On Rotating Potatoes

By Aaron Stockdill - 15 Aug 2014

Many things that we do can be harder than they seem. Take a price quote for example. If you were to ask me how much a website costs, I'd reply

How long is a piece of string?

It sounds like a simple enough question, but when you look at it, there is so much going on! This post is more about design, but it influences everything we have to deal with!

Easy is Hard

When you make something, how long do you spend working on each piece? If you're anything like me, it probably goes something like this:

This is a fantastic plan, clearly. The thing is, I get completely dissillusioned about what is going to be hard, and what is going to be easy.

When I'm planning, I always think it will be very hard to get the main structure going. I overestimate how difficult I will find deciding on an overarching theme, thinking that the inspiration will never hit, and it will look like dog barf. And then I think that when I've got the basics sorted, the details will just be a bit of spit and polish. It's never like that. If I had decided on even some of these details up front, I would have saved hours.

One Tenth of a Quarter of a Degree Clockwise -- No wait, Anit-clockwise

The idea for this blog post all came about because we needed some business cards. They came out quite good actually.

I can personally guarantee you that those cogs and potatoes are at the perfect angle. I should know, me and some focus group members spent several hours spinning it until it was juuuuuust right. I can also guarantee you that rotating a potato was not something that I had planned for. Who'd've thunk it.

And not just rotation, the tranlation is just as important. One thing to keep in mind with business cards is the cutting margin. everything has to be in far enough to avoid the chop. But then things start to overlap, and then it becomes a scaling issue as well. Ugh. And of course, on such a minimal card design, the one thing that really stands out is:


Do you know what the font is on our card? Initially we had Helvetica, but we decided that it was a bit too boring. We tried Helvetica Neue, but it was not a lot better. We then moved on to something quite different: Myriad Pro. While this had some definite pluses, we found it to be a bit thinner than Helvetica, with a smaller range of thicknesses, meaning it overlapped differently and didn't provide font weights that the design called for.

Have you worked out what the font we actually did use was yet? It's still a very popular font (we're not that hipster).

Gill Sans.

Yes, that fine balance between all the previous options, it was the best font we found. It had weight variations, a nice wide character, gorgeous letterforms. It was perfect. Almost.

The observant amongst you may have noticed that it is not quite stock Gill Sans. One letter has recieved a slight tweak: lowercase italicized 'p'. It has a terrible shape. It had to go. So we spent almost half an hour debating how to make it suit the font better. We tried many different terminals at the tip of the 'p', replacing those terrible pseudo-serifs. Here's what we came up with:

We think it's an improvement.

You Can't Plan Enough

The one thing to take away from this? You can't plan enough. I know, shocking, given the subtitile of this section was exactly that. When going to write this post, I didn't plan enough. I thought that I would have a huge issue trying to come up with a topic that would be interesting to read about. Instead, we I had several ideas, and then thought "Fantastic! I just write one up and have my job done early!" That was a week ago. Damn.

In future my resolution is to plan more. Actually, that's a dumb resolution. I won't actually do that. I should have thought about that resolution before I said it.

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