Written By Adam Diestelkamp

The Evolution of a Logo

September 03, 2011 | design / creativity

Getting to create a logo is not only a rewarding experience, but serves as one of the most important elements of a brand. It is just a small, sometimes very simple design, but it is an icon that represents the whole company.

Thousands, in some cases, millions and billions of dollars are represented by just that one small combination of shape and color. Even the simplest of logos may undergo many revisions as various ideas are considered in the development process before the logo is finalized. Here are some thoughts on that development process.

1. Determining direction

As with any project, ideally the first thing to be done is to sit down with the client and establish the important information. It is best to get as much information in the first meeting as one can, as it will save time down the road. The goal of the first meeting is to get enough information to build a few different logo concepts for the client. At this point, you want to understand the overall feel of the company/product and the individual so you can create something relevant. It would be a bummer to fall in love too early with some of the concepts only to learn they wanted something entirely different. Get information from them about the format that the logo will be displayed on (web, print, video, textile, etc.), about what color scheme they like, and if they don't have a strong opinion, take the opportunity to suggest one that would work well. 

2. Sketch-storming

Grab that graph paper and start throwing ideas down on it. Scribble down thoughts, shapes, and everything else you can bring to mind. Keeping it small helps. Avoid sketches that are too big since this step in the development process is just about generating and sparking ideas. Experiment with some custom lettering and play around with different combinations of  basic shapes and organic elements. It is a lot easier at this step to quickly get a feel for whether or not something really works on a larger, more-polished scale.

3. Making it Digital

After getting all that out on paper and narrowing it down to a few favorite ideas, it is time to find out which ones are going to work best in reality. Throw the page on a scanner or just snap a picture with your webcam (that's what I do), and get ready to recreate it. I'm a big believer in working with logos in vector format rather than pixels. You never know what the logo will eventually be used for, and if you don't build it in vector, you may find yourself drawing it yet again down the road. I would recommend either tossing it into Illustrator and start playing with the pen tool (LiveTrace can be a pain and is not usually the best option unless you are doing something organic like a handwritten font.), or using Photoshop to boost up the contrast and then create work paths and copy them over into Illustrator. Start simple and work towards being more complex, if necessary. If you are not using custom typography, start playing with type and trying different fonts together. One of the easiest ways to do this is to use the arrow keys to scroll through, changing the font in Photoshop or Font Book (Mac) to see what a particular word looks like in numerous fonts. (very unfortunately Illustrator does not let you change the font by scrolling with the arrow keys). Again the goal for this is to come up with a few general mock-ups to find out which direction the client wants to go.

4. Getting Feedback

Just as it is important to start by getting information, it is important to get feedback from the client so that you know whether or not you are on the right track. The next step in developing this logo is to send the 2 or 3 concepts to the client to see which ones he/she prefers and would like to see further developed.

5. Further Development

After getting feedback from the client, we have a better idea of how to move forward and to start working out the kinks. I sometimes find it helpful to print out the actual logo and take a sharpie or pen to it and to play with the shape or start customizing the letter forms. Sometimes a mouse or graphics tablet just doesn't cut it. It is also important to see it in printed form because some colors or mistakes are more apparent on paper. Bring it back into the digital world and make the appropriate changes. Send it back for more feedback, and then bring it back for more development. Be careful - these last two steps of development could continue indefinitely depending on the client, so do not let that happen. As the logo becomes more established in its layout and details are added, it is time to double-check the alignment and consistency of colors so that you provide a finished piece when all is done.

6. When the final is done...

The logo has grown from a name and colors to small black-and-white sketches to a fully-developed finished piece. However, depending on what type of logo and what it will be applied to, there are a couple of additional steps that will be valuable. A logo may incorporate a number of colors, but if that logo is going to be applied to different products or single-color prints, then you will need to develop a black-and-white version, too. Depending on the complexity of the logo, it can be a rather involved process. Although some logos may be easily turned into a one-color logo, others require modification and (sometimes) simplification to be able to give the same feel of depth as the color version.

If the logo was created entirely in vector, it will likely work very well for print; but sometimes that same logo may look a little flat when put on a website. I think it can be valuable to create a more spiced-up version of the same logo with more shading and depth for use on the web, presentations, or presentation backgrounds.

It may take just a day or it may take weeks to create and fully develop a logo, but it is a rewarding process and is so very important when branding a company.

7. Continued Growth

Below is the evolution of the Hitcents logo and the special adjustments that were created to represent certain events or special occasions. Throughout the years, our image and brand has evolved and will continue as our company grows. 



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