Week five of my identity development challenge is in the books. A month ago, I challenged myself to create three logos and brand identities for three fictitious companies occupying three different industries. Last week, I brainstormed and sketched my preliminary ideas. This week I brought the computer into the equation to refine my ideas.
When I was taught graphic design, my instructor was adamant in the need to first design in black and white. This was not because logos are often applied in black and white. It was because of colors’ immense impact on design. Color is a crutch. This mantra was drilled into my head. Effective color choices mask poor design and elevate mediocre designs.
For each company, I created a number of black and white concepts to present to my client or audience. I followed the advice of Bill Gardner, founder of LogoLounge. He recommends showing only the logo concepts for the initial presentation phase. He claims at this early stage there isn’t enough time to provide adequate solutions in context.
Designing a logo is a balancing act between packing as much meaning as possible into the mark and creating a simple design. Gardner’s firm aims to include three layers of meaning into every brand mark (or logo) concept it produces. David Airey, author of Logo Design Love, recommends that designers focus on a single defining feature. Symbolism and simplicity are the hallmarks of effective logos and the difference between a personalized logo and a stock logo.
The goal for designers is to create memorable brand marks. This is a worthy ambition, but in practice it needs to be adjusted. Even the most effective and compelling logos aren’t easily recalled. A recent Signs.com study found that only 16 percent of participants could recreate iconic logos like Starbucks, Burger King, and Target (Schonbrun, 2017).
Dr. Castel, an author of the study, doesn’t believe that the findings cheapen the importance of logos: ”It’s rare that you really need to recall something from memory. You simply recognize it, you see it on an item or a computer. You like it, you buy it.”
As designers, we need to aim for the logos that are easily recognizable, not necessarily reproducible.
The first concept I developed for my boutique brewery featured a Tricorn hat. It uses an early 19th century inspired font family. One version includes a classic banner component common in brewery logos. The last version below has the letter T wearing a tricorn hat, which creates a fun illusion of a stick figure in a tricorn hat.
The second concept is similar to the first but features a flagon rather than a tricorn hat. The final version below with the flagon replacing the letter O in Tricorn creates visual dynamism. It catches the eye by removing the letter and replacing it with a shape.
The third concept features a caricature inspired by late 18th century caricaturist John Kay. The caricature is simple and scalable. The man’s eyes aren’t shown to call more attention to the tricorn hat. The side profile and oval featured in the first two versions were common in 18th century caricatures and etchings. This concept features all three of the brand words from week three: tricorn, colonial and fun.
I came up with two concepts for my neighborhood florist. The first features a flower graphic and a friendly script font. The first two versions include roses and the final version has a tulip. It also incorporates a circle, which adds another layer of friendliness.
The second group of concepts have an additional layer of depth. The designs include a silhouette of a woman and a man staring at each other. Most of the versions have the couple included in a larger flower. This concept says budding romance, empathy and friendliness.
For my high-end men’s fashion label, I created three concepts. The first concept features a fedora and an elegant font. The fedora symbolizes class and style.
The second concept is a monogram letter N and a silhouette of a man. The N represents the word natty and the silhouette represents the word man. The mark displays the company name and attitude: style and a smidge cheeky.
The third concept features a bow tie and an elegant font. The bow tie symbolizes timeless style. The first two version feature a negative space letter N in the center of the bow tie. The second pair add the bow tie to the negative space created by the letter M in the word man.
This week was a challenge. As you can tell, I tweaked and made subtle changes ad nauseum to every concept I created. This tendency to refine prevented me from developing more concepts. It was also a struggle to remain focused on simplicity and a single feature.
Next week, the plan is to add color and display concepts in context. Check back soon to see the logos come to life.
Airey, D. (2015). Logo design love: A guide to creating iconic brand identites (2nd ed.) New Riders.
Gardner, B. (2018, December 12). Logo development: Identity development. [Video file] LinkedIn Learning. Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/learning/logo-development-identity-development/logo-design-the-awesome-power
Schonbrun, Z. (2017, November 17). Logo recall is not what you'd think. The New York Times.