I draw Triangles… the branding of Greater Portland


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About a year ago I had breakfast at the Bijou Cafe with B Scott Taylor and Susan Bladholm. The conversation about typography and marketing the Greater Portland region lead to my attendance of a Portland Barnstormer’s meeting about a month later at North. I presented my font Portland and discussed the identity/characteristics of the city for which it is named. At subsequent meetings the group discussed how to market the region with local business leaders, a inspiring conversation lead by Thom Walters and Jerry Ketel that concluded with the showing of a video presented by Andy Frasier of Sockeye Creative.

A short time later Jerry Ketel enlisted me to design the identity. My first sketches were plays off G and P – very direct “Global Brand Minimalism.” The result was a little uninspired. I was sharing my sketches with Jerry, telling him how unhappy I was with the G and P devs when we got to something else that I had been sketching. Triangles.

Pages of them. I had been exploring 45 degree angles and come across forms that were speaking to me.

I explained that I thought it was a stretch, but there was a particular grouping that suggested trees, mountains, cities and that groups of triangles relate to connectivity and community. He didn’t think it was a stretch. He thought that it illustrated the creative tension between the Portland business community and Portland’s creative culture.

I tuned it upside down and developed the main color pallet.

The type treatment wanted to be geometric. Something like Avenir or Gotham, but have more individuality. I ended up adapting Rockwell Light, removing the slabs and making it feel like a refined Avant Garde ultra light. It also wanted to be something that engaged the form, hence the nesting and white space that is demands.

The mark is now starting to be used, as you can see in the “Join Us” video that Sockeye Creative made.

In late summer we had a collaborator round up of sorts at Bladberry Farms to introduce the brand and discuss the future. It has been an amazing process thus far.

I feel the need to mention as many of the collaborators as I can think of: Susan Bladholm, Jerry Ketel, Thom Walters, Rebecca Armstrong and Jim Carey of North, Andy Frasier and Pete Metz of Sockeye, Frank Grady and Andy Askren of Grady Britton, Meridel, Ron, Lynette…


Portland Featured In Plazm #30


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Portland K

My unreleased font family called Portland is featured in Plazm 30. Seeing that the font isn’t finished, I had a momentary hesitation imagining it used in the raw state that it will appear. I have already made changes and am contemplating a few more big ones. That’s one of the things that makes it special though. It’s use at this stage of it’s evolution makes it a time capsule. I have been designing Portland for over 6 years now and it keeps evolving. I am contemplating releasing new versions constantly, like person it grows and evolves and is never quite the same – counter intuitive to font design conventions, I know… but I have never had much use for convention.

Porltand by Gus Nicklos

Portland: as of January 2011

The #30 release party also marks Plazm’s 20th year. If you are in the PacNW, you should drop by, they are always a blast. Hope to see you there. Details Below:


Plazm 20th Anniversary Party

Saturday, August 20
Main event 8:00pm-2:30am
$5–15 sliding scale

Woolly Mammoth Comes to Dinner
Dr. Amazon featuring members of Smegma
DJ Yeti
DJ Miracles Club

Video & film: Vanessa Renwick, Lena Munday, Adrian Freeman, Shana Moulton, Duncan Malashock, Nic Chancellor, Bruce Bickford, Hooliganship, Andrew Benson, Andrew Jeffrey Wright & Clare Rojas

Lots more ~ music, art, video, performance, Laura Fritz light & space installation, Jason Kinney custom photo booth.

+ Plazm #30 Magazine release

Beer by Fort George Brewery

Disjecta ~ 8371 N Interstate, Portland ~ MAX Yellow line to Kenton



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I found this coaster a few weeks ago. I’ve managed to hold on to it despite being used, abused and chewed on by my little dog. When I was a 17 year old design student attending SCAD in Savannah, GA I loved type and layout. It was the 90’s and height of the Raygun grunge design movement. I lived design. I was waffling about returning for my junior year in the south away from the northwest, my friends and band. At some point my professor, Amy Kern (really, that was her name) told me that I should leave school and intern at a hot agency or magazine. Right around the same time, I don’t remember exactly how, but I got ahold of PLAZM #16 (below) and found out they were based in Portland, Oregon, my home town. I thought, “maybe I could intern there.”

About a year later I found myself at a work station drawing clipping paths around 26 theater chair images for my first real project at PLAZM as an intern. It turned out that a neighbor and family friend of mine, Chris Maier was the department head for Graphic Design at Mt. Hood Community College. When I returned to Portland I decided to take classes at MHCC. I was opinionated, full of youthful idealism and vocal about my intentions. It also turned out that Josh Berger was a MHCC alumni. Chris suggested that I intern at PLAZM. A few months later I was clipping paths.

26 Annual Northwest Film & Video Festival Poster

26 Annual Northwest Film & Video Festival Poster. CMYK + Metallic Silver

It was an exciting time – Josh was coming into his own as a leader and creative thinker, Pete McCracken was rocking PLAZM fonts and Crack Press, Storm Tharp was fashion editor, John Raymond used an old Apple MacIntosh to write for/edit the magazine and Stanley Moss directed the strategy conversation.

My internship shifted into freelancing for PLAZM and started persuing a longtime interest of mine, designing my own fonts. One day Josh called me to design a proprietary font for a company that he wasn’t at liberty to disclose. I started the 6 face project with Pete McCracken leading the design direction at the 18th and NW Johnson location in late 2002. The client was Nike and the family became Victory.

Shortly after beginning the project, Pete left to spend some time with Matthew Carter and take a year-end vacation. I was initially intimidated to basically drive the project on my own, but after not too long I hit a stride. I spent hours printing out letters, making small tweaks and reprinting. I was immersed. I was self directing. I had the space to learn and grow. It was the best thing for me as a young designer. Not to say that I was doing this alone, Pete and I communicated via email a few times a week and Josh Berger gave me all of the mindful feedback that I asked for – often answering my questions with questions or directing me toward a process to discover the solution.

By the time Pete returned from vacation I was in rhythm. I had been reading and working – it all was making sense. We worked methodically for seven plus months. Nike loved the font so much that they expanded the scope from 6 fonts to a 20 font family. I learned how to extend and condense a glyph. It was a blast.

Victory - 20 font family

Every round of revision.

Victory Condednsed on an Air Max shoe box

Through PLAZM, I continued to design other fonts for Nike, Adidas & Starbucks, and worked on branding projects for Jantzen, Newsweek, Burgerville & Vinton Studios.

You can see more of the above selections and other great work at gusnicklos.com, plazm.com and plazmfonts.com.

Building “Keen”

“Keen” font family was designed collaboratively with Keen Footwear, North & Gus Nicklos Studio.

At it’s base level, Keen’s form is based off Trade Gothic, Knockout and Akzidenz Grotesque.

The team at North, which is Keen’s Agency of record, then chalked my designs.

Using two computers, 5 programs and over twenty steps per glyph, I revectorized the chalked letters.

An in progress shot of Keen 2 , a typeface that I am designing for Keen Footwear

I will add more commentary and imagery to this post when I get in use shots from Keen.

Prepare For Combat – The font family, that is.

Combat Family By Gus Nicklos for Herenow Creative. Client Nike Brand Design: Art Direction Jacob Wilkinson & Everett Vangsnes

Combat Font Family

In late 2010 the Combat Family was completed. The original scope of the project expanded and contracted and eventually we ended up with 14 faces. The following snapshots are to illustrate the family in use and were pulled from Nike.com.

The Letter K - 4 weights overlapping
The Letter S - 4 weights overlapping
The Letter R - 4 weights overlapping

The three above pictures are screen shots of the 4 weights overlapping or weight “rubric”. Upon examination you will see the directions of motion between light and black weights. It is not as simple as it looks and not as pretty in most font families. That is because its hard to do and not always even possible to have the overlaps nest inside each other. As the character gets heavier optics become more problematic to the integrity of it’s structure. These characters had to first look good on their own, work in context of the family, in various sizes and in context of the rubric.

Cardboard Castle

I was taking some bottles and cans out to my in-law’s garage for recycling when I saw a bunch of tall cardboard boxes to be discarded. In a creative burst I was downstairs with a box cutter, tape and markers starting to build a castle for my nieces and nephews. Two hours and a few beers later, my father-in-law, brother-in-law and I had created this very unique surprise for the kids. These moments are what fuel my creative fire and I hope to connect with that spark more often this year.