17 August 2009

[design] 10 Gems Of Logo Design Truth

2195.Logo design talk frequently becomes the stuff of "whalesong and joss-stick', as the pugnacious IT site The Register likes to wag. To a degree it's true; the talk of color, influence, graphic elements and design frequently sounds like one needs a basic art appreciation curriculum just to keep up.

Even such prole sensibility as my own has been heard to describe some work as (shudder) Mondrianesque.

But it's also true that many things can be dressed down to basic, essential elements that make grasping the thing easier. Logo Design Love has don this with the article Ten Logo Design Tips From The Field. I'll reel them off with my own observations here.

  1. A logo doesn’t need to say what a company does, and that's true. Does PGE make colored dashes run around three letters? The Columbia Sportswear logo isn't a down jacket. The TriMet logo isn't a bus.
  2. Not every logo needs a mark

. Think of Intel. As a matter of fact, think of any number of legal firms. Sometimes, a distinctive type treatment is all that you need.
  3. Logo design is a 2-way process. Involve the client. Incorporate what your client wants as far as possible, and improve it. The client will trust you because you are the designer; take the input and produce, and explain.
  4. Picasso started somewhere. and this is truth. What they seem to be saying is, essentially, don't discount the sketching stage of things because you can't draw. I can draw, but I hate my thumbnailing style. No matter. Ideas flow quick and fast between the pen and the paper, much more so than between mouse and monitor (as the article says). I've seen some artist's sketchbooks – some are sublime, most are a mess. This is a glorious mess, and beautiful things come out of them.
  5. Underpromise and overdeliver. Everyone's familiar with the way Enterprises chief engineer, Montgomery Scott, employes good-hearted slight-of-hand to maintain his air of the engineering genius. He looks great and Captain Kirk gets what he needs, be it another point in warp speed or whatever. Everyone wins. It might seem cynical but it's not; the object is to give an honest assessment of your own ability and a bit of wiggle room, because something always goes wrong and will take more time than you think it will. If you underpromise – design your own process conservatively – overdelivery will happen as a matter of course. A win-win.
  6. Leave trends to the fashion industry. If you aren't meaning to go for the retro, try to design to the classic. Nothing looks more dated than a 70s logo designed to 70s trends. Same with a 00s logo to 00s trends will look in 2030.
  7. Work in black first. Logos won't always be printed in color; color is more affordable than ever but still much more expensive than black and white or grayscale. Chances are, that logo you're engineering will eventually be seen thus. Starting in high-contrast black and white will ground you in that color space and will develop a logo that looks good with – and without – color
  8. Keep it appropriate. If Intel's logotype were engineered from a Comic Sans base, wouldn't that strike a sour note?
  9. Work for simplicity. This is a good general guideline, because simple logos look good at small sizes as well as large – that's the reason for this. That said, there is a place for complication in logos – it can be brought off. But I agree that we should avoid complication if it's not called for.
  10. The Columbo Rule This is my take on the tenth point, One thing to remember. In the classic TV detective series Columbo, Peter Falk's character would begin to leave after interrogating someone in his classic rambling style, then stop, turn around, and say Uhhh, just one udda thing … then get the real point to the line of questioning in. You might not want to deliver it like Falk did, but as you and your client depart the meeting, leave them with "one udda thing" – and that "udda thing" is the strong point of the logo. Logos can have any number of things working, but they need just one strong thing to be memorable. Give them that strong thing. That "one udda thing".
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