It has been quite a while since I wrote a post on our blog. There were several reasons. The primary reason was that we were updating our website design. It has been more than a year since we last updated our website and I felt that the current website design did not really lend well to where SpellBrand is currently positioned. Secondly, we had moved to Madison Avenue in New York from our Cleveland Office and this was a major milestone on our company history. Finally, we had though long and hard about our brand positioning and message and distilled the core values in a series of branding exercises. Perhaps I will write another post about that down the line and share with you the process of brand evaluation and clarity which I have called Brand Value Clarity Driver™.
Today, I wanted to run through the process of creating a logo design from scratch. There are many tutorials out there on how to create the actual design in Adobe Illustrator etc. In this post, I decided to focus on the thought process of the creation rather than the technical aspects of the design itself.
Creating a logo is as much an emotional journey as it is a technical one. A logo is not just a graphic. Like all good design, it does have some fundamental principles and a roadmap which would guide a designer come up with creative ideas. I wanted to go through some of these steps and explore them while talking about a recent logo design project that I worked on. I chose this project because I felt really connected to it and believe that it is particularly challenging to work on Charity/Non-Profit/Religious institutions.
Once you have read through a creative brief and clarified any questions you may have with the client, the first step would be work on a mind map. Mind maps are very useful to distill and clarify ideas. Each node of a mind map could potentially service as the message direction of a design. I usually start off with the company name in the center of the mind map. If the name is rather long, you can just go with the main keyword.
From the name, I draw out nodes that represent the major aspects of the company or as in this case, organization. Refuge American is a new church that was being established in American Canyon, CA in the Napa Valley. The corner stone of this church can be summed in one sentence:
So it was relatively easy to hone in on the main keywords which were “refuge”, “shelter”, “protection”, “sanctuary” etc. The client also gave us a couple of quotes from the Bible which we would serve as inspiration for the design. Here they are:
Psalm 91:4 says “He shall cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler.”
These two quotes literally gave us tons of ideas for the icons and imagery that we could create for the design. The word “fortress” caught my attention and coupled with the words “cover you with his feathers” delivered the design that was the final winner.
The next stage would be sketching. I can not emphasise enough the importance of sketching logos with pencil on paper. It is tempting to jump straight into Adobe Illustrator and starting building our the vector paths and shapes but putting pencil to paper can really help with the creative juices flowing. I find that software tends to distract me, especially at this stage of the process. Many of you do this already and I am sure you agree with me on this one.
I started sketching our some rough ideas for the various keywords that came out of the mind mapping session. There were several stages of doodles but here I show you final draft of sketches before I hit the machine.
Building The Design
After this, I scan the sketches into Adobe Illustrator and start building the vector paths and shapes. I am not going into how this is actually accomplished. There are some wonderful video tutorials by the great Von Glitschika or freely available on YouTube.
Sketching enables me to bring some emotion into the designs. When I sketch, it helps me envision the design end result in practical use. Logo designs by themselves serve no purpose. They are always used in context with some thing else, be it stationery, websites or marketing materials. So, a good logo is one which works in these contexts and carries with it the message, the target audience would connect with.
The actual build time of various design concepts varies but can take anywhere from 2 to 4 business days. I never work on the same project for more than a could of hours. I tend to get fatigued and find that I get mental blocks. So, after one or two designs, I open the next project and work on that and return back to the previous one later in the day. At SpellBrand, several designers work on each project. This is to ensure that a variety of logos are presented to the client and they can get the benefit of the different skills and experiences of the designers and their backgrounds.
Here are the original design ideas that we came up with for this client. Of course we present them to the client with full brand context and real world mock up examples. This enables the client to visualize these designs in the real world and makes it easy for them to pick and chose the right design.
Here is a screenshot of the final design in vector format:
Color Palette and Font Treatment
I usually prefer to show the logo concepts to the client in black and white. A logo that looks good in black and white would work well in color. In fact, in the past, designs were always created and presented in black and white and color only came in as the final stage after a design direction was selected.
When evaluating a logo design concept, it helps if a client is not distracted with colors. In fact, colors tend to change over time and prudent business owners actually use different colors creatively for different marketing campaigns. Clients usually call me for advice and consultation on color theory during any new marketing campaign and we work together establishing colors to match the campaign objectives.
Getting the right font treatment can be a very tricky thing. Certain fonts work well with certain industries. A font can also set the stage for the personality of the company. With literally hundreds of thousands of fonts out there, picking the right font should not be a random act. Great care and thought should be put into the selection. Most often designers would fire up their font app and randomly run through fonts and pick one that they think would fit well with the design. While this may be a good approach in certain situations, it can lead to random choices.
The best way is for the designer to spend time and effort getting to know typography and fonts. It should be part of the education of a good logo designer. When you understand the history of certain fonts and their families, you will be better able to make smart choices when it comes time to pick a font. For this project, I spent a good deal of time to think through the right font selection.
I hope you found this article useful and get a glimpse into how I create a logo design. It is not an extraordinary process but rather a logical one. If you have any questions about the process or our service, please do call me directly on (646) 568 5583 and we can discuss your project. You can also watch a short video of the art of logo design where you can see me sketching and designing a logo.