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1980 5-Franc Coin

In the U.S. alone, there are trillions of coins in circulation. When taking into account the rest of the world, that number could easily be in the quadrillions. Some of them range from the downright bizarre (like Somalia’s 3D geometric coins) to the traditional circular. And all of them have different designs. So really, it was only a matter of time before we came across one that we could write a blog about.

So in walks the 1980 Swiss 5-franc coin that CK received for Christmas this year. Designed by Paul Burkhard, who lived from 1888-1964, this coin contains both a lot of history and small details. Burkhard designed the coin in the early 1920s, and the same design is still being used today. On the edge of the coin “*** DOMINUS PROVIDEBIT **********” is printed, which is Latin for “The Lord will provide.” The really fascinating part comes on the side of the coin with the portrait of William Tell — yes, the same William Tell known for shooting an apple off his son’s head with a crossbow. Tell is a Swiss folk hero known for bringing unity to Switzerland, a story that inspired Gioachino Rossini to write the William Tell Overture.

The phrase “Confoederatio Helvetica” accompanies Tell’s portrait. It’s the official name for the country of Switzerland. The reason it’s in Latin is because Switzerland has four national languages, and they didn’t want to show favoritism toward one or the other. It’s also the reason for their country code on their license plates, as well as the URL extension for Swiss websites.


On the daily, I have at least 10 tabs open in my browser at work. The first three positions are always (1) my email, (2) my calendar, and (3) Noon Pacific. After those, it’s a free-for-all. Total chaos.

Nine times out of ten I never revisit these tabs because I’m just too busy to read the article or look through the design gallery (or so I tell myself). I’ve tried to use Pocket, but if I don’t digest it immediately, it’s basically dead to me. 

But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t impressed or drawn to the page in the first place. Something told me to keep the tap open. See for yourself – here are the five tabs currently open in my browser: 

The Influence of Color: Choosing a Palette in Photography
Learning from Lego: A Step Forward in Modular Web Design
The Best and Worst Identities of 2016, Part 4: The Best Noted
11 Whimsical Animal Drawings by Leupin
MailChimp For Designers

I guarantee you these are way better than whatever Steven has open in his.

Holiday Traditions

Ham for Christmas dinner, getting to open one present on Christmas Eve, leaving cookies out for Santa. Most families participate in some type of a holiday tradition, and this morning I asked everyone in the office about some of their families’ weirder ones.

CK/Linda: We have wassail and cinnamon rolls for breakfast on Christmas morning.
Courtney: On Christmas Eve, Santa delivers new pajamas for everyone, usually matching.
Aaron: Everyone gets a can of Christmas SPAM in his or her stocking.
Shirlee: We had four Christmas trees.
Steven: On Christmas Eve, all of my family goes out for pizza.

If you have any weird holiday traditions, we would love to hear about them. Leave them in the comments section below.

Hijacking a Logo

The other day I came across this article that shows a few modern logos looking eerily similar to logos found over 30 years ago. Below is a side-by-side comparison of the most similar ones:


If you don’t want to go through and read the article, the writer, Rain Noe, admits that he is an “industrial designer who’s solely worked on three-dimensional products, I’ve never designed a logo in my life”. And he goes on to ask graphic designers and art directors the question, “is it reasonable to believe that the latter logos were created without ever having seen the black-and-white images?” So, I figured I would put in my two cents on the subject.

Starting in high school I began to notice a strange pattern occurring in my “creative” classes, from true art/design classes to writing classes. And in one of my writing classes, Mythology, I remember very clearly being told there are only seven different story plots. The basis behind this was to get us to not waste our time with trying to come up with new stories. Something very similar was taught to me in most of my design classes as well, there are no new ideas anymore. Even if you think you came up with some brilliant “new” concept, you are still pulling bits and pieces of something you have seen previously, from your subconscious. Austin Kleon even wrote a book about it, Steal Like an Artist.

Bringing this whole thing full circle, I choose to see the good in people. In this case, I prefer to believe that the designers behind the recent logos, have seen the older logos previously, but weren’t purposefully copying them. I believe the designers had pushed them deep into their subconscious and thought they had come up with a new “original” idea. Otherwise, I think they would have at least changed them a bit so they weren’t replicas.

My advice for any young designer to avoid this is simple; know where you’re getting your ideas. There are a couple reasons for this, first, if you get questioned about your design, you can trace it back and walk through the process of creation. Second, if you know where you drew your inspiration, then you can change it enough so that it doesn’t look like a replica of something you had seen in your subconscious.

Classic Macintosh Childhood

While we millennials were the first generation to grow up with computers, it turns out I had one much earlier in life than many of my friends.


I recently found this gem of a photo – from waaaay back in 1991 – at my mom’s house. That’s my sister Heather (left) and me “sharing” the keyboard and mouse of a Macintosh Classic, which our parents had tucked away in a corner of our living room. We played Asteroids and StuntCopter, and messed around in Paint as much as they’d let us. Eventually, it made its way out of the living room and into the “computer room.” (Yep – it was that important in our house that we didn’t even call it an office.)

Talk about a throwback. And talk about a pretty clear path toward becoming a designer. From my first computer at age three to a mom who owned a quilt shop and was a pattern/shape/color wizard, it all adds up.

Tired of Politics Yet?

You’re not the only one. Here’s something else to entertain yourself for a few hours.

They’re called stereograms, and the easiest way to view the hidden 3D image is to start with your nose about one inch away from your screen and stare at it for a few seconds. Then slowly back away.




It can take a while to get the hang of it, but don’t give up! If you found these to be too easy, or you want to see some others, you can view more here.

Rules Were Made to Be Broken

In the world of typography there’s a set of rules made not just to be followed, but also to be lived by. Like a religion. A lot of the visual rules are used in other art forms as well. For example, in painting, objects that are shown closer have a lot more detail and contrast than those shown farther away, giving the illusion of depth.

But what happens when these rules are broken? Putting dark text on dark backgrounds, morphing the text to be nearly illegible, or creating a mash of text that seems like it came from a ransom note: These are just some of the ways that the visual rules have been broken, especially in the psychedelic and punk era. Personally, I’m a huge fan of this style, but it’s not for everyone. The indecipherability of these two styles can just be a headache for some.

The same rules that are broken with these styles, however, can also be broken in a way that’s a little less “stick it to the man.” And it can be done very successfully, too. But it must be done with purpose. As with other rules you may want to break, there must be a reason for breaking them – as well as both a knowledge and a keen understanding of those rules.

This is the difference between a child’s preschool drawing that you hang on the fridge and a piece of art, worth thousands of dollars, that looks like it was done by a child. The artists know the rules and are breaking them with the understanding and knowledge that breaking them in a certain way will give them the effect/style they want.

With typography, it’s the difference between the poster for an upcoming punk rock show happening in a garage that was done by a friend of the band, compared to a poster for an upcoming event where the main purpose is to showcase art on the poster – and the information for the event is secondary.

For a much more in-depth look at these typographic rules compared to paintings, check out Jandos Rothstein’s article on And for more on the different ways of breaking those rules, here’s another, also by Rothstein.

Q&A with Our Winner

You probably know by now that we awarded our first inaugural Helveticahaus scholarship to the amazingly talented second-year SFCC student Isabel Heisler. And we’re guessing that, after reading her bio, you looked skyward, shook your fist at the cruel and indifferent universe, and shouted, “But I want to know more!” We did, too. So we locked Isabel in a windowless cell lit only by a single flickering fluorescent tube, and grilled her for four hours straight. Here’s the transcript of that interview:

Q: What’s your favorite font?
A: Is Helvetica too cliché?

Q: What’s your favorite punctuation mark?
A: I think “…”

Q: If you were a dash, which one would you be?
A: En.

Q: What’s your favorite color?
A: It’s pink, but a mature answer would be white.

Q: Favorite Adobe program right now?
A: InDesign.

Q: Shortcuts or mouse clicks?
A: Shortcuts for life.

Q: Pencil or pen?
A: PEN!!!!

Q: Digital or print?
A: Print.

Q: What’s your favorite food?
A: Steak. I’m from Brazil.

Q: Favorite Spokane neighborhood or street?
A: South Hill.

Q: Favorite pastime?
A: TV shows.

Q: Favorite sport?
A: Is ballet a sport? Yes it is.

Q: Favorite tree/flower/plant?
A: Light pink tulips or lavender.

Q: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
A: I don’t exist in the morning.

Q: If you were Queen of the World, what would be your first order of business?
A: Paint all buildings white. Just kidding…but not. [Editor’s note: There’s that “…” she likes so much.]

We’re excited for Isabel. After all, this is what Helveticahaus is all about. In fact, we’re guessing you’re feeling pretty great about your purchases right about now. What? You haven’t bought anything yet? Then be sure to swing by the shop on your way out.

A Field of Orange

I couldn’t have been much more elated when my copy of Pretty Much Everything by Aaron Draplin finally showed up in the mail. Then, the “Everything Else” Enhancement Kit, or EEEK, showed up. And believe me, that’s the exact sound that squeaked out of me when I saw it. So without further comment, I give to you Pretty Much Everything and the EEEK.









If you want your own to see its beauty in person, you can order both the book and the kit from DDC.


Wednesday on twitter, I tweeted that Tootsie Rolls are “the perfect summer chocolate.” So today I will elaborate.

Imagine this… it’s September of 1880, you’re outdoors, maybe sitting in your rocking chair on a nice relaxing weekend. You’re eating chocolate and after a while it starts to melt and it’s getting everywhere. Suddenly, that delicious snack went from being enjoyable to a mess rivaling a two-year-old’s temper tantrum. Then, in the 1890’s a new chocolaty treat emerged. Behold, the humble Tootsie Roll. a scrumptious little treat with all of the chocolate flavor, without the melt in your hand mess. Watch out chocolate, there’s a new sheriff in town.


Leaving all the dramatics behind, what has caused this little delight to become so iconic? Is it the flavor, the shape, the size? I would it’s something else. The packaging for Tootsie Roll may seem simple (it’s just a waxy paper wrapped around a little chocolate log after all), but take a look at the font, Cooper Black. As Ellen Lupton (senior curator at the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt) says, “ it’s a chewy, dark font that perfectly reflects the Tootsie Roll candy”. Of course there’s the colors as well. Anytime the combination of brown and red is seen together, people can’t help but be reminded of a Tootsie Roll. Want to find out if any of your favorite food packaging made this list, go here.