Thursday, January 31, 2013


Design for Words with Meaning

“ALL dAY EVERY dAY” represents the artist’s constant love for making art. This drive and determination is always working in the back of our minds, always noticing inspiring things, always adding notes and drawings to notebooks, and always thinking creatively. DeviantART is a wonderful, swirling artistic ecosystem with a fertile breeding ground for this never-ending creative spirit.

Recently at deviantART, we tried out a small-scale collaborative program, bringing in outside artists to illustrate pieces for the seasonal clothing line. For the piece ALL dAY EVERY dAY, I’m proud to introduce Tony Van Groningen, or =tonybricker here on dA. It’s always a pleasure to hand an artistic brief off to an artist and have them come back with an exciting piece that can go a few rounds in collaborative sessions to make final. Working collaboratively brings multiple viewpoints to the drawing board and adds a great deal of richness to successful pieces.

So, for this Journal, we asked =tonybricker directly if he could outline the creative story behind making ALL dAY EVERY dAY. Enjoy!

"Hello, Deviants!

My design brief was wide open on this one. I was instructed to do something typographically cool with the phrase "All Day Every Day," which, in the world of deviantART, is encouragement to make your art and work on your skills all day, every day!

I started by going through my typefaces and trying to pick fonts that were sturdy and thick enough for the bluntness I was going for. I wanted to be sure it was a pretty legible font, since the whole shirt was type-based, but I also wanted it to have somewhat unusual proportions. This was not a job for your standard Helvetica Light.

Experimenting with different fonts on the page, I was able to consider each one individually.

These might look really similar to some people, but I was trying to pay attention to proportion and individual letterforms. I printed these out individually at large sizes, hung them on the wall, and looked at them from a range of distances, including about 15 feet away down my hallway. This might sound silly, but it's a really useful thing to do to make sure your eyes and brain aren't locked into "on-screen" mode, where things often look huge and super high-contrast.

After doing this, the one that had the right funky and legible feel to me was the upper-right option, using the lovely Apex Sans typeface.

 From there, I went through and made each of the letters look even and balanced. Never trust default spacing in any program! For example, the gap between the "D" and the "A" was too large, the "D" felt like it was floating off the rest of the word.

I flipped it backwards because I wanted to work with the digital letterforms off the computer, but I also wanted to add a traditional twist by using wet artistic media like ink and watercolor.

After copying the backwards letters on tracing paper, I laid the tracing paper graphite-side down on top of my watercolor paper, and using a pencil, transferred the typography to the watercolor paper by rubbing it, so I‘d have a template.

I did this process a few times so I’d have several templates to work from, since I doubted I would do something I liked the first time. Here's what the tracing paper looked like after the rubdown.

Now, it was time to get to the artsy fun part. I pulled out a ton of tools to experiment with. I didn’t know how it would end up, but I felt I’d know what I liked when I saw it, and no better way to get there than by trying everything.

One of my all-time favorite techniques is using gouache with India ink, so that had to be in the lineup. The Japanese squeezebrush pens are amazing for spontaneous linework. Whiteout pens can be fun, and the weird-shaped bottles in the back are refill containers for Tria pen ink. I often like to drip it straight onto the paper for supersaturated color.

I just started mixing things up and working intuitively to see what happened. Here are some results.

I scribbled notes underneath some of my favorites so I could recreate the effect later if I needed. I need to do this more. I often look at some of my older sketches and tests and can't figure out how I once made something cool! 

Ultimately, I decided that I really liked the mostly uncontrollable effect of brushing water over the letterform, adding some drops of India ink, and gently swirling the entire page around so the ink actually travelled around inside of the water droplets.

The results looked great and interesting, and I really liked that, since there wasn't a lot of real control over how the letter ended up looking, all the letters looked different.

I scanned in each letter and cleaned them up digitally. But I didn't feel that this alone was enough, so I played around with the visual contrast between the blobby ink letters and the super-rigid structure in original letterforms.

I went back to my Illustrator file where I’d typeset the quote with Apex Sans, and using some vector magic and some typography skillz, I redrew the Apex Sans letterforms to be a super-hairline mono-weight version that would sit nicely inside each letter.

Once I had done that for every letter, the backbone elements of the shirt were ready, and it was just a matter of composing everything. As mentioned earlier, I was interested in juxtaposing the flowing edges of the letters with precise vector lines within each, so I created a vector pattern to use in the background, to create a balanced, interesting composition. Here’s one of many patterns we tried.

At this point, I sent them off to Forest. He had the great idea of making the uppercase "D"s in my piece into lowercase "d"s so they would read "dA" on the shirts, which was a brilliant idea. I was excited to go back and redo the watery-ink trick one last time to make the lowercase "d"s.

We decided that reversing the black inkletters out to white on a black shirt created a nice, ghostly effect. I adjusted the background pattern to a muted purple and sent Forest the working file.

As any individual designer would do, this design went through many more revisions, including shifting the alignment of the words around, deleting the background pattern, and changing the colors, until we finally decided on the awesome design you see before you.

And that's about it! Thanks for reading. I hope it was at least educational if not inspirational! Feel free to leave a comment or note me to ask any questions you might have about any part of the process. 



This was a
n inspiring process outline from the primary artist of the piece. As Tony mentioned, this design came a long way from the perceived final version, but we ended up with a very successful piece and a great collaboration.

Shop ALL dAY EVERY dAY in the deviantART T-Shirts & Gear Shop. Click here to see this and all T-Shirts!