Vernacular • Case Study


Vernacular • Case Study

Each client is unique, and each design journey is incredibly special. Below, I take you with me on a local design journey that became the brand Vernacular.



Throughout your design career you work with some amazing, gifted people. Some are brilliant writers of copy, some are just masters of pushing pixels. The ones that click – are the ones that stick. Rissa and I had worked together for about three years, when I started out in 2000. We have been friends for around fourteen. She was – and still is – a spirited soul. A Marketer at heart, she writes and thinks in color. She has a passion for the unique and admires the brave. We clicked. She stuck. When Rissa had emailed me about meeting up for her newest endeavor – I was excited to hear about her manifested ambitions.

We met at a local coffee nook in Lincoln Square. A neighborhood with already so much character, it was only fitting. I arrived a little early – so of course I pulled out my phone and started swiping to look busy. God forbid I just sat and smiled at people – that would be too human.

She arrived – and I smiled. It’s always good to be in company of people who are going to explode with creative dialogue – so much so that it’s bleeding from their eyes. After the standard “how are you’s,” she presented a book of her creative clippings. Unique fonts and letters, vintage photos, quotes from the legendary Katharine Hepburn: “If you always do what interests you, at least one person is pleased.” Clearly - she had done her homework. She had translated her desires, passions and feelings into a visual page turner. The gears of inspiration started spinning and Rissa started talking. I was invested in the moment.


The Common Language

Birthing The Words

Rissa presented me with the name Vernacular – meaning “the common language.” She said it was most fitting for what she wanted to do - “to bring local people and art together.” I agreed – the name was perfect.

My creative blood pressure was out of control – so I ran to the gym. My mind needed time to digest what it just experienced. My best work is born from the freedom of my thoughts – the marathon of images and ideas that constantly compete for a winning moment. It was there I started to form the manifesto. I was after this idea of communication – through words and art – to surface. I wanted to play off of the definition of the name – and form a single moment that would define her brand. It had to be cohesive, it had to be simple – it had to be clear with no moment left to be misunderstood. Writing is so much like painting to me – it needs to be worked, layer by layer in order for beauty to surface. That beauty came after hours of constant layering. With it, accompanied that visceral moment when your gut beams, telling you it's completed.

MANIFESTO: We are the language of local. A diverse space of making the invisible, visible. We cherish every bold designer, fabricator and creator of the beautiful and functional. We are a culmination of entrepreneurship artistry, in a space where opportunity becomes a legacy and a mark on this incredible world. Together we form this language – together we are Vernacular.

A voice was born, and the ingredients for the brand mark surfaced. Substance feeds substance.


Marking It

Letter Building

As with any client – design is, and must be, iterative. From circles to squares, serifs to stems – I ran after the elements that would compliment her new voice. We felt the brand itself would be best represented in the form of a unique, modified typeface that achieved this compliment. The visual “written voice” of Vernacular.


Instantly these letters became the “artists/fabricators” of Vernacular. They represent the people that form the community and become the language. It was important to me that each letter felt connected to the next – without touching – as they the artists do, on their own. The spacing needed to be even, showing this idea of a "balanced community of artists.” It needed harmony and passion – elegance (letter waistlines) and fearlessness (uppercased) the key attributes Rissa and I collaborated on.

The end result was a written mark that, we felt, told its truth. An honest skin of the brand it represents – and a voice worth listening to. With the support of its manifesto, it was at that moment Vernacular was born – and at that moment – the brand itself started to speak it’s language.