And in the case of designing our company logo, I had to consider both Emily’s and my own opinions. From the iconography to typography to color, every choice I made as a designer also had to balance our research results against our professional objectivity and personal biases.
Step 1: Contemplate the Pros and Cons
Before contemplating the pros and cons of my logo concepts, there were a few things we kept in mind:
- the concept’s cleverness,
- the uniqueness of the concept,
- and finally, whether the logo was flexible in its application.
Is it clever?
We knew we wanted a logo with impact, but we circled around the ideas of it being clever vs. simple. Ideally, we wanted it to be both. But when push came to shove, Emily and I had to prioritize what made the most sense for us.
Clarity became more important than being clever. We didn’t want something so obtuse that only we got the “inside joke.”
Is it unique?
We also wanted to evaluate how unique a concept was, which we knew could be complicated because there could be popular forms of our ideas already in place. With a name like Bright Umbrella, we ultimately had to sift through and compare ideas with hundreds of other lightbulb, sun, rays and umbrella logos that already exist.
It can make you want to abandon a good idea simply because you feel like it’s been done. Don’t!
Remember that application of a logo is part of what makes a brand system unique. For example, one could argue that the Saks Fifth Avenue logo and Gap logo are the same because, fundamentally, they’re white text against a dark square. However, both companies use their logo quite differently.
Another thing to consider is that even if it may be a “typical” form ( e.g. yet another lightbulb logo!), it may be uncommon in your industry space—something to set you apart! When Emily and I were researching similar logo forms, we couldn’t really find any that were in the web design and development space (though, it was quite common in photography!).
Is it flexible?
While being clever and unique are good traits for a logo, we couldn’t forget that a logo needs to have practical applications. The Responsive Logos site illustrates how popular brands can shift their logoform depending on screen size. And because we are trying to build a brand system, we also need to contemplate how the logo would work in:
- Various sizes and colors
- Social media profiles and cover images
- Business cards
Even if Bright Umbrella wasn’t going to invest in any of that collateral right away, we needed to contemplate how the logo would work in those applications. So when reviewing concepts, we contemplated all of these.
Step 2: Revise, Revise, Revise
After we discussed the pros and cons of each concept, we chose the one with the best direction for all our goals and needs: an umbrella inside a lightbulb. Then I began revising that concept.
I first played around with different ways the lightbulb+umbrella could be portrayed. Initially, I was still fixated on being clever, so I tried to integrate a “u” letterform in the symbol ( a remnant of my first concept with “u” and “b” incorporated in the logo). Emily eventually made me see that it didn’t really make sense, especially since it only represented one part of our name instead of both.
At this point, I still was unsure of how to push the lightbulb+umbrella concept further, so I began focusing on integrating symbols in the type:
This exercise diverted from the lightbulb+umbrella concept, which helped us discuss whether we were too fixated on being clever vs. being simple and clear. At the end of the day, we deemed the idea too simple.
Also, by circling back to the pros and cons detailed in Step 1, we realized that this concept wasn’t as flexible as we needed. The icons we chose would not work by themselves to convey both the concepts of Bright Umbrella. Additionally, when contemplating social media and other applications, we realized that this concept would always need to have the entire logo—text, graphics and all—to be understood.
Step 3: Repeat Step 1-2 Until Satisfied
I’m going to be frank: this is probably the worst part of any identity project. At this point, you’ve done so many iterations, or micro iterations, you feel like you’re spinning your wheels. This is the point of the project where I personally began to doubt myself, Emily began to fret, and we wondered if it ever was going to end!
So how did we manage and then get beyond the revision cycle?
Set a Deadline
First and most important of all: we gave ourselves a deadline. Because this is our own identity, theoretically we could have gone on forever. But time is money and we were intent on treating ourselves like our own clients, so we gave ourselves a maximum of two weeks for additional revisions.
During this two weeks, we really sharpened our critical thinking skills and were strict about referencing our brand tenets every time we faced a decision.
Communicate, Communicate, and then Communicate Some More
Next, and just as important as having a deadline, we communicated. A lot. Of course we maintained open and constant communication for actual feedback and design pros and cons. But in addition to design, there are emotional aspects of designing a logo.
I needed to be more than the designer working with Emily as my client. I had to be her partner in the design process. We not only needed to share feedback and concepts, we had to share our emotions, frustrations and struggles.
Start Considering Typefaces for the Brand’s Identity System
Through revisioning and regular communication, we reached our final lightbulb+umbrella concept. While we had the concept, we didn’t have all the fine details like type. But rather than simply focusing on the typeface that would be best for the logo, we considered our brand’s entire type system and what would work both for print and web. We ended up choosing Chunk Five and Avenir Next because we wanted a balance of sharp and modern, with a bold feel.
As I contemplated what would work for all media, it became clear that Chunk Five was too bold for multi-line headlines on websites. That led me to find Rokkit as a site equivalent that would harken back to our identity type.
The lesson here is that consistency in branding doesn’t mean exact. Remember that an important part of an identity system is flexibility.
Step 4: Clean Up Final Logo
With our typefaces and concept decided, we reached the last step of finalizing our logo. As I mentioned in Part 1, I played around with colors in the early phases, but we never actually decided on final colors. To support our brand tenets, we knew we wanted a play with the idea of red, green and blue (RGB) to hint at our design expertise and services. But that was as far as we got.
Just like the typeface system, I considered how the colors would work beyond just the logo itself: would these colors make sense online visually and in print? For example, there was a particular lime green Emily wanted us to test but the particular shade could only work in an RGB (screen) space versus a CMYK or Pantone (print) space. So, we had to keep looking until we found a better compromise that could translate for both print and web.
And, again, I focused on our brand tenets: do these colors all work together and convey the brand? I began to think about our service offerings and how they overlap screen and print. I decided that brighter versions of red (essentially, our brand’s hot pink), green and blue (closer to cyan) would be a marriage of both aspects of our expertise.
Alternate Logo Applications & Final Detail Work
Now we had concept, type and color. But that still wasn’t the end of the logo. I began to tweak kerning and clean up the form itself. I also began to test how the logo would work on alternate backgrounds. For example, as a light-on-dark logo in the footer of CTRL+CLICK CAST’s website.
Like with sketching, I gave myself a deadline to finish this (otherwise we’d be iterating forever and ever). At one point, we were dealing with 1-2% differences in shades of black, but we wanted to make sure that the logo’s application hit the right notes on all touch points.
The journey to the final logo was arduous, emotional, but ultimately, satisfying. As with every aspect of forging our new identity, we focused on our brand goals to steer us in the right directions. The end result is unquestionably a reflection of our brand and our personalities.
Beyond the Logo: An Identity System!
Though our logo was done, we still had an identity to complete. Stay tuned for future articles on how the logo planted the seeds for how we present ourselves across all touchpoints—collateral, business cards, proposals, contracts, presentation slides and, the website you’re looking at right now!