Designing a personal logo, or a logo at all for that matter, is a bigger task than most people realize. In Spark Skill's Graphic Design summer camp class, we spend a whole day working together to perfect your design. You're designing the face of your business, something everyone that wants to work with you will see, something that people see before they meet and get to know you. Your logo is a big deal. The easiest way to tackle this daunting task is to break it down, but before that, it's important to know what a logo is.
A logo can be many things; stylized words (think Coca-Cola or Google) called a wordmark, an icon (like Apple's apple) or a combination of both (like Zappos). Spark Skill’s logo is a combination of a wordmark and an icon. These are different types of logos, but what is a logo really? A logo is a face for the brand it represents; it's a window into the ideology behind the company. But what makes a company’s logo good?
A good logo is simple. Graphic designers can create designs that use fancy tricks, awesome effects, and sneaky hidden messages, but a logo usually has none of these. A good logo is simple and straightforward. While being simple, a good logo is also easily recognizable and memorable. Would you know the McDonald's logo if you were shown just the top half of it? Most people would say yes. A good logo is easily recognizable big or small, black and white or color, and upside down or right side up. If your logo is going to be a wordmark, make sure it's legible. Spark Skill’s wordmark is excellent, it’s clear and legible at both a large and small size. Now that we've defined a good logo, let’s get down to business and design your logo.
Designing a logo can be broken down into five steps: Brainstorming, Researching, Sketching, Designing, and Reviewing. Place the majority of your energy at the beginning of the process, this will make designing much easier, and reviewing less redundant. Designing a logo is like solving a problem and your finished logo is the solution. Think about what you want to create; a wordmark, an icon, a web based brand, or a physical product. All of these are things you should consider before moving to Illustrator. Consider what kind of feelings you want to evoke from the people that see your logo as well as what impression you want to leave on them. If you're a food company, you most likely want to make people hungry. If you’re a graphic designer you most likely want people to understand that you make quality, polished content. Do you want to come off as relaxed and friendly, or trustworthy and reliable?
Once you know what you want to create, start researching.
When you start researching, look at other people's logos. If you have competition, look at their logos. What elements do they have that you could emulate and use for your own logo? If you are a videographer, look at other videographer's logos, and maybe think about what objects you use that you could use as elements in your logo. Maybe using a roll of film, a camera, or a clapboard in your logo can further show that you are a videographer when people see your logo. Spending time researching is critical to the final design of the logo. Spend a lot of time researching; really absorb ideas and concepts from as many sources as possible. Research is a key step in any design project, so research until you feel like you’re full to the brim with ideas.
Did you notice that I said ideas? That’s plural, as in more than one idea. Get your pens and paper, it’s time to sketch out your ideas on paper. Don’t limit yourself to one or two designs. Draw out a couple different ideas, play with them, change them, fuse them together or take parts from each one and make something entirely new. You’re only limited by how much ink and paper you have, so use it until you have a concept that you’re happy with. I like to use a couple pages of a notebook to draw out designs at different sizes. Sometimes your best idea doesn’t work when it’s really small, so you might want to head back to the drawing board and work with it some more.
It’s incredibly important to start on paper before you move into a digital environment; you have more freedom on paper to explore ideas quickly on paper. Something that takes you ten seconds on paper could become an hour long process of perfecting a rough idea in Illustrator that you might not end up using. Sketching is just as rough as your ideas, so don’t be afraid to explore concepts on paper. I like to leave myself notes reminding me to look back at parts of sketches for use later. The thickness of sketch #1 might look good on the design in sketch #5. I use notes to hasten my process so I’m not redrawing a thousand sketches, but keeping what I want and not duplicating what’s in my head when something similar is already on paper.
Now that some solid sketches are in your notebook, you can move to Illustrator to refine those concepts. While Illustrator is used in professional studios and at Spark Skill summer camps, it isn’t a requirement. If you prefer Corel Draw, or a free alternative like Inkscape, those work too. As long as you’re using a vector graphic program to create your logo. Photoshop, Gimp, Paint.net are all great programs, but they can only create raster images, images that are made of pixels. Illustrator (and other vector graphic programs) use vectors, mathematical equations that represent the lines and shapes created, to create infinitely scalable graphics. This means that you could use the same logo on the side of a building or on a business card without losing quality if you create a logo in Illustrator.
As you design your logo, you can choose to freehand create it by looking at your sketches, or you can scan in the images and trace them, the choice is yours. Ignore working with color for the time being; your logo should be recognizable in without your signature colors. Look at it in black on a white background, then look at it again colored white against a black background. If you’re satisfied with it then add some color. Ideas for color can come from anywhere. Some people choose their favorite color for the color of their logo, others choose the color of their birthstone, while some use color theory to evoke certain emotions when people look at their logo. As long as you choose a color (or colors) that are pleasing to the eye when used.
When you’re happy with your work in Illustrator, it’s time to review what you’ve made. It’s sometimes helpful to find mockups (Photoshop files that contain models of print and digital mediums) online to superimpose your logo so you know what it would look like on a tshirt, business card, billboard, etc. Does it scale well? If it looks undistorted when it’s very large and very small then yes, it does scale well. Good job, you’ve passed the first part of the review. The next step is to test your logo’s recognizability. Show your logo to friends, family and acquaintances. Ask them what they think. Maybe your colors need to be changed; if they can’t tell what your logo is (ie. they don’t see what you see) then you might need to change things around. We all agree that the McDonald’s golden arches look like an M. With the feedback you get, you can either choose to accept the feedback and make changes, or keep your logo as is; the choice is entirely up to you.
The end result of this long, and sometimes tiring, process is your personal logo. Nobody else has anything like it; it’s your brand to do with as you see fit. Maybe it’s time to put it on a business card, or maybe a tshirt. The possibilities are endless. Look forward to part two, where we discuss in detail the science behind designing your personal logo, such as color theory and color psychology, as well as some design principles.