Thursday, February 7, 2008

Designing for Greater Heights

There is a unique energy that surrounds the ever changing and ever growing metropolis of Austin, Texas. Its urban developments are constantly expanding and giving Austin more recognition as a city. When I saw the “” sign, I was automatically attracted to it because it illustrates the eccentric side of Austin quite well while still maintaining its professional look as a company. is basically an urban real estate company with the hopes of extending Austin’s modern building complexes, which range from condos to highrises. The firm is located in the heart of downtown on Congress and 6th street, surrounded by a diverse plethora of urban buildings such as the famous Frost Bank (2003) and traditional buildings that date back to when Austin was still developing such as the Little Field Building (1910).

I chose this sign to research and explore mainly because of how it is oriented: both horizontally and vertically. chose to orient the sign vertically without making it illegible since type that is set vertically can be difficult to read at times. Although the read from top to bottom, the letters are laying on their sides. However, that wasn’t all that caught my attention. The designer was clever enough to place the beginning letters of the each of the words “Austin”, “Urban”, and “Digs” vertically, which offers a perfect way of separating the letters (since it is one long web address) while also still achieving legibility. The sign’s verticality as a whole reminded me of a tall building, which is very appropriate since it is a company that manages real estate throughout Austin.

As far as the typeface goes, I’m not exactly its greatest fan. Eurostile was developed around 1962 by Aldo Novarese, an Italian designer and typographer. His earlier version of Eurostile was Microgramma, which is more wide set and only contained capital letters. Developed in 1952, Microgramma was a hugely successful typeface, so a decade later, Novarese designed Eurostile, which consisted of lowercase and capital letters., a well known website that provides brief histories of typefaces, further explains how both typefaces were influenced by rectangular and oval shapes with rounded edges. Eurostile has a very mechanical and retro feel, expressive of design from that time period. Using a simple geometric typeface for this particular company helps to resemble the shapes of houses and buildings.

(On a side note, this typeface kept reminding me of Star Trek’s logo for some reason. Both Star Trek’s logo and Eurostile have similar geometric letters with rounded edges and both debuted in the 60s. Of course, Star Trek’s is more stylized. However, after I did some research on Star Trek’s original logo and various other logos, they were in fact all based on Microgramma, the typeface that influenced Eurostile. I found this to be quite interesting.)

As much as I love how the sign was oriented, I felt it could be improved and pushed further as far as logotype design goes. Although it is a simple and legible sign, it's only just that. The viewer would have to know what the company was prior to seeing the sign to actually interpret why it was designed that way. Thus, I wanted to redesign the sign to give a glimpse of what it was just from looking at the sign. As I experimented with various typefaces, I kept in mind that I wanted something that would give a cleaner and even more modern look while still keeping the simple geometric elements of the typeface. Futura was one sans serif typeface that caught my attention because of its sharp corners and very geometric style. It was developed in the late 1920s by Paul Renner during the Bauhaus period. While Eurostile has blunt and rounded edges, Futura has very crisp, sharp “A”s and flawlessly round “O”s which seem to fit more with the firm’s name and what it does.

Real estate firms want to expand cities, but many of them tend to take on the image of greedy people who want to sell as much overpriced property as possible since people are willing to invest in property with the hopes that prices will rise later on. However, in a recent article in the Austin Business Journal, Austin has experienced “a 31 percent drop in new home starts in 2007”. Thus, I’m sure firms are trying their best to maintain the demand of real estate. So, to help better advertise the company, a catchy and new logo could attract more consumers. As I explored’s website, it contained links to explore some of their marketed properties, many of them using Futura and some using modified Eurostile. Since these individual websites are visually pleasing to look at, AustinUrbanDigs, the promoter of these properties should also deserve a better designed logo. So, then I started with how I interpreted AustinUrbanDigs: a real estate firm that is trying to expose and extend some of the newest developments in the urban Austin area and introduce some future projects that haven’t yet been built. Also, I wanted to keep playing with the mixture of vertical and horizontal words. Thus, I stacked “Austin”, “Urban”, and “Digs” vertically on top of “.com” symbolizing skyscrapers while still maintaining the verticality of the sign. However, just the words themselves did not seem to clearly represent Austin’s urban environment. Thus, I placed buildings in between the “AustinUrbanDigs” and “.com”. In addition, I placed columns of dots representative of lights or windows trickling down some of the buildings to connect the words. The huge words “AustinUrbanDigs” placed on top of the city to reinforce one of the company’s goal: to expand the city of Austin.

First attempt at redesigning:
Final Attempt:’s sign shows the play on verticality while still staying simple and professional. For my attempt at redesigning the sign, I wanted to give the viewer an idea of what the company does. The unconventional and distinctive air of the city of Austin in a state like Texas is one that is bound to attract people from all places. Austin’s youth and energy is one thing wants to keep alive as it expands Austin's urban environment to its greatest heights.

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