I’m starting on an idea for a future tech illustration that has required me to create some brand identity designs to represent the current vehicular technology of the day; rocket thrusters, autodrive systems, and interface technology software. Above are a few logo designs I’ve completed for fictional companies, which will be used as small background elements within the final image.
Above is my design entry for Tweet RPG‘s Starfall:Rebirth logo competition. Tweet RPG create free Twitter-based role-playing text adventures, with their latest adventure being a new Starfall game, which is set in a science fiction universe where you pilot a battle mech (giant robot) and attempt to unravel the machinations of the shadowy HFCG organisation.
Have created a new tumblr site, just for showcasing my identity and logo designs. The first post is this stylish new logo for Black Circle Hatters.
GoodEvil is an identity project for an urban fashion label offering clothing with attitude. Merging street credibility with upmarket sophistication, GoodEvil is the essence of an unholy union. The concept is determinedly irreverent, playful and graphically bold, matching their proud tagline ‘Fashion without Fear.’
I’ve recently been working on a number of logo and logotype designs, particularly focusing on the generation of quick visual ideas within a reduced time frame. My normal process regarding identity design involves a lot of planning and detailed preparation, so these are devised simply as uncomplicated individual icons or marks, rather than as elements working within a comprehensive and strategically designed full identity system.
The aim with this different approach is to find a more direct route from initial sketched concepts to finished art, which suits clients and projects not requiring the whole branding and communication package I would ideally prepare.
New year, new direction – time for a new identity.
I’ve changed to a new geometrical symbol for my personal logo and have an entirely new website now up and running. This is something I’ve been considering for a few months, and finally decided that this redirection was a more suitable way for me to move forward and present a visual style I felt completely comfortable with.
The logo is based on my desired use of it mainly as an identifier on illustrations and other artwork. It is a monogram styled symbol, influenced in some ways by Japanese prints and iconic stamps I’ve regularly seen on art and artwork for many years. This will hopefully become a neat visual mark for me to use as both a branding seal and a copyright tool.
Head over to the new website and check it out!
My visual mash-up of the common phrases ‘Rocket Science‘ and ‘Brain Surgery‘, which are often mistakenly combined, with much embarrassment and mirth ensuing.
Retro-style rocket for the logo design, and bold, period graphics for the poster. Vectors created in Illustrator and texturing set in Photoshop.
You’re likely to have heard of speed dating agencies that arrange group events for men and women to meet in a succession of quick ‘dates’ before moving on to the next victim (sorry! – candidate) in a round-robin format of wash, rinse and repeat. Participants decide within a few minutes if they feel compatible with any of the provided dates, and subsequent meetings may be organised for those willing to see each other again. With little time available for any true decision-making, almost all relationship complexities are totally ignored and conclusions are formed by limited and incomplete personal interaction.
Logo or identity crowdsourcing via the internet is a relatively new version of ‘spec’ design – competing with others in a contest format to win a client or project – without any payment offered, unless your work is selected as the winner. Crowdsourcing follows a similarly flawed strategy like speed dating by offering many quick options without any considered input, commitment or long-term strategy from either the client or the designer – to the detriment of the long-term viability of the product, brand or service. This commodity approach in regard to creative services is an offensive action, offering no fair comparison to the professional undertaking required for identity formulation and successful brand promotion.
The individual and tailored creative services provided by a professional designer are now unfortunately reduced to what can only be described as a ‘clip art’ approach. Yes, there are many worthy designers, both hobbyist amateur and working professional, who choose to play the crowdsourcing game, but the overwhelming majority of designs sourced via this method are undeniably flawed concepts, simplistic ‘modules’ of ill-fitting parts, inharmoniously assembled without the required care, craftsmanship or personal attention. Good design is rarely a quick and happy accident and an isolated logo design without an overarching strategy or style guide is rarely more than an inadequate icon or mark of limited value. There is no doubt that the small reward for winning a logo contest does not encourage an exhaustive approach or serious time investment, and that many of the provided options for any individual contest will be lamentable, nonspecific and disposable efforts. Even the most financially challenged clients deserve better service and strategy than this!
Unfortunately many logo crowdsourcing websites offer no ability for a client to correctly engage with a designer, as they offer only limited feedback processes that hinder the crucial communication required between both parties. The framework for the careful selection and matching of designer to client is totally missing – the ‘contest’ is a hit-and-miss affair, governed solely by price. Also, there is limited company vetting and policing of the talent pool and many unauthorised and illegal uses of copyrighted artwork have been discovered at some sites. The crowdsourcing guidelines and fine print will regularly state that they accept no responsibility for any fraudulent activity and have no obligation in any disputes regarding ownership of sourced content. Therefore, users have no guarantee regarding legitimacy of artwork and you’ll be all on your own if the copyright holder claims infringement and seeks compensation.
Groups and individuals from the design profession are attempting to hold back the surge of crowdsourcing options now flooding the internet and are providing both consumers and designers with accurate information regarding the issues involved. The following links will provide detail, comment and advice:
As communication technology shrinks the world and opens up opportunity and accessibility to many more players, the crowdsourcing option will likely evolve and grow unchecked, purely reacting to price and speed of service, without consideration for issues of professional quality, standards or appropriateness. The well-known adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is undoubtedly true when discussing crowdsourced design work – beware and be informed by reaching considered conclusions, otherwise the commodity approach may significantly impact your bottom line.
Where are the divisions between brand, identity, visual style and overall communication standards? The borders are frequently blurred (even to those who should know better) and confusion is often created when the individual impact of all these elements is misunderstood within a cohesive and complete ‘brand’ style.
The logo is the central mark, devised to visually represent the company, product or service as a concise graphic symbol, representational of the preferred or appropriate look and desired customer perception. As a quick visual tool, the logo aims to link all branded components together, aid easy recognition, and differentiate between competitors. The visual identity system and overall branding approach follows and builds on from this point, by assembling and promoting knowledge via all communication methods, conforming to agreed values, standards and deliverable results.
Creation of a logo requires solid understanding of client, market and technical (print, application, distribution) needs, and is a process demanding elimination of unrequired detail and a sharp focus on efficient construction, usage flexibility, and a matching of substance with style. The function and purpose of a logo generally requires a design with limited complexity – a distillation of many ideals into one, strong identifier. Simplification is not always easy to achiever however, and developing a unique form and style within saturated markets can be a very difficult creative challenge. Also, if the core concept underpinning an identity misses the mark and fails to register a positive reception, then supporting elements will struggle to solve this inherent issue.
Planning and methodology
Successful logo designs will regularly exhibit both creative spark and robust technical foundations, without relying on current visual trends, showy effects or visual leaps of faith. Legibility and recognition at small sizes and/or for usage on surfaces not able to hold detail is also an important factor in the construction of a finished design.
Although not as important today, due to the overwhelming shift towards digital delivery and the availability of full colour, preparing options for single colour and reversed (negative) reproduction is still a requirement I believe is important for any designer involved in identity and branding work, and should be part of the suite of available identity assets for the client to utilise. It is also a helpful process to assist the designer in achieving a streamlined design concept.
Logos created in vector format are generally better prepared to meet all identity needs, as they offer the unlimited scalability required for large format display and signage applications. Appropriate and considered construction choices should always be an essential part of design planning, otherwise usage difficulties and production shortfalls may be undesirably present.
RSSA: case in point
Above is a recent redesign of mine for the Royal Society of South Australia. This concept is based around a simple typographical focus on the RSSA acronym. The Society’s diverse scientific interests helped to form this visual approach, ie deliberately avoiding reference to any particular field with a recognisable visual. The intention was to provide a current day sensibility regarding identity design and construction, in combination with more traditional styling for a long established scientific body. To aid this desire, a modern serif was chosen as the primary font and a secondary sans serif for the tagline versions. These fonts were chosen as a combination for their ability to convey this future/past feel.
The icon structure has the added effect of allowing the reading of ‘RS’ & ‘SA’ in either direction, and utilises the Society’s formation date within the design, as it adds historical weight and relevance, plus is also a small visual indicator regarding who and what the RSSA represents.
Form = function
Devising appealing, flexible and long-lasting logos is a task requiring more than a simple cut and paste methodology – there are no shortcuts to achieving a quality logo or full identity system. Graphic design demands understanding and appreciation of many important considerations, and the formation of a professional concept and finished design will rely on an individual’s recognition and acceptance of these known principles.
Preview of my current project – authoring and illustrating a collection of short stories, set in an epic fantasy universe. This is a personal exercise to improve skills in both disciplines, plus a broad undertaking in world-building, creating a recorded history of the people who inhabit this land, their myths and legends, and the events that shape their demanding lives.
My written and visual style pays homage to all the exceptional authors and illustrators of grand fantasy, who’s work I have enjoyed over many years and am strongly guided and influenced by. The interior monotone illustrations are designed to be closer to a sketch in execution, with less detail than most of my current output, and are primarily completed in Painter with just a palette knife.
Evolution of an illustrative logo
Monkeys – who doesn’t love them?! I know I do, so let’s put a spotlight on the creative process for the creation of the final logo design for Little Monkey Ceramic Art. This identity was a bit cheeky – going via two completely different concepts before landing on it’s feet with a strong third idea.
Little Monkey Ceramic Art offers children, of all ages, the opportunity to paint a range of ceramics in a fun and welcoming atmosphere and then take home the finished results for all to see. The brief required a logo that conveyed the spirit of the ‘workshop’ style business idea and had a bright, unique appearance. Of consideration, as ever, was how and where the logo would be printed (a variety of print techniques, physical items and possible surfaces) and the client also was keen to adapt the character into other poses as a marketing and promotion strategy.
My thoughts were to attempt to make this sit somewhere between my usual corporate style of identity design (less is more!) and a more detailed and playful look. Thankfully the client provided some wonderful character sketches (below) which gave me a great visual reference point to start from:
I still love the little guy on the left – very cute. My initial idea was to pull everything together into a base shape or frame to make a unified and contained logo. This meant it wouldn’t be easy to show the full monkey, rather the focus would be on the head and arms. Something like this …
I was looking to use the tail somehow as a framing device and was wanting to incorporate individuality with chunky, playful hand lettering, which would craftily fit into the slightly awkward spacing this arrangement would create.
In the background (green) is the general shape of an artist’s painting palette and I’ve extended the tail fully under the body. This provided more of an integrated concept, but didn’t hit the spot. Further ideas and discussion with the client refined the overall direction and in particular, the ‘feel’ the monkey needed – something much softer, cuter, less organised and logo-like. I pretend now that I can’t see the eyes. They simply don’t work and combined with the mouth shape, create an unfriendly appearance.
One idea that surfaced at this point was to sit the monkey in a cup and have him painting it himself – the logo mirroring the activities of the participants:
The original logo was a vector design completed in FreeHand – now Photoshop was the required software, which met the need of a softer technique for both the outlines and the colouring.
The missing left arm was considered to be a bit odd and a few facial features still weren’t sitting in proportion as was desired. A few tweaks were tried, but overall the idea wasn’t progressing or coming together in a pleasing way.
One of the notable aspects of the original ideas provided by the client was the relationship between the shape and proportions of the top part of the head and the mouth/face area. Neither seemed particularly right or wrong – just gave the monkey a slightly different age or appeal. I was always very aware of not designing a character that felt too close to any existing design we were aware of and was also thinking more about the use of the monkey in other poses. I felt that a style made of more basic shapes would likely solve some of the problems to this point and give the flexibility to construct the different options with relative ease. With client agreement for something a bit more ‘cartoony’ it was onto the next round of sketches.
These take the hanging monkey concept towards a more logical arrangement and the only real detail in the character is very minimal. This approach retains the hand lettering and places the monkey in a more natural and playful pose. Note how I’ve shifted the tail to the right side to better balance with the weight of the capitals in the title.
The version above was created in Photoshop and to me now seemed a lot closer to the desired spirit and visual direction. Eureka! – the client was happy too!!
I could see a few errors, especially with the lettering, which required some balancing adjustments to give it clearer readability and an improved rhythm. The main title needed a little bit of work, but the main culprit was with ‘ceramic art’ which featured too many enclosed forms to print well. I also fixed a few small facial imperfections and shifted the top spiky part of his hair to break the line of the arcing paintbrush. The client then asked for me to put back in most of the imperfections! – something I was happy to do. (I kept all the lettering alts regardless)
As the logo now featured just solid colour it was back to FreeHand to create a final vector:
Monkey done!!! Time now for a banana or three I think …