I Like Trains

Locomotive on a bridge in front of a sunset.

I really like trains and everything train related. So it’s no wonder they feature regularly in my photography. I think one of my personal favourite Instagram posts is of a train in front of a beautiful sunset.

Freight train on a standstil.

The colours are just beautiful, even though the ghosting from the HDR of my phone camera is a bit distracting. Another picture I really like is this one. It just really captures my imagination and I love the contrast between the city to the left and the forest to the right. But let me tell you a secret: The forest is only a thin sliver of trees between the endless sprawl of the city.

But why am I telling you this? It goes back to my last post about my website logo. Someone asked me how I chose the font for my name in my logo, and someone else suggested I try to play a bit with different fonts, but to be honest, I didn’t want to.

I didn’t want to because that font had become near and dear to my heart over hour-long journeys through the German rail network, or at least I thought so. Its name is literally rail script, so why should I have been mistaken? Alas, I was mistaken indeed: Bahnschrift was actually developed by Microsoft for their Windows UI and is at least rumoured to replace Segoe UI at some point. However, it is, in fact, a variant of the DIN 1451 standard I so closely associate with travelling.

DIN 1451 script with an actual train in the background.
A variant with the constellation cygnus.

At least I found the picture above, combining my beloved interests trains and cool typefaces. That helps in a moment of sadness about a lost writeup opportunity.

So what now? I might actually change the font in my logo. But I think I need to first finish a header image for my website. (The default WordPress one irks me a bit.) And then I might need to think about my logo from an entirely new perspective. Honestly, I think the typesetting doesn’t even work that well especially not if you reduce it down to the few pixels dedicated to it in the tabs of your browser, but I don’t know yet with what to replace it.

My Logo. An excursion into Adobe Illustrator

Patrick Nils Wilke-Logo

First, I have to start with the admission, that I would consider myself to be neither an artist nor an expert at any Adobe Creative Cloud application. So much so that I haven’t even used up my free seven day trial period so far. I made the decision to build a website for myself a few days ago. I had a bit of experience with HTML and CSS, am fairly good at JavaScript and consider myself to be quite adept at getting through challenges. But after many hours of twiddling and tweaking pages of HTML and CSS, I couldn’t satisfy my perfectionism. So I said fuck it, I want to produce content and not just an empty, beautiful, but slightly infuriating HTML skeleton without meat. While waiting for domain registration, I started to think about graphical elements of my site. What sprung to mind was a site logo, but how would you produce such a thing?

I think Squarespace lead me to the site of Logojoy. Sounds good. I need a logo and I want to have some joy. I entered my name, was asked a few questions, like the colour I’d prefer or what suggested logos I’d enjoy and got a result. But after I was asked to pay 20 US-$ for a low-resolution copy of my black name on dark grey backing. I was kind of disappointed. I clicked something and without much input, I had edited the logo and added a meaningless symbol. What a great addition! But still, that wasn’t something I was willing to pay 20 US-$ for.

I was determined to try myself, but how? I had had some brushes against Adobe’s creative cloud apps before, either because someone else was using them, or because I had searched for a creative app, but had then decided to use something cheaper. (Like when I chose to use the open source Audacity for a small audio-editing project instead of trying out Audition.) This time I decided to finally try an Adobe App (besides old trustworthy, but kind of crummy Acrobat Reader). I downloaded the trial install package, started the install process and went to make dinner.

I decided to fiddle a bit, but after a few unsuccessful tries with blue gradient leaves on a blue gradient background, that looked just weird. I decided to go for a square on square approach. I first tried to constrict myself to black and white and had planned to do a negative version, but It looked too empty. I decided to add a gradient.

Second attempt at a logo. This time with a gradient.

Still, the space below my name looked empty. Not as empty as before, but still quite empty. Now, accustomed to the gradient tool. I wanted to try and make something that looked vaguely like space. I changed the gradient colours to blue hues and changed the gradient type from linear to circular to simulate the curvature of a nearby planet. I moved my name downwards so it would end up looking a bit like it was in orbit. But now there was still quite the white blue space. In essence, I hadn’t changed much but the colour of the void above or beyond my name. I needed to change something. So what could I possibly add? A space station? Too complex for my first try. I decided on something easier: stars. A boatload of stars.

The same logo, now in space and with a pinch of stars.

After sharing the two designs with some friends on a discord server. The overwhelming majority was in favour of the space-design. But someone asked a question that made me think: “Is the background a specific constellation?”

This hadn’t even come to my mind. I had just placed a few random dots without much thought. But there was a specific constellation I liked. Cygnus. Cygnus, the swan.

I tried to recreate the constellation from memory first. I just pushed and pulled a few surrounding stars in the vague shape of Cygnus, but something was amiss.

Logo with vague representytion of the constellation Cygnus.

I had recreated a mini void. Granted, space is mostly empty, but space is also vast and filled with thousands of stars. I had to change something. I mean, it wasn’t only factually incorrect. It was also just visually unappealing.

In the same step, I decided to finally get a real picture of Cygnus and retrace it, and it was worth it. To my woes, I had quite badly misjudged the angles and perceived distance of the swan’s tail.

Patrick Nils Wilke-Logo
Now with the true swan and not as empty.

At the end of this process, I’m quite chuffed with the work I was able to do in only a few hours. I have to thank the guinea pigs that gave their feedback. And I have to say I love Adobe’s Illustrator. It looks more pleasing and is to no one’s surprise way more intuitive than GIMP.

The two lone questions that remain, will I pay for a Creative Cloud subscription when my trial ends in two weeks and will the logo work on small scapes. I am quite sure what the answer to the first question will be, but I have my doubts with the second one.