Incorporating Identity in Logo Design

Sometimes, a company will have an epiphany and realize that they could be appealing to a whole new audience if they just incorporate a little bit more of their identity into their brand. The latest volume of LogoLounge (8) by Bill Gardner and Anne Hellman, looks at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, to find out how this tactic can be successful. 

Van Gogh Museum: Identity Redesign

Koeweiden Postma, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam came to Koeweiden Postma with a question: Did the museum’s existing logo emphasize “Amsterdam” enough? The word mark, set in Syntax, was just that: a word mark, with the city name in relatively small type. The design firm’s response was to revisit the identity as a whole, asking in return: Does the word mark have any real connection to the artist?

Having identified the main underlying problem, Koeweiden Postma got to work exploring other ways to express Van Gogh’s unique contributions through the museum’s visual system. The previous logo was dated, yes, but the most important change would have to do with its essence, the power of Vincent van Gogh. Whereas before the identity was limited to images of his work, used as background in every application, the designers discovered that if they drew upon the most exciting elements of the artist’s output— his brushstroke and vibrant color—a completely meaningful and yet flexible identity system could be achieved.


The type treatment in the final logo is purposefully minimal. Koeweiden Postma modified the lowercase g slightly and condensed the text, aligning it to the right to give it more logo value and to create a more elegant rhythm in the typography.

Van Gogh’s brushstroke is like that of no other painter: It vibrates on the canvas and covers every inch. Koeweiden Postma distilled this stroke to an overall black-and-white pattern that could be used in any number of ways: as an icon on labels and brochures to a supergraphic on packaging and wall surfaces. It plays a fundamental role in the logo. Paired with a sober, high-contrast word mark, the iconic version of Van Gogh’s signature brushstroke conveys the spirit and energy of the artist even when standing alone, without a painting.

“With the brushstroke, a whole new world of possibilities was unlocked,” says designer Mark Holtmann. It was clear from the get-go that the logo had to support the vibrant colors of Van Gogh’s work. The designers devised a modest black square with the logotype set in rounded Gotham, a neutral, friendly, and contemporary typeface.

For packaging, the system extends its yellow and black color palette. Whenever the emphasis is on the museum itself instead of on exhibitions, yellow or blue is used.

“The word mark is not one of a big gesture, but one of details,” explains Holtmann. “The black square allows the emphasis to stay on the artist’s work, while the maximum contrast ensures that the logo remains visible. The design does not try to compete but instead supplements, functioning as a platform, just as the museum is a platform for the work of Van Gogh.”

For items such as exhibition posters and catalogs, a flexible set of extra colors is available and can be used to either supplement or contrast with the works of Van Gogh.

The museum curators determined the color palette for the corporate identity, drawing one color each from the two most important works in the collection: Sunflowers, from which they took the yellow, and Cherry Blossoms, from which they selected the blue. Yellow and blue became the main corporate colors, with the yellow more prominently used.

The visual system adapts to specialty applications such as the children’s line of communications.

The new identity differentiates brochure translations with a simple change in the color panel next to the main logo.


Koeweiden Postma built the new Van Gogh Museum visual system to be dynamic, not static, so that it would develop along with the museum as it adds new aspects and refines existing ones. Here it extends to promotional fliers for Friday night events.

The design team worked closely with the curators to mine numerous quotes from Van Gogh’s letters to his brother, Theo. “Vincent wrote hundreds of letters to his brother, giving a rare view into the inner workings of the artist,” Holtmann says. “We wanted to use this treasure and incorporate his seldom-seen literary side in the identity.”

The redesign has been received with great enthusiasm by the museum and by the public.

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Check out thousands more of the year’s best logos:

1000 Poses in Fashion

 Fashion demands a certain dramatic quality in order to arouse emotions. This is why there are haute couture catwalks, this is why there are people like Ferran Adrià, and this is why there are museums—because we need emotions. You must know how to say something with a pencil in your hand in a way that will be understood. In that case, once your artistic language applied to fashion is understandable, wouldn’t it be interesting to make it more appealing? To achieve this, we don’t simply add colors similar to the genre which we want to apply to our design, we also provide our models with a soul. It isn’t necessary for our representation to be realistic, since there are many valid artistic languages, but, whatever the language we are going to use, it is important to be familiar with the items of clothing which we are drawing and how they react to the movement of the human body. If we manage to master the wrinkle, we will be able to achieve more attractive final results.

Cowl-neck shirt with cap and low-waist pants

Bubble skirt with straps

Long sleeve T-shirt with pushed up sleeves, vest, neck scarf, and stovepipe pants

Matching jeans and denim jacket with checked shirt

Hooded Raincoat/ Work Overalls

Excerpted from 1000 Poses in Fashion by Chidy Wayne. 

10 Rules of Color: Understand Limitations


Here we are. We have made it to the end. But it’s not the end is it? As a lover of color, you are encouraged to create your own rules and bend the ones you’ve mastered.

Rounding up our posts, here or the 10 rules of color that every designer should know:

1. Convey information.

2. Create color harmony.

3. Attract and hold attention.

4. Remember that context is everything.

5. Consider that experimentation is key.

6. Know that people see color differently.

7. Assist in mnemonic value.

8. Think about composition.

9. Use standardized color systems.

And finally, RULE 10: Understand limitations.

It has been said that necessity is the mother of invention, and naturally, that applies to graphic design as well. Sometimes budget constraints are a limiting factor that wears down and frustrates designers. Stretching design dollars does not mean that down and dirty must be ugly and ineffective. Effective color usage can provide impact and beauty on a limited budget. Financial concerns are not the only reason for limiting the number of colors specified; sometimes it is a question of aesthetics as well.

Using only a few colors, perhaps on colored stocks, can result in a rich-looking piece. Pushing the boundaries with limited resources often means pushing the limits of production technology or thinking of new ways to incorporate old manufacturing techniques and materials. Stretching design dollars means embracing and leveraging limitations. However, it is best to understand the client’s budget up front so designs can be formulated within it.


This is the program for the Tag Des Dutchmen Films in Tbilisi film festival. Budget constraints required that it be printed with two colors, cyan and black, on the back of the event poster. The program contains a schedule, film descriptions in two languages, and still images from each movie. Transparencies, pattern, and typography all work to produce a strong visual statement seemingly unhindered by budget. Andrea Tinnes


Print vs Screen. Colors can vary.

Delivery Media Affects Color

There is a vast difference between the way color works on coated versus uncoated paper stocks. It is important to design and prepare artwork correctly for the paper type being used in order for the specified colors to look their best. Uncoated stocks absorb more ink, so color tends to sink or flatten unless separations are made to compensate for this.

Halftone dots in color images tend to spread and deform on uncoated paper, a problem known as dot gain. Therefore, scanning and separations must compensate by opening the dots more so colors will appear to be at normal densities.

Coated stocks are made by casting the paper against highly polished, heated steel drums. The result is a harder surface that provides what is known as ink holdout, meaning that the color stays on the surface and is not absorbed into the paper. Both paper types have their own appeal, and colors will look great on each if the designs are properly prepared.

Color on screens—computer monitors or television sets—has its own limitations. The designers’ biggest challenge is their inability to control the end product; each screen’s calibrations and display properties are beyond the reach of standardized color specifications. For example, Macintosh and Windows operating systems use different platforms and protocols, and color can look very different in each.

Manufacturers work within a variety of technical parameters. Consumers can also make personal adjustments in image quality and color saturation. The result is that designers never really know whether their work is being viewed exactly as they intended it to or not.


Miracle Creations is a designer toy shop in Singapore that sells interesting collectibles sourced from around the world and manufactures its own unique handmade toys as well. A corporate identity package was created that incorporates a series of magical and fairy tale creatures illustrated as silhouettes. The stationery is all fi t on a large A2 sheet, separated by perforations that provide the design with an interestingly interactive twist. Only Rhodamine Red (in positive and reverse color formats) was used, in order to limit costs. The red is fun and stands out against the stark white, giving the piece a surreal feel because it is an unnatural color for the imagery used. Kinetic

Color on Paper

The key to great color on paper is working closely with your printer both in preproduction and on press. The dimension of color is always a concern, especially if you like very saturated, vibrant colors like we do at AdamsMorioka. Here are some tips for great results:

• Tell your printer up front if you’ll be specifying coated or uncoated paper stock.

• Get samples of the paper. Ask for “commercial printed samples” because these are actual print jobs from designers like you, and you can see real-world results. If your printer has run this stock before, ask for these samples as well.

• Provide your printer with any production and technical information you may have from the paper manufacturer. They often have great guidelines.

• Make sure your scans and separations for uncoated stocks compensate for dot gain.

• Make sure to compensate for the color of the paper itself. For example, reduce yellows in scans of images to be used on a cream-colored stock to achieve an accurate reproduction.

• Let your printer know in advance if you’d like to use specialty inks such as soy based, metallics, or fluorescents.

• Request an “ink drawdown,” which is a sample of the ink you’ve chosen on your actual paper stock.

• Add fluorescent ink touch plates under large areas of four-color process to add vibrancy to image color on uncoated papers. Using UV inks will also add richness to colors on uncoated stock.

• On press, make sure your printer takes both a wet and dry ink-density reading. Because uncoated stocks take longer to dry, the variances could be dramatic. Make sure the printer records this if there is a possibility of future reruns on the job.

• Preparation saves time, money, and disappointment and is the key to getting great color on paper.

How We Perceive Color over Time: Aging is a natural human limitation. Color perceptions and preferences change with a person’s age. A study in Germany conducted by anthropologist Dr. Manuela Dittmar showed that age group differences in both males and females affected color preferences significantly. With advancing age, people’s preference for blue steadily decreased, while the popularity of green and red increased. The results suggest that color preferences can change over the course of the adult lifespan. These changes might be attributed to alterations in the ability to discriminate colors, the yellowing of the crystalline lens of the eye, and the decreased functionality of the retina’s blue cones.


SamataMason was the Creative Director for this Appleton Paper promotion, consisting of a series of small books created by different designers and contained in a black case. Each book interprets the same theme and utilizes the same black and red color palette. The directive of the series was to “offer meaningful thoughts and insights in a frenetic age of meaningless information and vapid graphic metaphors,” as described by one of the book designers, John Bielenberg. Subjects included numerous translations of jokes, poetry, showcases, a sociological study of designers, and a personal diary. It is interesting to see the variety of graphic results using the same set of color limitations. SamataMason, Creative Directors


Above are the Appleton Utopia books created by AdamsMorioka, Concrete, John Bielenberg, Michael Mabry, SamataMason, Howard Belk, and Stefan Sagmeister.

Using color on screens should carry this warning: WYSIPNWYG (What You See Is Probably Not What You’ll Get).

Color On Screen: Design for Web & TV
by Victor Bornia

If you are color-obsessed, bristling at anyone who mistakes your eggshell for white, you may need to ease up when it comes to designing for the screen.

Color and Web Design

Any use of color online—intended for viewing by the masses on personal computer screens—is far more of a hit-or-miss affair than color on paper. Once the design is online, it will be viewed on different platforms (Macintosh, Windows, etc.), each with their own gamma curves on different monitors (e.g., CRT, LCD), each set to brightness and contrast levels that no designer can control. That deep, lush burgundy you specified might be blown out to fire engine red, while that subtle pattern of darker hues you designed as a background may well end up a solid black. However, the disparities are not that ridiculous now that technology has advanced, and most people view websites in 24-bit color.

Basic Web Design Tips

• Test your design on both Macintosh and Windows computers. See the resulting variances for yourself.

• Try simulating a variety of brightness and contrast levels to see how your design stands up.

• Understand graphics formats. The basic rule is that images composed of solid colors (type, icons, etc.) should use GIF; photos or complex images should use JPEG. Try both when exporting your graphics for the Web to see what works best— that is, creates the smallest files with the best-looking result.

Color and Broadcast Design

The problem with designing for broadcast is similar to taking your design to the computer screen (which is RGB) and preparing it for print (to CMYK). However, rather than go flat or dull, colors now explode. This is because the standard television color space for video in the United States is NTSC (National Television System Committee). PAL (Phase Alteration by Line) and SECAM (Systeme Electronique Couleur avec Memoire), in Europe and Asia, all use a different gamma curve for luminance than your computer monitor. For example, any dark or muddy areas in your design may well blossom into vivid detail when viewed on an NTSC monitor.

Video also uses a different color space (YUV instead of RGB) and is often subject to limitations on what can be recorded onto a particular format (e.g., videotape). As a result, what you see on your computer monitor will only get you so far in predicting what you will see on video. Only using an NTSC monitor allows you to see what the design will really look like. The good news is that most video software allows for a simple FireWire connection to an NTSC monitor, so you can keep tabs on the results as you design (you’ll need a FireWire NSTC breakout box as well). Also, most video graphics software (e.g., Adobe Aftereffects, Apple’s Final Cut Pro, etc.) have a built-in shortcut—a broadcast safe filter that attempts to automate the process of making your colors ready for television.

Basic Broadcast Design Tips

• Always view your work on a properly calibrated NTSC monitor. If that is not possible, use a television with a video-in jack. It will serve as a NTSC monitor and will be more accurate than viewing on your computer monitor.

• Do not trust built-in filters exclusively to go broadcast safe. Use your own eyes; sometimes desaturating an image works best. At other times, adjustments to the brightness or contrast will be required.

• Test designs in their final delivery format. Laying off to VHS affects images differently than MPEG-2 encoding required for DVD.

• Read books by Trish and Chris Meyer, especially Creating Motion Graphics. They provide excellent advice.

Victor Bornia made the transition from print to Web (producer for an online music magazine) to motion graphics (led workshops in Aftereffects for Adobe) to visual effects (member of the Emmy Award–winning team in 2001 for Star Trek: Voyager). He currently works as a 3-D animator in Los Angeles.


The Glant website takes advantage of the unique qualities of design for the web. Glant designs and manufactures fine textiles, primarily for use in interior design, in the United States and Europe. Built mostly in HTML, the site functions as an online catalog, so reproductions of product textures and colors are critical.


The use of a neutral gray background throughout the site creates a unified feeling and allows the photos of the Glant products to stand out on screen. Methodologie


Motion Theory and Weiden + Kennedy/Tokyo collaborated to merge graffiti, an urban art form, and sophisticated motion graphics to promote Nike Presto to a Pan-Asian market. Colorful graffiti paintings literally come off the wall in animated television commercials. Graphics are intercut with Tokyo and Shanghai street scenes set to the music of Japanese DJ Uppercut, all toward the goal of capturing the spirit of art, music, and culture of contemporary Asia. Wieden + Kennedy/Tokyo Motion Theory

There is a ridiculous wealth of knowledge in this book. So, don’t stop here. Pick up a copy today and get working on your color designs!


A Different Kind of Selfie

It’s an exploration of self. The self-portrait has been attempted by almost every artist, in a variety of mediums. Give it your best shot with the help of Lab 9 from Paint Lab.

Frida Kahlo, Self-portrait with monkeys, 1943 

Lab 9 - Inspired by Frida Kahlo: The Self-Portrait 

Frida Kahlo was a Mexican artist who devoted her lifes artwork to the self-portrait. In this project, look at aspects of your life as you weave your own symbolism into your self-portrait. 

Selin Ashaboglu, self-portrait, oil on canvas 


  • large canvas

  • paint

  • reference materials of imagery to add into painting

  • mirror or photograph

  • charcoal

India Dumont, work in progress 

1. Begin to brainstorm what you would like to incorporate into this self-portrait. Some inspiration that my students have used have been a specific landscape that they place themselves within, animals that they feel a connection to, as well as maps and flags that represent a specific region.

Selin Ashaboglu, work in progress 

2. Begin by creating a composition that incorporates the different elements onto the one large canvas in charcoal. Be mindful not to overwhelm the canvas with too many elements.

Yitong Cai, self-portrait, oil on canvas 

3. Begin painting your piece with a total of four colors to maintain harmonies.

Frida Kahlo

Kahlo lived most of her life in Mexico. After being injured in a bus accident, her father introduced her to painting to help fill the time during her recovery. The complexity of her cultural identity and the inspiration of the animals, flora, and fauna of her homeland provided a bottomless well to draw from in her work. 


Designing Mobility

With almost everyone today owning some sort of device that is constantly sending and receiving data, we are able to learn more information than just what kind of waffle you are InstagrammingIsabel Meirelles, author of Design for Information, explains how we can visualize our daily mobility using this collected data.

Huge amounts of data generated and collected by a wealth of technological infrastructures, such as GPS positioning, and wireless networks have affected research on moving-object data analysis. Access to massive repositories of spatiotemporal data with recorded human mobile activities have opened new frontiers for developing suitable analytical methods and location-aware applications capable of producing useful knowledge.

This case study briefly introduces few visual techniques devised by an interdisciplinary team involved with mobility data mining, knowledge discovery, and visual analytical tools. The project was part of the European Community– funded effort on Geographic Privacy-aware Knowledge Discovery and Delivery–GeoPKDD, with the objective to investigate “how to discover useful knowledge about human movement behavior from mobility data, while preserving the privacy of the people under observation. GeoPKDD aims at improving decision-making in many mobility-related tasks, especially in metropolitan areas.”

The main people involved in this particular output are Gennady Andrienko, Natalia Andrienko, Fosca Giannotti, Dino Pedreschi, and Salvatore Rinzivillo. What we see is a small sample of their extensive and pioneer work in the visual analyses of movement data. I strongly recommend their writings, which include discussion of computational methods, not examined here.

The dataset consists of GPS tracks of 17,241 cars collected during one week in Milan, Italy, which resulted in 2,075,216 position records. The work was conducted mostly between 2005 and 2009 with continued ongoing efforts.

Natalia and Gennady Andrienko organize the methods for visually analyzing movement data into four types:

Looking at trajectories: Trajectories are considered as wholes. The focus is on examination of spatial and temporal properties of individual trajectories as well as comparison among trajectories.

Looking inside trajectories: Trajectories are considered at the level of segments and points. The focus is on examination of segment’s movement characteristics and the sequences of segments with shared patterns.

Bird’s-eye view on movement: Trajectories are viewed as aggregations, not individually. The focus is on examination of the distribution of multiple movements in space and time.

Investigating movement in context: Movement data are examined with other kinds of spatial, temporal, and spatiotemporal data describing context. The focus is on relations of interactions between the moving objects and the environment.

Each series of images illustrates a method type with the exception of movement in context, not reproduced here.


This image shows a subset of the Milan dataset consisting of 8,206 trajectories that began on Wednesday, April 4, 2007. To make the map legible, the trajectory lines are drawn with only 5 percent opacity. The visual analytical tool allows one to interactively manipulate the view as well as apply filters.

The image on the right shows the result of using a temporal filter that limits the representation of trajectories within a 30-minute time interval, from 06:30 to 07:00. The same function can be used to generate map animations. The screenshot illustrates that by interacting with the trajectories one can read detailed information about its attributes, such as start and end time, number of positions, length, duration, etc.


Natalia and Gennady Andrienko explain, “Trajectories of moving objects are quite complex spatiotemporal constructs. Their potentially relevant characteristics include the geometric shape of the path, its position in space, the life span, and the dynamics, i.e. the way in which the spatial location, speed, direction and other point-related attributes of the movement change over time. Clustering of trajectories requires appropriate distance (dissimilarity) functions which can properly deal with these non-trivial properties.”To avoid universal functions that would make the visualization hard to interpret, the team has developed a method called “progressive clustering.”It is a step-by-step process in which the analyst progressively refines the clustering by modifying the parameters and applying the new settings, thus gradually building understanding of the different aspects of the trajectories. The four images show the result of progressive clustering to the same subset of the Milan data as the images on the previous page.


The image shows the result of clustering by “common destinations,” which compares the spatial positions of the ends of trajectories. From the 8,206 trajectories, 4,385 have been grouped into 80 density-based clusters and 3,821 treated as noise.


In this image, we see the clusters with the noise removed.


The image shows the biggest cluster, which consists of 590 trajectories that end at the northwest part of Milan.


When clustering by “route similarity,” which compares the routes followed by the moving objects, the result is a total of eighteen clusters, with the noise hidden. The largest cluster (in red) consists of 116 trajectories going from the city center. The next largest cluster (in orange) consists of 104 trajectories going from the northeast along the northern motorway. The yellow cluster (68 trajectories) depicts trajectories going from the southeast along the motorway on the south and west.


The image shows the Space-Time Cube (STC) representation of the result from clustering by “route similarity” (same clustering as shown in the previous image). STC is a common type of display of movement data that uses a three-dimensional cube, with two dimensions representing space, and one time. STCs were briefly discussed earlier in the chapter.


Generalization and aggregation of trajectories enable understanding of the spatial and temporal distribution of multiple movements, which is not possible by looking at individual trajectories.


There are different techniques for aggregating movement data, and the most common method examines flows of moving objects by pairs of locations, as those in origin-destination pairs. Given the complexity of the data, and to avoid visual clutter, Andrienko and colleagues have devised a more efficient method that segments trajectories into all visited locations along the path and then aggregate the transitions from all trajectories.


The result can be viewed in this sequence of images showing flow maps based on fine, medium and coarse territory divisions. To distinguish flows in different directions, each segment is represented by “half-arrow” symbols.


The line widths stand for magnitudes. Details on exact value of magnitudes, as well as other flow-related attributes, are provided by interaction with the segments.

Makes you feel kind of small, doesn’t it? But then I think about how we have the power to collect, analyse, and implement data like this, and it makes me feel proud.

Get more interesting case studies in Design for Information:

Classics Reimagined: You’ve Never Seen Grimm Tales Like This

Last month, we were super lucky to check out some sneak peek content from Yann Legendre’s Classics Reimagined, Grimm’s Fairy Tales on Take The Edge Off.

This book is gorgeous. I’m talking gasp-worthy. With 20 classic fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm, and over 100 original color illustrations from internationally recognized illustrator, Yann Legendre, this book is going to blow your mind and put shame to any other fairy tale compilation that you own. 

I’m going to share you with you a few sneak illustrations: shhh! Don’t tell!

Here’s the cover. It’s embossed. It’s embossed and completely amazing.

Remember this moohq MiniCard from Take the Edge Off?

Well, here is the image in all it’s greatness:

Each story has a unique pattern that complements the story.

What do you think? How would you like to win an advanced copy? You can enter our Goodreads Giveaway right here:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Classics Reimagined, Grimm's Fairy Tales by Wilhelm Grimm

Classics Reimagined, Grimm’s Fairy Tales

Giveaway ends August 01, 2014.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Design: Paper

A Seductive Collection of Alluring Paper Designs

I’m not breaking new ground by telling you that a shift is happening—has happened—in visual communication’s primary medium, from ink and paper to pixel. Designers on the younger side, myself included, are constantly hearing that they may be working primarily in digital design if they want to survive. This is very likely true, but paper’s role in graphic design is certainly still alive, even if it is losing its grip as the popular choice. Companies still need business cards (for now). Products still need packaging. Who wants to send out an invitation for that special day via email? This transition from print to digital is affecting the designer in a number of ways. Some, of course, are negative, but one positive is this: It’s making us more appreciative of the chances we get to work with paper. What was once a given is no longer, and these opportunities are all the more exciting because of this. 

Digital proliferation is undeniable. Pixels and ones and zeroes are necessary. The ability to bypass a letter carrier in order to communicate via IM, text, or email makes paper seem akin to a smoke signal. This revolution is somewhat perfect: let pizza coupons, airline tickets, product manuals, bills, quick notes, lazily written magazines, and poorly composed photos move to the cloud. Paper is too important a resource—too expensive, too materially consumptive, too slow—to be taken for granted. We’ll save the fiber for those things that we cherish. We’ll keep the pulp for what matters. We’ll press it carefully now. We’ll keep it in shoeboxes under the bed, in frames on the wall, in our wallets and purses. We’ll wrap it around vinyl records, hide it in safes, and place it under our windshield wipers. We’ll pass it from one hand to another when we want to make a communiqué more humane. We’ll use it to sketch out our ideas. We’ll clutch it to our chest. We’ll blot tears. We’ll crumple it. We’ll burn it in protest. We’ll nail it to the door. We will recycle and start anew.

The Consult, England

Javas Lehn Studio, USA

Matter Strategic Design, USA

Real Estate Arts, USA

Matter Strategic Design, USA

Politanski Design, Poland

Julie VonDerVellen, USA

Brogen Averill, New Zealand

Excerpted from Design: Paper by Public School. 

10 Rules of Color: Use Standardized Color Systems

Only two more rules of color left in our series! Here is more from AdamsMorioka!

RULE 9: Use Standardized Color Systems

Increasingly, designers work across several media, including print, online, broadcast, packaging, and environment. Care must be given to create consistent reproduction results in a variety of manufacturing processes and materials. Consistent colors are managed through the use of standardized color systems.

Several Choices of System

For inks on paper, designers use the PANTONE® Matching System, TOYO, ANPA, or DIC (Dai Nippon Ink Colors). In the United States, the most ubiquitous color formula specification system, especially for spot colors, is PANTONE®, with colors referred to as PMS and a series of numbers (e.g., PMS185 is a bright red). These standardized colors are offered in thousands of hues as well as specialty inks such as metallics, tints, and fluorescents. Standards for soy-based ink colors are also available. Most graphic software systems (especially Adobe products), computer monitors, and ink-jet printers include palettes and simulations that correspond to these standard color systems. However, it is critical that digital devices such as monitors be properly calibrated to correctly simulate colors.

Offset lithography is a four-color process whereby layers of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black (CMYK) are applied to paper surfaces in varying amounts via dot patterns. Larger presses often include additional units to accommodate spot colors and may even have coating units to apply finishes such as varnish and aqueous coating. Standardized process color guides, which show percentages for each of the CMYK values, are available in SWOP, a printing standard used in the United States and Asia, and EURO (for Euroscale), used in Europe.

Color systems offer specification guides in a variety of formats, including binders with tear-off chips and fan-style guides. These guides also show what the colors look like on coated and uncoated paper stocks.


Greece! Rome! Monsters! is a children’s book that introduces mythological stories in an innovative and engaging way. The challenge was to reproduce illustrator Calef Brown’s vivid paintings in four-color process. Designer Jim Drobka incorporates hand-lettered typography that responds to the illustrations. The palette is focused on a strong and unusual purple and lime green combination that had to be accurately produced in the original English and subsequent international editions. The use of standardized color systems allowed for consistent color reproduction. Getty Publications

Some of the latest innovations in standardized color systems are in digital color matching. For example, PANTONE® has a guide that matches spot colors with their process color equivalents and the output from several digital press systems. Guides like this ensure that a client’s logo on stationery matches that in ads and brochures.

Color Standardization Beyond Print

Architects and environmental graphic designers also use a version of the PANTONE® system, as well as others, to specify textiles, paints, and plastics. Often, these must coordinate with printed components as well.

For color on screens, whether for online or broadcast, different color systems are used. To specify online colors, there are several guides for Web colors that correspond to print-based notation systems. However, graphics software, especially those for website creation, are equipped with Web-safe calibrations. For television, consistent color specification in the NTSC (in the United States) or PAL (in Europe and Asia) color space used by broadcasters is problematic. The variance in preproduction, postproduction, and at-home viewing screens can be very different. There are no guides per se, but graphics software programs can convert standard CMYK colors into RGB, and good approximations of standard colors can be expected.

Color management is a complex technical issue. It is also an area that is constantly changing technologically. Designers must stay abreast of latest developments and consult with their suppliers as well as their software manufacturers’ websites. They should also take advantage of the many resources and products offered by GretagMacbeth, one of the industry leaders in color management.


Posters for the HP Brand Innovation Lab’s Speaker Series feature the speakers’ photos rendered as monochromatic outline drawings set against a single field of one of HP’s corporate colors. Spot colors like these can be consistently specified using standard color formulas. Stone Yamashita Partners


International Contract Furnishings sought to unify its collection of companies and thus established the ICF Group to provide a consolidated selling system.


Marketing efforts include printer materials, advertising, online promotions, and retail stores, all designed for maximum brand coherence.

That means there must be a consistent application of the corporate identity across a variety of reproduction processes and materials, as seen here. Carbone Smolan Agency


Working with fluorescents can be tricky, but creative director David Koehler puts them to good use in the Star Financial Services Annual Report. Used as both an undercoat layer for four-color images as well as big full-bleed color blocks, fluorescents make this book stand out. Standardized guides are also available for fluorescent ink colors. Addison Co.


These HUGA T-shirts are for sale through the designer’s online store. Being able to consistently produce the same color over time is a concern for the company. Standardized specification and color formulas for silk-screening inks make this possible and can be guaranteed if the same silk-screen ink manufacturer is used for all products. Many designers use PANTONE® coated color chips when specifying color for silk- screening. Hunter Gatherer

Color in Politics:  Since the days of ancient Rome, competing political factions have used color to symbolize their group’s ideologies. There are exceptions, from country to country, but the following standard associations of color and politics generally apply worldwide. The Green Party is associated with environmentalism, and green is often used to represent Islamic parties. Blues typically represent conservative parties, except in the United States, where blue is associated with the more leftist Democratic Party. Red is historically associated with socialism or communism but now also represents the Republican Party in the United States. Both anarchism and fascism have used black, while white has been linked nearly universally to pacifism, most likely due to the white flag of surrender. Yellow is often used to represent libertarianism and liberalism. Other colors have been employed, but these are the enduring colors of politics.

The Radio Barcelona exhibition required design in several media.


Color had to be managed, so standardized color systems were used to achieve consistency in items such as painted walls, printed materials, and silk-screened merchandise.

Rich, deep blacks, punctuated by geometric patterns in white and pale blue, distinguish the design and give it a sense of both technology and mystery. BASE Design


Designing for PANTONE®

Pentagram’s London office had the opportunity to design in service of standardized color systems when they worked for PANTONE®. The firm was engaged to develop a new identity and package design for PANTONE® that reflected an intent to add the general customer to the company’s target audience while retaining the existing professional business-to-business focus.

Designers John Rushworth (Partner- Graphics) and Daniel Weil (Partner-3D) and their teams positioned PANTONE® to consumers at large as the color authority that enables them to make color-sensitive decisions about products purchased online, from fashion and cosmetics to lifestyle products and home furnishings. The solution was to transform the chip icon, well known to professional color specifiers, such as designers, into a fun-style swatch guide. This is a format that consumers typically understand from buying paint and wallpaper.

Pentagram also redesigned the PANTONE® matching system guides for designers and printers, reaffirming their fundamental value as unique and comprehensive technical references while enhancing their usability. Each manual is now color-coded by system and held in clothbound binders to convey a tangible sense of quality. The typographical language suggests an accessible and ordered authority, inspiring confidence in the technical qualities of the brand.

Come back next week for our final rule of color. Also, grab a copy of Color Design Workbook for more cool color theory. 


Typically we use erasers to correct our mistakes. But, étrécissement uses erasers to create a reductive drawing. Playing with Sketches shows you how to get started and gives you inspiration from some amazing artists who use this technique. 

Reductive drawing helps you think less about lines and more about values, shapes, and tones. The examples in this exercise use either charcoal or powdered graphite erased, scraped, or otherwise reduced back to remove tone. In some ways, the process has connections to the rubbings exercise earlier in this book. To create a reductive drawing, use a piece of compressed charcoal or brush on powdered graphite to cover your paper with
a tone [01]. Decide whether the tone is even
or modulated before you begin. Next, use
your hand, a paper towel, or a chamois cloth to blend the charcoal into an even tone. Experimenting with these tools is important so that you know which combination works best for you. To reduce the tone, use a pink pearl eraser, a vinyl eraser, and a kneaded eraser to sketch in the basic shapes of your objects, and apply different pressure to get a subtle range of values. Other tools for lightening your toned ground are paper stumps, razor blades, steel wool, fine- to coarse-grade sand- paper, and electric drafting erasers.

Originally from Canada, now working in Israel, multidisciplinary artist Lezli Rubin-Kunda makes drawings that are site-specific “framing and heightening of the ordinary.” her work shown here, Drawing in an Empty Space, made with natural charcoal on the walls at Nachshon Gallery, Kibbutz Nachshon, Israel, uses the reductive process to reveal “cracks and nail holes, peeling layers of paint, and invisible spider webs” that all emerged from the wall’s surfaces. many other of her reduc-tive work on walls appears in her recent book, Walls I Have Known…and marked…and drawn on… and incised into…and erased…. 

Rubin-Kunda’s reductive drawings titled The Consolation of Philosophy 2, part of a series of drawings using books on classical Western philosophy, use graphite and erasures to cover an entire book on Hegelian thought. the pages are installed in a grid on the wall. the drawings, she says, contrast “chaos-markings, hesitations, and dynamic energy” with a “dry systematic linear layer, sometimes exposing, sometimes obliterating the text underneath.” 

New York artist Deborah Zlotsky uses a reductive process in her drawings. her small-scale images Hunnyschneckle and Vilosopher, each around 5 x 7 inches (12.7 x 17.8 cm), have the visual power of monumental imagery. for Zlotsky, the softness of the drawing’s tones match the forms rendered. She calls powdered graphite “endlessly malleable” because she can spread, paint, blow, erase, wipe, and smudge the medium. Zlotsky uses as many tools as she needs to adjust the tones to make the forms emerge. “for me, working reductively or subtractively is closer to sculpting or painting than to drawing,” she notes. Zlotsky’s reductive drawings are about altering relationships in a process of accumulating, assembling, revising, abrading, and repeatedly repainting that blur our sense of time. 


Get Your Lines Right

The summertime sees many women refreshing their wardrobe from baggy and confortable to sleek and follows a particular line. Some are even searching for bridal wear, which is currently all about the way that the line of a garment falls and how sleek it can be. One of the fashion industries darlings is the perfect subject to analyze due to her excellent use of line in her designs. Vera Wang is a favorite among brides who want a specific visual. Laura Volpintesta explains:

line \ ‘līn \ n: a mark or stroke long in proportion to its breadth, made with a pen, pencil, tool, etc., on a surface.

Stripes, strips, and straps. Princess line, waistline, seam line, hemline, and A-line. Yarn, thread, pencil, and brush. Line quality. Timelines, deadlines, designing, producing, presenting a line of clothing. What isn’t linear about fashion? Garments are cut from lines that wrap themselves around the human form, surrounding it, while fabric is woven from them.

Each thread, seam, and row of knitting is a line. Spaghetti straps, leather belts, gold chains, ribbons, zipper tape, arms, and legs all take on linear forms that can twist, bend, surround, follow, border, crease, ruche, slash, but somehow remain lines. Lines are the result of edges meeting; they carry the eye through time and space, marking separations, taking us on a journey, wrapping, fitting, enveloping the human form. Lines can intersect.

Vera Wang

New York

Vera Wang was raised on Manhattan’s affluent Upper West Side. When she was seven, she was gifted a pair of ice skates and began a career of skating and competing through her twenties. When she didn’t make it into the U.S. Olympic team, she decided to change careers, and clothing was the only thing she loved as much as skating. She started working for Vogue magazine, bringing with her the professionalism and finish she acquired in her skating career, and was promoted to fashion editor after her first year. She stayed there for sixteen years, until a new editor in chief was appointed.

She then became a design director for sixteen accessories lines at Ralph Lauren. In 1989, she was frustrated by her search for a wedding dress at age forty, feeling that dresses dictated too much to young women, and she wanted something more personal. She designed two of her own and hired a dressmaker to make them. She knew she could bring something special back to weddings, giving women more than the bridal market was offering, dresses that suited their personalities rather than “putting on a dress” that dictates to the wearer. In 1990, she opened her bridal boutique on Madison Avenue, carrying well-known designers as well as her own designs.

She says that when she designs, she really tries to think about what the garment is supposed to accomplish. Whether it is romance, sexiness, or modernity, she saw how she could satisfy the needs of the contemporary bride and revive the art of bridal design. Her styles became known for being luxurious, classic, simple, beautiful, and couture- like in style. She doesn’t work only by sketch, but by holding and sculpting fabric and washing, testing, experimenting with, and developing fabrics and finishes.

Design and skating came together again when she designed Nancy Kerrigan’s skating costumes for the Olympics. Made-to-order and ready-to-wear pieces by Wang, bridal and otherwise, are sought by celebrities and carried by top boutiques and retailers like Bergdorf Goodman and Saks Fifth Avenue. She also designs lines for Kohl’s and David’s Bridal, mass retailers, bringing her experience and aesthetic to women who could not afford her pieces otherwise. Working on many lines for many functions cross-fertilizes and inspires her work on each line. Now with many lines, including ready-to-wear and mass-market collaborations for different price points, she admits that four times a year is a grueling schedule for staying creative and fresh in the fashion business, but she manages.

Understanding the importance of celebrity dressing has certainly boosted her visibility and business success. She moved naturally into eveningwear from bridal with a philosophy that strives to be sophisticated without looking costumed. Another successful designer who designs for herself, she values comfort with enough structure to support and accentuate the positive and gentle draping to skim over the rest. She wants women who wear her clothes to feel secure and sexy.

Read up on more of your favorite designers in Laura’s book: