I taught graphic design for many years, and I always mentioned the two projects that professional designers dreamed about. The first would be designing a typeface that becomes popular. This is not only financially rewarding, but it is amazing to see the impact on the world.
Typography is now a lost art, primarily through the glut of available typefaces. When fonts were formed in lead with matrix molds, the choices were less. When fonts were designed in postscript, the choices were almost endless.
I was sucked into that designers dream when the first typographic app came out. A designer could load the font into each character, and at the end you could upload the font to your computer and type with it. Of course it was much more than upper and lower case alphabet stuff. It was special characters, punctuation, numbers, super script, etc.
I only got the upper and lower case finished. What I did was upload my favorite five fonts, convert them into postscript outlines, then I averaged them all together to create a blend.
The final project was unique to my selections and had many of the qualities that I admired. I typed a few sentences, then forgot about going further.
The second dream of designers is to make a lasting logo. A logo for the ages that becomes representational, a short cut of identity. Fortunately, I not only taught graphic design, but I was the institutional designer for the college.
I’m not certain that I was asked to make a logo. I was just aware that a design had not been decided, because I saw that there were several different ways that the college presented itself in print.
There was a letterhead that spelled out the college name in Copperplate, a popular typeface in the late 1800s. This typeface did not have lowercase letters, it just used smaller capital letters instead. It was remarkable because it had very small, sharp serifs… almost like thorns, on a mostly standard sans serif body style.
This worked well with the college name because there was the letter “g” that had a descender sticking down below the base line. In Copperplate there were no ascenders or descenders.
Then someone tried using just the four first letters to make a textual logo. I mention four because the official name was “Contra Costa Community College”.
The end result was that it looked like four horse shoe prints, or a long broken chain. It was better to drop the “community”. Three “C”s was enough.
I worked on three different designs. The first was different ways to present three “C”s, some based on type, some based on art. One that appeared interesting was three curved, swooping shapes. This was before Nike’s logo. It was promising.
The next idea was based on a Japanese style circular “chop”. I once saw a rendition of Mt. Fuji surrounded by a circular band. When I was walking the college upper road, I could see Mt. Tamalpais and the bay quite clearly.
I did a quick sketch of Mt. Tam with the bay below, and I made three choppy “C”s in the bay water. Like waves. Then, I placed a circular ring around it all, broken only by the water.
The third idea was slightly improving the old Copperplate idea.
I placed all three projects in a folder and present them to the President of the college. I wasn’t sure he had the authority, considering there was the chancellor of the district. He liked the “swoop” logo, but said he would take the projects to a district meeting. He came back with the Mt. Tam “chop” idea. Although he thought it was Mt. Diablo.
I almost said that we can’t see Mt. Diablo from our campus, but then I realized that the district office can’t see Mt. Tamalpais. I said nothing. I changed the mountain slightly.
The round logo lasted seven or eight years, from 1977 to 1985. In 1984 the college hired a new president, and as some presidents do, changes were made. In 1985 I was asked to “improve” the logo.
I replaced the circular band with a horizontal double oval. I also removed one line of the waves in the bay, and changed the “choppy” three “C”s with a more typographic look. I used a typeface with a slightly round serif similar to CocaCola’s typeface. Lastly, I was asked to make the mountain more similar to Mt. Diablo. I never said that it was Mt. Tam. I changed the mountain again.
For the last thirty-eight years it has remained the same, with eleven different presidents. It can be seen from space because it is in the middle of the football field. It is chiseled in stone on several signs on campus, and of course it is on every piece of letterhead.
That’s an awesome design!