Designing my own logo: the final design and tips for creating yours

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Welcome to the next phase of building my design business–Greer Genius: designing the logo (read here for the post about naming the business).

Today I’m going to tell you all about my process in developing my logo in hopes that when it comes time for you to design (or redesign) yours, you have some solid tips to start from. (To see more pictures of my process, visit my portfolio.)

Step #1: Be your own client

What do you do when designing for a client?

For me, it’s ask questions.(PS. For more, read “55+ questions to ask when designing a logo”)

What adjectives describe your business? Who is your target audience? What do you want people to say about your logo? How do you want to use your logo?

So, myself and I had a meeting and came up with the following guidelines for the Greer Genius logo.

  1. Professional but not stodgy. Creative, simple, yet engaging.
  2. Imagery must reflect the name and be purposeful.
  3. Flexible for a variety of applications, sizes, and substrates.
  4. Work well in a one color and reverse treatment in addition to full color. Would really be awesome to have a flexible color scheme, but not required.
  5. Incorporates the Greer Genius name and tagline (“brilliant graphic & web design”) to establish my business and brand.

Step #2: Sketching

I started where I always start with my projects when it’s time to get down to business: the sketchpad.

I doodle, I write words that pertain to my subject matter, I brainstorm.

You’ve heard this a million times by now, but it never fails: you’ve got to get all the mediocre and bad ideas out of your head so that the good ones start flowing.

 

With a name like Greer Genius, my doodles included light bulbs, poorly drawn brains, gears, links, and exclamation points; and words such as idea, thought, intelligent, inspiration, spark, bang!, mind, brilliant, and so forth.

I drew the words ‘Greer Genius’ in cursive, in all uppercase, in all lowercase…you get the idea. Wonderful what a page of sketching (even stick-figures) will do to get the gears turning.

Step #3: Font Selection

Right, so I had direction and the creative juices were flowing.

I opened up Illustrator and started with the business name: Greer Genius.

I began at Agency FB (the first font alphabetically in my character panel) and went through each one, copying and pasting ones I liked for future testing. After Zapfino Dingbats I had about 12 Greer Geniuses lying around, so I split my font favorites into two groups: serif and sans serif.

I had no idea which one I preferred, but these were the fonts (of all of my fonts) that I liked, and it seemed to make sense to me to separate them in this way.

I really started to assess what I liked/disliked in each of the fonts.

Berlin Sans FB Demi Bold was too cartoony; Trebuchet MS too blocky (see i) and normal. In the serifs I was primarily concerned about stroke width.

I liked the vowels (e and u, particularly) in Constantia but the capital G feels like it’s got a pointy serif about to strike the crossbar. I wasn’t crazy about the upward serif and rounded r on the Georgia font, and Calisto MT’s e is too top-heavy.

My top picks? Serif: Palatino Linotype. Sans-serif: Candara.

Step #4: Adding Imagery

With my sketchpad of ideas next to me, I started working with imagery: brains, gears, light bulbs, lightning etc.

I put the brains in the gears and the gears in the brain. I tried silhouettes or cutouts and introduced colors and tones. A lot of my ideas were unimaginative. But I kept on with the mediocre and bad ideas, knowing that the good ones were on the way.

The moment of inspiration hit me at the very end of my second brainstorming session.

I developed the first draft of the burst logo you’re seeing today. I didn’t give up on my brain logo, but something drew me toward the burst.

Step #5: Setting it Aside

As I have mentioned before, I don’t make long-term decisions quickly.

So I didn’t even look at my logo ideas for 2 days.

I wanted to, but I didn’t.

I wanted to test my emotional reaction to the logos I had; let my brain subconsciously chew on the pros and cons of each logo and how each fulfilled my criteria. I liked what I remembered seeing, but would I when I returned?

Step #6: Refining

After careful reflection, I settled on the burst logo and started refining the concept.

I took out the stroke separating the name and tagline. I played with the justification, letter forms, and tracking.

I tweaked the burst in (almost) every imaginable way. I played with color schemes and gradients. The logo began to feel as if a complete physical checkup would involve less poking and prodding.

When I had exhausted the derivatives, I had 15 different versions of my burst logo, and probably 20 or 30 more that went to logo heaven. Of those 15, I narrowed it down (pretty easily) to 2 versions, and from there made the final decision on the logo you see below.

 

Step #7: Analysis:

Let’s take a look at my guidelines and see how I’ve done. Parts of this process are totally subjective, so I’ll try to define and explain my positions.

  1. I feel I developed a very simple yet professional logo. The font (Candara) is robust and stalwart with just enough friendliness and creativity in the slight concavity of the strokes while the burst gives life and energy to the logo.
  2. The burst emulates, to me, that spark of inspiration, that breakthrough “aha!” moment one experiences during a brainstorming/development session. The gradient gives the burst movement and energy, as if a light were shining outward from the center.
  3. This logo will scale well and work in embroidered, printed, or on screen applications without losing or obscuring elements of the design.
  4. I absolutely love the color flexibility in this logo. It’s beautiful to me because I don’t really have to choose one color scheme for forever; I can choose the most appropriate color scheme for the application. Brilliant! I am so pleased with this flexibility.
  5. Obvious. The name and tagline are in the logo. However, I like how the hierarchy plays out and the readability of the text. Many people feel small caps/all caps are difficult to read, but in this situation I feel that this treatment is the simplest, cleanest, and easiest to read.

It really was a scary prospect of designing something for myself. There’s no one to make the final decisions for me, and really, what good designer can’t make her own fantastic logo? That fear of failing myself in my own livelihood made me feel really put on the spot. Ultimately, though, the pride of a job well done prevails!

Speak up, GDB readers!

I’d love to hear your input on the logo itself, my process, my rationalization, or a good business card printer in the comments below. Leave a comment on this post–I’d love to talk with you!

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About April Greer

April is a go-to freelance designer with a rare combination of creative expertise and technical savvy. She is available for subcontracting and speaking engagements – visit Greer Genius for more information.

Comments

  1. Great post, all very familiar. To young budding designers our there this should be inspirational to you. I especially like the ‘bad ideas out of your head so that the good ones start flowing’ great advice!

  2. Designers always seem to find themselves as the toughest clients. Constantly striving for perfection…

    • Stuart,

      Isn’t that the truth! Sometimes I’ll go years on a personal design and one day decide it needs a tweak. Art is never really “finished,” is it?

  3. April, this is one of the best graphic design-related posts I have read in ages. You pretty much describe the process I follow when designing a logo! This post is also worthwhile for sharing: there is a lot of effort & organization that goes into “just” a logo design and your description may help potential clients understand the process. Well done!
    P.S. I like your new logo VERY much!

    • Cathy,

      Well, I’m totally flattered. I literally just emailed my family and best friend. Thank you for your kind words!!! What a great way to wake up on a Friday!

      I agree that many business people don’t understand the thought process and time put into a logo (or brochure, website, etc.), and therefore don’t understand the price tag that comes with quality design.

      Thanks for your comment!

  4. Samika Boyd says:

    This is an awesome post! When asking for a logo, so many people think you can just sit down and whip on out. I love your description of the thought process as well as your final product.

    • Thanks, Samika!

      So true – somehow people rationalize the relative size with the price. “It’s just a little logo…why does it cost so much?” Per use, a logo is probably the cheapest design anyone’s ever spent money on.

    • simile khanyile says:

      I’ve been looking for this logo but not on a 3D just on plane paper, can you organise me some dude?

  5. Oh the steps we go through to create masterpieces. I agree the sketch is always were great ideas are generated. Your end result is clean, concise and easy to reproduce, great job!

    • J Seven,

      Thanks for the kudos! I’ve found that each step is important – if you try to cut corners, you wind up spending extra time.

      As one of my good friends always says, “The lazy man works twice as hard.”

  6. Now-a-days, I start off designing logos to fit inside a square so backing it into all these social media sites is a piece of cake. I like the logotype, but how would your social media avatar look? Maybe a bonus question on your 55 (56?) would also include a social media avatar design as well…

    • Rufus,

      I’ll work something up and post it on in my portfolio…check back for a note about it. :)

      I hate to constrain myself to a square, though. I think social media doesn’t need to include the entire logo, as your name often accompanies your logo. It just needs to connect and be similar enough for the public to understand the connection, and be interesting.

    • Update – my portfolio now has social media icons!

  7. Great post April! I think you hit just about everything when it comes to brainstorming for a logo design. This is truly an exceptional example of the process and it was very well written. Best of all you meet all the requirements of your most demanding client, yourself. ;-) Not always the easiest thing to do as a designer.

    • Chris,

      Isn’t that the truth?! The most demanding client is yourself. And it’s hard to consider a design complete…”what if I just tweak this a little…?” Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes it’s beating a dead horse.

      Thanks for the kind words as well. A great way to start the weekend!

  8. Pishon-Boboye says:

    Hello April,

    Am familiar with the process but have not been able to come up with the perfect logo for myself because the ideas keep coming and I can’t really streamline them satisfactorily. The most demanding client is really myself. have been working and yet to come up with something I really like.

    • Pishon-Boboye:

      I’d encourage you to read Preston’s “From Passion to Profit” – this will help you define yourself as a designer…from your goals to your business name and beyond. It helped me focus, as I was a bit scattered, too.

      Once you settle on what your business foundation, where you want to go, and what you’re going to call yourself, you can start to brainstorm on what that identity might look like. How do you want people to see you?

      Good luck!

  9. Great article, something all graphic designers should read. The biggest takeaway for me was about sketching. I was always very hesitant to use a sketchpad in the beginning, instead just trying to brainstorm while already in Illustrator or Photoshop. I was scared to put pencil to paper because despite my skills as a designer, I am NOT an artist. I can’t draw/illustrate on paper at all, and would be completely embarrassed with my drawings. Luckily I finally learned, and accepted, that sketching isn’t about making a museum quality masterpiece, it’s simply about getting ideas on to paper. And in many cases nobody is ever going to see them anyway, so there is no need for embarrassment. Overcoming my fear of sketching has without a doubt made me a better designer.

    • Thanks, Jason!

      I’m with you – my drawing skills are terrible (and Preston put it as the main image!!!), but I’ve managed to get over it…and keep my sketchpad out of reach of others. Heheh. I had that realization, too, that all I needed to sketch – even embarrassingly poorly – was rough-drawn ideas.

      I used to hate the sketchpad, but now it’s my go-to to start any project.

  10. Hi April,

    I can relate to this topic as I changed my logo 3 months after starting my business.

    This really defines what it takes to design a good logo – sometimes walking away allows you to a ‘genius’ design. Congrats on the launch of your business and new fabulous logo. :)

    Melissa

  11. Isaiah Sheppard says:

    Hi April,

    Thank you for sharing your logo design process. Wishing you well in your business venture.

  12. Wonderful post, April. Having ourselves as clients can be pretty tough. It’s great that you emphasized “Setting Aside” as a step. We can either love it more when we get back to the logo or think it’s crap and I believe that’s a powerful indication as to the effectiveness of the design.

  13. Once again, I have a brilliant daughter! So well written and it can be applied to many other decision making processes also. I think your logo has a very clean look to it. I hate cluttery looks and this applies to my motto – Less is most often more! Love you, Mom

  14. nice article. Looking forward for more posts like this.

  15. I love the step of Refining n analysis most in the whole procedure when i use to design logos for clients. cuz while refining we got the actual face of logo design, which is really make me glad n proud to see them :)
    Nice Article here, thanks for all this great job :)

  16. #8 Opening the file and thinking: I got another concept!

    Happens to me all the time, create a logo, love it, a month later I see areas of improvement :)
    would love to see an article about that, btw! cheers!

  17. Great article! This is exactly how EMuse Creative designed its logo!

  18. April, I love your solution, it is simple, to the point, and not cliche. I really like the illusion that the gradient burst gives, the space where the dot over the “i” should go actually looks brilliant :) Thank you for honestly detailing the process you went through, even admitting your own bias towards certain solutions. I think you made the right choice.

    I also envy you and others who have found clever names for themselves; I’ve always been just me. No nickname, no favorite animal. So my logo is just…me, my name. I wish I had something that could more easily be described visually, but alas. Any suggestions for designers who are cursed with uncleverness? j/k ;)

    I wish you well, I’m sure your new branding will take you far! :)

  19. Sheila,

    First, thank you very much for your kind words! I’m really loving my new logo (and name). It took me a long time to think up a name, and then a long time again to settle on the one I chose.

    I encourage you to check out Preston’s “From Passion to Profit” ebook. My business name came out of following the exercise in his book (see link below). The entire book is great, not just the “naming your business” chapter.

    Good luck!

  20. Anthony Cucuzza says:

    Great advice, I will use this when I create my portfolio site!

  21. Nice! this post took took me back to the process of designing my logo. Thanks for the post.

  22. I agreed with all the above in you design process and my own similar design process has led me to create the perfect logo for my design business which truly represents my personality and all my clients know exactly what the company stands for.

    Great storytelling and nice logo April. Thanks.

  23. Phil,

    Thanks! Isn’t it a great feeling to know you’ve nailed your own logo design?!

  24. Hi April-greetings for the day!am smitha goin to start an ecofriendly fabric business with a cousin of mine.v both decided to ve abiblical name for it. Planning to name it as’Cana Fabrics’.how is the name, need all ur suggestions,i need a caption as well,do help me…tk cre

  25. Creating your own graphic designer identity is indeed a daunting task!@ It took me about two years of returning to the drawing board over and over again until I created a mark versatile enough to brand me as both a designer and illustrator. I also felt it was more difficult a project because I was so close to the subject matter, and playing the dual role of client AND designer. Not easy…but when done and done well there is no greater sense of satisfaction! Here is a blog post documenting my process:
    http://sneedesign.com/branding/creating-my-own-graphic-designer-identity-and-why-it-took-so-freakin-long/

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