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Each month we shall be taking a closer look at some of our design tools, giving you a deeper understanding of the stories behind them. The following is an introduction to our ‘CBA design series’ by our ECD Rutger Thiellier.

Right, now that I have your attention, here’s the real reason for what’s soon to be a monthly message from me to you.

Ta-Dah! I’m calling it our ‘Design Series’ and I’m going to be sharing some of the stories behind the tools that we as designers use every day.

“So Let Me Get Right to the Point..”

Many of us live life at lightning speed. Sometimes it feels as though our working day changes into tomorrow with the blink of an eye.

I’d like us to stop for a moment and consider some of the elements of our craft.

How did that particular typeface we all love or hate come into being, for example? What factors draw us to our favorite color? How on earth did designers manage before the birth of digital technology?

So, sorry about the booze, although do feel free to read on with a glass in hand.

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Browsing through a secondhand bookstore one rainy weekend, I stumbled across a paperback called, ‘Type: the secret history of letters,’ by Simon Loxley. A quick scan of the intro and suddenly I felt I was being drawn into a plot from ‘Dynasty.’

Here’s some of what Simon has to say, ‘The phenomenon of the trained designer as typographer is a relatively recent one; in the past the type designer often began by following an entirely different calling. Theirs was no creative ivory tower. They brought to their designs all the inescapable human baggage of ambition, jealousy, desire, treachery and love. And it is this baggage which makes their stories as fascinating as the letter shapes they brought into being.’

This all set the ball rolling for me to begin a journey of discovery. I wanted to find out more about the kinds of stories that Simon Loxley was alluding to.

“The Long and Winding Road…”

Most of us will have watched TV shows like, ‘Who do you think you are?’ They’re proof that discovering the truth about our descendants is more than just fascinating. It’s emotional too because it touches on parts of our identity. It’s as if our genetic makeup can suddenly be brought to life by hearing the stories of where we came from.

So, what if we were able to tap into the tales that lie behind the tools of our trade? We’d learn something about their past of course, but we’d be humanising them and bringing them to life as well.

Fonts and colors are no different to anything else. They have a past and personality. Appreciating them and understanding where they came from adds insight and a richness to what we all love to do. All this got me thinking about the colors we as designers use.

Take yellow, for example. There’s more to it than something that’s bright, shiny and warm. Like many of the fonts we’re familiar with, it has individuality as well as a history with differing significance in different places.

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“Look at the Stars, Look How They Shine for You, Yeah, They Were All Yellow..”

Chris Martin had his own take on the color yellow but he’s not the only one to give it meaning.

In Japan, yellow is the color of courage and yet in American slang cowards are referred to as yellow. And, in Egypt, yellow is the color of mourning.

Ever wondered why Manhattan’s taxis are yellow? Part of the story stems from 1915 when the entrepreneur John D. Hertz painted all his taxis yellow in the windy city.

He did this after reading a University of Chicago study alleging that yellow was the color most easily seen from a distance. Yellow also became synonymous with the car rental company that took his name after a takeover in the 1920s.

We all love these kinds of factoids and there are a ton of them lurking behind most of what we do every day at CBA.

“So You Can Colour My World With Sunshine Yellow Each Day…”

Such pieces of trivia are really trivial, right? Wrong! They’re part of our profession’s illustrious history. These nuggets are the building bricks and foundations of what we all love to do. Perhaps without even realising it, they’ve led us to the successes at CBA that we are right to be proud of.

Sprint Mode ™ came about because we have such a strategic understanding of design. We know that the solutions we offer our customers need to be backed up with supporting evidence. We also need them to be fun.

Innovation which we developed in house allows us to get portfolios sorted. Our Mural tool means collaboration will always happen. Our archetype game makes complex assessments entertaining, accurate and more cost-effective for our clients.

“I Need a Hero, I'm Holdin' Out for a Hero 'Til the End of the Night..”

By enriching our hearts and minds with the stories behind what we do, we can add a new dimension of creativity to draw from. All this freshens up the palate, gets the blood flowing and can inspire us.

And so, this month I’d like to share with you the first article in my ‘Design Series.’ Click on this link and check out what our Italian colleagues discovered about how a particular sans serif typeface took its inspiration from a comic book!

I’ll be back next month with more thought-provoking stories to tickle your tastebuds.

Rutger, Executive Creative Director

PS Who Said the Booze Wasn’t Free?

CBA’s been the creative force behind some big names in the drinks industry. We built the BVI systems for SKYY vodka as well as Wild Turkey, Long Branch and Russell’s Reserve bourbons. You now have the chance to win one of these top tipples. The first person to email me the correct acts who had hits with the 5 songs quoted in the subtitles of my message can choose a bottle from one of the four brands. (