experiments, illustration, color, typography

High Five

As you might remember, I've been participating in The 100 Day Project for the past couple months(!) by sketching daily card designs and concepts. Needless to say, it's been predictably quite a challenge for numerous reasons, but since we recently passed the halfway mark, I thought it'd be a good opportunity to post my top five favorite pieces from the first 50. These aren't necessarily fan favorites, but my own personal picks:


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At the encouragement of some of my lovely friends, I tried to stop putting so much pressure on myself to create something "marketable" and lean into whatever it is that appeals to me. I didn't really know what excuse there was to send a card textured with the spines of books, but I love these objects, I love experimenting with colors, and I enjoy the subtle variations that somehow make bookshelves so nice to look at. It doesn't always happen, but I felt rewarded for chasing freedom and pursuing my own whimsical interests.


A photo posted by Dorothea Lee (@farthermore) on

I've been enjoying hand-lettering for awhile now, and it's always a fun challenge to play with size and placement while ensuring the words are read in the correct order and maintain their legibility. I also love adding in little details that add to the meaning, such as the abstracted infinity symbol from the "t" in "Celebrating" and the magnetic attraction between "kind" and "found."


A photo posted by Dorothea Lee (@farthermore) on

In addition to hand-lettering entire phrases, I also enjoy examining individual letters in various fonts to see how elements have been altered and what aspects seem essential to the character. My play with this "random love letter" stemmed from the idea of B for Bee, and how love can be sweet. 


A photo posted by Dorothea Lee (@farthermore) on

Beyond the "Mom" message, I intentionally stepped away from the expected colors of pinks and purples for females and florals in this card to create something I still think the average recipient (or giver) could appreciate. I feel that we're often pressured to create what has already been established as good or working, but why not explore a void or differentiate from the many voices that came before us? I just think, I can't possibly be the only one who likes other colors despite being female! 


A photo posted by Dorothea Lee (@farthermore) on

Although this one took me a long time to make, it exhibits something that I've been returning to repeatedly as of late: the importance of interpreting an experience in one's own voice instead of merely documenting it. For this one in particular, I had just visited the American Museum of Natural History's Gem and Minerals exhibit and translated the details that I noticed and photographed into the letterforms for the G, E, and M.

It was tough to narrow them down, but those are my favorite five. I'm curious, what do you think? You can also take a look at the full roster of #100okasions thus far, and tell me which ones stand out to you the most. You never know what future may be in store for these once the 100 days are done! =)

experiments, throwback, typography

Like PB+J

With Valentine's Day coming up, I'm going through my box of past projects and posting a love-related piece every day this week. This is Day 5 of 5.

It may sound a little strange at first, but I view my relationships with my clients a lot like dating relationships. If a one year mark rolls around, I like to celebrate our One Year "Anniversary" to commemorate a successful collaboration that I appreciate. This is the inside of a card I gave to a client a few years ago that I'm in the process of revisiting:

Left: "We work great together," Right: "like peanut-butter & jelly"

Left: "We work great together," Right: "like peanut-butter & jelly"

This one pushes the limits of legibility a bit, but I had fun experimenting with type. Lately I've also been finding making little cards very relaxing. Sometimes I consider opening up a small shop. We shall see!

Well, that wraps up the flurry of posts and love-related projects for now. I was surprised there were so many! Have any favorites of the five? I'd love to hear it! =)

throwback, illustration, typography

Bears + Gerbera Daisies

With Valentine's Day coming up, I'm going through my box of past projects and posting a love-related piece every day this week. This is Day 3 of 5.

Leslie + Anthony are a great couple who share an eclectic group of interests and wanted a wedding suite that would incorporate that, yet also stand the test of time (no trendy "Jack Daniels" typography was an example they used). For their wedding, they were getting married in a colonial venue and using gerbera daisies in honor of Meg Ryan's You've Got Mail quote. After getting to know them better, I also discovered they have a running joke with bears. Taking inspiration from colonial era books and other traditional American prints and documents, I designed a suite with a custom illustration of two bears holding gerbera daisies in a style that would appear engraved. We used a 100% cotton paper to add some texture and weight to it, customized a font, and incorporated the navy blue wedding color.

The suite incorporated invitations, RSVPs, a double-sided program, table number cards with alternating illustrations, thank you cards, and name cards (not shown) also with alternating illustrations that could be printed on a home computer. A lot of pieces to "brand" and a lot of fun!

It was such a pleasure getting to know this easy-going and quirky couple and working with them on creating something that fit their relationship and special event. It makes me wish we had more to work on together!

Side bonus: I discovered an extra love of my own in the process. Lee's Art Shop is a great printer that can handle challenging papers and small runs such as this with excellent customer service that goes above and beyond. And no, they did not pay me to say this—it really is true love = P.

sketchbook, typography

Birth of a Logo, in 4 Movements*

*Caution: in keeping with the subject, more musically cheesy jokes ahead. Creating cohesive brand experienceshere is where one begins to wonder if there shouldn't be some limits!

For the past several weeks I've been working on a new logo for Keys To Success', a great piano teaching studio in NYC, and it finally launched today!

Given the occasion, I thought it was the perfect time to give a glimpse into my typical logo design process, and I've boiled it down into four basic "movements."


The first thing I do at the start of any project is get to know* the client as much as possible. In contrast to their competition, which teaches students to aspire towards historical and musical greats, Keys To Success centers around the individual student and helps them draw out their inherent potential. To us this meant a more modern, human aesthetic that at the same time is balanced with a sense of quality. It was decided that the entire name should be spelled out within the logo, and we started off with colors that naturally appealed to the founder and also seemed bright and fun for their target audience.

*For more on the what and why, read about my design approach

2nd movement

Armed with my client research, I then begin sketching visual ideas, exploring conceptual associations, and finding appropriate fonts within budget so I can investigate any inherent connections within the letterforms.

Some initial sketches and ideas

Some initial sketches and ideas

After I've explored various conceptual directions, I narrow down the options to present for review. At this stage, there is limited refinement and the focus is more on the representation of distinct visual ideas and concepts. 

First set of different logo directions submitted

First set of different logo directions submitted

  1. Playing with positive and negative space, the "E"s in the name form a piano keyboard. In the lower option (1B), the shape above "Keys" forms the handle of a key whose teeth are piano keys, making the pun of "keys" more explicit. This one was my favorite option.
  2. "Keys To Success" is aligned with an abstracted keyboard, where the blocks above the letters are the black keys and the white keys are hinted at by the placement of the letters and the vertical lines.
  3. The top view of a grand piano's keys also act as an upward-moving bar-graph, with the spine of the "k" lining up as the last bar, illustrating Keys To Success as helping one reach their full potential.
  4. Here, the letters of the font are altered to allude to musical notation without literally being replaced by them. The first "E"=a staff, the first "S"=a treble clef, "UC"=a bass clef. This could have been further emphasized or simplified if it had been chosen.
  5. A multi-perspective view of a stylized black key and two stylized white keys (the left one being pressed), arranged into a tiered winner's platform.

3rd movement

After the first presentation, the client is asked to narrow down the selection to pursue. In this case, Keys To Success liked the first and second direction best, with 1A appealing more to the founder than 1B. Feedback was given on their shapes, spacing, etc., and it was decided that the colors needed to shift to richer and darker tones that better reflected Keys To Success' urban environment and audience.

A snapshot of some color combinations and logo alternatives.

A snapshot of some color combinations and logo alternatives.

4th movement

At the end of the second round, the final logo direction and color combination is chosen. At this time I go in and adjust the smallest details, from the shapes of the letter C and roundedness in the vertical lines to the perceived spaces between letters so that everything looks properly aligned and evenly spaced (even if mathematically they are not—in designer-speak this is called "kerning").

Refinement of letter forms and spacing

Refinement of letter forms and spacing

The appropriate files for this final version is prepared, along with specific rights for usage, and after final approval is given...


The logo project is finally complete, and a logo is born!

Did you enjoy looking under the hood at the design process? What are your reactions to the way the logo progressed? Let me know in the comments!