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This chapter is from the book

Enclosures and Assemblages

Enclosures were mentioned in the previous two chapters, and they come up again here. Given that this is a book on type, why so much focus on not-purely-typographic creations like these? It’s because an enclosure can be to typography what a frame is to a work of art or what a stage is to an actor: an attractive partition against the rest of the world that acts as a venue for creative expression.

Often, enclosures are designed to unobtrusively frame the type they hold. Sometimes they’re allowed to contribute feelings of personality to similarly expressive type. And there are also cases where an enclosure is asked to do all of a design’s theme-setting work while wrapping around type that speaks in an impartial voice (a good example of this would be when a relatively neutral typeface like Helvetica is used within something like a starburst design filled with a lively pattern of bright colors).

The enclosures shown on this spread are basic and simple. None took much time to create, and none took much planning or forethought to figure out. But still, each of these enclosures bring conveyances of unity, purpose, style, and containment to the words they hold.

It goes without saying that not all typographic logos need to be enclosed by linework, ornamental decorations, or backdrop panels. But what’s it really going to take to find out if the logo you’re working on might be improved by additions like these? Thirty seconds? A minute? Five minutes? Worth a look, right? And what determines if an enclosure should stay or if it should go? Your art sense, your awareness of current trends in design, and, possibly, the approval (or lack thereof) of your client.

Simple enclosing strategies

Imagine removing the linework, ornamentation, and backdrop panel used to enclose these three logo designs (and while you’re at it, imagine the type in the lower example changing to black, since otherwise it would become invisible). Each logo would survive and work just fine as a purely typographic design, but each would be different, and each might also lose the very stylistic touch that sets it apart from competitors’ logos and makes it especially dear to the client.

Evaluating whether or not an enclosure is needed for a typographic logo is a task that must be handled on a case-by-case and client-by-client basis. And the criteria for evaluation will be different in each situation since it’s bound to be mostly governed by stylistic preferences, which, as we all know, changes within ourselves over time, just as it changes for our clients and our target audiences.

In addition to matters of style and personal preference, there may also be practical considerations that tip the scales either for or against adding an enclosure to a logo. For example, you may learn that a client’s logo will often appear within crowded small-space ads—in which case an enclosure might be a handy feature in providing a clear boundary between the logo’s type and any encroaching text or graphics.

Going further

Above is a fairly involved graphic assemblage—and something that not only stands a good chance of catching viewers’ attention, but also of providing them with pieces of information that are usually missing from less wordy logo designs.

The interior gradations of color within this logo, as well as its radiating pattern of exterior lines, give this design a glowing-from-within appearance and a warmly energetic demeanor. (The exterior lines, by the way, could be considered an optional feature of a design like this—a feature that could be included when there’s space for them, and left out when there’s not.)


Multiple appearances of circles in the design at top help it connect to a gumball theme (circles were also used to carve out the expressive ring of outward-gesturing shapes around the logo’s perimeter.) The design’s central type features oversized first and last letters that help the word conform to the shape of its own sub-enclosure, and the logo’s mixture of fonts generates feelings of earlier times when multi-font configurations were the rule of the day.

The lower sample features an illustrative enclosure that lends clear feelings of history and formality to whoever Charles Stanley is, and whatever his company does (not all logos reveal these details up front).

Purely typographic solutions

At top is an interesting variation of the enclosure theme. In this case, two lines of type are used to enclose—from above and below—another typographic element and two illustrated designs. The resulting assemblage holds together well as a composite visual.

The other example in this column is a purely typographic assemblage that also delivers itself in a compact and cohesive way. If desired, you could further emphasize the tight-fitting look of a logo like this by wrapping the entire design with a close-fitting backdrop panel.

Nothing but type: words wrapping around and crossing paths with other words.

You’ll likely need a company’s slogan, its address, or information about its product to build up a sufficient word count for a design like this. Consider your options and check with your client about some possibilities.

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