Today, we are joined by Helena Olson, she is a Graphic Designer. You can view her portfolio here.

  • What was the first typeface you fell in love with?

Comic Sans. Just kidding ;) I absolutely loved Lato the first time I saw it. Simple and clean. Now I love the typefaces Vinyl and Trend: perfect for complex typographic logos.


  • What are some of your proudest projects ever?

My Londonderry,Vermont project has been my favorite by far. This was the first project where I hand lettered and illustrated the design and truly made it my own. It hits close to home because I made this for my family, who own a house there that was passed on to us by my late grandfather. It has also brought me a lot of attention because the company Knative ( had the design featured on their website and then eventually printed on tshirts. Now my whole family has a custom shirt!


  • Can you briefly describe what the current process is like for you to create a new typeface and where do you get your inspiration from?

Well, I haven’t created my own typeface yet, but I do practice my hand lettering and incorporate that into my designs. The process for that: practice and research. I usually go to websites like, which is an amazing tumblr site for inspiration. I’m also keeping up with designers like Sean McCabe, who just came out with a whole new set of lettering courses.

  • What was one of the most challenging typography problems you have ever had to solve?

In college, I would always design with typefaces a little too small to read. I love having white space in my designs and keeping things simple, so I fell into that trap. One of my professors always joked that I should specialize in business cards. Overtime, I’ve fixed this problem and learned that something that is legible to me might not always be legible to the end user.


  • What constitutes a good identity mark?

If it is understood immediately. If the end user has to sit there and wonder what it is or what its trying to say, you did something wrong.


  • What are some common mistakes which identity designers make?

Not thinking an idea fully through before beginning a design. I’ve definitely been guilty of this before. Sometimes you get excited about an idea, create it, and then realize it really isn’t sending the message that you wanted. Plentiful research and sketching is extremely beneficial in the long run. You can always keep other exciting ideas for another future project.

  • Can you detail the identity design process and how long this usually takes?

Its really tough to put a general time stamp on these because every clients needs are different. Some could need a logo and others could need an entire branding system.

Q&A with clients: Its best to come up with a questionnaire that the clients can answer, (asking about their target market, their background, objectives, and deadlines)
Research: I think a designer should invest time in doing research everyday to stay on top of design trends, market trends, and new tools. Behance allows you to make “collections” which is great because you always have a source to go back to if you’re looking for inspiration.
For a specific client project, I will try and write down keywords that the clients have given me and fully research their background. Asking many follow up questions is a good thing in this stage of the process, don’t be shy.
Sketching: Again, I write down the clients keywords and start with just sketching on paper instead of the computer. Sketching with pencils and pens can really save hours of time because the ideas come out much faster. Then, you have double the amount of ideas to choose from.
Designing- bringing my favorite sketches onto my Macbook Pro and creating the brand. I try and think of how the different aspects to the identity (logo,packaging, website) will all come together into one identity and a creative way of presenting it.
Presentation- 3-5 variations of the identity is usually the number I go for. I make mockups of the identities in photoshop so that the client can see the identity in action and then we can talk about any revisions needed.
Handoff. Send the client the promised deliverables and make a lasting impression so I stay in touch for possible future projects.


  • What are common challenges which identity designers encounter?

-Turning down freelance offers- could be because of a busy schedule or the project just doesn’t relate to the designer’s skills and interests.

-Getting too attached to one idea. Its good to feel passionate about a design, but if the client doesn’t feel the same way, you need to put aside your own personal opinion and restart the Q&A process to get on the same page.

– This aligns with taking critique- Look at it as constructive criticism instead of negative criticism.


  • How do you account for the great disagreement over the quality of identity marks even among identity designers ?

I think its just a matter of taste… I love simple and clean design, others love more complicated and cluttered design. That doesn’t make it bad, its just a matter of opinion.


  • Where are some of the areas where typography is improving and where do we need to see more growth?

The recent trend of vintage design is really bringing improvements to typography. More and more people are starting to experiment with it. Some butcher it but others make very beautiful use of mixing different typefaces together to make very well rounded identities.

I think there could be more growth with typography on the web. Sometimes designs trends stick too hard and everything starts looking the same. Proxima Nova is the typeface I’ve seen being used A LOT. Its gorgeous, but its definitely overused.


  • What’s the most overrated font in the world?

Helvetica… I have a love/hate relationship with it. The reason why I can’t stand it is because some designers will always resort to using it and won’t step out of their comfort zone. Every font has a personality, its a shame not to explore more possibilities.

  • Let’s talk a little about the creative process and how you work. Can you describe your ideal work environment?

I love totally zoning into my work- usually by listening to some music, getting my sketchbook and pens out, then diving in. I also try to do continuous research at the same time to get inspired- I check my favorite websites all the time to see if there are any new mockups or typefaces out there (pixeden, graphicburger,creativemarket,inspirationhut, qeaql). Dribbble, Behance, and Pixelfod are also great for interaction with other designers.