February 7th, 2012

Logo design process

mock-up of a logo design sketch

I dabble. It’s not a new device from Apple. I’m saying that I play with new technologies, software, graphics programs, API and designing websites and logos. I’m not a professional. I don’t make a living from either. But I enjoy all this dabbling. So when my friend Anne was looking to design a new logo for the new Society of Luxembourg doctoral students named Luxdoc I eagerly dove into Adobe Illustrator and quickly threw back out four general design ideas. In this post I’ll explore the process and talk about other experiences I have had and seen regarding logo design processes.

Requirements & designs

With the logo design I was trying to potentially reconcile two concepts: Luxembourg (symbolically or geographically) and doctoral studies (books?). While it’s relatively easy to refer to Luxembourg based on some famous architectural building, flag colours or country shape, representing doctoral studies is not so easy. The first design I created by indulging myself and using my dotifier tool to represent the mixed fields of study within Luxembourg:

First design

This looked imbalanced so I tried putting the text inside the borders and removing the dots inside:

shrunk and moved text and removed extra dots

I felt that the different coloured dots represented well the diversity of study topics within the organization and the country but not the doctoral nature at all. I tried creating a book design as seen from the edge but this did not really come through in the final product:

a book as seen from above

I felt this design lacked clarity and moved on to explore other design. I aimed for complete simplicity, text only, with a little transparency. The effect is rather nice but a bit boring perhaps:

simple design with slight transparency

To try and add a little more excitement I added a small stroke that broke up the words and amplified the difference in saturation:

stronger accent

This design is nice but still rather simple. Sometimes that’s good enough. I tried to do a more colourful and fun design but it looks a little too childish and abstract:

a playful and colourful design

Just to push the envelope a little further I tried blending the colours to really get the rainbow feeling:

Can you taste the rainbow?

These are the six design I sent to the ~logo committee~ to review. They preferred the second design with the doted border but had some recommendations. They decided that the word LuxDoc should be capitalized and suggested the dots contain the colours of the Luxembourgish flag (blue, white, red). In order to show the white I had to create a drop shadow or ignore the white. I chose to keep the white for greater variation. The balance is a little strange but cleaner and clearer than its predecessor:

bigger clearer and cleaner

I made an inverted design using black as well but I will not address those. The LuxDoc committee then suggested I make the text bolder:

stronger text

Finally the last revision request they made was to remove the drop shadow and remove the text/symbol overlap. As a result I removed all the white dots:

only blue and red dots with no overlap

The vote

At this stage I believed this process was finished and the logo adopted. In fact LuxDoc, as a democratic organization, presented the final revised logo with the first series of exploratory logo designs for a vote. Members of the committee were surprised to see that the most popular logo was by far the red blue luxdoc design with transparency and highlights:

stronger accent

It turned out that the iterative process was for naught. I think, however, that if you look back and compare the original dotted design to the final one you’ll agree that the design was greatly improved through the review process.

The process

I was surprised to hear that LuxDoc had decided to have a vote. Specifically because we had carried out the review and revision process. It seemed the matter was decided. I’m quite happy with the outcome though as I think the selected design is more professional.

It’s not the first time I have submitted a logo design. When I was at Simon Fraser University the Graduate Student Society, newly formed after a scandal regarding potential corruption on the part of the student society president Shawn Hunsdale and his cronies, a logo needed to be designed. I submitted a logo but cannot find it. It didn’t win so it’s not the logo they currently use. The logo was also selected democratically, members voted for their favorite. The council however reserved the right to make modifications and select from the top two choices. The council was rather large with about 15 people so it was still quite democratic. This selection followed by revision worked quite well.

My other logo submission was for the SFU mail system called SFU connect:

Simple repetitive shapes just like Arthur Erikson

The name and logo chosen by the board where never revealed until the process was complete, there was no transparency. The logo symbolizes an optic cable within the ‘C’:

The C represents an optic cable connection


I think of these three processes the one used by the Graduate Student Society (GSS) is the best. They received a wide selection of proposals from many people. The members were able to vote on all submissions. The two highest ranked logos where provided with feedback and suggested changes. These updated logos where then voted on in council. Clearly the last vote could be taken to the population again but the member might just find it annoying (“That’s what we elected you to decide!”). I think with current technology it’s little bother to create an online poll to vote for different designs. This process allows amateurs to submit original ideas while keeping costs down for the organization. Clearly some reward is always nice. I was given a beautiful and huge hexagonal jar full of peanut M&Ms for my LuxDoc design.

In the case above I’m only speaking about the logo design process of a society, club or other democratic entity. The business community has it’s own process that I’m not addressing here.

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