29 February 2012

Designing the Open Lab 2013 buttons

I’ve been pleased to have designed the submission buttons for the last three editions of The Open Laboratory anthology of online science writing (read Bora Zivcovic’s account here). That said, I was surprised when Bora emailed me asking for a new one, because a year ago, I wrote:

I hope that Bora and the Open Lab team will let me retire this design after Open Lab 2011 is published. I’d like to see something fresh for the Open Lab 2012 buttons, whether from me or someone else.

I wanted to do something completely different.

I had a concept in my head, but it was complicated. Without getting into the details (because I might still try it next year), I couldn’t pull it off. I procrastinated and felt guilty knowing that Bora was waiting.

Finally, a week or two ago, I was thinking how to convey the concept of something being “open.” I thought of an open window looking out to the sky

The design went quickly from there.

I grabbed a picture of a beautiful skyline. It had to have some clouds to be recognizable as sky, rather than a just blue. I enlarged the “O” to maximize the amount of sky visible though it.

Because the idea was to be looking through something onto the sky, I wanted the background to look like a wall. I went into Corel Photo-Paint and played around with textures. Bricks were too rigid and too structured and visually noisy, so I used a simple stone texture.

I wanted colours that would “pop” against the colours of the sky. I used the eyedropper tool to sample the RGB values of the sky blue, then used Kuler to find complementary colours. It suggested a lovely dark tan as the main contrast colour, so that became the colour of the “Open Lab” text.

The darker blue Kuler suggested as part of the colour scheme seemed right for the “Submit to” text. Enlarging the “O” created a space for the “Submit to” text, but because that space was smaller than previous years, the text needed to be more condensed. I opened up the drop down menu, and found MoolBoran almost immediately. I went back and tried other similar fonts, but nothing seemed to fit the bill as well.

Things were starting to shape up. The colour scheme had a light brown, so I decided to make the stone texture that colour. I wasn’t quite sure how to do that, because the texture had been created in black and white. I draw a box underneath the stone texture, filled it with the light tan colour, and looked for a tool to make the stone transparent.

The transparency tool I found did not do what I wanted. I wanted to make the stone background equally transparent, but this was a dynamic tool. As a result, I got a totally unplanned gradient, which added some nice shades that highlighted the “O.”

Remember, love your accidents.

Now I was roughly at this point:

I liked it, but there were still some issues, like the line spacing. The colour scheme? It was lovely and calming. It made me think of beautiful tropical beaches. But it was too subdued, particularly given that the last two years had gone for intense colour schemes (boiling lava two years ago and action movie orange and blue last year).

The last tweak was to bring a more visual interest by adding another typeface. Because the other typefaces were very geometric, I looked for something more relaxed and “swishy” to contrast to them. Scriptina was one of the first ones I tried. As with the “Submit” text, I went back and tried some other brush scripts, but none seemed to work as well as Scriptina. It fit the available space perfectly, and I loved how the “2” was almost hugging the “B.”

Though I say it myself, I think the result is rather lovely. It’s not as radically different as I originally planned, but it is different enough that it stands apart from the last three years.

And if you read something you like here or on any other science blog, don’t forget to click the button!

Related posts

Open Lab 2011 begins! Plus: About the buttons
Open Laboratory 2009 candidate logo design

1 comment:

TheCellularScale said...

I like it, it has sort of a 'beachy' feel.