Designing an illustrative logo

If you’d asked me to make a logo 10 years ago.  I would have made something stylized, maybe symbolic or I would have chosen icons or typography as a starting point. I would not dare to make something illustrative. I thought I knew what a logo looked like. And some of those stylized logo’s just looked the same to me. If I’m being honest I didn’t really enjoy making a logo back then. I was stuck. I found it hard to take risks.

But I’m an illustrator. Why should I not make a logo that’s very visual? More storytelling, more fun. Yes there are constraints to a logo. They have to work at many sizes. It’s important that they also work in black and white, etc. But more importantly, I’d want them to be unique and personal.

The starting point of a logo for me is a good talk with the client. I need enough information to figure out what they want and need. I write down keywords. When necessary I research target groups. I then take at least a week, sometimes more to brainstorm. I have post-it notes spread around. Little scribbles. Words. After that I start sketching for real. Procreate on the ipad is a real help with this. Sometimes I make as many as 8 different designs. Sometimes 3. I pick the ones that suit best. To me it’s important that I like all the logo sketches! If I don’t like the sketch then making a logo out of it becomes a hellish chore. Next, the client picks his favorite. Then I refine and refine till the logo is ready in black and white. After that I add colour.

Here are some clean concept sketches I did for the logo of Geschiedenisatelier (Translates to: History workshop). Important keywords here were: craftsmanship, history, research, workplace, time, personal. There was not a specific time period I had to focus on. On the contrary!  I wish I made photo’s of the post-it notes versions. They were not so clean looking as the ones below.

The client liked all of them. But B was his favorite. It has his likeness and captured both the personal aspect and the craftsmanship he found so important. But it wasn’t complete yet. Now comes the refining. During this stage you have to sometimes go places you don’t like to figure out what does and doesn’t work. You also want your client to understand the choices you made to get to a certain design. Sometimes the best way to do that is to just show and tell them. Below is an edited version of what I send to my client. The original one had a lot more arrows 😉Okay, cool! We’re nearly there. There’s just some small stuff that needs some changing. By small stuff I mean it’s like a game of ‘spot the differences’:After this there were a LOT of different colour choices (too many colour choices? ;). Because of the stamp-like nature of this logo I feel it still works best in black/white, or single colour. I just had to make an all white version (It would look really cool on a kraft paper business-card!) . I this case I also included a reference sheet with the relevant CMYK and RGB colours and extra printing information. Here are all the different versions of the finished logo:

A logo process is rarely the same every time. Different clients, wishes or purposes. It all impacts the process. For me thinking up and drawing a logo is an intensive process. What I’ve shown in this blogpost are mostly the milestones of this project. There’s a lot of time spend communicating with the client.

A final note: Plan rest periods. Not just for me as a maker but especially for the client. Does the client like something just as much the next morning? Rest periods can also make sure feedback does not get fragmented. It prevents so much frustration and stress.

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