December 2010

Dangerous Curves: Mastering the Art of Logotype Design

Delphi Press

  • 13957 Valley Vista Boulevard
  • Sherman Oaks , CA


The letter o is the simplest shape, but the most difficult letter to draw. Its curves must be carefully analyzed to determine whether they relate properly, even if the letter’s shape, a circle, is easy to identify. Doyald Young’s mastery of logotypes and letterforms has been developed over decades, in a manner not common today: his designs are sketched, hand-drawn, many from fonts he has memorized. His years of teaching at Art Center College of Design and working for well-known clients are reflected in this book through an essay on sketching, which details his design process and offers his thoughts about drawing, and logotype sketches that show his process. He explains step by step how to draw the letter o, as it is not a simple circle, but an ellipse with precise curves.

Although it is helpful to see how a master draws all of his work, each designer will use sketches differently. Five designers contributed essays on how they use sketches in their own work:

  1. Marian Bantjes
  2. Jill Bell
  3. Stefan Bucher
  4. Gerard Huerta
  5. James Montalbano

These designers have a variety of working styles. James Montalbano, a teacher at Parsons School of Design, starts directly on the screen when creating fonts, but exposes his students to both methods.

Those trying to identify their own working style might want to consider exploring the working styles of other designers, not only for helpful ideas, but to expose hidden habits that might be used more fully. Insights into the working habits of successful designers can inspire as well. Following dozens of precisely drawn, similar logotypes to arrive at one solution reveals that the feeling of effortlessness surrounding successful design work is always the result of hard work.

Reviewer: Caroline Bautista, FIDM Library Staff Member