Usually when europeans think about Croatia, their first thought is “beautiful beaches, cheap country”. My first thought when I arrived was: OH MY GOD SO MANY TULIPS AND SUN! If you didn’t notice I love tulips, and the beginning of spring was the perfect season to visit Zagreb.
As soon as I was introduced to my new Airbnb home, I noticed that my host really wanted us to feel like we were in Croatia, because ALL the decorations were red and white (even the mugs were red and white like their flag). Definitely not complaining, the decoration was really lovely!
I told you so. And this is just the living room.
For this lettering, I wasn’t really inspired by the architecture as the previous ones, but by the colors. There’s A LOT of red and white in basically everything that is typically Croatian, besides the little flowers that are on everything.
Below is the red and white overdose:
And if you have never seen me, hi. This is me and my red and white popcorn.
If you don’t know the Croatian flag, this is the symbol that stays in the middle of it, in front of the colors red, blue and white (not exactly in this order).
Now the overdose of flowers:
St. Mark’s Church. I couldn’t see from the inside, but these details reminded me of the Hungarian architecture. If this is something typical from the Eastern Europe, I don’t know. But it is definitely beautiful!
If you look closer, you’ll notice the little hole inside those white squares are flowers.
More flowers inside the church.
Many different styles, but still flowers.
These beautiful tulips are EVERYWHERE.
Actually I found this at the Zagreb airport when going to my next country, and it is REALLY Croatian!
With that in mind, I also noticed some really medieval stuff, like a guy that engraves your name in copper and some typography which reminds this kind of tradition. I found these examples:
I really liked those two bottom examples, so I started sketching! After 12 sketches, I came up with this one, and I was absolutely sure that this was final.
But sometimes life gives you a punch in the stomach and tells you to start over again when your art is almost 100% vectorized (REALLY vectorized, not live-traced). And then I just decided to change some small details in the sketch that were really bothering me.
Don’t be afraid to go back to the sketch after everything is done. One thing that the sign-painter and friend Raphael Gibara told me once: “Don’t say your work is finished if you still don’t like it.” I didn’t like it, so I changed it (with a lot of frustration and tears, because I’m a human). And you know what? It was the best decision I made!
This was the REAL final sketch:
With that in mind, I vectorized the design and began to choose colors. As the red and white squared pattern is something really typical from the country, I put in my mind that the background was going to be squared red and white, even remembering something that the incredible Jessica Hische told me in a mentorship once: avoid complex patterns with high color contrast, try to use similar tones if you want the focus to stay on the lettering.
Did I hear the master? NO. But at least I learned that she was right. “But Isabella, the Croatian flag doesn’t look weird with the red/white pattern and doesn’t hurt the eyes”, and that my dear friend, is because they use a really thin gold line to break the contrast in a very subtle way. I tried to use the golden line too, but it didn’t work either.
These are a couple of options I made when I was trying to deal with that pattern:
It wasn’t working at all, but one thing I knew was that the lettering REALLY needed to have at least something to symbolize the pattern and the flowers. And of course, it had to be red, white and blue.
You know that “I don’t know what I’m doing, I just know I should do it” feeling? THAT feeling brought me the answer. When I decided to delete the pattern, maintain the flowers and merge them with the red/white pattern, I knew it was supposed to be the way. Never ignore that feeling (even if it comes with a Golden Retriever meme), if your intuition says to keep going.
As the background was way too light, I started to miss something, because the beginning of Spring made people act in such a happy and polite way everywhere we visited there. I felt like I wasn’t representing those amazing people. So I decided to add some flourishes and additional details, like the line inside the letters and the flourishes around the lettering too.
With all these in mind, this ended up being my favorite lettering thus far! And of course I shouldn’t finish this without thanking the best mentor and English student I have, who gave me a lot of feedback and listened to my frustrations when I was trying to choose the best colors without losing the lettering identity, Lygia Pires.
Here’s the final lettering: