Micro-Trend: Filled-In Closed Counter Type

Late last year, as I was soaking up the final season of Insecure, a micro-trend came to my attention: filled-in closed counter type. Let’s back up…

My letterform terminology is too rusty for a can of Coke, but after a bit of Googling, I came across the term “closed counters”. This is the space that is entirely enclosed by a letterform.

Letterforms containing closed counters include uppercased A, B, D, O, P, Q, R, lowercased a, b, d, e, g, o, p, and q, and the numbers 0, 4, 6, 8, and 9. Writing or printing these letterforms is no harder than writing or printing letterforms without closed counters. But when letters are cut out, like on signage, closed counter letters pose a problem, because until sign-making substrates have the ability to float in thin air, how do you display the negative space of the closed counter?

I know this is confusing, so I’ve attached two examples that showcase what I’m referring to.

Notice the line strip that connects the “P”, “0”, and “9” closed counters? Example from SteelandOakLLCShop on Etsy. In the second example, the La Proa sign was cleverly designed to account for attaching closed connecters.

Most sign-makers opt for a thin connecter that holds the closed counter negative space in place. But an even easier solution is to stylistically fill in that hole. It creates a graphic effect that’s so novel, it’s used in other applications where it isn’t necessary. Enter: Insecure.

The show Insecure by Issa Rae is incredible. I won’t go into the character development, script, acting, fashion, or interior design (which are ALL cutting edge). It’s the graphic design that’s most recently caught my attention. Here are different screengrabs from the series that showcase typography with filled-in closed counters.

I’m unsure if this is a worldwide trend or more specific to just this show, or HBO, but it almost certainly evolved from the sign-maker solution of filling in closed counters. Here are other recent examples of filled-in closed counters that have caught my attention. Enjoy!

From left to right: Insecure Season 5, Episode 3; Insecure Season 5, Episode 5; Love Life Season 2 Episode 6; Art of Play Off the Wall Cards sold here [https://www.artofplay.com/collections/playing-cards/products/off-the-wall]; Saari Chocolate packaging design by Renan Vizzotto

Grids Galore!

This geometric graphic trend hasn’t been this popular since Harry met Sally (literally). Grid backgrounds are EVERYWHERE right now – websites, packaging design, you name it. I even use a grid in the new branding I created last November. In my opinion, this checkered renaissance was left in the wake of the aftermath of an 80’s design style’s recent revival. What is this style, you ask? 80’s babies – think: Saved by the Bell. The goofy colors and geometric shapes from our favorite 90’s classic teen show actually have a name – it’s called Memphis Style.

Saved By The Bell hangout “The Max”; Memphis Style Interiors; Memphis Style Pattern; Memphis Style Chair

The Memphis Group was an Italian architecture firm, famous for its postmodern furniture, carpets, lighting, and the like. The Milan-based group formed in 1980 as a conscious objection to modernism. Their style was clearly influenced by terrazzo (which I explain in a previous blog post), with similarities of haphazard shapes. But while terrazzo was more indicative of the imperfections of nature, Memphis Style was its bizarre, ephemeral cousin; born of asymmetrical triangles, circles, and bold primary colors. Not everyone was a raving fan.

According to Brand Strategist, Bertrand Pellegrin, Memphis Style can be best described as “a shotgun wedding between Bauhaus and Fisher-Price.” Another trend researcher describes its colors as “Sesame Street”. And Pee-wee’s Playhouse.

Pee Wee’s Playhouse

The Memphis Group disbanded in 1987, but they clearly left their mark. Saved by the Bell is my favorite example of Memphis Style in action; Pee-wee’s playhouse is another example. I’m unsure how the grid initially played into Memphis Style, but you can see it in almost every example I’ve posted – in the windows of The Max, as tilework beneath the kooky furniture, and in the background of the Memphis graphics. It makes sense; a checkered background provides some grounding And while the various, colorful shapes pair really nicely with the lightly screened grid background, both are strong enough to stand on their own. Here are a few modern examples of a grid background in action. Enjoy!

Grids in packaging design, photography, and bathroom tile



I don’t remember the approximate date, where I was, or what website I was on when I first heard of “terrazzo”. It’s not like the “where were you when you first heard of yoga pants” question. (Answer: At my cousin Leslie’s Vegas bachelorette party, circa 2010.) But if I had to guess, terrazzo first crept into my vocabulary about 18 months ago, and I was probably on a website like CB2. They were PROBABLY selling something like terrazzo coasters. And I was like, sweet! A pattern I’ve never heard of.

Planter from CB2 (Above), Wallpaper from West Elm, Shirt from Madewell

The origin of terrazzo is Italian –  it started as a cementitious floor and wall treatment. Tiny chips of color (such as marble, quartz, granite, and glass) were mixed with a binder, and then poured into a precast either on a floor or wall. Now, the word “terrazzo” often refers to the pattern, and not the cementitious floor and wall treatment. Little did I know, that pattern would slowly creep into every aspect of my design-fueled life over the next year and a half. And I relished in it.

It started slowly, with me noticing this multicolored, ununiform, chip-like pattern on interior design websites – tile, wallpaper, dishware, pillows, curtains… Then, it made its way into clothing. Finally, I began noticing it on labels. But on labels, it has taken on the form of a more curvy, macro cousin, that I like to call “the blobbies”.

Dram CBD Water, Mabel & Joy Packaging, Bana Coffee Packaging, Wiley Body Packaging

I like the blobbies, actually. When I was younger, daydreaming about the future, I only had shows like Zenon: Girl of the 21stCentury, to tell me what it would look like. I’ve always pictured dramatic, hard lines. Example: people cutting their bangs on a diagonal and wearing their hair in such a tight ponytail that it gives you perma-headache. There was also lots of red pleather (thanks, Britney) and shiny silver metallic. Who would have ever guessed it’d be full of inviting, soft colored, organically shaped blobbies instead?

Like an alien invasion, the blobbies have also taken over jewelry!

Earrings from Four Eyes Ceramics

When it comes to this latest design trend, I’ve definitely asked myself “why now”? This is all speculation, but I think it has something to do with what I mentioned before. For a lot of us 30-somethings and older, we’re finally living in “the future”, and these patterns remind us that the future isn’t as scary-looking as we once thought. When it comes to terrazzo, (which characteristics are more hard edges and chip-like than the blobbies), I think we needed this unorganized, chaotic pattern to remind us that if our lives are just that – unorganized and chaotic, they are also still beautiful.

(Is anyone else having a Saved By The Bell flashback?)

The Obsession

My blog isn’t a latin placeholder anymore! Time to pop the champagne.

Blair and Serena in The Hamptons

I don’t know when the obsession started, I just know when it culminated into the idea for this blog – about two years ago, I was on Season 2 of Gossip Girl for the fourth time, diligently studying the fashion of each and every episode, when I thought “what about the fashion says 2008 and not 2017?” Other than Serena’s hobo purses, most of what they wear would still be relevant today, almost a decade after the show was filmed.

That led me to think about the 2000’s. Society has a clear picture of the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, but what styles defined the 2000’s? I started reading up on it extensibly – my entire high school and college careers were in the 2000’s, so this should all come flooding back to me. I’ll explain my findings in a different post, but the excitement I had while looking up “2000’s trucker hats” was it – I must explore this obsession with trends. And blogging about it was the best solution I could think of.

The pinnacle of Art Deco.

In 2008, I was a Senior, enrolled in Iowa State University’s Graphic Design program. During my last semester, I was required to take a course in Graphic Design History. One of the assignments in this class was to read The Great Gatsby.

Once the entire class had read the book, we engaged in a classroom discussion on the icons in the book, and how each object had meaning. The light across the water wasn’t just a light – it was a beacon, calling out for Daisy to find her long lost lover.

We also dissected the 20’s – flapper style, and how it came to be. This was a turning point for me, in how I thought about everything. All elements that define our lives are a collage of the times – what we wear, where we live, what we eat. Also, how our interiors look, our hairstyles, how we take our coffee, where we vacation, what we’re named, how we name our kids – these “trends” are all influencers and are all brought on by influence, like scalloped potatoes – overlapping and being overlapped simultaneously, a mosh posh of influence. (We were about to eat Thanksgiving dinner when I first wrote this, hence the scalloped potatoes reference.)

Trends wouldn’t exist without Group Think, and that Group Think spreads like a disease (a happy disease, in most cases), often beginning on the coasts of the US and moving inward. And you can tell when you’re about to get infected. It might start with your favorite social media celebrity, pushing their new favorite makeup brand. Then slowly, your friends start talking about it, and before you know it, you’re ordering Glossier’s Boy Brow and penciling in your brows to get that fierce caterpillar look.

Throughout the life of this blog, I hope to explore everything related to trends (so, everything there is), not just for the sake of being trendy, but more like a grad student’s dissertation – understanding what they are, when they were prominent, how they were popular and why they became popular. And if you’re thinking, what does this have to do with designing food labels? My answer: everything. I’ll get to that at some point…

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