A great video from Aaron Draplin & LinkedIn Learning about logo design, and the necessary ideas and concepts research. Many tips given are also applicable to any creative process and Product Design and ideation.
The Design Logo Expert Video
Aaron is a character & a great communicant for sure, but before our own advice and tips, let’s focus on his way of working, starting from the ideation stage, do’s and don’ts applicable to many Product Design processes:
First the “hardware” 🙂
“the magic of a pencil, a paper and field notes”
- just pencil and paper at first! … to let any idea go through at least to some visual. Use software only after. And -like him- a software with good ergonomics for most frequent tasks and that you master good does worth every cent.
- a small paper notebook: you can keep ideas for later instead of never opening an old file stored somewhere. Not to say, if you have an idea or see something while traveling, or at home, you can add to it within seconds –> “field notes“
Logo Design Methodology
- before anything, write down what the customer wants to achieve or the message to convey (like in a design project, the product features)
- and then most important: try, try, (…) and try again and do not stop at the first you-think good idea:
- make another variant (smaller, bigger, thicker, simpler, rotated, with different curves, fonts, orientation…)
- place you in a situation or attitude where you surprise yourself / no boundaries here
- use inspirational material (books, literature, website …) giving you not finished solutions but basic ones; go to the root of the concepts listed above
- compare with others (previous tries, from the same sector, from different businesses, old or modern ..)
- see from far, rotate the page, invert the colors
- apply it to a real scenario, in context (paper letter, product, website, trucks, tee-shirt …)
- take customer view, take competitor view
- … and loop again until budget or time is over, but don’t be stopped by that if not satisfied. Nobody will thank you for s…t that met the budget
- come together to a conclusion/choice (from our experience, this is the only step where you should restrict the choice to a few proposals in order to keep the focus and not disperse opinions)
- a couple of proposals
- together with why the designer came there & what is the thought behind
Aaron recommends Trademarks and Symbols, from Yasaburo Kuwayama, in 1973, two Black and White content books:
- Volume 1: Alphabetical Designs
- Volume 2: Symbolical Designs
(English or Japanese; hard to find under $70 each; two more volumes depending on the exact edition; were also republished by Rockport Publishers in a softer cover format but with the same content)
We would add, from the same author Yasaburo Kuwayama, his Trademarks & Symbols of The World with almost 6000 logos, regrouped by similar style.
And we would also recommend the bible of logo design(!), also with more than 6000 logos and more context, study, and explanations, a similar, but somehow easier to find, book Logo Modernism by Jens Muller and Julius Wiedemann in 2015. Because of its quality, but also availability compared to the previous ones, we’ve included this one, also in our Product Design book collection.
Our Additional Tips for Logo Design
- do alternate individual creative sessions, with colleagues sessions: discuss with others that were (customer, colleague) and were not involved (fresh eyes)
- explaining how you came to these designs (as Aaron above) is good, but the logo should also be valuable without any explanation, out of the context
- try to look with almost completely closed lids: you’ll start to see in black and white only (no device needed!)
- Paper/pencil research first, but also be sure to be proficient with your 2D computer skills: It’s not like CAD design for a technical drawing: with CAD, your work will “only” require more time, but here, in Illustrator or equivalent, it will limit your ability to produce many variants within minutes, therefore creativity, and therefore the quality of final result/thought
- design with a very obvious message or intend, no too-smart visual or message trick. If a shape is aligned, it should be perfectly visually aligned; if a shape is centered or symmetric, then perfectly, and so on. Be very careful of in-between choices (alignments, dull colors, jokes, double meanings …)
- except if especially wanted, for a new logo, try to have a timeless design, good 100 years ago so as in 20 years with little variation or update. Some fonts or shapes are very related to some time period (ex: Gothic, Times New Roman …).
- … and together with the previous tip, keep the design simple! You may want to check our dedicated article on the Design Simple approach.
And the last tip: you can not check all brands or all logo books. And you may not have access to a logo attorney (but useful in some cases!), so at least do submit your creation to some online image search engine AND also to online trademark databases, to look if, by “coincidence”, your new creation is similar nor identical to some already existing logo design!