A logo is a graphic mark, emblem, or symbol used to aid and promote public recognition. It may be of an abstract or figurative design or include the text of the name it represents as in a logotype. A logo is the central element of a complex identification system that must be functionally extended to all communications of an organization. Therefore, the design of logos and their incorporation in a visual identity system is one of the most difficult and important areas of graphic design.
Logos fall into three classifications (which can be combined): Ideographs are completely abstract forms; pictographs are iconic, representational designs; logotypes depict the name or company initials.
Transmitting the function of a company or institution solely through symbolic means, creating completely abstract forms or representative icons that are not accompanied with the name of the company is quite a difficult undertaking (since it requires a lot of abstract / associative thinking) that can only be accomplished properly with extensive research, teamwork and lengthy meetings between the client and design team – none of which are things that we have the means or the time to do. We will therefore take the combined route of placing the name of the company next to an icon (which may be abstract or representational) since this will be the most beneficial way of proceeding for the learning objectives of this class.
We will start by examining the logotypes in the gallery above that some of your friends created in previous years. Most of these, with just one exception are examples of a typographic rendition of the name of the company placed next to a symbol which represents the activities of the company. While some of these symbols are directly related to these activities (such as the clothing items that represent the vintage clothing store by Gülçe, or the coffee stain that represents the coffee shop by Leyla); others are more indirect associations or indeed abstract symbols (such as the circus tent for a VR headset company by Mirco, or the paper planes for the printing house by Fulya, or the two owls that Aslı and Nesli used for the coffee shop since the owl as a nocturnal animal was considered by both to be a good symbol for coffee through the connection of insomnia).
Note – and a very important one! You will see as you continue reading this tutorial that I will not use the term “picture” or “image” when talking about this visual material anywhere on this page. The last thing we want to do is make a picture. Symbols are not pictures, they are visual condensations of a concept, an idea, an activity. They are “a sign whose form suggests its meaning.” They can represent something through indirect connections, and not through a direct portrayal. In fact, very often they do just that – give an indirect or abstract reference to what it is that they represent. Remember the owls for the coffee shop in the student gallery at the start? Or the spaceship as a symbol for a VR headset?
Big big difference from a picture, and you should be aware of this difference so that you don’t end up painting pictures instead of making a logo symbol or an icon.
So, let us break this approach into its 2 components – the typographic element (the company name) and the visual symbol – and talk about how we would go about designing these and then how we would combine them.
The Typographic Element: If you are a company with a sufficient budget to be able to afford this you will almost certainly go to a font designer (someone like our own dear Onur Yazıcıgil whose font Duru Sans I have used for the featured images of these posts) in order to have a custom font designed for your logotype. If our class were the advanced typography class this is what we would be doing also, of course. However, designing a font is something that takes a tremendous amount of expertise, skill, knowledge of geometry – and it also takes a lot of time! And we have none of these, including time! We only have something like 3 weeks to design the logo so that we can then proceed to the main task of the project – which is designing a complex system of many parts in which the logo will play the central role.
So, instead of creating our own font we will take a different route and use an already existing font that is licensed under a creative commons license. And the best place to find these fonts is google fonts (https://fonts.google.com/)
So, now that we are inside google fonts comes the next question: Which ones do we use to create good solid typography? Do we just pick the one we like, or are there criteria and guidelines that we need to be aware of? Are there font categories? If so, do we need to know about them while we make our choices? The answer is – yes there are and yes, we do need to know about this stuff.
Font Categories by Structure: Although there is long history in which many different types of fonts were used, today there are 3 basic font categories in contemporary typography: These categories have to do with the actual visual structure of the glyphs and they are classified as Serif, Sans Serif, and Grotesk fonts.
Serif fonts have two basic attributes: 1) They have small protrusions/shoes at the tips of their straight strokes, 2) The weight of their strokes is variable – some parts of the strokes are noticeably thinner than others. There are historic reasons for this that have to do with calligraphic techniques; however this being a brief tutorial only we will not go into these here). Their history goes all the way back to Romans and most pre-modernist fonts are serif fonts. Well known examples are Times New Roman, Bodoni and Garamond.
Sans Serif fonts share one of the two attributes of the serif fonts above, namely the second one: Sans Serif fonts also have variable stroke weights, some parts of which are noticeably thinner than others. But when it comes to the tip protrusions/shoes sans serif fonts do not have these. Sans serif fonts have come into being only in the early 20th century, and as such are a modernist manifestation. The best know example is Gill Sans, but any font that has the word “sans” appended to it can be considered to be a sans serif font.
For many typographers Grotesk fonts are actually only a sub-category of sans serif fonts, and they too have come into being only in the 20th century. They differentiate themselves from sans serif fonts through the lessened variability of stroke weight. This is not to say that their stroke weights are completely uniform, there will still be small variations without which the joining of the strokes would be very difficult to achieve. However, this variability is kept to the absolute necessary minimum in Grotesk fonts. The best known of these is, of course, Helvetica – the legendary font designed by Max Miedinger in 1957 that became the leading font of the famous Swiss Style in graphic design and still continues to be one of the most widely used, and one of the most beautiful fonts today.
But it isn’t just structure – fonts also have personalities. However, some fonts have more adaptable personalities that allow for these to be used in many different types of projects, with different contents and topics.
In fact, it is no exaggeration that many adaptable/generic fonts are soft enough to be used successfully in as wide a range as, say, from technological content to entertainment sites, from wedding invitations to corporate annual reports. These can be serif or sans serif fonts – so the distinguishing factor has nothing to do with their structural differences. Instead it has to do with the fact that these fonts are designed in such a way that they do not “remind” us of anything else outside of themselves: When we see these fonts we do not make a subconscious association with a feeling, a state, or a specific concept or topic, such as a historic period or a geographical location or a culture or a life-style. This neutrality allows us to use these fonts wherever we like, with whichever content we like. They will always look appropriate.
But then there are also so-called “strong fonts” that remind us of something, that have strong associations. The thing to be aware of is that strong fonts are usually much fancier than adaptable fonts, and a lot of novice designers are drawn to them through this fanciness. But attractive as they sometimes may seem to be, strong fonts should be used only when their associations actually fit the content of the design. These associations are often also subconscious and they could be historic, cultural, geographic or they could be related to emotions, such as being “friendly” – an association that is often used about the ill-famed Comic Sans font. (http://www.comicsanscriminal.com/).
Hand written (or calligraphic) fonts: I am going to start out by cautioning you to be very careful with these since they carry an inherent contradiction which is that while these fonts are based on handwriting they are actual fonts in which every glyph is exactly identical every time that it is produced. When we write by hand we can never replicate the exact shape of letter, no matter how often we try. Every “a” or “b” or “c” we write is different. Sometimes slightly different but more often markedly different. In a font however, these letters are always the same for obvious reasons. And this is a contradiction.
This said, in recent years font designers have created such beautiful and elegant hand written fonts that it is hard to ignore them. So, stay away from things like “Brush Script” and “Mistral” but if the topic / concept of your logo is suited to it, go look among handwritten fonts. A very good place for them is a website called pixelsurplus.
Note: Script fonts should get a special mention here. These are very beautiful fonts that one can easily be drawn to. Personally, I love them. However, I am also aware that they have a very marked “strong” characteristic in that they are strongly associated with the Baroque/Renaissance period, and therefore I hardly ever have the opportunity to use them.
Script fonts are based upon copperplate engravings that decorated books of this period. The ornamental lines around them are called scrolls or swirls and a contemporized “grungy” version of these are actually currently very fashionable as stand-alone graphic ornaments.
We now come to tips and tricks for selecting and using fonts – how to combine them, which weights to use and what to pay special attention to.
Unless your company has a very specific relation to a historic period (Ottoman coffee house, for example), or a geography (Mexican restaurant, for example), or an age group activity (Kindergarden, for example) I am going to advise you, indeed more than that – to tell you to stay away from fancy fonts or strong fonts. Pick a good, adaptable font. If your company has a “serious” context (a bank or an insurance company, for example) it may be good to pick a serif font, however nowadays most fonts picked for logotypes are sans serif fonts (as you will see in the gallery that I picked from pinterest below). And there are some really beautiful ones to pick from, especially those designed in recent years such as Barlow, Roboto, Fira Sans, Cairo, Advent, Saira, Encode Sans, Lato. There are many more obviously, this is just a selection – click on the names to open the google fonts page.
One thing to keep in mind when you decide upon a font is also the weight that you will use. Until recently it was generally held that the typography of a font should preferably be bold since until recently there was one item in which the logotype would be used in a very small size, and that was the lapel button (rozet, in Turkish). But, lapel buttons have gone out of usage in recent years and therefore we no longer have this consideration. So, if you look at recently designed logotypes you will see that lighter font weights are used very often and are very effective. The gallery below is a selection from a pinterest board that I keep (https://tr.pinterest.com/alphaauer/students-_-logos/) where you can see many more examples that will show you what I said both about the lessened usage of serif fonts for logos as well as an increased usage of light weights.
Note: While sans serif fonts in heavier weights will usually give good crisp results, the same cannot be said for serif fonts where the heavy weights will very often look rather clumsy (unless we are talking about hard serif fonts such as Bodoni where the serifs are very thin). But in a normal serif font such as Garamond the serif on the bold weight will create a fuzziness, especially when used in online items such as websites or apps. As you can see below the corners on the sans serif typeface are nice and crisp, but the serifs on the serif font are getting fuzzy. And not only that, the letter “a” is quite fuzzy also.
One of the nicest things which you can do with fonts when you are designing a logotype is mixing weights. Another good trick is to write the company name all in uppercase letters since that will give us a very nice alignment of letters not only on the baseline but also on the top line. And another trick is to add a pica letter if the name of the company. All of these can of course only be done if the name of the company allows for a breaking up into 2 parts (such as “Rüya Makinası” or even “Kopkoyu” in the logos that your friends designed in previous years).
Below I have used Onur’s Duru Sans to put together a whole bunch of alternatives, starting with just a straightforward writing and then slowly adding different weights to the 2 parts of the name. From there I moved on to try one out where everything is upper case, and finally I also have a few with picas in the middle.
Another thing that can be done to create an interesting relationship between the two components of a company name is to place the type inside boxes and invert it. Below are a few examples of what I mean.
You can also add shapes such as strokes or thin boxes to your logotype, as I am showing you with an image that I made for an old tutorial in which I used my name. Here I am using the weight combinations also, to which I added strokes.
Note: In the middle one I used a serif font in 2 tones of gray – but in this case the serif font works quite well since it is a hard serif (a font called “Modern”) in which the serifs are very thin strokes that will not get fuzzy.
And now we finally come to the logo symbol, which is the 2nd component of the typography / visual element combination that I said we would be doing at the start.
I do not advise you to draw this yourself since it will take quite a bit of expertise (which at this point you are not likely to have) and also quite a bit of time even if you do have the expertise – and time is something that we most certainly do not have a lot of during this phase of the project. Instead you should take this opportunity to learn all about finding and using online design resources. The internet has hundreds of thousands of these (if not indeed millions) – you can find creative commons licensed high resolution images, vectors, fonts, clip art, web material, templates, GUI packages, mockups and much much more that are freely downloadable. And we will be utilizing these throughout this course. What you do need to pay very close attention to when you are doing this is that the thing that you want to use is in fact legally free to use. Resource websites will not place anything on their pages that hasn’t been legally cleared, so there you are in the clear. However, you should be very careful when you just download stuff (especially images) from the google search engine because these will most probably not be free to use. (There is a setting on the google images search engine that allows you to look for only creative commons licensed images – do not forget to turn it on.)
What we will need to look for now however are vector symbols. And there are 3 very good places to look for these: The famous noun project (https://thenounproject.com/) where you can search for symbols on any given subject is the first of these. The noun project lets you download a creative commons file (which means that you have to give attribution to the creator, whose name is in the file that you download) of what you decide to use. Make sure you download the SVG version and not PNG since SVG is a vector format which means that you can enlarge it as much as you want with no quality loss. You will need to open this in Adobe Illustrator and then copy paste from the into photoshop. The second good place is vecteezy (https://www.vecteezy.com/) where you can find not only symbols but all kinds of vector illustrations, backgrounds and much more. The download format will either be EPS or AI, so again, you will need to open these in Illustrator first. And the third good place is quite similar to vecteezy in concept and it is called All Free Download (http://all-free-download.com/) where you can find not only vectors but many other things as well. And finally, there is Freepik (https://www.freepik.com/) which is excellent for not only vectors but for all kinds of things such as photographs, mock-ups, and templates.
So, now that you know the best places where you can find vectors that will be good for a logo symbol, let us talk a bit about what type of visual material you should be looking for that would work well as a symbol or an icon for your company.
First off, please go back to the top of the page and read the note that I put there about the difference between pictures and symbols and that what we need for a logo is a symbol, and not a picture. The first group of symbols that I want to show you are abstract symbols that do not relate directly to the activities of the company, such as the ones that I am showing you in the row below. There is a huge number to make a selection from on all 3 portals that I listed above. What you do need to pay attention to is that, although the abstract symbol does not need to relate directly to the company’s activities, there should nevertheless be some sort of implied visual connection. So, among the ones below I would probably choose the first one the left for a jeweler (because it looks a bit like a diamond), or a construction company (because it seems to have an architectural reference through the long pyramid shape). The 2nd, 4th and 6th ones I would probably choose for natural products, things that have to do with plants. The 3rd and 5th might work well for community enterprises since they imply a “coming together,” and the 7th would probably be good for transportation or travel because there is an arrow shape that implies movement.
But you can also choose symbols that relate directly to the enterprise. Below we have a number of icons that would work well for food places. Some of these are more generalized (the fork and spoon, or the plate and fork, spoon) while others are more specific, such as the fast food symbol with the burger and soft drink, or the jars for a whole foods store, or the menu on the left for a restaurant.
I will obviously not go through a whole range of business activities and what types of icons would be good for them since if I were to try to that, this post would never end – there are that many! But let me give you just one more example by showing you are row of icons that would be good for a logistics company.
And now let me quickly put some examples from an old tutorial that I made where I used my own name and a number of icons to show how icons and typography can be combined by placing things inside boxes – once only the icons, and once both icons and typography (in 3 variations, but all the same design). Obviously there are many many ways of doing these combinations, using boxes is only one of them:
Another very good way of bringing together icons and typography is by using separators that define designated areas for these different elements, which can often be problematic to bring together because their visual natures are actually quite different – one is type and the other is pictographic. I made a special and rather long tutorial about this topic of separators – below are just a few examples, but you should read the full tutorial here >>>
On this page I have shown you how to collect the material out of which you will build your logo and the things to pay attention to while you are collecting this material. We talked about font selection – what to pay attention to when you decide upon a logo font, and I have also told you about the basics of how to make decisions as to what the logo icon should be. And I have given you online resource address where you can find fonts and vectors with which you can put together an original logo. I have also shown you examples, both from the output of this class in the past years as well as from online sources as inspirational material.
Does this mean that you will now be able to sit down and design a logo all by yourself – just by throwing the stuff together? No, of course, it does not. This site is only a supplement to the actual physical class that we hold every week and the closed Facebook group where we conduct critiques of homework that you post there.
There are many other things which you will be hearing about in class, that will inform you on the design strategies of how to put the material that you collected together to become a logotype. The most important of these is a subject called alignment. Another one is hierarchy, and another one is size and space relationships. And beyond these there are many other concepts that as designer you will need to become conversant with, such as ambiguity, harmony, contrast, and style – just to name a few.
So, I will see you in class where we will continue to work on how to construct a logotype together. ;-)