Fundamental Principles of Logo Design [With Examples]

Great logos follow proven principles of logo design. 

So:

If you want to create logos that are powerful and effective, you need to understand how logos work, how they communicate, and what makes them appealing. 

Enter logo design principles! 

In this post, I explain the 7 most important principles of logo design with lots of helpful examples. 

Let’s get to it. 

What are the Principles of Logo Design?

Logo design principles help us organize ideas, concepts, and visual elements to create effective logos.
Logo design principles help us organize ideas, concepts, and visual elements to create effective logos.

Logos are one of the oldest forms of graphic communication. 

And today, logos are one of the most important aspects of a brand. 

In fact: 

Logos have become the only way brands can distinguish themselves from all the noise and competition out there. 

As a designer, you need to create logos that are able to convey a brand’s identity, purpose, and nature effectively

Before you fire up Illustrator and start drawing, you need to understand the theory at the foundations of logo design, such as Gestalt theory, the different types of logos, and, most importantly, the principles of logo design

You ask: 

What are the principles of logo design? 

The most important principles of logo design are: 

  1. Simplicity
  2. Relevance
  3. Longevity
  4. Distinction
  5. Memorability
  6. Scalability 
  7. Focus

Let’s look at these principles in more detail. 

7 Fundamental Principles of Logo Design

In general, graphic design principles are a set of guiding “rules” about what works and what doesn’t work in a design or composition

Great logo design also follows its own guiding principles that are specific to the demands of communicating through logos. 

I have found the next 7 logo design principles to be the most useful and universal. 

In this case, I’m using David Airey’s awesome approach to logo design principles, detailed in his excellent book Love Logo Design.  

1. Simplicity 

Simplicity logo design principle: A simple logo communicates more effectively.

If you can learn only one principle of logo design, it should be this: Simplicity

I would even say this: 

The principle of simplicity is present in all the other logo design principles. 

Why?

Because a logo must be simple in order to communicate effectively, and communication is the main objective of a logo. 

Simplicity allows a logo to be flexible, focused, and memorable. 

The more you try to fill up a logo with visual elements, the more cluttered and scattered it becomes, and thus the less effective it is at communicating that single, most important message. 

The only way you can achieve this is by keeping your logo straightforward and uncomplicated.

However, this in no way means that a logo should not be well-thought or have depth. 

It means that the fewer elements you can use to communicate the idea, concept, or “feel” behind a brand, the more effective a logo is.  

As the classic Bauhaus School saying says, “Less is more”

Use only what you need and the elements that convey the intended meaning in the most powerful way.  

2. Relevance 

Relevance principle: A relevant logo connects with a brand's purpose and essence.

A logo is relevant if it connects with the objectives, mission, principles, and nature of the brand it represents. 

You achieve relevance by looking at your brand in depth, which can be done by researching your brand extensively.  

This means asking questions about the brand or organization a logo represents. 

For example: 

What are the brand’s customers or stakeholders?

What values does it cherish or promote?

What’s its competition like?

What does it wish to accomplish? 

A relevant logo is able to represent and reflect a brand’s most important values or ideals in the most direct way.

A logo is an intimate reflection of a brand’s essence. 

3. Longevity 

The longevity principle in logo design refers to a logo's capacity to work well over time.
The longevity principle in logo design refers to a logo’s capacity to work well over time.

As a general rule, a logo must be able to withstand the passing of time. 

A logo’s design and features must be able to remain relevant while maintaining a “timeless” quality.  

Simplicity is a great ally of longevity. The reason is that the simpler a logo is, the best it can accommodate to the passing of time.  

In other words, the more complicated the structure of a logo (color, gradients, complicated features), the less likely that logo can adapt to changing trends or esthetic values over time. 

4. Distinction 

Distinction Principle: The Pepsi logo achieved distinction by differentiating itself completely from Coca-Cola.
Distinction Principle: The Pepsi logo achieved distinction by completely differentiating itself from Coca-Cola.

Today, everything is branded, and we increasingly rely on images to make decisions.

So: 

A logo must be able to effectively distinguish itself from the competition.  

This is what I mean: 

Have you ever been to a deodorant aisle at your local drug store or supermarket? 

Most of the labels look the same! 

If you were designing a label for a new deodorant, how would you make it distinct? 

Distinction can be achieved in different ways, depending on different factors, such as the brand itself, competition, or the market. 

You can add distinction to a logo through the strategic use of color or by using a specific style or design trend. 

For instance, in a space in which blue is a very common color (such as web apps, for example), you can use purple or orange to achieve distinction. 

In a space in which crowded or complex designs is the norm (such as deodorants), a minimalist design might make your brand distinct.  

Distinction is all about differentiation in relation to other brands, trends, customer expectations, and strategy. 

5. Memorability 

Memorability principle: Memorable logos incorporate clever visual analogies.
Memorability principle: Memorable logos make use of visual analogies to stick in our memory.

What’s the use of a logo if it doesn’t stick in your head? 

A logo that is memorable is effective at promoting and identifying a brand.  

Memorability especially goes hand in hand with some of the other principles, such as simplicity, relevance, and distinction.  

I’ll give you an example: 

If you’re driving at 50 miles per hour on a highway, you only have a few seconds to glance at a billboard as your drive by.

Would you be able to remember the brand you just saw?  

A memorable logo helps a brand or message get into the viewer’s memory. 

Do you want to know the best strategy to achieve memorability? 

Incorporate a visual analogy

A visual analogy establishes a 1 to 1 relationship between an image and something that exists in the real world. A visual analogy is really good at summarizing, using only images, the essence of a concept or idea

A logo that incorporates a good visual analogy helps it become more memorable.  

The Amazon or FedEx logos are good examples of memorability.

The hidden smile in the Amazon logo simbolzes friendliness but also the idea of “From A to Z”. 

The negative space arrow in FedEx serves as an analogy of the “movement” of goods. 

Both logos use a powerful visual analogy to become memorable. Once you discover these hidden icons, you’ll never forget them! 

The power of an analogy is the best way to achieve memorability. 

6. Scalability 

A logo's ability to adapt in size is called scalability.
A logo’s ability to adapt in size is called scalability.

The principle of scalability refers to a logo’s capability of adapting to different sizes and contexts. 

This is the most important aspect of scalability: 

A logo should function well in both small and large formats. 

What does this mean: 

A logo should look awesome and convey its meaning in both a tiny embroidering on a t-shirt or business card and on a massive billboard or the side of a trailer truck.  

In other words: 

A logo must be adaptable. This is what scalability as a principle is all about. 

7. Focus 

A focused logo features only one or two attributes or elements.
Focus principle: An effective logo features only one or two different visual elements or attributes.

A good logo is focused. It doesn’t cram up multiple, competing attributes in order to communicate complexity. 

According to Airey, a focused logo is one that concentrates on only one attribute to make it stand out. One or two attributes (tops), I would add. 

Let me explain using Airey’s example:

When Roy Smith set out to update the French Property Exhibition logo, the composition focused on only one attribute: The open door symbolizing the “property” aspect. 

Now, in my view, the French “flag” counts as an attribute, so you really have two things going on: The Flag and the door. 

But it’s all integrated in a nice, single package. 

So:

What counts as visual elements, you ask?

An icon, color, lines, a complicated font, and effects (such as gradients) all count as visual elements that can potentially “ clutter up” and negatively affect the focus of a logo. 

In sum: 

You don’t want the viewer having the burden of considering too many elements or attributes when they glance at a logo. You want them to see that thing or two that make the logo stand out and become memorable. 

Conclusion 

To sum up: 

An effective logo entails so much more than just a drawing or concept. You must follow sound principles of logo design if you want your logos to be memorable and distinctive. 

The following 7 logo design principles will give you a solid foundation for designing excellent logos that deliver: 

  • Simplicity
  • Relevance
  • Longevity
  • Distinction
  • Memorability
  • Scalability 
  • Focus

Once you really understand how these principles apply to effective logo design, you’ll be able to incorporate them in your own design process in order to create compositions that are strategic, compelling, and effective. 

The Only Graphic Design Principles You’ll Need

You need to understand graphic design principles in order to succeed as a graphic designer. Becoming a designer is not only about learning to use Photoshop or Illustrator.

Graphic design principles apply to anything you create, from logos to newsletters to websites and videogames.  

In this complete guide, I explain the 7 most important design principles and describe how to apply them in the real world. 

Then I show you real examples of how designers have applied each principle.  

Ready? Let’s begin. 

Graphic Design Principles: A Useful Definition 

Our objective as graphic designers is to represent objects, feelings, ideas, or concepts in visual terms.  

Design principles allow us to make effective graphic representations by giving us a framework for arranging the visual components of our compositions. 

Here’s a definition for graphic design principles:

Graphic design principles are a set of guiding “rules” about what works and what doesn’t work in a design or composition.  

Design principles serve as a map for arranging visual elements in the best possible way, according to specific intentions, strategies, and objectives.  

In other words, design principles are proven guidelines that humans have put together through trial and error in their quest for understanding how to represent the world.  

But remember this: 

Each design principle works in relation to other design principles. They never exist in isolation.  In fact, each principle piggybacks on each other, creating a symbiotic relationship. 

The Problem: Design Textbooks List a Ton of Principles 

In 2013, Professor Miles Kimball examined a huge amount of graphic design textbooks and found that, together, they list hundreds of different design principles.  He then asked designers which principles they taught or used the most.  

He then correlated this information and discovered the most common principles taught in graphic design. 

Why is this important?  Well:

While there are many graphic design principles out there, you only need a handful to achieve a good level of design.  

You can focus on the design principles that matter the most as you learn to think and create like a designer.  

The more you practice and the more you apply these principles, the better you get as a graphic designer.  

The 6 Most Important Graphic Design Principles You’ll Need 

After years of reading design books and teaching graphic design, I have found the following design principles to be the most useful:

1. Unity 

The unity principle has to do with the relationship between the elements of a composition. Through relationships, we are able to communicate status, mood, structure, kinship, hierarchy, etc.   

The unity of a design establishes the purpose of its components and the cohesion of the composition.  

Unity manifests itself in terms of proximity, similarity, and repetition:

1.1. Proximity 

Proximity as a manifestation of unity relates to the distance between the elements in a composition.  

This is the rule:

The closer the elements in a composition are, the stronger the relationship is between them.  

Let’s look at some examples: 

Each of the following images has the same amount of dots.  

However, the variations in proximity in each creates different relationships not only between its respective elements but between each set:

This is an example of the proximity principle in design.

The proximity or closeness in the first set communicates a stronger relationship or kinship between its circles, while the distance between circles in the last set communicates a weaker relationship.  

In the last set, the proximity between the six dots to the left and to the right communicate that each subset belongs to a different “camp.”  

This is evident in the following example:

The proximity principle establishes unity in graphic design.

Again, the closer the elements are, the more of a relationship they present.

1.2. Similarity 

Similarity establishes a relationship among elements of the same appearance.  

This is the rule:

The more elements look alike, the stronger the relationship between them.  

Similarity can be established through:

  • Size
  • Color
  • Form
  • Position 
  • Texture 

In the next examples, how are elements united? 

Similarity unites elements by color, shape, size, and form.

Can you see how similarity achieves unity? 

Shape, size, and color establish relationships of kinship between certain elements. 

Also, did you notice that similarity is not the only unity principle at work?

Exactly!

Similarity is working hand-in-hand with proximity.  This is what I mean when I say design principles never work in isolation.  

1.3. Repetition and Rhythm 

Repetition can work in the same way as similarity, but may be more dramatic.  

This is the rule:

The more elements are repeated, the stronger we associate them with a certain idea or effect. 

Also, the more we repeat an element, the more rhythm a composition has.  

Look at the following examples:

The repetition principle creates rhythm in design.

Notice how the repetition of elements and shapes in each example creates an effect of rhythm that results in visual unity.  

Also, notice how the variation in repetition (size of elements and position) in the second and third examples results in a more dramatic, less boring composition.  

This is called variation.  

Unity in Graphic Design: Real-World Examples 

The work of Piet Mondrian and Chuck Close present excellent examples of unity as a principle of design:

The work of Piet Mondrian exemplifies the use of unity in design.

In Mondrian’s painting, notice how shapes, color, and size, and their repetition, creates a unified composition that is rhythmic and interesting. 

In Close’s self-portrait, we see a more complex application of unity as design principle: 

This self-portrait by Chuck Close exemplifies the use of the graphic design principle of repetition.

Each tile is a repeated element that is strategically positioned, making use of color and size to form the face we recognize as Chuck Close.  

In sum:

The strategic unity of elements creates the portrait in a rhythmic, complex way.  

2. Totality (Gestalt)

The German term Gestalt refers to the “totality” or “wholeness” of a design.  

Gestalt comes from the field of psychology, and attempts to understand how humans perceive meaning in the world.  

I will use the term “totality” to refer to this human capacity to perceive things as a whole.  

When you encounter a chair, do you perceive its parts separately (the legs, the cushion, the wood) or do you perceive the totality of the chair?  

We perceive the whole thing all at once, right?  

So, “totality” (in the sense of Gestalt) is our ability to create some kind of visual “closure” about the things we perceive in the world.  

Totality in design is our ability to create structural wholeness in a composition.  

There are three important components of totality: 

  • Figure/Ground
  • Closure 
  • Continuity 

2.1. Figure / Ground 

Figure/Ground in design relates to the interplay between an object and its surrounding space.  

What does this mean? 

It means that graphics can only be formed by white space and the actual object in a piece of paper or computer screen.  

This is what designers usually call “negative” and “positive” space.  

The play between these two elements, space and object, can lead to complex designs that can communicate at various levels.  

Have you seen this image before? 

Classic example of the figure ground principle: A chalice or two faces facing each other?

What do you see?  

If you see some kind of chalice or coupe, you’re right.  If you see two faces, you’re right as well!

This is the thing:

The play between space and object, or negative and positive space, create the graphic representation. 

Here’s another example of figure/ground: 

This is an example of how the figure/ground principle works: what writes the letter "e," positive or negative space?

What “writes” the letter “e”? Is it the stroke or is it the space? 

Figure/Ground in Graphic Design: Real-World Examples 

Many great logos use the principle of Totality (Gestalt) to create memorability and distinction. 

Look at these examples using Figure/Ground

The FedEx, Baskin Robins, and Girl Scouts logos use the graphic design principle of figure/ground very effectively.
Can you see the images hidden within positive and negative space?

2.2. Closure 

Closure in design relates to our ability to “fill out” the blank spaces. 

Have you seen this meme before? 

You can read the scrambled letters because of the closure principle.

Why were you able to read it? 

It’s because of our ability to “complete” what’s missing if we have enough background information.  

If we have enough visual information, we are able to imagine what’s missing and process designs in complex ways.  

If we make designs using the closure principle, we create compositions that are interesting, complex, and eye-catching.  

Look at the next example:

Notice how you can "see" a border line where there isn't one. This is closure at work.

Here, there are no boundary lines defining the letter “X”, and yet your mind “creates” the line for you, which allows you to decipher the content of the design.  

Closure in Graphic Design: Real-World Examples 

The following logos use the closure principle nicely.

Notice how your brain “creates” the missing border for each icon even if it’s not there. This creates interest and a level sophistication:

The Norelco, TNT, and Adobe logos use the closure graphic design principle very nicely.

2.3. Continuation (Continuity) 

Continuation (also called continuity) in design is the idea that the elements of a design can create the illusion of going beyond the space that contains them (for example, the page, t-shirt, or screen in which it is shown). 

By using the continuation principle, design elements seem to go off the page, which makes the design seem larger and highly dynamic.  

Look at the following example:

These arrow exemplify the movement produced by the continuation principle.

The arrows convey a sense of looking beyond the page, which reflects the continuation of the composition  

Continuation Principle: Real-World Examples

This work, by Oli Stelander, is an excellent example of the continuation principle.

This 1961 design, by Oli Stelander, is an excellent application of continuation.  

See how the “pipes” go beyond the composition in order to convey a feeling of flow, length, and extension?   

Also: 

Can you see repetition and rhythm working their magic? 

Here’s another example: 

This composition by Piet Zwart uses the continuity principle to convey a sense of direction.

This classic composition, by Piet Zwart, uses the continuity principle to convey a sense of direction that goes well beyond the composition.  

3. Space

Common sense tells you that space is empty, right? 

Wrong!

Space is one of the most powerful elements of design.  

Just like zero is not nothing but something (a number), space is the all-encompassing fabric that holds all the elements that make-up a design.  

Space is a design principle because you can manipulate it to create a sense of cleanliness, clarity, focus, and attention in a composition.  

Space is a “presence” in design, it is never “absent.” 

This is the rule:

We can use space to enhance the quality, sharpness, and focus on the elements of a composition.  The strategic use of space implies the use of “white” space as a force and presence in a composition.  

Space Principle: Real-World Examples

Look at this clever 1959 ad from Volkswagen: 

The 1959 "Think Small" as uses the principle of space effectively.

Here, space is used as the main component of the ad.  

Even if the ad is selling a car, space is “bigger” than the car, because it accentuates the message being communicated.  It creates focus on the car and projects a sense of “cleanliness” and “craftsmanship.”  

Here’s another example from a 1974 cover of Print magazine: 

This 1974 cover of Print magazine uses the space principle to create drama.

Space here works to highlight the drama of the blood and the “motion” of the blade that just created this mess.  

Bonus insight:

The space principle closely relates to the figure/ground principle, because the interplay between positive and negative space is a strategic use of space as principle.  

4. Dominance

Dominance in design is the ability of one element to control other elements in a composition. This results in creating a focal point in the composition, which “directs” the “eye” of the viewer.  

This is the rule: 

Use the dominance principle when you want to convey a sense of urgency, direction, drama, or emphasis.  

Dominance Principle: Real-World Examples

Look at these examples: 

The graphic design principle of dominance produces emphasis and interest.

By having one element dominate over the others, we can create interesting compositions that create emphasis or drama.  

Without dominance, these designs would be dull and uninteresting.  

5. Hierarchy 

Hierarchy has a close connection to dominance. 

However, while dominance refers to the structuring of design elements (such as icons, shapes, and images), hierarchy refers to the structuring of information.   

Look at the following examples. Which one is more readable?

Hierarchy as a principle of graphic design allows to organize information effectively.

The example to the left has images, color boxes. and headings to structure information and make it more readable.

Here’s the rule: 

Use the hierarchy principle to direct the viewer’s attention and establish the logical order in which he or she must “read” the information in a design.  

Use the hierarchy principle to give levels of importance to the elements of a composition.  

Note that you may use color, size, or form to establish hierarchy.  

Also, you establish a hierarchy of elements to direct the viewer’s attention toward the order in which he or she should “read” the design.  

6. Balance 

Balance is the design principle that binds all other principles up. The goal of a finished composition is to achieve balance. 

That is: 

Balance in design is a state in which all visual elements are arranged in complete harmony, each one serving its precise purpose in the composition. 

Now, balance doesn’t necessarily mean that all elements are perfectly centralized and organized. It means that the relationship among all visual elements has been carefully planned and works. 

Having said this, balance can be symmetrical or asymmetrical. 

An example of balance in graphic design.

With symmetrical balance, all the elements of the composition are placed equally on the page. They are arranged within an imaginary grid (rows and columns) that distributes them equally in relation to one another. 

Symmetrical balance is the easiest to recognize. 

With asymmetrical balance, visual elements are not distributed equally. 

However, they are distributed in a way that their asymmetry creates what Alex White calls “equalized tension”

Balance Principle: Real-World Examples

The following examples best describe balance: 

Symmetrical and asymmetrical balance in magazine layouts.

Conclusion 

Understating and applying the fundamental principles of design is crucial for achieving effective visual communication. If you are an aspiring graphic designer, you must spend time studying these principles.  

Without design principles, we will most likely create work that is uninteresting, unappealing and, worse, unable to communicate effectively.  

You must learn to see these principles in action all around you. With practice and experience, you will be able to see these principles in action everywhere you look. 

These are the main points to remember:

  • Design principles are time-proven observations about how the world is visually arranged all around us.  
  • Graphic design principles do not work in isolation. Each principle complements the other. 
  • Design principles serve as a blueprint for arranging visual elements in strategic, effective ways.  

In sum: 

Learn how to apply these graphic design principles and you will be on your way to becoming an effective graphic designer. 

How to Draw a Vector Coronavirus Icon (Easy Tutorial)

Being in lock down for the past few weeks made me ask the question you’re probably asking yourself:

How would I draw a vector coronovirus icon?

So I took my fear of covid-19 by the horns and began thinking about drawing a virus icon.

So I came up with this quick and easy way to draw a vector coronavirus using Inkscape.

Let’s begin.

Step 01: Draw the Spikes

Coronaviruses have spikes, called glycoprotein spikes. We will draw our model spike and will reuse it to form the other spikes.

1. Create the Main Structure

  • Draw a square with the Square Tool.
  • Using the tool’s nodes, round the corners.
  • Finally, turn the object into a path (use the button or Path > Object to Path).

2. Transform Nodes to Shape the Spike

  • Using the Node Editing tool, select the lower two parallel nodes.
  • Make sure to turn on the Transform Nodes mode.
  • Pressing SHIFT, grab one of the transformation handles and squeeze toward the center to make that end narrower.
  • Grab the three upper nodes and do they same, outwards and upwards, until you get a shape similar to the one shown.
  • Play around, get a feel of how the nodes transform, and find the shape you want!

3. Create Spike Highlight

  • Duplicate your main spike (CTRL + D).
  • Select the upper five nodes of the duplicate and, using the Node Transform mode AND pressing both the SHIFT and CTRL keys, grab the upper right handle and slightly move downward.
  • Finally, create an ellipse with the Circles tool.
  • Covert it to a path (Path > Object to Path).
  • Place it on top of the spike (drag and adjust the top node a little to make it fit).
  • Go ahead and group the whole thing by selecting all the parts and pressing CRTL + G (or Object > Group).

Step 02: Create the Body (Virus Envelope)

Now, we will create the sphere-like envelope to which the spikes are attached.

1. Create the Circular Structure

  • First, pressing both the SHIFT and CRTL keys, create a circle with the Circles tool.
    • The CTRL key locks the aspect ratio to create a perfect circle.
    • The SHIFT key makes the circle grow from its center.

2. Duplicate and Color the Circles to Create the Virus Envelope

  • Now, select the Transform tool. Click the circle twice to reveal its rotation handles (the first click reveals its scale and move handles).
    • Notice how a tiny cross appears at the circle’s center (this is the circle’s center of rotation).
  • Move the cross to the upper left segment of the circle, touching its stroke.
  • Next, duplicate the circle (CRTL + D) and:
    • Pressing the CTRL key, grab the lower right transformation handle and drag in a left-upward motion to reduce de circle’s size while it’s still aligned with the biggest circle’s upper left segment.
  • Repeat this procedure one more time until you have three nested circles.
  • Finally, remove the circles’ strokes and add fill colors, following the pattern shown.

Step 3: Assemble the Virus Structure

Now, we will finish the coronavirus vector icon by duplicating the spike we created and placing around the virus envelope.

1. Place the Spike in the Virus Envelope

  • Take the model spike you created and place at the top center segment of the circular structure.
  • Duplicate it (CRTL + D).
  • Change its center of rotation to the lower-center part of the stem (its base).
  • This will let you rotate the spike around the virus envelope to fit perfectly with its contour.

2. Duplicate and Transform

  • Duplicate spikes to place around the virus envelope.
  • Using the Transform tool, scale down some of the spikes.
  • Give some of the spikes a solid fill color.

3. Place Spikes Around the Virus Evelope to Finish Icon

  • Place the different spike duplicates around the virus, rotating using procedure described above.
  • Note that some spikes appear beneath the virus envelope. Use the Lower / Raise Selection mode on the Transform tool to raise or lower accordingly.
  • Note that spikes that are on the back appear darker than those on the front.

3. Finishing Details

  • Create some ellipses to represent middle spikes and place in the center of the structure, like so:

Step 4: Present it Anyway You Like

  • Change the colors of the spikes to fit your needs.
  • Give a background for presentation.
Vector coronavirus icon

Be Safe!

I truly wish for you and your loved ones to be safe!

Make sure you’re up-to-date with official information during this crisis.

13 Famous Graphic Designers You Didn’t Know Were Self-Taught

History is filled with many famous graphic designers who have changed how we think about design. But I was wondering:

Are there any famous and influential graphic designers who are self-taught or didn’t go to design school?

So I did extensive research and came up with an impressive list of both famous and current self-taught designers who are killing it right now (stuff for another post).

For now, here are 13 self-taught famous graphic designers who transformed the field of design in important ways.

1. Paul Rand (1914-1996)

Paul Rand is widely recognized as one of the most important figures in graphic design in the 20th century. 

As related by graphic design professor Steven Heller in his book The Education of a Graphic Designer, Rand was largely self-taught, although he intermittently received some formal education. 

Rand created the logos and brand identities of countless multinational brands, such as IBM, Westinghouse, ABC, UPS, and Next Computers, to name only a few. 

He is probably the most famous self-taught graphic designer ever.

2. Ethel Reed (1874-1912)

Ethel Reed is considered the first American woman to achieve notoriety in graphic design. In the 1890s, her designs received critical acclaim in both the United States and Europe. 

Although she briefly attended the Cowles Art School in her native Massachusetts, she was essentially self-taught. 

Her beautiful art nouveau posters and covers led her to become a sought-out artist and figure, becoming acquainted with the most important artists of the time. 

3. Leo Lionni (1910-1999) 

Leo Lionni was trained as an economist before turning to his true passion as a graphic designer and book illustrator. 

He increasingly began immersing himself in advertising, which led him to become an art director for several agencies and, later, for Fortune Magazine. 

Later, he returned to his native Italy, where he wrote and illustrated more than 40 children’s books, some of the award-winning. 

4. William Bernbach (1911-1982)

William Bernback’s work revolutionized advertising design as we know it.

He studied literature, got into advertising, and later became one of the most important creative directors of all time. 

His work and art direction helped shift the common practice of centering ads around products instead of ideas, concepts, and emotions. 

Many recognize his Volkswagen Beetle ads as a breakthrough in advertising, at the time effectively shifting stereotypes and cultural views about cars through powerful visual communication. 

5. Alexey Brodovitch (1898-1971)

Brodovitch was a designer and, most notably, Art Director for Harper’s Bazaar from 1934 to 1958. 

As a child, he had a passion for sketching and, as a young man, he dreamed of attending the Russian Imperial Art Academy.

However, his dreams were shattered, as he had to fight in the Russo-Japanese War and, later, forced by his father to attend military school. 

Still, he managed to go to Paris, where he began to establish himself after winning first prize at a commercial arts poster competition. He beat no other than Pablo Picasso. 

Today, he is well recognized for his graphic design design work, art direction, and mentorship as an educator. 

6. Raymond Loewy (1893-1986) 

Raymond Loewy was an inventor and industrial and graphic designer best recognized for the design of the Coca Cola bottle and the S1 Steam Locomotive. 

However, he also designed the logos of globally recognized brands, such as Exxon, Shell, TWA, and BP (British Petroleum). 

Lowey didn’t attend design school. In fact, as stated by Marcus in his book Introduction to Modern Design, most industrial designers of the era mostly came from diverse backgrounds and were self-taught. 

Loewy himself started designing window displays for stores such as Macy’s and Saks. 

Today, he is considered the father of industrial design.

 7. Wally Olins (1930-2014)

British designer Wally Olins studied history instead of design. He went on to insert himself in the field of advertising, and became one of the most important contemporary figures in advertising and visual communication. 

Through his firm Saffron Brand Consultants, he created successful brand identities for Europe’s Orange (formerly France Telecom), London’s 2012 Olympics, AOL, and Shell, among others. 

He was also the author of many branding design books, such as Brand New: The Shape of Brands to Come

8. Tibor Kalman (1949-1999)

Tibor Kalman studied English at NYU before becoming an important figure in contemporary graphic design. 

An iconoclast and idealist, Kalman was known for sometimes expressing political stances against anti-ethical corporate practices, stating that “many bad companies have great design.” 

He began his career in the 70s directing the design department of a small bookstore that later became Barnes & Noble, creating its original visual identity. 

He later became founding editor-in-chief of Colors magazine, which challenged design paradigms at the time with bold, typography-driven, controversial graphics. 

9. Tony Forster (1941-2008) 

In the words of his friend David Quay, Tony Forster “didn’t have any formal design education, but started work at sixteen as a junior designer at Artel Studios in Manchester.” 

He then went on to become a well recognized letterist, art director, and educator. 

His work includes amazing letter shapes and covers, ranging from expressive to geometrical, from classic to futuristic.

10. Steven Heller (1950- )

Steven Heller considers himself a “recovering self-taught designer,” yet he has become one of the leading authors and educators in graphic design today. 

He is a professor at the prestigious School of Visual Arts in New York City and has written extensively about the field of graphic design from multiple perspectives. 

He has published numerous books, including the seminal Becoming a Graphic Designer: A Guide to Careers in Design and the fascinating Iron Fists: Branding the 20th Century Totalitarian State

11. Adrian Shaughnessy 

Adrian Shaughnessy teaches Visual Communication at the Royal College of Art and is also a founder of Unit Editions, a design publishing company. 

Shaughnessy is also a self-taught graphic designer. He said in an interview: “I had no art school training. I trained in an old fashioned pre-digital studio where I was taught the basics by older designers.”

His book How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul has become a practice manual for graphic designers around the world, self-taught or not. 

12. Paul Elliman (1961- )

Paul Elliman is an internationally recognized graphic artist whose work has been exhibited in the London Institute of Contemporary Arts, Tate Modern, New Museum and Moma, in New York.

As related in Frieze, “Elliman got his first position as a graphic designer on the London listings magazine City Limits in 1985 by borrowing a friend’s portfolio, having earlier pursued then abandoned courses in art foundation and sociology.”

Today, he is an influential graphic artist whose work has been exhibited all over the world and who teaches art and design at prestigious programs, such as Yale School of Art. 

One of his most well-known works is Found Font, a typography composed of common objects and everyday bit-and-pieces.

13. David Carson (1965- )

Many consider David Carson as one of the most famous contemporary graphic designers.

His style and approach have made an enormous impact on graphic design, especially in terms of layout and use of typography. 

A surfer, Carson began in graphic design only after taking a two-week graphic design course in 1980. His degree is in Sociology. 

Even as he worked as a high-school teacher, he was experimenting with graphic design. In 1984, he became the Art Director for Transworld Skateboarding magazine, and the rest is history. 

In the 90s, he became Art Director of Raygun, an influential alternative rock magazine at the time.

His covers for the magazine reflect his unique style, favoring an anti-grid structure and analog graphic design techniques.  

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Powell Peralta Logo Vector Tutorial [with Download]

The Powell Peralta Triple P logo is an excellent example of a minimalist, geometric logo constructed with a grid. The history of the “triple p” logo dates back to the late 70s, when it appeared in the Britelight and Beamer decks. In 1980, it was used on Jay Smith’s signature deck.

In this tutorial, we create a vector version of the Powell Peralta logo and learn about geometric grid logo design in the process.

I use Inkscape in this logo tutorial.

Let’s begin!

A. Create the Grid for the Logo

Step 1: Create a Perfect Circle

Select the Circles and Ellipses tool, then press the CTRL + SHIFT keys. Click and drag to create a perfect circle.

Give the circle a stroke width of 25 pixels.

Step 2: Create Guides from your Circle

Duplicate your circle by selecting it, then clicking CTRL + D.

Now, while selecting your duplicated circle, select Object > Objects to Guides.

Now your circle has been converted to guides that will serve as your grid.

Step 3: Create Diagonal Guides

Now, create diagonal guides by dragging from the top left corner of your canvas:

Drag the guide across the canvas and place it crossing your circle diagonally, from the top right to the bottom left.

Make sure the guide aligns perfectly with the top right and bottom left corners of the “square” guides encompassing your circle.

Do this by enabling Snapping > Snap to Guides (located at the far right of the canvas). Move the tiny red circles in the guide to snap into the corner perfectly.

Now, create another diagonal guide in order to create a cross spanning from the center of the circle.

To do this, create a diagonal guide, as shown above, but now press the SHIFT key to rotate the guide.

Align with the top left, bottom right corners, applying the same method used for the previous diagonal guide.



B. Create the Inner Circles of the Powell Logo

Step 1: Create the Triple “P” Circles

Duplicate that circle you first created by selecting it, then pressing CTRL + D. Apply another stroke color to it and change its stroke width to 15 px.

Now, with your Select tool, while pressing CTRL + SHIFT, scale down the circle by dragging it by the bottom right corner arrow toward the center of the circle. Scale down until the outer edge of this circle just touches the inner edge of the larger, original circle:

TIP: Make sure that Scale Stroke Width is not selected in your Inkscape preferences (Behavior > Transforms) for this exercise.

Also, I find that not dragging in a continuous way (by clicking intermittently) allows Inkscape to show the true pixel size of the stroke as I scale down.

Step 2: Repeat for the Other “P” Circle Shapes

Select and duplicate the black circle, then scale down.

Next, select and duplicate the red circle and scale down, applying the same technique as above:

Go ahead and delete the red separator circles.

Finally, select all three black circles and then convert them to path by going to Path > Stroke to Path. Our circles now have a node structure like this:

Step 3: “Cut” Circles for the Bottom Part of Logo

With your Pen tool, draw a triangle along the bottom triangle base formed by the guide intersections. Be sure to enable Snapping > Snap to Guides, to neatly draw your strokes.

With the Select tool, make sure the triangle snaps snugly within the triangle guide structure:

Duplicate your triangle.

Now, let’s cut each circle one by one:

Select the inner, smaller black circle and, pressing the SHIFT key, also select the duplicate triangle. Apply Path > Difference.

If your triangle is transparent enough, you will see that you have made a “cut” in your circle according to the triangle part touching it:

Duplicate your circle once more, and “cut” the second, center circle applying the technique above.

Finally, use the remaining triangle to “cut” the larger outer circle.

Your circles should now look like this:


C. Create the Bottom Part of the Logo

Step 1: Create Bottom Logo Grid

Create a square surrounding the larger outer circle within the square formed by the intersecting guides. Enable Snap to Guides so that the square fits snugly within the square frame.

Make sure the stroke width of the square is 25px, like your circles. Also, make sure the stroke paint has transparency (so you can see what’s going on).

Now, go to Object > Transform. Go to the Rotate tab and input 45 in the Angle window. Make sure the degrees symbol is selected:

Finally, create a guide that snaps into the very tip of the rotated square.

Drag the guide from the top of the canvas ruler:

Step 3: Create the first “P” Stem of the Powell Triple P Logo

First, convert the square you created into a path by applying Path > Object to Path. Your square now has nodes.

Now, add a node to the part of the square (now path) right where the stem part touches the circle stroke. Double click on the spot to which you want to add the node. Use snapping to add the node precisely:

Next, to create the stem, let’s delete some path segments.

With the Node Editing tool selected, pressing SHIFT, select the top left nodes of the side of the 45 degree angle square:

Now, go to the node editing controls on top of the canvas and select Delete Segment:

With that segment deleted, do the same thing for the top right segment.

Once deleted, select the two nodes that run horizontally through the center of the former square and delete them (use the BACKSPACE key):

You now have your first “P” stem:

Finally, duplicate the stem and convert to guides (Object > Object to Guides). The guides will help us position the next two stems.

Step 4: Create Rest of Stems

Duplicate the stem you have, then move along the guides to connect with the inner circle. Be sure to enable Snap to Guides.

Zoom in with your Magnifier tool to make sure the stem aligns perfectly with its corresponding circle. If the connection is not completely aligned, just snap the node to the guide intersection to align.

Repeat for the smaller inner circle:

Finally, select each circle with its corresponding stem. Go to Path > Union to create a single path:

You now have the “P”s completed.

D. Create Rounded Caps for the Top Part

Step 1: Create Rounded Caps for Inner Top Circle

Zoom in to the top right end of the inner semi-circle.

Now turn to the Circles and Ellipses tool.

With snapping enabled, visually position your cursor in the middle of the stem.

Pressing CTRL + SHIFT, drag a circle that fits as closely as you can to the entire stem length. Use your Select and Transform tool to move and drag your circle to adjust its dimensions to the stem.

Let it snap to “Bounding box midpoint to guide.”

Step 2: Create a Guide for Positioning Next Caps

Now, drag a diagonal guide from the bottom left corner of the canvas.

Zooming in, position the canvas just touching the bottom of the cap circle. Let the circle snap to the guide.

Step 3: Duplicate Cap Circles

Now, duplicate the first cap circle and position in the next stem. Repeat for the final stem:

Step 4: Apply Union to Create a Single Path

Select a stem with its corresponding circle cap. Apply Path > Union to create a single path:

E. Create Caps for Bottom and Finish Logo

Step 1: Create First Circle Cap for Bottom Stem

Create a circle, using the same techniques you used for the top caps.

Go ahead and drag a diagonal guide from the top left corner of the canvas and snap to the bottom of the circle cap:

Step 2: Duplicate and Position Rest of Caps

Now, duplicate and position the caps of the two remaining stems, as you did for the top caps.:

Step 3: Apply Union and Finish Logo

Now, select each stem with its corresponding cap and apply Path > Union. Repeat for each stem.

Disable guides (View > Guides).

You now have a vector version of the Powell Peralta “Triple P” logo:

Because you now have vector version, you can apply any style you want to the logo, like this:

You can even add strokes to adjust the gap between each “P” shape:


Download the vector version of the Powell Peralta logo as a PDF file below (you can edit the file on your favorite vector software):

powell peralta vector logo download
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Easy Image Cropping in Inkscape [Complete Guide]

You can crop an image in Inkscape in ways similar to raster programs such as Photoshop or Gimp.

Use any of the following methods:

  • Clipping: Use shapes, objects, or paths to crop
  • Masking: Crop using any vector object, but also gradients and blur
  • Pattern: Use handles to crop and convert to path to sculpt your crop

In this step-by-step tutorial, I show you 17 ways in which you can use Inkscape to crop both pixel and vector images.

Let’s get started.

Method 1: Crop an Image by Clipping

The clip operation in Inkscape lets you place a vector shape, object or path on top of an image in order to “clip” or cut a portion of that image according to the shape used.

It’s like using a cookie cutter to create a cookie from dough.

With clipping, you can crop in Inkscape by using regular shapes, objects such as text, or paths.

1. Clip Using Shapes

To clip an image (assuming you’ve imported your image to Inkscape), first create the shape you’ll be using to clip or cut your image. You can use squares, circles, stars, or any other shape).

Next, place the shape on top of the image in the area you wish to crop, and select both the image and shape, like so:

Clipping in Inkscape with an object

Note that the clipping shape or object always goes on top of the image to be clipped.

Now, go to Object > Clip > Set to apply clipping and crop the image.

The image is now cropped according to the shapes you use to clip (in this case, a square):

Clipping in Inkscape using a square or rectangle

You can also use circles:

Clip an image in Inkscape using a circle

You can use polygons and stars:

Cropping using a polygon

You can even use a vector object, such as text:

Cropping in Inkscape using text

In addition, you can use multiple shapes or paths for cropping images in Inkscape.

2. Clip Using a Path

Instead of shapes, you can also create your own path in order to crop in Inkscape.

One way to do this is to use the Pen Tool (or any drawing tool, such as Pencil) to carefully draw around the shape you wish to crop.

The more patient your are, the more precise the crop. Remember that you can also sculpt the nodes of the path for even more precision:

Cropping in Inkscape with a path

Now, you can go to Object > Clip > Set to crop your image:

Cropping drawing a path around an image

Method 2: Crop an Image by Masking

Masking works in a way very similar to clipping, but with some important advantages.

First, access the tool in Object > Mask> Set :

Cropping in Inkscape using Mask

Like clipping, you can use masking with shapes, objects, and paths, like so:

Inkscape Mask using a circle

HOWEVER, masking allows for gradients and blurs to modify the cropping in special ways. This means you can crop images with feathered edges or translucent areas.

This is the main rule with masking:

  • The part of an object with white fill or border will allow the object beneath to be visible.
  • The part of an object with black fill or border will block any part of the object beneath it.
  • Anything in between (all shades of grey) will become gradually transparent, with corresponding effects on the object beneath.

Let’s take a look at some examples of masking:

You can mask an object by using regular shapes or paths and using different shades of grey in their border or stroke.

Here, I’m using a thick grey stroke on a white circle:

Masking in Inkscape using a circle with grey stroke

Here, I use the calligraphy pen on the marker setting to draw a grey stroke over the image:

Masking in Inkscape with a path with grey stroke

Remember that you can use any shape, stroke, or path.

Furthermore:

You can play with shapes and shades of grey to create even more awesome image cropping, like this:

Cropping in Inkscape with masked strokes or objects

Just be sure to group objects (CTRL + G) before masking.

Here’s another great feature of masking in Inkscape:

You can play with gradients and blur to create interesting image cropping. Here, I’m using a simple gradient to mask my image:

Masking in Inkscape gradient effect

Next, I’m using gradients with different stops, applying black and grey to gradient nodes:

Masking in Inkscape gradient effect

Finally, you can you use masking, a shape, and a simple blur to crop an image in Inkscape, like this:

Masking in Inkscape gradient effect

Method 3: Crop an Image by Pattern

The final method you can use to crop an image in Inkscape is by applying a pattern to the image.

You can apply a pattern to an image or vector object by going to Object > Pattern > Objects to Pattern:

Cropping in Inkscape using pattern

Inkscape then creates a pattern of your image that you can transform by means of special handles similar to those used by the square tool.

To do this, first apply the pattern, select your image, and then select the squares tool to show your new editing handles:

Cropping in Inkscape using pattern

Now you can play a little with the nodes and handles to crop your image in interesting ways:

Using pattern and moving nodes for cropping

Cropping an Image in Inkscape is Easy

Cropping an image in Inkscape can be very convenient for several reasons:

  • It’s easy to apply
  • It’s convenient not to use a raster program such as Gimp or Photoshop, as you work in a vector program
  • It’s quick and efficient

Now you know 3 different methods to crop an image in Inkscape and 17 different ways you can use them.

Which one are you going to use and how?

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What is Graphic Design all About? (No-Nonsense Approach)

So you want to know what graphic design is all about?

It’s a completely reasonable question.  It’s a question I asked many years ago and one that gets asked by anyone trying to learn graphic design.  

It’s not only a reasonable question, it’s completely crucial, since in order to learn something we need to define the boundaries of what has to be learned.

In order to become a graphic designer, you first need to understand what exactly graphic design is, it’s purpose, and why it’s important.  

This can be a lot, but we can define graphic design in simple terms:

In a nutshell, graphic design is the process of strategically combining and manipulating information in order to present it visually.  Simply put, it is the act of creating visual representations for the purpose of effective communication.

Let’s look at graphic design more closely.

First, a definition of design in the general sense

Before plunging into theories and principles of design, graphics software, and skills tutorials, take a moment to think about the nature of design work.

Graphic design itself is a branch of design in the more abstract, or broad, sense.  Design, as general discipline, has many levels of complexity, areas of application, and degrees of difficulty.  

Design in this broad sense implies the full understanding and mastery of a process that applies to any act of human creation. That said, there are many sub-specializations of design: engineering design, interior design, information design, aeronautic design, etc.  

Each has its own application and operation, each has its own level of complexity.  

Design can then be defined as a process of creation.  It is always purpose-oriented: it seeks to accomplish some well-defined purpose. The process of design, at the very least, implies strategy, hierarchy, selection, and manipulation.

But here’s the deal:

We can’t call every single act of creation “design,” since the act of designing implies a process of very specific actions or operations.  

Some types of creation, say painting, may follow a broad plan or no plan at all. they may come from a “gut feeling” or from the “heart”.  

But not design:

Design entails steps that are repeatable from project to project and that can be learned.  

Let’s see in more detail what I mean:

What exactly is graphic design then?

If we see graphic design as part of design in the broader sense, we can say that graphic design is the process through which we strategically combine elements and principles in order to create visual artifacts of high communication value.  

It’s important to describe the task of graphic design in order to understand what it is and, more importantly, what it is not.  By doing this, we demystify graphic design as an essentially artistic activity. We get to see its procedural nature, which renders the task of learning graphic design easier and more approachable.  

Below, I discuss key characteristics of graphic design in order to show you that it is a process that can be learned.  Pay attention to what makes graphic design unique and how it’s different from other creative processes, such as creating art.  

1 . Graphic design is different from art

Many times, we have heard that the artist works from the “heart.” This means that he or she follows some kind of instinctual voice, a “gut feeling,” that defines the creation as an inspired object.  If you watch an artist work, such as Jean Michel Basquiat, you will see a “spontaneous” act of creation, a process that doesn’t have a fixed or guaranteed outcome.

We also often hear that art is always “open for interpretation.” Its effect is closer to an experience than to a specific message.  Art “speaks” to us, but in ways that depend on context, history, frameworks of knowledge, and culture.

We can be both looking at a Pollock painting at the same place and time and yet experience different emotions and interpret different messages.  

Art can be different from the graphic design process because there’s more room for improvisation and “gut feeling”.

Even if most artists prepare themselves for the act of creation (in terms of planning, organization, or mapping), we tend to think of the artistic process as something that controls the artist, rather than the other way around.  Art will take you where it will take you.

The graphic designer is different from the artist, and graphic design is different from the work of art.  

The main difference lies in the primary purpose of graphic design: communication.  

The primary objective of graphic designs are to render ideas, concepts, and events into a visual language for someone in some context.  This language cannot be open to different interpretations and must be created according to predetermined parameters.

A graphic designer can be an artist, but you do not have to be an artist to be a graphic designer.  

2. Graphic design is a form of visual communication

To say that graphic design is a form of visual communication is to acknowledge the importance of images in everyday life.  

We live in a visual culture, and images have become the primary way of receiving and interpreting information.  We rely on the visual for interpreting data, for making diagnoses, for expressing authority, and for selling stuff.  Screens surround us and have become the quintessential channel for delivering images.

For visual communicators and graphic designers, images are a powerful vehicle for delivering messages because they are able to pack emotion and complexity in the most immediate, effective way.  

To design is always to communicate.  Communication, in this sense, is always a purposeful act, driven by clear objectives and processes.  

3. Graphic design is strategy driven

Graphic designers create images that will accomplish a primary purpose, and this process of creation is guided by research, a specific message, technique, and an execution plan.  

Graphic design is strategic
Graphic design is a strategic process.

Graphic design does not occur by chance nor is the product of pure instinct. It is not random.

On the contrary, graphic designers take care in studying and really understanding their source material.  They establish clear objectives based on a strategy for accomplishing their communication goals. They follow a system of production and workflow.  They understand that simplicity and efficiency are essential elements of the creation process.

In other words:

The process of graphic design is a series of calculated steps that require skills, research, and strategy.  It is planning and following through that plan to achieve a visual product.

4. Graphic design is a hierarchical process of selection

Graphic design concentrates on the minimum conditions that will render a message effective, and no more.  In order to do this, graphic designers select what is most suited to accomplish a task. Excessive use of form or the over-manipulation of visual elements becomes an obstruction to clear communication.  

A visual message carries within an intention.  This intention must be distilled and rendered into its purest form.  Selection becomes a crucial aspect of separating the important from the unimportant, the effective from the ineffective.

To select is to choose.  Graphic designers are always choosing what is most effective to the task at hand.     

5. Graphic design is manipulation

The first crucial step for graphic design is to “read”.  

What I mean is this:

“Reading” here is a conscious absorption of content, a form of interpretation according to a code.    

Design, as an objective-driven endeavor, implies the reading of the environment, the reading of messages (linguistic and otherwise), and the reading of the world.  

Once graphic designers have read their source material (what they need to represent visually), they must engage in a second important step: to translate.  

To translate means to take that knowledge, that understanding of the world that has been absorbed from the source material, and transport it to another plane of communication, the visual code.  

In this sense, graphic designers manipulate language in order to communicate things in different ways.  They also manipulate form (objects, icons, colors, textures) in order to create messages that are effective in communicating visually.  

Conclusion: Graphic design is a process that you can learn

One of the main takeaway from this post is this:

You don’t necessarily have to be an “artist” in order to become a graphic designer.  

Graphic design is a systematic, repeatable process that follows specific principles, actions, and objectives.  

These principles and processes can be learned.  With experience, practice, and understanding of what graphic design is about, you will be able to learn the basics of graphic design and start creating effective visual communication.  

Summary: Remember these key points

  • Graphic design is different from art: The product of graphic design should not be open for interpretation.
  • Graphic design is driven by processes: Graphic designers work according to specific rules and steps.
  • Graphic designers are visual communicators: Get your communication strategy first, then create graphics accordingly.
  • Graphic design involves “reading” and “translating”:  Graphic designers are really good at “reading,” or deeply absorbing, their environment.  They focus on the details of things. The look at things very closely. Only then can they “translate” what they absorb into a visual language.  
  • Graphic design can be learned: You don’t have to be born an artist to be an effective visual communicator. Mostly, you will need knowledge, discipline, and experience.  If you keep practicing, you will develop an eye for graphic design.

Now that you understand some key concepts about what graphic design is about, you can start to learn about the main principles that power effective visual communication and composition.  

What do you think is the most important aspect of graphic design?

Let me know in a comment below and we’ll discuss it.

Featured image icon credit: Smashicons
Photo credit: JESHOOTS.COM

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