts of stuff crucial to being a viable business in their respective industries. Hackstars, the little crew that I’ve been jumped into, will be there as support for development and production so these companies can get their shit together and go out and be somebody. It seems that typically, the Hackstars group consists of a small group of professional skill level people, who also have this wandering samurai ethos. The aim is to have people who have deep knowledge about some things but are mostly kind of generalists. Me. All day, erryday, bruh.
I’ll be working mostly as an art director and will be teaming up with some other guys to get production of stuff figured out effectively and efficiently for our group of startups. If I could stop being such a cynic for a moment, I would tell you that this is basically a best-case scenario for me work-wise, because I love doing design, hate doing production work, love meeting new people with cool ideas, love helping them tighten things up, and hate long term commitments when I know I can give someone what they need with a short term contract. I also only want to work with people who have useful things to sell. My days of helping to promote shit nobody needs or even wants are behind me. Also, I won’t do work for people I think are dicks. This Techstars-Hackstars thing meets all of my criteria for doing work.
I’ve already met a few of the people I’ll be working with, and everyone seems pretty cool. Real talk? They all seem much less douchey than I would’ve expected, but admittedly, I always expect everyone to be a douche. The Managing Director here, Jason Seats, who’s also a cool and moderately normal guy, put me in touch with the guys who worked as Hackstars last year and they were all really helpful and just cool guys. Their testimonials have me looking forward to getting down with program. I was a bit leery in the beginning because I know that new companies/programs of this sort can sometimes be cult-like in nature. There’s typically a lot of weird team-building stuff going on, directed play, and/or personality duplication. So far at least, I haven’t noticed anything at Techstars that leads me to believe I might have to drink tainted Kool-Aid. While there will almost certainly be some dorky team-building exercises involved, I’m gonna just roll with it, and try to act like I’m not too cool for it, because honestly, I’m not. Plus, how else are you supposed to get to know and somewhat trust people in such a short amount of time, without really being in some serious shit with them? I’ll leave it to the team-building pros to figure it out. I just have to draw a line at falling backwards into some group of strangers’ arms. Three-legged races, oddly enough, I’m down with.
There are supposedly metric shitloads of perks coming my way in being a Hackstar, which I won’t get into now, since it’s mostly rumor. I can say that I’ve been given a kelly green zip-up hoodie. Yeah; a kelly-motherfucking-green hoodie. Seriously, I would’ve prolly joined just for that. Besides the hoodie, I’ll be meeting a bunch of people with whom I’d probably never have the chance to share a zip code, let alone a room or table. I’ll probably bring donuts and extra cigarettes, because that’s how you make friends. There—the secret to my success is out.
If you’re interested in keeping tabs, you can follow @Techstars on the Twitter, or read their blog.
So, here’s to a new year and a new opportunity, both of which are all I’m ever really hoping for.
A bunch of people have recently aired their grievances with Dribbble. They’ve gone into great detail about what they expected from the community, what they wanted, and how things ended up differently. I agree with a lot of the beef people have with Dribbble on the community aspect, but my specific issue is that logos especially, can’t typically be judged effectively on Dribbble, and typically, it’s the posters fault.
How could you judge whether or not a logo is any good by just deciding if you think it looks cool or not? A logo is supposed to do something, it has to work, it has to serve a function, and that function should be solving a problem. It should do more than just be a cute illustration. Typically, people aren’t giving any details on what you should really be judging a logo on at Dribbble. So, if you’re “liking” a shot and then commenting some shit like, “this logo is great,” you’re really only commenting on the singular criteria of whether your personal tastes line up with it or not. Don’t let the community at Dribbble gas your head up and have you thinking you know something about solving problems because you got a lot of likes.
If you aren’t explaining the problem that you’re offering a solution to, those likes are pointless. You’re getting judged on sheer visual appeal, which is great, but don’t confuse it. Conversely, if you aren’t getting any likes, keep in mind that Dribbble is not a pitch meeting. It’s not a real critique, unless you’ve given the audience enough background to make an educated judgement on whether you did your job or not. Dribbble is fun, no doubt, and there are some really talented people there, working in all facets of visual communication. Just remember that if you’re not solving a problem, you’re not designing; you’re doing something else. Don’t expect to be judged on your ability to solve a problem when you haven’t explained one to your audience.
We had a pretty low-key and stress-free gift celebration at the Darby home this year. I have everything I need and want, so the awesome stuff I got from my friends and family is icing on top.
I have vivid memories of not too long ago, when my wife, son, and I weren’t as financially stable. Our Christmases, which are always decidedly absent of Christ (we observe gift-giving, but not glory-giving), is a time for us to think about what we have and what we need, and to be thankful the distance between the two has never been more than we can handle. I’m happy my wife and I can see eye-to-eye on what is most important for our family, and while we sometimes have wide differences in our personal tastes for what’s fun over the holidays, we can always come to the common understanding that since we have us, shit is probably going to be cool.
Geekdom is a coworking space located in San Antonio, with a bent toward providing a comfortable, useful workspace for creatives and technologists. Since I learned of them and their goals, I’ve thought their mark and visual identity could use a bit of help.
Overview and Current Situation
Over the last few months, Geekdom seems to be steadily growing its posse. They are signing new members, meeting with important people in Washington, D.C., planning an expansion to San Francisco, and all while maintaining a following here in San Antonio. Geekdom is a moderately impressive space and organization; located downtown, they’ve positioned themselves physically where many smaller coworking spaces can’t afford to put down roots. What’s most impressive to me is their focus on bolstering technology education for children. I think this is an honorable goal, and I hope Geekdom is around for years to come. I know I would’ve appreciated the space when I was a kid, and now as a parent and an adult member of the community, it’s inspiring to know that professionals are helping to educate children outside of typically underfunded alternative/after-school education. You can read up on what Geekdom is doing here and here.
While I’ve connected with a few people at Geekdom, made some new friends, and even presented a lecture/discussion on typography with my mellow @notdivisible, I’ve put off joining Geekdom’s member ranks. I haven’t joined for only a few reasons. Since I have useable, comfortable office space at home, there isn’t a whole lot of value for me in using the Geekdom space on a paid subscription basis. This isn’t really that big of a deal though, since like many people, I spend money on stuff I don’t really need all the time. The other, bigger reason I haven’t joined Geekdom is that I don’t like their visual identity. I suppose it sounds shallow to base my relationship with an organization on something so seemingly trivial, but I’m a designer; it’s kind of a big deal to me. I’m likely missing a few opportunities to network and meet prospective clients by spending my days at my home office, but their visual identity is really a deal breaker.
Let me explain my case. Geekdom, as they state on their website, “is a new kind of collaborative workspace where Entrepreneurs, Technologists, Developers, Makers, & Creatives help each other build businesses & other cool things together.” Of the people I’ve come across at Geekdom, I can say with some confidence that they are among the smartest and most talented people in their industries.
Geekdom aims to be this kind of think-tank, with brainiacs from all over, meeting, conspiring, hacking, building, planning, and strategizing under one roof. What bothers me is how disconnected their visual identity is from who they actually are. Geekdom’s currently used visual treatment is in no way representative of the professionalism and next-level thinking that has already served Geekdom. It feels slapped together, without any real critical thought behind it, and it does nothing to speak to the tons of brainpower behind the place. I’ll let you judge for yourself. I’ve compiled a few pieces you can look over.
I’ve had some questions I’ve asked myself since I saw the mark and realized the high level of talent connected to the place. Below are some of my questions and issues.
Why does the crown in the mark seem to have unequally-sized points? This may be intentional, since so much of Geekdom’s recent focus seems to be on youth education. For some reason, people have decided that to appeal to youth, visual design should look like it’s done by children. Unfortunately, I don’t think it is intentional. The imperfection is slight and looks like a mistake especially combined with everything else below.
Why is the crown placed over the letter O in the word Geekdom? Does the letter O have some special significance? I’d never know that it did because the letter O isn’t called out in any of the collateral I’ve seen thus far.
Why is the crown used as a hat on the now discontinued Twitter bird, which is then edited and used on Geekdom’s website in red? The crown seems to be a de-facto secondary mark for Geekdom, appearing by itself from time to time. Why is it paired with another wholly unrelated—and I’m guessing—non-financially associated company? This seems to dilute the strength of both Geekdom’s mark and strangely bastardize Twitter’s mark at the same time.
The typeface used in the logo, which I’m guessing is Candara, seems really pedestrian for a technology-bent organization, and doesn’t feel very well-suited for use as the main typeface in a wordmark.
What rules are in place for how the logo is presented/reproduced? Sometimes, the crown appears white with red jewels, sometimes it is black with white jewels, sometimes it is black with red jewels, and still other times, it appears hand drawn with multiple outlines.
Existing Collateral and General Visual Identity
Why does every interior photo of Geekdom, its members, and facilities, seem to be of poor camera-phone resolution? The photography is also widely disparate in terms of overall quality of formal aspects like tone, composition, and balance. It’s disconcerting to see substandard photos used in collateral for a place full of technologists and industry leaders.
Concerning interior signage and way-finding, why are some signs printed while some are handwritten? There also seems to be a binary code-based visual motif on office door signage, but it isn’t repeated anywhere else.
What was the methodology in creating the word clouds posted on the walls in Geekdom? There doesn’t seem to be any discernible consistency within each group or among them; sometimes words are capitalized, sometimes they are verbs, sometimes nouns, sometimes proper nouns, etc. A professional organization should have very few if any recognizable holes in visual logic, and these kinds of inconsistencies undermine the image and goals of Geekdom.
There are several different typefaces in multiple weights and styles throughout Geekdom’s various collateral with no apparent consistency. Printed material appears to use several weights and styles of Helvetica, Candara—the typeface used in the logo, as well as a sprinkling of decorative typefaces. The sheer amount of faces used makes it feel like there was never really a plan for the typographic design of the organization, and if there was, it was never really adhered to.
Instead of being the guy who just has all these complaints, comfortably talking shit over the internet, I decided to spend some real time and take a stab at correcting the issues I’ve found with Geekdom’s visual messaging. I’ve done this mainly because I have an interest in putting together something that I think will better serve Geekdom’s goals and ethos, and in-turn, my community at large. Below, I’ve outlined the major components of what I’d recommend in redressing these design greviances. This has been a labor of love, not a labor of hate. It took some time to put all this together, and do the research. I’m not trying to call anyone out or talk shit; I just wanted to do it as an exercise and put some stuff together I was happy with.
Enough Pillow-talk, Let’s Do This.
This is how I’d solve the problems I see with Geekdom’s existing visual identity. You can take it or leave it.
The Primary Mark — The Shield
The new mark, herein referred to as The Shield, immediately suggests the concept of a community. It also simultaneously communicates the connection to heraldry, originally made by the current Geekdom mark, by using the basic archetypal shape of a simple three-pointed crown. Paired with the archetypal shield shape, it effectively adds a perceived scholastic component to the mark, communicating the idea that the Geekdom concept, space, and ethos are those of community and education. All of these components work together to quickly convey an image of professional community.
Visual meaning, as related to physical scale
Special care has been taken so that depending on the scale at which the mark is reproduced, the different meanings of the design become more pronounced. For example, reproduced at small physical sizes, which will likely be the most frequent use of the Shield, it looks simply like a shield or coat of arms. This is ideal because this capitalizes on the equity Geekdom has established with the use of the crown in the existing mark, but tones down the overt nod to monarchy. The coat of arms as a motif, communicates a larger elite community, as opposed to a crown, which connotes a singular elite figure in control of a community. Communicating the idea of community is imperative to promoting Geekdom’s goals. At large sizes, reproduced as interior signage in the Geekdom space for example, the mark’s details demonstrate the community aspect further; three ambiguous figures huddle together in collaboration.
Logo and Headlines
After much consideration, the graphic element of The Shield has been paired with a typeface named FF DIN, designed by Albert-Jan Pool in 1994. While Pool’s iteration is modern, it is based on DIN 1451, defined by the German standards body, Deutsches Institut für Normung (DIN) in 1931. This typeface has unique qualities that work especially well for Geekdom’s visual identity. DIN’s many variants have long been used for communicating efficiently. DIN was designed specifically for this purpose and has been used most notably in German road signage, and technologically-focused collateral around the world. It is a popular typeface, but avoids (slightly) the ubiquity of Helvetica, or the more pedestrian Arial.
FF DIN is at once modern and classic; it moves toward the future without forgetting the past. Because of this, it is quite appropriate for use throughout a system communicating technology, education, and collaboration. DIN was designed with these specific things in mind, so it makes perfect sense here. For as clean and efficient as FF DIN is, it also tones down The Shield, giving it a slight human element, without dumbing it down or patronizing its audience. DIN is a true workhorse typeface; it is easily designed with, and is good looking at various sizes.
Due to its overall neutrality, it works well communicating all sorts of information, and is suitable for use throughout Geekdom’s foreseeable collateral, from digital and printed promotional materials, to dimensional, interior way-finding and decorative signage. DIN is also highly legible at relatively small sizes and is thus well-suited for headlines and short runs of call-out text and subtitles in addition to its obvious use for headlines.
Body Copy/Running Text
Elena, a typeface designed by Nicole Dotin for Process Type Foundry, is a modern serif, designed for rendering longer passages of running copy. It is a low contrast typeface, making it easier on the eyes when reading for extended amounts of time. It was released in 2011, and for being so modern, it has many classic features that would suggest it was created much earlier. Elena Basic, shown in the supporting collateral mockups here, comes in Regular, Regular Italic, Bold and Bold Italic, which is likely deep enough to accomplish most of the visual communication for Geekdom. Elena’s full set includes extra glyphs such as ligatures, extended numeral sets, and small caps for a wider range of typographic expression.
Elena has been chosen for Geekdom’s new look specifically because of its unique design properties. It has a warm feel, due in large part to its organic terminals, but maintains a seriousness that doesn’t color the content it is displaying. Elena looks excellent in print and digital media, and feels timeless because of its visual neutrality.
Elena was also chosen because it works well with DIN. In this updated visual identity, the two faces will be in close proximity to each other quite frequently, so special care has been taken to make sure the two faces play well together and don’t overpower each other.
Color System and Consistency
The existing color theme for Geekdom has been sparsely executed, a contrast to how dynamic of an environment Geekdom is. Recommended with The Shield identity is a subtle, yet intelligent development, deeper than the existing palette of red and black. There appear to be at least four different versions of solid red colors currently used on the website alone. This new system addresses that inconsistency for efficient visual communication and reproduction of the brand’s identity.
The Shield has been designed using Pantone® swatches, which have been converted using Pantone®-approved standards, to corresponding web-safe colors. A secondary color version has been developed to use The Shield in different reproduction methods, as well as single-color, and grayscale versions for use when necessary. All of these steps ensure that whenever and however the Shield is reproduced, there is a system for color-correct reproduction to maintain brand consistency.
The main palette for Geekdom’s identity remains basically a red and black palette, but the actual values for these colors have been tweaked to modernize their look and feel. A secondary, complimentary palette has been developed for use in Geekdom’s deeper collateral, with attention paid to how these colors work in print, digital media, dimensional signage, and interior space color themes.
The Short Shield / Secondary Mark
A secondary mark, herein referred to as the Short Shield, has been developed using an all-consonant version of the type. This type of abbreviation is popular and turns out to be a quite elegant way of visually shortening the length of the Shield mark. This version is also quite useful for communicating with a select demographic of Geekdom’s core audience, chiefly, its technologically-inclined and web-savvy patrons. The Short Shield is perfectly suited for marketing collateral geared to this audience, such as t-shirts, and other fashionable promotional gifts. As with the Shield, the Short Shield uses the same strict color system for reproduction across a wide range of media, as well as multiple lockups to maintain consistency.
That’s what I’ve got. I look forward to seeing how Geekdom’s visual identity grows and changes, and I hope at least some of the issues I’ve outlined here will be addressed soon. Geekdom is too important of a venture and has too many educated people involved to continue to look so confused when it comes to their graphic system. Their strange and muddied visual identity is the biggest reason I haven’t joined. Geekdom’s identity would end up representing me and my design ethos ipso facto, and as it stands right now, I just can’t roll like that. I hope I haven’t come across like a jerk in explaining my complaints, and to that end, anyone who wants to have a conversation about it is welcome to email or call me. Real talk.