Creative Inspirations: Doyald Young, Logotype Designer

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Creative Inspirations: Doyald Young, Logotype Designer
Video duration: 0s 1h 41m Appropriate for all Updated Sep 29, 2011


From humble beginnings in a small Texas town eight decades ago comes legendary typographer, logotype designer, author, and teacher Doyald Young. As elegant as his script fonts and as wise as his set of Oxford English dictionaries, Young set the standard for his craft. Friend and designer Stefan Bucher describes Young as "someone who could easily have done what he does in the Renaissance, and could easily do it 300 years from now." In this installment of Creative Inspirations, we enjoy a window into the life of this accomplished artisan as he works with joyous focus in his favorite spot, his drawing table. We follow Young to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena where he shares his talents with tomorrow's designers. He recalls the hundreds of iterations he went through in creating the logo for Prudential, and he puts pencil to tissue creating the pages for his book about script lettering, Learning Curves. Young's story is compelling, captivating, and most of all, inspiring. is honored to host this tribute to his work.

Join us in Bonus Features at a tribute event held at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, where Doyald's friends and colleagues speak about their relationship with the gifted designer and Lynda introduces a scholarship fund set up specifically in his memory.


Doyald Young, Logotype Designer

(soft music) - To learn to draw a letter well takes a lot of time. I've been drawing letters since 1948, and I'm still learning how to draw. (soft music) Jan Van Krimpen, one of my great heroes, he says: "I do not want to "draw a beautiful letter. "I want to draw a good letter." I think that good letters are beautiful.

I love to draw letters. I found out that I did. It pleased me. I think it goes back to basic personality, for instance, I have a love of detail. Despite the fact that I call myself a logotype designer teacher. I'm delighted to say that my life revolves around topography.

It permeates our lives. It permeates our culture. Our history is written with topography. It's just something that I love to do. I'm happiest when I'm at the board with a pencil. This is the Oxford English dictionary.

It's 13 volumes here. There are four more volumes which I do not have. The Oxford English it's about etymology. The history of words. The first time a word was used in the English language is recorded here. I did not finish high school. I didn't even complete the 10th grade, and throughout my whole life, I have read extensively. It's how I've educated myself.

(soft music) Dad was a blacksmith who wound up in Kilgore, Texas shoeing horses or mules for to drill oil, the great Kilgore oil boom. My dad, while shoeing a mule, was kicked in the groin, and was sent to the hospital for a whole year. My stepmother Guandina fell in love with us, and took care of us for one whole year while dad was in the hospital, and she took my hand, and guided my hand with the pencil to show me how to draw.

I give Guandina credit for my drawing. Dad had three wrecking yards after that, one in Livingston, Texas, one in Houston and one in Orange. We hated the moves. He moved us constantly. We hated the moves because we had to make new friends in school. Finally, we wound up in Orange, and at age 15 I left home. The only job that I could find since I had no talent, I had no skill I was loading milk trucks at four o'clock in the morning in a dairy.

I tired of that very quickly, found a job with Fred Harvey Hotel in a little town called Ash Fork, Arizona, where I was a newsstand clerk. Did that for awhile, and found out that I could make more money working for the railroad, so I got a job on caboose 2005 with Mr. Stark, he was the conductor. My run went from Winslow through Flagstaff to Seligman. Finally, at the age of 22, I realized that I must go to school if I was gonna make any kind of living at all.

So I enrolled in Frank Wiggins, which is now L.A. Trade-Tech. I had a wonderful teacher named Joe Gibby who introduced me to lettering. I think the reason that I have been attracted to lettering and topography is because in one sense so little of it has changed. The letters that we look at today are the same letters that we looked at 500 years ago.

I sort of like the stability of that. I think it goes back to the fact that my dad moved us around all the time. My whole childhood was in a state of flux, so I look for stability. Typography gives me that stability. (soft music) There are over 100,000 fonts out there.

MyFonts has over 100,000, for instance, they distribute. People will say: "If there are 100,000 fonts, "why are you drawing a letter? "Why not use a font, "and do something with it?" I have very technical reasons of why I do that, but I also have a very simple answer which is it's custom. I am designing something custom for you. Something tailored to your taste, tailored to your situation.

I think that everyone understands what custom is. There's custom dresses, there's custom furniture, there's custom styling on cars. All of that, it's custom. We all want something that's unique. We want something to call our own. This has been done for us. Every company truly wants to appear unique. They don't want to look like another company, yet they also want to fit within a certain group of taste.

This is one of my basic, basic, basic rules. That's where I start. First of all, a logo must be legible. In order to make it legible, I think that you have to stick with some very conventional forms to begin with. Once you make it legible, if you're lucky, you can then make it look unique. Sometimes, very subtle changes will make it appear unique. Sometimes, just spacing between the letters will give it a certain look.

Oftentimes, the exact proportion will give you another look. I make lots and lots of sketches. When I was doing the Prudential logotype, and its font I had a stack of 1,500 sheets of 8-1/2 by 11, printouts from that font. Each page might have a dozen changes on it. I fuss with it.

I will move a pixel. Remember that each letter that goes into an alphabet is 1,000 by 1,000 square. Whenever you make a change, that's 1/1,000th of an inch change. I think that those little details are extremely critical. That's what makes a good font. (soft music) You know, I'm often asked, "Out of all the things that you've done, "what do you like best?" What are you most proud of? I say, "I'm really "proud of what I did for Prudential." Yet people look at it, and they say, "It's sort of plain.

"What is it that you've done "that makes you like it so much? John March was a former student of mine, and said, "I'm now creative director for "the identity program for Prudential." He sent me this copy. "We've been using this Helvetica for about 15 years. "We'd like to change it." The initial request was to design the word "Prudential" so that it was a friendly word.

He wanted it to strongly relate to a font, but more tightly spaced than a normal text face, and a little bit bolder. The Century Bold was favored, and also the Times Roman Bold was a favorite and the Century 725. I did 12 versions of these. I did them all in pencil. We finally wound up with the one here at the bottom.

which is a condensed Century. All throughout the whole program, they stressed the fact they wanted the word to look friendly. They kept saying friendly. One of the reasons I sort of focused on the Century is because if you went to school in this country, you first learned to read with Century Schoolbook. Its familiarity makes it comfortable. It's not the forms themselves, or the shape of the forms, it's the fact that we have seen Century for 100 years.

We learned to read with it. That's what makes it friendly. What I've done, I've redrawn it. My drawing is on the top, and here's the actual typeface. As you can see I have changed, I have softened the tail here so that it doesn't take up so much room. I've also condensed the P, so that we could get it a little closer, so we don't have a big hole there. What I did, also, to make the T read faster, I made it taller.

I also raised the ... The dot of an "i" is called a tittle, T-I-T-T-L-E. I raised that up a little bit because I thought it was too close to the actual stem there. Legibility is an extremely critical element in any logo design. It's one of the things that I harp on. When we read, we read the top of a word. We scan the top of a line of type. They wanted the word to be as legible as possible, and so I showed them this to explain that we do read the top of a word, whereas, the bottom of the word here is not legible.

You can read the top, but you can't read the bottom, so everything is spaced from the top. Then here is what we started with, and then I extended it 5%, then 10%, and then 10 units, and finally 15 units which they thought was wonderful. After I had done the logo, they said they would like a font. So I developed just this font, with caps and lowercase, with a minimum amount of punctuation.

Here I've compared it to the Century book and the Century bold so it falls in between in weight, and, also, in proportion and in spacing. So I truly like what I've done. I have redrawn Century to my liking for one thing. It satisfies the goal of many text faces when no one letter stands out, so that you can read it easily without stopping. (soft music) Tink Adams, the president of Art Center said: "We want teachers who are in the field, "who are professionals, "to come in and teach what they know." I don't even have a high school education.

I didn't finish the 10th grade. That's unimportant. As long as I can teach what I do that's all that Tink was concerned about. Then there's a bump right here, so let's pull this in some. Let's add more weight to the "n." The rest is good. - How about the space of the dot in "i?" - That's fine, it can go higher, but what you have I think is okay.

I took four semesters of lettering from Mort Leach at Art Center 1953 I think it was. Mort had a big class. It was far too many to teach in a three-hour period. Mort noticed that students were coming to me when he wasn't around for help. So, finally, after the 4th semester, he said "Would you like to teach here? "Would you like to be my assistant?" Of course, I was flattered.

I'm more concerned really about your shapes than ... I prefer to go one-on-one. This time it's summer session, and it's always light. I have just five students this time. I have them work small. First of all, because if you're designing a complex shape, the smaller you make it, the faster you can go. You can test out your ideas. If it's 12 inches wide it takes you forever to make this drawing.

So we can make a series of little roughs to solve the basic problems. Once we have those solved, we then make a tighter version. Finally, we make a very precise pencil tissue. Once I have okayed that we then translate it into a digital form, so that it becomes a piece of art that can be reproduced at any size. I've always enjoyed helping people learn how to draw.

It is better to give than receive, so I think that teaching is rewarding. I would like that to be straighter in here. It helps you to decide what you believe in, and what the real principles are that satisfies your aesthetic. I tell my students this. I don't care what the rules are. There are lots of rules. The ultimate rule is how does it look? Does that "o" look bigger than the "n?" Does it look taller? Does it drop too far below the line? You have to get them to keep on drawing letters until they see the difference.

You have to learn how to see it. The "t's" are a little low. I think this is ideal, and I think that that is ideal. You've repeated that on the top of the "n," which is good. There is one slight problem, but at this scale, I accept what you've done. I think that the "e" gets a little dark. You see your hairline here is heavy. So the top of the "e" is just a little dark, a little chunky.

I'm particularly pleased with what you've done. - [Voiceover] Thank you. (soft music) - I love writing books. It's a great challenge. I care a great deal. I want the book to be beautiful. This book took 5-1/2 years to do. There's 470 fonts in it.

I'm writing a new book. The font that I've designed, Young Gallant, anchors the book because what I want to do is to explain to students, beginning students, the basics of formal script. For teachers, for students, for graphic designers to somehow look at all these variations, to get ideas if they're trying to design a Script logo. Remember that Script is one of the most commonly used fonts.

Look at all the use of Script in wine labels. Anyplace where luxury is called for, anything that's refined calls oftentimes for a graceful statement of Formal Script. I learned Formal Script from Mort Leach. He had some lettering sheets, that he passed out to the class. Then when I started to teach, I used those same sheets to teach Formal Script. I have used those for almost 40 years. I have modified Mort's original drawings.

It's what I call a basic bare bones minimal font. It's as simple as I can draw it. What I hope with the book is to show possible variations of these basic letters. Once you make a student draw this exactly, draw this exactly, this is exactly what I want. You pound that into them to the point where they can't think of anything else when you say: "Design a logo that now "I want some variation." I'm showing on the right-hand page, this is same size pencil tissues that I've drawn.

What I'm showing here is the change of these terminals. Here's a slightly lighter one. Here's a teardrop that's not bracketed. Here is a circle with a lot of white space that rolls around it. Here is one that spreads like the endings of the capital letters. Then here is one with a little loop that you'll also find in my font called Young Baroque. Here is something a little more flossy. It's the initial letter, where you want a decorative statement, and you don't want a large capital.

The lowercase "e" in this case, I show a decorative form which we call Gravure. Here is a terminal. This can be used in the middle of a word. Here's one that really is a capital letter in shape. I've drawn it very carefully, so it matches the "e" in the Campbell Soup logo. This is what? Sixth. In this case there's seven of these here. There are many, many more variations. Remember that there have been many cases where your birth certificate is in Formal Script, where your coming of age is announced in Formal Script, where your graduation is announced in Formal Script.

Oftentimes, at the end of your life, your passing is noted in Formal Script. It permeates our lives. (soft music) This is my Webster's Unabridged Library Edition. It was given to me on my birthday, and it came with a brown Buckram cover, and it had some leather on the back.

It was one of the most homely bindings I've ever seen. On top of that when I opened it up it was over-inked. So I call Webster's, and I said, "The book is over-inked, "and can you replace it for me?" He said, "Tear off the cover, "and send it to me, "and I'll give you the new guts." He sent me the new guts and then I had this binding done. Then I used Cockerell paper on it.

This is an English paper. What they do is they take a streak of ink this way, red ink, tan ink, black ink. Then they take little pins and they pull the ink to create this wonderful design. It's all hand done. Gorgeous, gorgeous Cockerell paper. Then one day I was looking up a word. I was on page 248. All of a sudden on the opposite page was 253.

A signature was missing. After I had spent $300 on the binding. I never told them about it. I've often wondered what's in those missing pages. (soft music) Not only do I love letters I love words.

Somehow at the age of 50 I realized that my speech that I was using words, I think correctly, that I had a vague idea of what they meant because I think that I have a good ear for language. I then decided that I would look up the word just to make certain that I was using it correctly. I've realized, finally, that there were a lot of words that I really did not know the meaning of, very common ordinary words. You'd be amazed at the words we use, that if you asked the average person to define that word, it's very difficult.

So I started looking up words. My dad, who had a 9th grade education, and he's from Texas, he said: "Doyald, you should not use big words "because people won't trust you." Well, we need to speak simply and clearly, and accurately. If you do use a big word, define it, it's okay. One of the words that I love is "desuetude." I ran across the word in The Alexandria Quartet, written by Lawrence Durrell.

I looked it up and it meant old, and derelict, and untended. Desuetude, it comes straight from the Latin. I love the sound of it, and it has a precise meaning. There's some words like nostalgia. We use nostalgia these days meaning something that reminds us of something else that's nostalgic. The original meaning of it is homesickness. I think if we get back to the original meaning of words, its word root, oftentimes, from the Latin, that we get a better understanding of that word.

Another word, here I've drawn Formal Script all of my life, and I had never heard of the word "ductus." This French man used it, but ductus is a Latin word. It means to lead. That hairline that joins to the next letter is called ductus, meaning it leads into the next letter. I like words like that. Words that define what you're doing. (soft music) - I was never Doyald's student in school, but I very much consider myself a student now.

I first met Doyald through mutual friends at Art Center and wasn't even that aware of his work. I just liked him as a person. I liked his outlook on life, and then it sort of dawned on me, over the period of a number of years, what an amazing, gravity-defying person he is. I mean he could have easily done what he does in the Renaissance, and he could easily do it 300 years from now. There's just something very particular that the man does that nobody else can.

- Hello there, Stefan, how are you? - [Stephan] It's good to see you. - Good to see you. Have a seat, have a seat. - It's lovely to see you, Doyald. How are you? - [Doyald] The same here, the same here. - What are you working on right now? - What am I working on? I'm working on the book as we speak. I have done all of the caps for the book, the hand-drawn caps. Now I'm almost halfway through. I've just finished the "J," and the lowercase.

I had a wonderful ... Jean Larcher is a calligrapher in Paris that I met in 2000. He is a true calligrapher. He teaches the English round-hand. - Right. - He has a remarkable book, with all of these drawings in it that explains all the parts of the letter. I sort of want to put that in the book, but I don't know if my editor will let me because it's writing, and what I do is draw, see? - Right.

- Two distinctions there. - You also write. It's your book. - Well, okay, but writing, for instance, calligraphy is truly, if you go to your dictionary, the definition of calligraphy is beautiful writing, okay, so I do not write with a broad pen, which is a chisel, or a pointed pen. I draw letters meticulously. I sketch them just like that. There's the distinction, though the calligraphers disagree with me. They say that I'm a calligrapher.

- I want to quickly ask you this. What do you like in terms of lettering and typography where you're seeing other people do good stuff? - I greatly admire Frank Blokland in the Netherlands. He teaches at The Hague, at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of The Hague. He has a foundry called Dutch Type Library. He's very much a classicist, he truly is, so I'm very fond of that.

I like some of Hoefler's work, very big these days. Jill Bell is a great favorite. Jill does a lot of Brush Script. She started out as a sign painter of all things. I was at a bookstore downtown on 2nd Street, April Greiman had a new book, and she was signing the book, and Jill comes up to me and she says, "Doyald, I want you to get to know me." So anyway, we've been great friends. - I like that. - Yeah, we've been great friends for 10 years now.

She did the logo for Nora Jones' first album, so I'm very fond of that. - And our friend Marian. You know, she throws out the rules, and at the same time, you actually make and build the rules. - I truly admire her work. I think that Marian is truly one of the most innovative designers I've ever encountered. I'm always surprised at what she does, in fact. She is not timid, in fact, I call her intrepid because she throws all the rules out, and she says, "To hell with that." - Have you and Marian actually ever done a project together? - No, no.

- Really? - No, no. - That seems like a tremendous oversight, doesn't it? - Well, I tell you what she did a Valentine for me last year. She brought it, it was all laser cut, gorgeous piece of stuff. So I gave her a "Thank You" note, as fancy as I could make it. It had all kinds of curlicues, and it was just a pencil drawing. That's the extent of our collaboration. - That just seems like a cosmic wrong that needs to be righted. So you're getting an award at TypeCon on Saturday? - Do you know, it's always surprising.

I never thought that somehow, that what I do, creates new things for typography, the world of typography. What I do is really very restrained. Maybe TypeCon, I don't know, maybe they see my publishing effort, and my teaching effort. Maybe that's one big package. I don't know. They haven't really told me. - My theory is that they would want to be around a Jedi master.

- Come now. - But that's just me thinking that. I don't know. What is the award called? - I think it's called the SOTA award. Society of Typographic Aficionados. - All right. Doyald, it's been so great to see you. I'm glad you invited me, and thank you for taking the time. I'm looking forward to seeing you on Saturday. - Well, it will be great to see you. They'll be a whole mess of people there, but barge through and say hello, okay? - You know I will. - All right, goodbye. (soft music) We're here at the Century Plaza Hotel.

It's a conference called TypeCon. I've been invited by SOTA which is The Society of Typographic Aficionados. Typographers from all over the world come and trade ideas and show what they've done, show their new fonts. Also, it's a chance to meet young designers. Remember, I'm a teacher, too. It's a chance to meet young designers. They always have questions. It's always fun to talk to them.

It's also a place to sell my books. Conferences are really, it's a forum. It's a place where you learn. It's where we explain, where we teach, and they're very eager. (soft music) - [Voiceover] Big fan. - Are you really? - [Voiceover] Really, the first and only time I saw you was at the HOW conference in Chicago several years ago. - Oh, I remember, yes. - [Voiceover] And I was hooked.

- [Voiceover] Well, I have to say, you're one of my idols. You and Jim Parkinson and Marian. - [Doyald] Well, my goodness. - [Voiceover] It's such a pleasure to hear you speak. I've heard so many things about you. I appreciate this kind of very ... - Well, thank you very much. Marian! - [Marian] Doyald! - So things are going well? You're ready for this thing today? - [Doyald] Oh never, but I am ... - You're always perfectly charming and fantastic.

- [Doyald] Well, the the next thing is just to relax. - It truly gives me great pleasure to be able to introduce to you or reintroduce to you, one of the heroes of our craft. A kind, gentle, elegant man, who draws incredibly elegant typefaces. Please welcome Doyald Young. (applause) - During the time I was going to night school you're introduced to typography.

Of course, the first thing you want to do is you want to design a font. Well, finally, 1985 Letraset accepted this font Young Baroque. I don't consider myself a type designer. I've designed just a few. I'm always impressed with the great number of fonts that you people design. JF this morning he had 20 or 30 fonts that he had designed. He's a young man. I'm really a dilettante.

I start a font ... No, it's true, it's true. I start a font and then I work on it for a little while. Then I put it away for two or three years and come back. I seldom see my fonts used, but the Bianca Studios in New York designed this and used it for Madonna's reinvention tour. It's when she was into mysticism. (laughter) I've never thought that Young Baroque was mystic. Fergie likes it.

(laughter) But Julian Peploe didn't think it was fancy enough, so he added more swirls to it. Here is Eclat. I've never been fond of the name. If you look it up in the dictionary, it means bursting. It also means a certain kind of panache. I had wanted to call it ?lan, as in ?lan vital, but the name had been taken, so I said, "Okay," and Fergie likes it, too.

(laughter) (applause) Someone once called my work scattershot, my design approach. Well, you never know what a client will buy. I think, also, that you truly have to explore any problem, any design problem, as much as you can. Nothing is more embarrassing if you make a presentation, and the client doesn't like what you've done, and someone in the room suggests something else that the president likes.

Also, never forget that presidents and CEOs take the logos home to their wives, and get opinions from their wives. I think that logo preference, and type preference is strictly personal. People say, "What's your favorite font?" I don't know, you know, it depends on what you ... You mean text font, display font? It's like asking a mother which is your favorite children. I was speaking to a teacher at Art Center, and he said how much he hated Palatino.

I said, "I think it's one of the most "important fonts of the 20th century." So you see, we all have different ideas about type. - [Voiceover] Master of the college, and then first we have a friend. (applause) - The other day Doyald told me that he's not interested in making things new, but in making them better.

In these days of instant gratification, short attention spans, and the eternal quest for the hot new thing, I feel we desperately need more Doyald's who are willing to work, and work with that focused skill, and over the years make things better, better, better. - Beyond his talent I've always found his greatest gift to me is the reminder that giving back, being charming, being gracious, and having patience, are what makes someone a great designer.

Not necessarily doing the most out-there exciting work at all times, but being a good person on top of that. There's a great quote by Oscar Wilde, who I know you like to quote once in awhile and it is: "That it is absurd to divide people "into good and bad. "People are either charming or tedious." Doyald is always charming. (laughter and applause) - For this year, on behalf of SOTA, I'm proud to award Doyald Young the SOTA Typographer Award.

(applause) - All of these things have always been a surprise to me. I've been accused of being self-effacing, but it's really unexpected.

Again, I thank you for the great honor. Wonderful to do work all your life, sometimes, seven days a week mostly, and then get applauded for it. Thank you. (applause) I'm still learning how to draw. There are no secrets to what I do. All of what I do is just hard work, and observation, really, and doing things over and over until you're satisfied with it until you think it's right.

(applause) (soft music)

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