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Work / Graphic Design

How Print Liberation created the face of It’s Nice That

The It’s Nice That Smiley Face is now seven years old. It has been used as an avatar on social media, appeared on notebooks, laptops and tote bags – it has even been spray painted on a fence in Australia. Not many people know the origins of the logo that is an amalgamation of type and emoji, conceived before emojis were ever really a “thing.” Here, for the first time, Nick Paparone and Jamie Dillon, co-founders of Print Liberation share the story behind a smile that was commissioned for the first issue of the It’s Nice That magazine and found a new life beyond print…

How did you meet Will Hudson (founder of It’s Nice That)? What were your initial thoughts about It’s Nice That?

It’s a bit foggy… we had just set up our first studio in an old, gnarly factory building in Philly. The studio had a small, teal coloured, screen printing press in the middle of the room. Off to the side of the press was our desk – made out of a broken piece of drywall on sawhorses and covered in marker scribbles. Precariously stacked and covering all the windows were half opened boxes of t-shirts. We were working in a cave complete with wild animals (mostly mice) and cranking the music up to drown out sounds from the dominatrix studio on the floor above us. It was at some point during that time, we received an email from the folks at INT. Will and Alex were super enthusiastic and we were really excited about working with like minded people from overseas.

What was the brief that you were given?

I don’t think we knew what the term “brief” meant at the time. For agreements we usually just relied on a handshake, and a visceral code of ethics we’d learned from listening to Minor Threat albums on repeat. Brief was a term your grandpa used in place of “underwear.” 

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How did you develop and refine the logo? What was the process?

When the INT commission came along, Print Liberation was infatuated with notion the of Esperanto, which is an auxiliary language that was developed as an international medium of communication. Hence around that time we had been experimenting with doing mash-ups that used the Print Liberation typeface Oddface and the iconic graphic smiley face (pre-emoji). At some moment of typographical experimentation the “C” in “NICE” became a nose, birthing a literal “type face" of sorts. 

What do you think of the design now?

The combination of the smiley face with our signature type face Oddface has been a core element of Print Liberation, since our inception, and the Nice Face is probably the best example of this marriage. It’s nice how it can be a miniature favicon on a screen or sloppily spray painted on a wall and still maintain the original concept. 

What feedback do you get on the design?

One of our students said that the Nice Face is quintessential Print Liberation. Without knowing, they just assumed it was a Print Liberation, because of its form, function and sense of humour.

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