This appeared as an article in Foundations Revealed in 2013, so I've slightly updated it to share with you.
For anyone going into business the first thing you think about is your name, and subsequently that name in any visual form becomes a logo. Now, we aren't talking here about branding as a whole, which goes into the full theory of presenting your public face to the world. I’m here to help you with the practical. I’m assuming some basic familarity with a graphics program, no matter how elementary. I’m most familiar with Illustrator but I’ll keep it nonspecific as software use isn’t the point of this.
Some background. Before concentrating on corsetry I was a graphic designer. I worked for 18 years in the newspaper industry and before that did some of the manual junior work in a couple of agencies. I astarted in graphics when it was still letraset and repro cameras, and Apple Macs were mystical rare things that lived in darkened rooms. As someone who has seen the profession undermined by the prevalence of home desktop publishing packages, I would of course say to use a professional when you can but I appreciate it isn’t always possible. However most printers will offer a design service and if you’re advertising in a magazine or newspaper then they should too. However I’ll go into advertising, brochures and so on at a later date. For now we’re talking logos.
Why do you need a professional looking logo?
Peers, professionalism, seriousness, quality
It’s more than likely the first thing you see. It’s a representation of you, your brand in black and white. People have to read and remember your name from it, so it must be legible (something I’ll be returning to again and again). If it’s shoddy, broken up, unprofessional then people may very well think you are too.
What do you want to say about your brand?
Demographics, colour theory, typefaces
won’t dwell on the psychology here. But have a really good think about who you want to attract and how you want to attract them. Your choice of typeface is crucial, as is colour. A heavy, blocky face or a slab-serif is masculine and aggressive. A script can be feminine and soft. It can be elegant or casual, even punky.
Colour, letterspacing, rules and other graphic devices all make a difference. Conservative and classic, young and fun, gothic, historical, alternative, fetish can all be suggested with font and colour.
These say very different things (not all of them good)
What to look for and what to avoid
Gimmicks, bad fonts, bad typography
There are simple rules to good use of type.
Keep it legible
Use novelty fonts with care.
Never use display/fancy/script fonts in all uppercase
Don’t mix lots of fonts.
Try to keep within one or two complimentary font families
Oh yeah, and legibility again
Rules are made to be broken (requires skill and care)
The golden rule is legibility. Your logo is useless if it’s unrecognisable.
There are countless fancy fonts, and many of them are very eyecatching. But approach with care. Not only are you risking the legibility factor, but the fancier the font the shorter the lifespan and the more risk of it looking amateurish. Many of these fonts can end up looking twee or childish. They can summon up images of tacky shop signs, that downmarket hairdresser round the corner or the worst internet excesses of the MySpace pages of old. Of course a clever designer could employ them with tongue in cheek irony and make them work. That’s a tricky gamble though. For most of us it’s better to underplay things. Maybe use that novelty font as an initial or a monogram and then something simpler for the remaining lettering.
And of course –
Also be very careful with how you handle that type. Don’t stretch or squish fonts. Somebody has spent time carefully crafting the design of every one of those characters. You distorting that font would be like someone taking your corset design and chopping a bit off it.
While we’re on fonts, check out the licensing. When you download a font there will be a read me or a doc with it detailing the allowable usage. If you download from one of the very many free font sites on the web there’s a fair chance that the originator will have specified non-commercial use only. If you’re in any doubt pay for your font. There are decent free fonts about but just check out the usage carefully. This is your business, don’t start it off on a wrong note. You can of course use one of the standard fonts on your computer. There’s nothing wrong with the classics like Times New Roman. They aren’t world shaking but, like a painter using a limited palette, restrictions can make you more creative. And if it sends the message you want to send then it’s perfectly appropriate.
Spaces and refinements
Spend some time on the details. Rattling off a word in a typeface can lead to some odd letterspacings, especially in script typefaces and between certain characters.
This font was typed straight in and obviously that gap after the F has to be closed.
If you find manipulating individual letter spacings using the character tools tricky then try outlining your type (as discussed below) and moving the individual letters point by point until they’re perfect. I usually resort to the old squint through half closed eyes trick to judge it.
The other thing to watch for is letterforms with ascenders and descenders and be very careful to avoid clashes.
To make this work all I did was move Crikey to the right and down so the y and h interlocked and made the C and the A a little bigger and shifted them slightly. A quick tweak but it sorts the clash of characters out and makes a feature of the interlocking ascender and descender.
Try to find a pleasing balance between the various words in your logo. Play around with sizes, perhaps enlarge an initial letter. Fit smaller type in suitable spaces and pay careful attention to lining things up.
Don’t rule it out
Don’t undestimate the effect of basic graphics like lines and boxes, or as one of my old tutors said, recto-linear frameworks! One of my favourite designers was always Vaughan Oliver and as I was at college in the early 90s the curved box he tended to favour often crept into my work. Pixies album covers were a big influence!
Small illustrations, whether realistic or abstract can be very effective but be very aware of how they work at different sizes. Be wary of small detail that will vanish at a small size or on a rougher paper. And make sure it is perfect and sharp or it will look dreadful at a large scale.
The technical considerations
Reproduction in mono & colour, scaleability,
In these days of web centric design it’s easy to forget about print limitations. But you’ll get brought up short if you want to put an ad in a local free paper or take out an ad in a programme or fanzine where the budget isn’t stretching to full colour printing.
I was always taught to design a logo in mono. A good design should work on the simplest terms. Think of someone photocopying a page with your name on it. You would want your logo to be readable, to hold up even on a low quality black and white image. So design something in mono then add colour later so you have both options. Keep things clean and, that word again, legible. Having a set of logos to hand - mono, one colour, full colour – means you have something ready for all print eventualities. I’d also suggest having copies in a spot colour, CMYK and RGB. But more on that later.
Vector v Raster
Why does it matter, what does it mean
In the most simplistic terms – vector images are mathematical patterns of lines. Raster images are made of dots. Programs like Illustrator use vectors and mean your logo could be scaled up to the size of a building with no degradation. But a raster image is restricted by the number of dots per inch. Photographs are raster images and if you enlarge them too far you’ll end up with something akin to a pop art image of huge dots. With vector images you don’t have to worry about resolution, with raster you do.
Enlarge a vector and you get this:
Nice and clean and will work on a business card or a billboard.
Enlarge a raster image too far you’ll get something like this:
So, for a logo we want vector. When you see paths with the little clickable points in a program like Illustrator then you’re safe, it’s vector. That also goes for any image graphics you have as part of your logo, like a scroll or small illustration.
Now obviously for web use things change. You’re dealing with pixels on a screen rather than print on a page. You have to save in formats that will suit the site you’re uploading too. So don’t worry about vectors in that instance. You’re saving to screen resolution, equivalent to 72dpi, usually to a specific size to keep the file size low.
Preparation for print
You have your beautifully designed and perfectly honed logo and now you want to save it to send to your printer to pop on some business cards for you.
Outline your type
No printer has every font ever made and to supply him with the font is illegal, unless it’s a completely free font of course. But it’s unlikely he’ll want to install every random font and in a larger company they won’t permit it. If you send a logo and they don’t have the font it will default to an ugly, mis-spaced screen font. So, make sure it’s converted to paths. In Illustrator, it’s under the type menu and it’s ‘create outlines’.
There are three options. For screen use we work in RGB, the light primaries of Red/Green/Blue. If you’re putting something on the web RGB is perfect.
But RGB will produce odd results when put through some printer’s software. The colours might go a bit odd or it might change to black and white. For print we work in CMYK, which is the ink colours of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, Black (K being used to avoid confusion, stands for ‘key’ or some printers will tell you it stands for kohl). For full colour work a plate Is created for each ink colour. On a basic job the paper is white. This is why a one or two colour print job is cheaper than full colour with traditional print methods. And also why all the cost is in the set-up and it’s cost effective to print high quantities. For small print jobs though, it’s often digital print rather than the traditional offset litho.
On the left, RGB and CMYK on the right
The other alternative is spot colour where a specific ink colour, such as a pantone colour is specified. A spot colour is also the format if you want a metallic ink, or a varnish (glossy area on an otherwise matt job). When the colours are seperated out (literally) to make plates, a seperate plate is made for a spot colour, varnish or special ink.
Case study.... Me!
This is the logo for my company Crikey Aphrodite. I’m thinking of changing it soon but this is how it stands for now
.I’m very influenced by mid 20th century fashion so I wanted a typeface that looked rather retro and feminine so I chose Ribbon 131. I wanted a script but to maintain legibility. My name isn’t always easy to spell for some people so I wanted to avoid fonts that didn’t have a clear ‘r’ as many script faces don’t.
Below are a couple of images showing my logo on different mediums. It’s used on business cards, postcards, vouchers, banners, a rubber stamp and I have it set up on my embroidery machine too. A good logo should be versatile and work for you.
Please note, none of the font combinations in the article are proper refined logos, merely examples to show the pitfalls and give you food for thought. Play around with typefaces, think about what you want to say and have some fun. Look at other logos and think about how they link in with the business. Make a note of the things you like and what appeals to you.
I hope this is helpful to you. I’ll be putting another article together on designing other promotional material and things to look out for when submitting to publications which will be along soon