So, you want to create a logo? You want to be the next iconic logo designer, and have your work splashed across the webpages of Dribbble? You want the pleasure and prefigure that comes with designing a logo that becomes an instant classic. A design for a brand that will be recognized for ages.
Unfortunately, I can’t help you do that, but I can provide you with a systematic approach for tackling logo design. By the time you finish reading this, you’ll be able to incorporate the strategies below to craft your own company logo.
Picture this, you’re the founder of a hot new startup out of San Francisco called You’ve Got Cats. You’ve Got Cats is an app that will allow you to junkmail cats to your friends (or enemies, or your cat-obsessed aunt, whichever you prefer). You want to create a logo that speaks to your brand. Where do you start?
Instead of lunging for your sketchbook and drawing the first thing that comes to mind, it’s important to start with a bit of brainstorming. One process that is helpful for generating unique ideas is a mind map. A mind map is an efficient way to visually organize your ideas and it allows you to discover new associations from your original concepts.
For You’ve Got Cats, the mind map centers around the words “cat” and “mail”. From here you can see a series of common themes emerge. Don’t be afraid to write down random words that come to mind; you might surprise yourself with how these words can connect later on in the design process.
Once you’ve reached the limit of your mind map you’ll want to flesh out your ideas with a morphological matrix.
Build-out your ideas
A morphological matrix is the blueprint for your future logo. It is the space where you start making connections between the ideas you brainstormed.
During the brainstorm, “cats” and “mail” were identified as two core ideas that reflected the startup’s brand. You’ll take these main concepts and divide them along the axes of your matrix.
For example, along the vertical axis you’ll see words related to cats, whereas the horizontal axis is all about mail. Within each corresponding box, you sketch the ideas that connect both of these categories.
Once you’ve completed a sketch for each box, select your strongest icon from the group. In this case, the image under “writing” + “whiskers/paws/tail” was chosen. From here, you’ll begin drafting thumbnail sketches.
Draft, draft, and draft again
Drafting allows you to refine your logo design and unleash your full creative powers. You can focus on manipulating a single thumbnail instead of being distracted by multiple designs.
One way to quickly manipulate your core logo is to replicate it across a page. From here, you can add banners, fonts, and shapes to enhance it.
Pro tip: It’s important to watch out for cliches and differentiate from competitors’ branding when designing a new logo. For this example, I went to Google Images and searched variations of “cat logo” to see what cliches already existed in this space.
Sprinkle on some Adobe magic
Now that you’ve created the final concept for your logo, it’s time to explore design options in Adobe Illustrator. If you don’t have Adobe Illustrator and you don’t want to purchase a subscription, there are a variety of other editing tools you can look at here.
To begin, you can either scan the image or use your phone to take a picture of your sketch, and upload it to your computer. Once you’ve opened the photo in Illustrator, reduce the opacity to 60%. Next, you’ll want to create a new layer and select the Pen tool (P). From here, begin outlining your logo. If your logo is curvy, click Shift + C and select an anchor point. You can bend the line to fit the curve of your sketch. This process may be tedious, but you’ll want to make sure everything is inline before you move on to the next step.
As the skeleton of your logo emerges, you can start adding color. In this example, I’m creating a flat design with two colors. If you’re interested in adding shading or opacity to your logo, consider looking at tutorials here. To color your logo, select everything and go to Object > Live Paint and click Merge. Once you’ve done this, you can use the Live Paint Bucket tool to fill in sections of your logo.
Lastly, save your icon by selecting File > Save for Web.
Designing a logo can be a challenging process, but it doesn’t have to be. If you’re building a business and want to work on your branding or if you’re simply interested in strengthening your freelance design portfolio, these techniques are an effective way to begin the process.
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