Last week I tweaked my logo… yet again!
I don’t know how many of you have ever tried thinking up a company name, or logo – it’s a much harder process than I ever imagined! Especially in this global age, when you are trying to stand out against the whole world. You certainly don’t want anyone googling you and finding your competition instead!
Your name and logo can’t look or sound too similar to anyone else’s. It needs to look good online as well as printed on a business card. And if you plan on being really successful then it needs to look good in monochrome for printing on tiny little corporate gifts too. The “guidelines” can feel endless…
This is why you will see more and more logos looking less and less representative of the products or services they’re trying to sell – there’s only so many ways you can depict a book for a bookshop. The direction they can take instead varies greatly.
You can go the vintage route to inspire nostalgia. You can go for a monogram style to indicate affluence or gravitas. You can go with something whimsical to portray the company’s caring attitude or the ideals to which they aspire. And if there is a chance that your product or service offering will evolve or expand, then your logo needs to be able to encompass any changes that may come along. It’s enough to make you want to hide under your duvet!
If you’ve read any previous posts you may have picked up that I choose to live in that wonderful space between structure and creativity. I need both to make me happy, and I wanted my logo to reflect this.
My first logo was very sketchy, and it didn’t stick around for long. It was more a concept than anything approaching a finished design. I wanted it to show that design also needed structure and planning. I’m not an artist – I don’t create beautiful images simply for the pleasure of the viewer. I use structure and rules to create something that is useful, with the pleasing aesthetics being part of the vehicle that drives that functionality. So now do you see where my tagline “functionality, by design” came from?
My second logo was a more structured and stylised version of what I had in mind. It also incorporated an elephant – my favourite animal. I’d started learning about logo design concepts, and I wanted to incorporate these as my learning progressed. An animal was suggested as a logo option as they can be a conversation starter, or such a detraction from the service that the incongruity is what makes clients remember it.
The colours also tell a personal story; a nod to happy family memories. As a child we would spend holidays with family at the coast, and there was a beautiful bougainvillea arching over the garden path. This riot of pink and green became my symbol of togetherness and happiness. I even have one tattooed on my arm, it’s positive message is so important to me.
As part of my design studies I’d been reading about creating logos from multiple geometric shapes, the way the Twitter logo was created. This is supposed to be a handy trick for ensuring that the dimensions of an image are pleasing to the eye. Again – an art far harder to master than one would think. But that’s why my first elephant looks a little odd. I wanted it to be an elephant, but also an ‘M’, and this was the rather unsatisfactory result. I loved the concept, but the execution was merely “ok”. I knew there would be more tweaks to come…
My elephant looked “sad & withdrawn” with his inward curving trunk, and no African elephant should ever feel that way. They should feel confident – they are strong and majestic, while still being incredibly gentle and caring. I didn’t want to lose my ‘M’ but I needed it to be more ‘elephant’. So this is when I tried to curve the trunk. I knew it was a move in the right direction, but I still wasn’t blown away. I had also received some feedback from my design tutor, which lead to changing the “D” from one I had sketched, to the D from the font used in the first part of my company name. This helped the whole thing look a lot more cohesive. But my logo was still just “ok”.
My elephant finally looked better after I squared off the end of his trunk. This inspiration came from a mobile phone holder I was gifted, that was in the shape of an elephant (thank you Ryan). Now I was happy with his shape.
One day I took a photo of another bougainvillea, when I was wandering around Knysna looking for interesting shapes and textures for design projects. The pink of the flowers, the green of the leaves, and the blue of that endless African sky, became the colours of my logo.
I was starting to feel proud of my logo by this point, but I still didn’t LOVE it. People understood the D, the M-elephant and his C-shaped ear, but not the guidelines behind the D. These were supposed to convey the structure in my design, and also hint at the structure in other services I offer, such as forms, documents, or code. My wife also wanted to know why the D was mostly grey rather than pink. And the only reason at the time was that I just didn’t want too much pink. I might like pretty things but “I’m not that girly!“
Recently I have been working on setting my portfolio up on a new domain, and one of the requests I had was “a dark theme”. This is very much in line with my own preference – my eyes really do not like the white glare that comes from most backgrounds. I’m pretty sure the main reason most backgrounds are white is because we are all still so accustomed to the concept of dark ink on light paper that this is just what we default to. Yet it is completely unnecessary in the age of screens. We can do whatever we want with our colour choices, provided we retain enough contrast to make the text easy to read.
In my next portfolio update, my main background and also the navigation bar will be set to a dark blue-grey. This meant I needed to tweak my logo to look good against a dark background rather than the light one I had been using. I didn’t want the rounded square behind the logo any more either – just the logo itself with the company name.
While I was making these changes, I finally realised how I could change the guidelines to be more indicative of temporary lines rather than core components – a dotted line! Looking at it now, it is so obvious that I can’t believe it took me so long. I had tried using pencil textures, gradients, and all sorts of tricks, none of which came across in a small image.
My D is also finally all pink – layering it over the dark background just gave it that edge I needed so as not to feel it was too girly.
I can’t believe this has ended up being such a long post! But then it has been a rather long journey for my elephant, so I suppose its warranted. If you’re still reading – well done, and thank you!
I hope I’ve shed some light on how complex the design process can be – for any image or document layout, not just a logo. It may look easy when you watch a designer clicking all over a screen and all sorts of magic things happen, but it takes a long time to get to that stage. It takes even more thought, which is going on all the time! Any image, font, texture, or layout that we see gets filed away for future use (or as something to be avoided).
Please appreciate your designers (and give them lots of good coffee)!