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Design 101: Typography

Design 101: Typography

Typography is so much more than letters and fonts and there already exists a myriad of resources out there dedicated to the fine art of typography.  You likely have a favorite font or perhaps one you despise (you definitely do if you are a designer!). You may have noticed the resurgence of calligraphy and hand lettering popping up in different places.  The world of type is huge and there is plenty to explore, but the purpose of this post however, is to give a very basic introduction into a few of the visual elements that describe and make up typography.

We’ll begin with a few terms. First of all, ty­pog­ra­phy is the vi­sual com­po­nent of the written word. Like most systems, typography is made up of building blocks. Our basic element, a letter, is also known as a glyph. In typography, a glyph an elemental symbol within an agreed set of symbols, that represent a readable character for the purposes of writing.

Each letter also has its own components, such as a foot, stem, terminal, beak and so on. The featured sketch above is a labeled example. This is important in type design to better identify the different parts of a letter and how to manipulate them to create different styles.

Font vs. Type

A lot of designers will raise a big stink about this differentiation, and there is a difference, but for the average person, these two terms are often used interchangeably.  So, for all you sticklers, the terms are defined as follows.

A typeface is a design created by a typographer (or type designer). It incorporates the specific letter-forms that include several variations (stroke weight, serifs and counter shapes,  etc.) that differ from one type design to another. Designers choose typefaces to create their projects. Each typeface has a name (Helvetica, Bodoni, Arial, etc. The term “typeface” originated from movable type, whose blocks of wood or metal each contain an image of a character on one surface (the “face”).

A font, on the other hand, is a digital representation of a typeface. It is a collection of all the characters of a typeface in one size and style. For example, Times New Roman in 12pt size is a font, Times New Roman in 18pt size is a font, and Times New Roman bold in 24pt is also a font. In other words, “one weight, width, and style of a typeface.”

Below I have created a visual index of a few other type elements.



You may have never thought about it directly, but selecting typographic elements makes a huge difference, not only for readability, but also for the feeling that a particular design piece creates. Bold type can portray strength while scripts can feel formal or elegant. Pairing typefaces together is also a science in an of itself and can greatly affect the mood and tone of a design. Pictures may say a thousand words, but words themselves can also say a lot more than the content of a sentence. When used effectively, type can become its own work of art.



Recently , I was asked by Mennonite Health Services to write a piece on Character, one of the four C’s they identify in Valued Leadership (Character, Collaboration, Culture, Change). No small task, but a great opportunity again for me to engage this whole endeavor of running a business.

As a sole proprietor, there is a lot of freedom, but there is also a lot on the line. Vision, direction, motivation, practices and sensibilities all rest on your own shoulders. It’s all you. So, how to find a way forward? I have found a few things that work for me, but I am continually looking to grow and find better ways of doing things.

Three years ago, I never would have pictured myself an entrepreneur with a burgeoning business operating in a beautiful downtown Goshen studio space. In all honesty, before my business venture, my professional life resembled a pinball game, as I bounced around racking up experiential points, but lacking a clear (career) path forward.

Following my graduation from Goshen College, I served in Montreal with Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) for a year, toured the country as a musician, worked in education with ENL students, was part of an artist community, before moving into marketing and communications with the University of Virginia. A generation or two ago, someone might backpack through Europe to “find themselves.” I did not take that route exactly, but in my process of doing so, I struggled with a couple of cultural notions that were becoming increasingly burdensome.

The first was that I needed to “pick a career.” This notion is embedded from an early age as we are asked what we want to be when we grow up all the way through school, college and “professional development” opportunities. While it is no longer very common for individuals to work at one job for their entire career, there are certainly strong remnants of the expectation that we as individuals have one thing we are supposed to do with our lives.

Another struggle that I had was a latent expectation that in order to properly live out my faith, I needed to find a vocation that was more overtly religious in nature. Simply stated, I needed to “work in the church.” While I my parents never explicitly instructed me to do so, their lifelong roles as church leaders provided plenty of inherent pressure. These two notions can be summarized as “finding my calling.” For many years, I yearned to know what it was, and found myself often wishing I was just good at one thing, and that one thing could provide the answer I was looking for.

Only recently have I learned about an alternative philosophy for people like myself, who enjoy doing many different kinds of things. I have reference this before. These special folks are called multipotentialites. Multipotentialites are defined as individuals with interest and capacity in many different areas or disciplines. They excel in idea synthesis (seeing and applying connections with different ideas), rapid learning (devouring a new topic or area of interest) and adaptability (being able to function effectively in a variety of circumstances). These characteristics have become crucial in my ability to effectively wear the many hats needed when running a business as a sole proprietor.

Secondly, I have come to terms that there are many ways and methods to live out your faith in a career and outside of your day job. Additionally, as I had bounced around from job to job for several years, there was work going on inside of me, helping me to understand who God created me to be and firmly establishing the divine nature that creativity plays in all of our lives.

The final piece fell into place when my family and I moved from Charlottesville, VA to Goshen, and I had the opportunity to more fully pursue the creative endeavors that for many years were a hobby, or secondary job skill I could list on a resume.

Unable to really find the kind of job I really wanted, and with plenty of encouragement of those nearest to me, I took the plunge and started R3 Design. All throughout my life and career were strong notions of working hard, always looking to grow, get better, push myself and try new things. As I embarked on this new journey, I had to embrace another common mantra: don’t be afraid to fail.

But more than the learning curve with setting up internal processes, time tracking, invoicing, taxes etc., I had to make some important decisions about how I wanted to run a business. It was all new, so I did plenty of research and looked to other designers and business people for best practices and finding success. The sources ranged wildly on their philosophies, each promising a different definition of success. Some emphasized the practical – how to obtain and keep clients, methods for billing, effective time management strategies and so forth. Others swept those items aside and focused on how to find meaning and be happy with what you are doing.

I confess that I tried out several different things and still occasionally question myself as to whether there might be a better way to do something. What has become clear to me, however, is that I am clearer in who I want to be as a business owner. I want to keep learning and growing, but I also want to be intentional in viewing clients as people, not as numbers, each with their own unique story to tell.

I love that the design field allows me to keep exploring many different worlds. In any given week, I might be working in the food sector, or cosmetics, or in the education field, or entertainment, or a church or other non-profit. I get to witness the work God is doing a variety of fields and in a variety of people. With each new project, I have an opportunity to work at character, embracing my convictions and gifts, and treating others not just how I would like to be treated, but as unique children of God, each with their own gifts and story to tell.

R3 Design Process

R3 Design Process

It was a great privilege to work with David and Carrie Lee Bland Kendall of Kendall Pictures to produce this video. Not only are they are fantastic at what they do, I am pleased to call them my friends. The music was written and produced by another friend, Nate Butler of Nimblewit Productions.


The world of graphic design seems limitless. There’s always room to explore, to play. But it also requires an eye for detail and craftsmanship. I love that the process is always different. Meeting people where they are with an idea and helping them refine a concept or discovering a new direction altogether is energizing. A lot of people think that design is about making something pretty. But it’s really about solving problems – communicating in the most effective way. Simple, functional, and beautiful. That’s what I work to do. That’s good design.

Life as Art

Life as Art

Editor’s note: The following entry is from a talk I recently gave at my high school alma mater.  I was both surprised an honored when I was asked to speak there, and while I may never know if my words meant much to the hundreds of faces staring back at me, I considered it a privilege to share some thoughts. It was also a timely opportunity for me, as I continue to wrestle with what it means to make my life my greatest artistic work.

It’s odd. It is odd coming back to a place that is familiar and yet so different. Bethany is different; I am different, but regardless, I consider it a privilege to be back here.

Let me introduce myself a bit. My name is Rafael Barahona, and I am the owner of R3 Design, a small business specializing in graphic design, logo design, print design and web design. I have a studio in downtown Goshen. Over the past decade though, I have been many things, and done many things. I have been a volunteer worker in a food bank, a touring musician, an ENL collaborator, a Spanish teacher, an office administrator, a communications specialist, a businessman and entrepreneur, a husband and father. Today, in addition to my roles at home, in the professional realm, I consider myself a “creative consultant.”

I have recently come across another label, though, which I am a pretty big fan of. I am a ¹”multipotentialite.” Any guesses as to what this means?

A multipotentialite is someone with interest and capacity in many different areas or disciplines. This is actually a very countercultural thing to be. Think about it; from the time we are barely able to write or even talk, (ages 3-5) adults begin asking, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The question is benign in its intention, kind of a conversation starter, but it is actually the beginnings of a continual reinforcement of a cultural paradigm. The question implies a single identity.

This is further enforced as we develop, as we choose colleges and majors, and ultimately careers. The cultural expectation that we all have one thing we are good at, one thing we should do, be passionate about, etc. Even in the church, we talk about our “calling.” Our one calling. Now this may be true for some, but I challenge the notion that every person has one destiny when it comes to what they do for a living. Perhaps I am living proof.

One things that I like about being a multipotentialite, is that I have a unique role to play in society, but more that that I have three “superpowers”:

– Idea synthesis (seeing and applying connections with different ideas)
– Rapid learning (devouring a new topic or area of interest)
– Adaptability (being able to function effectively in a variety of circumstances)

These traits have propelled me in the various directions I have seen my life take, but there are some common threads. I want to talk to you today about two specifically. Art and Faith.

At many different points I have been called and have identified myself as a artist. Ever since I was a kid, I always loved art.  Most kids do. I was pretty good at drawing and coloring, and my mom still has some of my scribblings and scrawlings buried away in storage.

But as I got older, I began to have an embattled relationship with this label. One reason, like a true multipotentialite, is because I had a lot of other interests. Another is because of societal expectations and perceptions. We have all heard the term “starving artist.” Where does this comes from? This is not exactly a positive idea or a very encouraging one. LIkewise, many are familiar with the notion that artists are scatterbrained or disorganized? Again, not very positive. ²”There is in fact a great segment of our society that is dismissive of the artist, that doesn’t see that as a legitimate career, forgetting that some of the most powerful and appreciated human experiences were born from art works.”

Being an artist can mean many different things but as an identity, I now ultimately find it limiting. I may not call myself an artist, but what is true however, is that I am creative. I have brought some measure of creativity to all of the different “jobs” I have had. I am a creative person. I believe this, other people have told me this, and for a long time, I thought is made me special.

This, however, is flawed logic. This does not make me special. Why? Because we ALL creative.

When it comes to creativity, there are some common notions and associations that are made with it.

  • traditional art (ink, paint, etc)
  • music and dancing
  • poetry and writingBut what about?
  • computer coding
  • athletics
  • engineering

I previously mentioned that I myself viewed creativity in different ways. In high school, here at Bethany, for some years I wanted to be an athlete. I expressed my creativity on the soccer field with a clever backheel, a quick shot or an unexpected through ball. In college, there was a birth of a musical journey that would last nearly a decade as I expressed my creativity in song writing and instrumentation. My own identity, and my faith, continue to shift as I have gotten older.

The Artisan Soul

We are all artists, in our own way. Or, stated another way, we are beings created with an artisan soul. Many people in our society, indeed, many of you in this room, never have thought about yourselves in this way. ²”The great divide is between those who understand that their very nature is that of an artist and those who remain unaware or in denial of the artisan soul.” But what does this mean? What does it mean to live a creative life or to have a “Artisan Soul?” This notion is explored in wonderful detail by author and mulitipotentialite Erwin McManus. At its most elemental,²”To create is to reflect the image of God.” More explicitly, though, I am not merely talking about paint on canvas or musical notes on a page. To live artfully is to live fully. Embedded in each choice we make, no matter how trivial, is a unique opportunity to be creative. A lot of our choices throughout the day are made through emotions, or logic, or habit, but the real fun decisions often have some imagination.

We also like to think that to be creative, we have to operate “outside the box.” Correct? I would venture to say that there is a huge amount of creativity that happens within the box. In fact, all art is expressed within a given, finite medium. The mediums we choose to express ourselves through are limited, and we ourselves are limited. We have our own perspectives, which are not all encompassing.

Let’s think about it in the some traditional artistic mediums. Painting: All of the colors that have been applied to a canvas are nuanced expressions of the three primary colors, red, blue, and yellow. Music: There are 12 notes on a chromatic scale – do, re, mi, fa, so la, ti and then do again, in a new octave. Poetry: There are a fixed amount of words in any given language. Cuisine: Our favorite restaurant may have a very limited ingredient list. ²”Yet, all of the greatest artists of human history created within these boundaries, but they found new or amazing ways to combine and rearrange these elements to give us something moving, beautiful and profound.”

These boundaries are actually a good thing. We, in fact, need these boundaries to make sense of our world and of ourselves. True creativity is not going outside of these boundaries, but in the ²”genius of unleashing untapped potential and unseen beauty within the constraints” of the chosen medium.

This is how Jesus lived. Jesus was not an artist per se, but think about all of the choices he made. He was unconventional. He chose to see things and act in ways that were hugely counter-cultural and still are. He talked to the people he wasn’t supposed to; sided with them, and allowed himself to be loved by sinners and judged by the so-called righteous. He had no limits on what was possible, and sure, as the Son of God, he was in a good place to operate that way. But he also inspired those around him to begin to operate in the same way. ²”The movement Jesus started was a movement of dreamers and visionaries, not a movement of academics and theologians.”

So, your turn: Think for a moment on the most profound or inspiring moments in your life. Were you alone? Did you share that moment with someone? Did you plan it? What made it so significant? Where was the creativity on that moment?

This is the important stuff! Life is not about getting a great job and having a family. Sure these thing are important, but our lives are meant to be about soul – the deep stuff, which happens to be where creativity resides. When we live creatively, soulfully, the rest then then falls into place.  Unfortunately, we live in a society that devalues soul. This has significant repercussions.

In his book, Care for the Soul, Thomas Moore identifies an important truth about our the soul. ³”When soul is neglected it doesn’t just go away; it appears symptomatically in obsessions, addictions, violence, and loss of meaning.” We see evidence of this everywhere we look.³”We yearn excessively for entertainment, power, intimacy, sexual fulfillment, and material things, and we think we can find these things if we discover the right relationship or job, the right church or therapy. But without soul, whatever we find will be unsatisfying, for what we truly long for is the soul in each of these areas. Lacking that soulfulness, we attempt to gather these alluring satisfactions to us in great masses, thinking apparently that quantity will make up for lack of quality.”

Darkness and Light

Many of the greatest pieces of art and music are full of soul. Sometimes it is exuberant, at other times, full of despair. To examine and truly love our soul demands some appreciation of its complexity. We cannot have highs without lows, light without dark. And in my life, and in your lives, I am sure you have been on both ends of those continuums. But when we choose to live creatively, from our souls, we live a life with inherent risk, but a life that is deeply rich. We cannot live fully and be surprised when we meet with failure.

Creativity lives in both ends of the spectrum. I think that most of us, and I will include myself, like, and want to live in the happier moments. We avoid pain, we avoid difficult conversations and seek a cure for our “emotional ailments.” We think that we can just get rid of our sadness, or our depression, our anger and some of our uglier traits. But what if we can’t? Moore speaks of care and not cures, stating that, ³”a major difference between care and cure is that cure implies the end of trouble. If you are cured, you don’t worry about whatever was bothering you any longer. But care has a sense of ongoing attention. There is no end, conflicts may never be fully resolved. Your character will never change radically, although you may go through some interesting transformations. Awareness can change, of course, but problems may persist and never go away.”

Care ultimately contributes to a greater self-understanding. As we become increasingly self-aware, we consequently become more aware of all of our short-comings. There is a sweet irony in the notion that the healthier we become, the more clearly we see our imperfections and inadequacies. Well-being is not a journey toward perfection, but a journey toward wholeness. We are all familiar with the saying that life is not a destination but a journey. What a deep truth! It is a realization that the journey itself is what brings fulfillment and even joy.

Our Greatest Work of Art

The creative life is a journey where we are constantly interpreting our own stories. This in turn, tells the human story.  This is also the realm in which hope, redemption and love lie. The most powerful stories are the ones where people did not drown in despair, but overcame seemingly insurmountable circumstances or perhaps the ugliest parts of themselves, to find a way forward.  This cannot happen without creativity; without searching for alternative solutions.

The way forward is not for the faint of heart. We must be brave.  This is especially true in the realm of our lives as our greatest medium for artistic expression.  The bigger the dream, the greater the risk.  The more we create, the more we become aware of our limitations. ²”Great art transcends boundaries and travels in the infinite space of the human soul.” Think about the blind pianist, or the the paraplegic painter. These are people who did not see an end or a limitation. Their story is powerful not because they make merely art, but because they chose to live in a way outside convention. They made a choice to go beyond what most would expect from them, and perhaps what they initially expected from themselves.

Some of the most powerful works of art are at the intersection of contrasts. Where there is hope in the midst of pain, forgiveness in the midst of betrayal, courage in the midst of the unknown.  To turn our lives into masterpieces is to know both pain and healing, despair and hope, darkness and light. Our most powerful work comes when we reveal beauty in the midst of tragedy. When we value the boundaries and limits we create within, we are living in a way that truly reflects the divine. Our earth, creation, is a prime example. This medium   ²”does not limit God’s creativity but rather celebrates it.” God in his infinite power and imagination, made our planet, made us from from finite materials. “We are only human. We have all heard this somewhat disparaging evaluation of ourselves, but we are simultaneously God’s chosen medium for his most important work. We who are made of the dust of the earth have the capacity to carry out the most powerful acts of love.”

I spent many many years trying to figure out who I was, and truthfully, I think we are always doing that a little bit, though I am much more confident in who God created me to be and what I have to offer the world. What I do know, is that I want to live my life in a way that reflects creativity. Yes, in my profession, but more importantly in how I choose to interact with others, in who I am as a husband and a father, and a child of God.

It is not easy: as we grow older creativity is often replaced with conformity, originality with standardization. Some of you know what you want to do for the rest of your life; some of you have no idea. Some of you think you do but you really don’t. All of these are ok. We can all do many things and in fact you will likely try your hand at a few different disciplines and career tracks. I believe it to be the new normal. But regardless of whatever your job ends up being, there is a whole lot of room for you to each explore your deepest creative capacity. Your life – the choices you make, how you interact with the world around you – this, can be your greatest expression of the Ultimate Creator’s vision when he first breathed life into you.

So. Artists. Musicians. Biologists. Mathematicians. Farmers. Teachers. Ministers. Politicians. Multipotentialites. May you all find a way forward to craft your lives in ways that reflect the creative genius we are all made of.


1. Emilie Wapnick. “Why Some of us Don’t Have One True Calling.” YouTube video, 12:52. Published on May 26, 2015.

2. Edwin Raphael McManus, The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life into a Work of Art (New York: Harper Collins, 2011).

3. Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life (New York: Harper Collins, 1994).


LightBox Open House

LightBox Open House

LightBox is the name of our new studio.  It is a shared work space in downtown Goshen and home to R3 Design, as well designer Anne Berry and photographer Stuart Meade.  LightBox was named so because it is both a term used in photography and graphic design, but also because it describes our space so well.

It has been several months since we have acquired the space, and setting it up has been both a lot of fun and a lot of work.  Last week we had our first open house, which was a blast.  We piggybacked on the First Friday theme of Downtown Cruising and set up a photo booth.  Steady traffic brought faces new and old and we had a great time showing off our new digs and sharing stories.

See the full set of photos on our Facebook page.

New Studio Space

New Studio Space

Thank you LaunchPad! It has been quite a journey. When I started my business a few years ago, I did not imagine some of the scenarios I have found myself in over the past couple of years. Becoming part of the LaunchPad family helped in my professional evolution in many ways. A dedicated workspace, personal confidence, networking and new connections. I am thankful.

In the coming months, a longtime dream will become reality. Having a studio space was something I projected several years out, but this little town has been so darn conducive to adventuring and so supportive to entrepreneurship, that my plans accelerated much faster than I imagined. I haven’t been unhappy at LaunchPad. One the contrary, as I have mentioned, it has been great. But I wanted a space a little more permanent and personal, with the capacity to set up all my art supplies and not have to lug around a laptop. And oh those windows!!

I actually sort of stumbled into it. Some close friends and colleagues of mine, had recently opened their own little space, Kendall Studios, a few months earlier. I went over to congratulate them and in that visit, got to see the neighboring space. At the time, I wrote it off as way too big for me, and probably too expensive. But the itch started, so I began scratching.

I slowly started looking around downtown, exploring different possibilities, nooks and crannies, getting more and more of an idea of what I wanted (and didn’t want). I just kept coming back to that first treasure.

Then it hit me. I am already in a co-workspace situation, why not continue in those circumstances? What if I could find a couple of fine folks to join me? It didn’t hurt to find out, so I began shooting out emails and long story short, I am thrilled to be setting up shop with local photographer, Stuart Meade and fellow graphic designer Anne Berry.

I really like the idea of a co-working space, and I am not alone. According to recent article in Deskmag, there are a lot of benefits.

  • 62% said their standard of work had improved
  • 88% report an increase in self-confidence
  • 70% feel healthier than they did working in a traditional office
  • 71% report a boost in creativity since joining a coworking space

Check. Check. Check. Check.

Furthermore, “co-working allows for flexibility in both time and space, attracting people who do their own thing but also participate within a community.” My experience once again. So what ultimately what really made me pursue this is how great a space it is. It is fantastic, with great light, a great view and so open.

Topping it off is the opportunity to work with a former client, Julie Bergdall of Red Door Design. She came in and helped make our group’s zillion ideas cohesive, and of course give it her own special twist. The evidence it below.


The next month or two will no doubt feel eternal as we get the space set up. But everday I am thankful, and excited for what is to come!

Saturday Lettering Project

Saturday Lettering Project

A “good problem” to have is a lot of client work, but the flip side is I have seriously been neglecting this space!  As such, I want to share a fun little project I did just for fun.

This past weekend I had a little time to myself, as my wife was traveling and my kids were with their grandparents for an overnight. I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t responsible to anyone else but myself, and I have to admit, it was kind of strange, and kind of glorious.  I had plenty on my to-do list, but since these occasions are so rare, I just ran with the recurring thought that kept coming back to me.


Full disclosure: Lettering is newer to me, but I really love it, and there is inspiration everywhere! Here are a few pics of my process.

I was really liking how it was turning out, so I took it one step further, making a digital version and mock-up.

I MUST Create - Framed

More disclosure: I have begun contemplating a move to find some studio space downtown where I can have all my art supplies laid out and a more permanent set up with my computer.  If and when I do, this little piece with probably be the first one I hang. 🙂



Fantastic Free Font Friday: Leathery

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Leathery

Leathery is a very unique, handmade vintage font created by Ramandhani Nugraha. It is available as a bundle, with 3 different fonts with total 402 glyphs as well as a vector pack.


Leathery evokes a earthy feelings with its organic lines and subtle curvature.  This typeface would fit well paired with nature images, though it also works nicely within the grunge realm.  Its creator, in fact, claims motorcycle inspiration.


Vector Pack


The fonts featured on are their authors’ properties and at time of publishing are known to be free. Please take note of any pertinent readme files and license details available with downloads. If no license is indicated it is that information was not readily available.

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Arca Majora

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Arca Majora

I am personally a sucker for clean bold typefaces, and this week’s selection is no exception. Arca Majora is a sans serif typeface created by designer Alfredo Marco Pradil. It began as an uppercase latin alphabet drawing exercise, but its popularity lead to further development including punctuation, accents and additional language support.

Arca Majora

Like the previously featured Kilogram font, Arca Majora is high impact with its bold and geometric presentation. The font can be downloaded and used free of charge for both non-commercial and commercial work.

Arca Majora Glyphs


The fonts featured on are their authors’ properties and at time of publishing are known to be free. Please take note of any pertinent readme files and license details available with downloads. If no license is indicated it is that information was not readily available.

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Kilogram

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Kilogram

Kilogram is a fantastic font that has been around for awhile, created in 2009 by Norwegian designer Karl Martin Sætren of Kalle Graphics. This font was actually based on a font called Anagram by Nick Curtis.  While recently working on a project that needed a bold typeface as a display font, I was also looking for something that had some personality. This is a great font for that sort of application.

Kilogram font at work
Kilogram - Glyphs

Kilogram is very bold and impacting, making it perfect for headlines. Altering a few glyphs would also make for a memorable typographic logo. The font can be downloaded and used free of charge for both non-commercial and commercial work.


The fonts featured on are their authors’ properties and at time of publishing are known to be free. Please take note of any pertinent readme files and license details available with downloads. If no license is indicated it is that information was not readily available.

Design 101: The Basic Languages of the Web

Design 101: The Basic Languages of the Web


The interwebs. How did we ever live in a world without email, blogs, YouTube, Skype, Amazon, Facebook and Netflix? It is astonishing to think that all of these types of services have come into existence in less than a handful of decades. So, how old exactly is the internet? Well, there is not a simple answer, though one could say that it started with electronic computers in the 1950s as several computer science lab in the US, UK and France began with initial concepts of packet networking. In the late 1980s, commercial Internet service providers (ISPs) emerged and spread very quickly. Since the mid-1990s, the Internet has been nothing short of revolutionary, and and the rest is (very recent) history.

The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to link several billion devices worldwide. This miracle of the modern age is made up of a series of programming languages that work in concert to create the world wide web. We will look at several of the main languages (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP and SQL), though there are certainly more that are commonly used.  These languages, or code, are what make web pages look a certain way, and give them certain functionality. Your then browser translates this code (referred to as rendering) into something we can see and interact with on our screens.

HTML – HyperText Markup Language


While technically not a programming language, HTML provides the basic structure of sites, which is enhanced and modified by other languages (primarily CSS and JavaScript). HTML is at the core of every web page and is an essential skill for any aspiring web development professional.

HTML stands for HyperText Markup Language. A markup language is a set of markup tags that are used to identify content. Each HTML tag describes different document content.

Example of HTML Code
<!DOCTYPE html>
 <h1>This is a Heading</h1>
 <p>This is a paragraph.</p>

CSS – Cascading Style Sheets


First unleashed in 1998, CSS was the answer to a lot of the design problems of the early web. Historically, basic styling was achieved with HTML, but making and any changes were very labor intensive, and as websites became increasingly complex, a new method of applying styles was born. Enter CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). By separating the way a site looked from the site’s content, designers finally had a way to make websites look how they wanted. CSS defines and displays HTML elements. It is used to control presentation, formatting, and layout, including colors, fonts and background images.

HTML is basic structure (bones) while CSS is what gives your entire website its style (skin).  Because CSS is what gives each website a look and feel, it is extremely powerful. This is illustrated very effectively at, where all HTML content remains the same, but different CSS styles are applied for dramatically different results.

CSS can be applied inline (within HTML documents) though it is much more common to have an external stylesheet.  This file is called in by HTML documents  A sepearately editable stylesheet is a huge time saver when making site-wide cosmetic changes. CSS is also what allows websites to adapt to different screen sizes and device types, which has become increasingly vital in the last few years.

Example of CSS Code
body {
    background-color: #004477;
h1 {
    color: #00263E;
    margin-left: 20px;



JavaScript is a newer programming language, released in beta in 1995, and is much more complicated than HTML or CSS. Since then, it has become the world’s most popular programming language, and is used on not only on the web, but also individual computers, servers, laptops, tablets and smart phones. JavaScript is supported by all modern web browsers.

JavaScript is basically used to control the behavior of different elements, allowing web developers to design more interactive sites. It essentially augments a browser’s default controls and behaviors. JavaScript can be used to make animations, create games, APIs, and scrolling abilities among other things. Its use is quite varied, and some great examples can be seen at Creative Bloq.

Example of JavaScript Code (Animates a document background color)
<script language= "javascript">
setTimeout("document.bgColor='white'", 1000) 
setTimeout("document.bgColor='lightpink'", 1500) 
setTimeout("document.bgColor = 'pink'", 2000) 
setTimeout("document.bgColor = 'deeppink'", 2500) 
setTimeout("document.bgColor = 'red'", 3000) 
setTimeout("document.bgColor = 'tomato'", 3500) 
setTimeout("document.bgColor = 'darkred'", 4000)



PHP is a recursive acronym which stands for Hypertext Preprocessor) and is a widely-used open source general-purpose scripting language that is especially suited for web development as it can be embedded into HTML.

PHP is different from client-side JavaScript in that the code is executed on the server, generating HTML which is then sent to the client. The results of said script would be received, but the underlying code would not be known. This is helpful for security reasons, or if you just want to be sneaky. While it looks very daunting, PHP is actually fairly simple for newcomers, but offers many advanced features. Like any language, practice is crucial.

Example of PHP Code (Generates a PDF document)
$fontsize = 72;     // 1 inch high letters
$page_height = 612// 8.5 inch high page
$page_width = 792;  // 11 inch wide page

if (strlen(trim($_GET['message']))) {
    $message = trim($_GET['message']);
else {
    $message = 'Generate a PDF!';

$pdf = pdf_new();
pdf_open_file($pdf, '');

pdf_begin_page($pdf, $page_width, $page_height);

$font = pdf_findfont($pdf, "Helvetica""winansi"0);
pdf_setfont($pdf, $font, $fontsize);

pdf_show_boxed($pdf, $message, 0($page_height-$fontsize)/2,$page_width, $fontsize, 'center');


$pdf_doc = pdf_get_buffer($pdf);

header('Content-Type: application/pdf');
header('Content-Length: ' . strlen($pdf_doc));
print $pdf_doc;



SQL (Structured Query Language) or sometimes called mySQL was also born out of a need to have more complex functions online. SQL is a special-purpose language for managing data in relational database management systems. It is most commonly used for its “Query” function. In other words, it allows an individual to access and manipulate databases. This includes but is not limited to:

  • Executing queries against a database
  • Retrieving data from a database
  • Inserting records in a database
  • Updating records in a database
  • Deleting records from a database
Example of SQL Code (Creating a Database)
mysql> CREATE DATABASE MyDatabase;
Query OK, 1 row affected (0.06 sec)

mysql> Show Databases;
| Database   |
| info       |
| java2s     |
| mydatabase |
| mysql      |
| t          |
| test       |
| ttt        |
7 rows in set (0.00 sec)


Show Databases;


While it is not mandatory, or realistic for that matter, for designers to work online to be fully fluent in all these languages, it certainly is very helpful to at least be conversant in some of them. There will always be room for programming specialists as a very few rare individuals might have the capacity to be fully fluent in more than a few programming languages. As the web continues to grow and evolve, no doubt that there may be some consolidation and splintering of these languages, with new ones to emerge and some to disappear. Most designers, web and graphic alike, would rather do what they are described as doing—Design.

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Urban Elegance

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Urban Elegance

There are many great looking contemporary light weight fonts out there that feature clean, classy lines. This week’s font puts a nice twist on this approach while maintaining an elegant look.  It is aptly named “Urban Elegance.” This typeface was created by Tipografia Leone, a print shop in Florence, Italy.


As seen in the glyphs above, Urban Elegance is straightforward but friendlier than some other modern looking typefaces. This font would could work for copy, but would be better suited for headlines or even as a typeface for a contemporary logo.

I love city life


The fonts featured on are their authors’ properties and at time of publishing are known to be free. Please take note of any pertinent readme files and license details available with downloads. If no license is indicated it is that information was not readily available.

Design 101: Color

Design 101: Color

Deep breath. This is a HUGE topic and cannot be effectively covered in a single post, but I want to touch on the basics to get a handle on how color is used in design.  You have likely heard some catchphrases or are familiar with some basic concepts — warm and cool colors, tints vs. shades and so on — but let’s scratch a little deeper than the surface.

Color Relationships

Color shapes are based on the color wheel and looks at how different colors interact with others on the wheel.  There are four main color relationships that are often referred to, though there are certainly more, including split-complementary and tetradic among others.  The main ones are outlined below:

  • Monochromatic
    Monochromatic color schemes are derived from a single base hue and are extended using its shades, tones and tints. Tints are achieved by adding white, shades by adding black, and tones by adding gray.
  • Analogous
    Analogous color schemes use colors that are next to each other on the color wheel, with one being the dominant color, which tends to be a primary or secondary color, and two on either side complementing (which tend to be tertiary).
  • Complementary
    Complementary colors are colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel. When combined, they produce black, or if colored light (rather than pigment) is used, they produce white. When placed next to each other, they create the strongest contrast for those particular two colors.
  • Triadic
    A triadic color scheme uses colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. The easiest way to place them on the wheel is by using a triangle of equal sides. Triadic color schemes tend to be quite vibrant, even when using pale or unsaturated versions of hues, offers a higher degree of contrast while at the same time retains the color harmony.

Hues, Tints, Shades and Tones

Do you know the difference between a hue and a color?  Trick question; a hue is any color on the color wheel. Hues are the starting point for tints, shades and tones. As referenced earlier in the monochromatic color scheme, a hue can be altered by adding black, white or gray to it. Note that this does not include mixing two colors together. Not surprisingly, tints and shades affect the “mood” of the color. Tones, meanwhile, are slightly more complex, subtle and sophisticated.

  • Tints: Sometimes referred to as a pastel, tints are any color with white added.
  • Shades: A shade is any color with black added.
  • Tones: A tone is created by adding both black and white (a.k.a. gray).

Warm and Cool Colors

The distinction between “warm” and “cool” colors has been important for centuries. It is no longer commonly referenced in modern color science, but is still frequently used in practices today.

Historically, it is related to the observed contrast in landscape light, between the “warm” colors associated with daylight or sunset and the “cool” colors associated with a gray or overcast day. Warm colors are generally known to be hues from red through yellow, while cool colors are often known to be the hues from blue green through blue violet. White, black and gray are considered to be neutral, though grays are sometimes included as cool colors.

In paintings or photographs, warm colors are said to appear more active, while cool colors tend to recede.  Within the field of interior design, warm colors tend to elicit feelings of activity or liveliness, while cool colors have a more calming and relaxing response.


  • Warm colors are vivid and energetic, and tend to advance in space.
  • Cool colors give an impression of calm, and create a soothing impression.

Psychology of Color

I will begin by stating that in the design world, colors are extremely important, yet they are simultaneously often overstated.  What of this paradox? The problem lies in the fact that people want to apply universal truths to areas where they fundamentally do not belong.  There are certainly commonly accepted notions of how color affects mood, but color is too dependent on personal experiences to be universally translated to specific feelings. In other words, you can’t truthfully state that blue means sad.

Here are some examples of overstatements that should be digested carefully:

Green is the color of nature. It symbolizes growth, harmony, freshness, and fertility. Green has strong emotional correspondence with safety. Green has great healing power. It is the most restful color for the human eye; it can improve vision. Green suggests stability and endurance. Green is directly related to nature, so you can use it to promote “green” products.
Blue is the color of the sky and sea. It is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom,confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven. Blue is considered beneficial to the mind and body. It slows human metabolism and produces a calming effect. Blue is strongly associated with tranquility and calmness. In heraldry, blue is used to symbolize piety and sincerity.

There are elements there that do hold water, though any given individual may wrinkle an eyebrow if the statements are assumed as absolute truths.  While color is often oversold, it cannot be denied that color affects our moods and perceptions. There is in fact, a mountain of well-documented research on how color is perceived and how we as humans react to it. Our brains are extremely responsive to visual stimuli, with color being a major factor in how we respond to that stimuli. Both consciously and sub consciously, we take some meaning from color.

This may seem like a contradiction, but put simply, color theory is just that, theory.  There are deep truths but there are hardly absolutes.  Designers should keep color psychology in mind to help make their designs resonate, but use it with a grain of salt.


Color is important. It is not everything. Color is complex. Color is also just fun.  In design, there is a whole lot of room to play and experiment with color. In general, the goal should be achieving color harmony; that is, something that is pleasing to the eye. Color can be used to engage the viewer and create an inner sense of order and balance in the visual experience and can figuratively breathe life into a design, but it is worth remembering too, that 1 in 12 people are color blind, and good design can still be achieved in color’s absence.

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Euphoria Script

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Euphoria Script

It snowed last night.  I was listening to Christmas music pretty much all day.  The seasons are changing and I am getting into the holiday spirit.  It may be a touch early, but I am I have no problems with it, and thought it might be nice to feature a festive script that fits the Holiday Season.

Euphoria Script is an informal script type created by Sabrina Lopez of Typesenses, a types & crafts is a foundry created in 2009. The typeface began with letterform sketches made by hand with a copperplate nib, which were redrawn digitally with the stroke endings of a brush script. This makes the type seem playful, which is important in casual scripts. It has very fast curves, thanks to the slight slant angle, but it remains highly legible.

I love this font because it just feels so celebratory. It works fantastically for titles and short phrases and would be an excellent typeface for content about food, fashion, music or anything which is animated, cheerful or refreshing.

Euphoria Script Sample




The fonts featured on are their authors’ properties and at time of publishing are known to be free. Please take note of any pertinent readme files and license details available with downloads. If no license is indicated it is that information was not readily available.

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Atreyu

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Atreyu

Just in time for halloween, we have a nicely versatile font perfect for a spooky-classy presentation. Atreyu is a contemporary textura blackletter inspired from Gothic Illuminated Manuscripts of 14th century Germany.  Atreyu was designed by Greg Eckler, a graphic designer, illustrator, and lettering artist living and working outside of Washington, DC.  He is also a professor of graphic design at The Art Institute of Washington.

Happy Halloween


Atreyu is quite versatile, and in the words of its creator, “nothing can say Heavy Metal to Happy Holidays like a good old fashion blackletter.” Once again, although it is a free font, donations are always welcome.



The fonts featured on are their authors’ properties and at time of publishing are known to be free. Please take note of any pertinent readme files and license details available with downloads. If no license is indicated it is that information was not readily available.

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Universum

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Universum

One of the fun aspects of typography is that it allows you to just play. This week’s font is one that is definitely fun to play with. Universum, was also created through play. This free font was created by Prague-based graphic designer JAF 34, who wanted to create his own typeface based around the circle and variations on it.

Universum - Glyphs

Universum would be great for posters or other print design; and comes in both OpenType and TrueType versions. It is a free font, though donations are always welcome.

Universum - Samples


The fonts featured on are their authors’ properties and at time of publishing are known to be free. Please take note of any pertinent readme files and license details available with downloads. If no license is indicated it is that information was not readily available.

Design 101: Image File Types

Design 101: Image File Types

You’ve all seen them at one point or another, JPG, PNG, BMP, GIF, etc.  But do you know what those file extensions mean or what they are used for?  What about EPS, PSD, or AI files? Unless you are a web or print professional, it is likely you are not familiar with all of them or don’t know the differences between them. There are many more file types out there, and you might have a general idea about them, but we will examine 10 of the most common.

Vector vs. Raster

Let’s begin but examining a crucial differentiation in file types. Images can be put into two basic categories, vector and raster. The basic difference between these two file types are that vector graphics are easily scalable, while raster images are not. Vector graphics are composed of points and lines (or paths). Raster graphics, meanwhile, are composed of pixels (or individual dots). This becomes most clear to individuals when they attempt to enlarge a raster image and it becomes “pixelated.” In other words, distorted or blurry. Vector images use proportional formulas (aka math) to determine shapes at any size. This is the basic reason why vector images are used for logos, or in print design. Raster images are also commonly used in print, they are just high resolution.
Vector vs. Raster


I must also mention resolution. Resolution translates to how detailed your image is. This is determined by DPI or PPI (dots per inch / pixels per inch) and basically refers to the density of an image. This most immediately comes into play when deciding whether you need a web or print design. Websites display images at 72 DPI, while print images are commonly at least 300 DPI.
Dots per Inch


This topic deserves its own post as there is a whole lot to say about it, but for our purposes here, I will just give a basic overview. In very general terms, RGB (red, green, blue) is best for the web, and CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) is best for print. Both of these color modes have a limited gamut (a complete range or scope of something), and conversions can be tricky. Why? Well, RGB is “additive” while CMYK is “subtractive.” What does that mean? Additive color mixing begins with black and ends with white; as more color is added, the result is lighter and tends to white. Subtractive color mixing means that one begins with white and ends with black; as one adds color, the result gets darker and tends to black. Computer monitors emit color as RGB light while inked paper will absorb or reflect specific wavelengths.
You know have a basic understanding of image types and some of their properties, so let’s look at the specific file extensions, and when is the best time to use them.

1. BMP


BitmapWhile this is indeed a filetype, bitmaps are also used interchangeably to refer to raster images altogether. Bitmaps are defined as a mesh of pixels. Each pixel contains  a color value. Bitmaps can contain a lot of detail, but in general are very large files and thus are not used very commonly.

2. JPEG (or JPG)

Joint Photographic Experts Group

JPGBy far the most common image file type is the JPG (or JPEG). A JPG is a raster image and the quality of the image will decrease as the file size decreases. JPGs are most commonly used on the web, but are also used in Word documents and you will also find them in your phone’s camera every time you snap a picture.

3. PNG

Portable Network Graphics

PNGAnother increasingly common file type is the PNG. These files are also better for the web than they are for print. What makes PNG special is that they can have a broad color spectrum and have a transparent background. If you have a logo or image that is white, or if you don’t want a white box around your logo, this becomes really important.

4. GIF

Graphics Interchange Format

GIFA GIF (Pronounced “jif” according to its founder) is known for being animated, though they certainly are not always. GIFs can are made up of 256 colors in the RGB color mode. File sizes are often smaller as this file type uses a limited number of colors. GIFs can also have transparent backgrounds.


Tagged Image File Format

TIFFA TIFF is a raster file that has vector-like properties.  That is, it doesn’t lose quality when it’s resized.  However, these file types are usually very large and are not suitable for the web as they will take a very long time to load. They are more commonly used when saving photographs for print.

6. SVG

Scalable Vector Graphics

SVGAn SVG is an XML-based vector image format with support for interactivity and animation. The SVG specification is an open standard developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) since 1999. SVG images and their behaviors are defined in XML text files.

7. EPS

Encapsulated Postscript

EPSAn EPS is a vector format file most often used for print. Almost any kind of design software can create an EPS, most notably Adobe Illustrator, but other software programs, such as Quark and Corel Draw can also create and view EPS files.

8. AI

Adobe Illustrator Document

AIThe large majority of graphic designers use Adobe products to work with images. Adobe Illustrator is the flagship program to work with vector images and is used to create AI files. Adobe Illustrator can also create various other file types, such a EPS, PDF, and SVG files.

9. PSD

Photoshop Document

PSDTo be technical, a PSD is not just an image file type. PSDs are viewed using Adobe Photoshop, another hugely popular Adobe product. This type of file contains “layers” that make modifying the image much easier to handle. Photoshop generates raster files though it is possible to work with vector images within the program.  Users will not be able to view this file type without the program.

10. PDF

Portable Document Format

PDFTo be technical once again, a PDF is more of a document type than an image type, though it can be used view images, so I have included it here. PDFs are also an Adobe product, created with the goal of being a universally viewable file. In large part, this goal has been achieved. Many print shops can use PDFs for print projects (if they are high resolution). PDFs are considered to be an excellent file type for sharing graphics.


As you can see, there are many ways to display an image, and instances where it makes a lot of sense to favor one file type over the other.  Having a basic understanding not only of file types but also the concepts of vector and raster, as well as color modes will greatly help when working on a design project.

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Airbag

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Airbag

This week’s selection is a trendy font often associated with coffee shops and organic foods. Airbag is a slab-serif typeface perfect for headlines. This free version only has uppercase letters and numbers, but will definitely make an impact.

Airbag Sample

This font would be great for headlines in larger sizes. The dramatic impact is lost once scaled down.


The fonts featured on are their authors’ properties and at time of publishing are known to be free. Please take note of any pertinent readme files and license details available with downloads. If no license is indicated it is that information was not readily available.

Design 101: The Logo

Design 101: The Logo

The logo.  The starting point for so many start-ups, aspiring artists, and small businesses as they turn their attention to identity, branding and/or marketing.  This is in fact a good place for us to begin.  Many people use these terms interchangeably, and while there is certainly overlap, they are indeed all different. Well known designer Jacob Cass of Just Creative provides an excellent framework.

  • Logo: A logo identifies a business in its simplest form via the use of a mark or icon.
  • Identity: The visual aspects that form part of the overall brand.
  • Brand:  The perceived emotional corporate image as a whole.

These elements all define an organization and set the tone for the relationship with its clients or customers.

What makes for a good logo?

So to the topic at hand.  What makes for a good logo?  Does it have to be famous? Does it have to be clever? Does it have to be  visually stunning?  Well, a good logo can actually be all or none of these things. There are several elements though that really help define an effective logo. Let’s break them down.

The Elements

An effective logo is:

  • Simple
  • Memorable
  • Timeless
  • Versatile
  • Appropriate

Let’s look at these one by one in a little more detail.


Simple does not mean boring. Simplicity is such a beautiful thing.  Think about your logo as your introduction — “Hello, my name is…” Most people don’t try and cram in their personal history and interests into the first words the utter when they meet someone. A great logo delivers all the meaning it intends to almost immediately. Don’t make your audience guess. When it comes to logos, simplicity is also what helps make a logo memorable.

Simple. These famous logos are instantly recognizable, versatile, work great in monochrome.

Simple Logos


The Swoosh, the Golden Arches, the bitten fruit. While the massive size of these companies has helped enhance the reach, what remains true is that their logos stay with you.  Admittedly, there is also a bit of an enigmatic aspect about this, though creating a memorable logo is often thought out, well crafted, and relatable to the company.  Stay away from stock sites.  The logo elements there are often pretty generic.

Did you know that Apple’s logo makes use of the golden ratio?

Creation of the Apple Logo


We can look to the two largest soft drink companies in the world to contrast the approach to being timeless. The Coca-Cola logo was created by Frank Mason Robinson, in 1885 and has remained relatively unchanged since then. Meanwhile, the Pepsi logo has had no less than 5 typeface changes, an introduction of a new color (which also shifted throughout its history) and new mark, (which also changed over a 50 year period). The graphic below is admittedly an overstatement as Coca Cola has had some variations with its Coke logo. Nevertheless, carrying the distinctive cursive typeface for over 100 years speaks to the longevity of good design.

Two major soft drink companies have approached their logos quite differently over the last century.

Pepsi and Coca Cola Logos Through the Years


Size matters. When designing a logo, it is actually more advantageous to think small. It will be much easier to scale up than down. Perhaps start by thinking what your logo will look like on a business card as opposed to a times square billboard. The Puma logo is recognizable on a shirt sleeve.  Color is also crucially important here. If your logo has more than five colors, it might be time to think redesign.  Even that is a little high.  Most designers begin by designing in black and white before adding color into their design.   This allows one to focus on the concept and shape, rather than the subjective nature of color. Similarly, it is also advisable to avoid gradients or overly detailed illustrations. This helps ensure versatility when you need to use your logo in a newspaper or photocopy or rubber stamp or when it is embossed. One other consideration with color is cost.  When printing, the more colors used, the more expensive it will be for the business over the long term.

These are terribly complicated and difficult to scale down, or use in grayscale.




Have you ever seen hot pink power tools? A cartoon baby as a beer mascot?  There’s a reason these things don’t exist. Some associations are more obvious than others, and sometimes a juxtaposition can make a statement, but in general, it is not a good idea to pair elements that don’t really belong together, such as a jagged, gothic font with baby products.  Additionally, getting feedback is vitally important to avoid the nightmare of an “unfortunate logo.”

How did these get past the design stage?  Why didn’t anybody say something!



Final Thoughts

Great logos don’t just happen.  They are a result of hard work – a process that involves research, personalization, sketching, re-imagining and a lot of creativity. This is what makes a great logo priceless, and the reason why many people who opt for a quick or cheap route often feel unsatisfied. You get what they pay for.

So how much does a good logo cost? Designer David Airey sums up the design dilemma by noting that asking the question “How much for a logo?” is kind of like asking a real estate agent, “How much for a house?” There are plenty of websites out there where you can get a logo as little as $5! You can even get designers to bid on your project and you can choose the best one.  There are a lot of problems with this model, but think about it this way:

Your logo is often your first impression. Have it say something about who you are.  That is the point after all.

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Glamour

Fantastic Free Font Friday: Glamour

Like fashion? Like high-end? This week’s font is for you! Ironically, it is free! Glamour is a wonderful free font created by French graphic designer Hendrick Rolandez. The design includes a set of 24 fonts, from light to bold, with more than 200 unique characters for each font.

Glamour Sample

This font would be great for anything in the fashion world or high-end advertisements and marketing materials. Overlay taglines over high quality model shots for a professional and stunning presentation.

Glamour Sample


The fonts featured on are their authors’ properties and at time of publishing are known to be free. Please take note of any pertinent readme files and license details available with downloads. If no license is indicated it is that information was not readily available.

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