Rocket Science VFX (tv and movie visual effects company), is a logo & brand identity re design project that I've been working on now for a little while now.
I will update this ongoing logo design case study with new screenshots and photos of my mock-ups, sketches, and scribbles as they are done.
In this post are just a snapshots of the later stages of the project, showing the most recent logo design concepts, initial thoughts on the style of typography and all the messy sketches that go hand-in-hand with developing a logo design.
About Rocket Science VFX (RSVFX)
Rocket Science VFX: In addition to Script-to-Post Visual Effects Supervision, Rocket Science VFX maintains full-time Matte Painting, 3D environment and asset build, 3D tracking, and stereo compositing departments to create realistic environments and animation vfx compositing for features like "Pompeii" for Constantin Film, "Dolphin Tale", and "Dolphin Tale 2" for Alcon Entertainment, and "Chloe" and "Devil's Knot" for acclaimed Canadian director Atom Egoyan.
Our recent television credits include the Bafta award-winning projects: "Titanic" for ITV, and "Day of the Triffids" for the BBC, "Hannibal" for Gaumont/NBC, "Revolution" for Bad Robot/NBC, and ABC's Primetime Emmy-nominated "The Path to 9/11".
Rocket Science VFX - Logo Design Case Study
I initially started with the somewhat obvious: looking at a variety of existing retro, vintage, modern rocket logo designs and stock images.
No point starting a project like this without having a bloody good idea of what rocket logos and imagery already exist; obviously 1000's. Trying to find a unique angle for the new Rocket Science VFX logo would be a fun challenge.
With a pretty literal name as Rocket Science, it would be hard to not use some form of rocket theme for the new logo, but how I would achieve this was the question.
It was really just this selection of various rocket imagery that really got me thinking about finding a less 'obvious/well used/common/cliche' way to represent a rocket.
No doubt we could come up with a style of rocket that was relatively new, but they all get merged and sucked into one collective vat of rocket logos.
I also researched Sputnik, as this is a logo design idea the client had previously looked at in previous logo redesign exploratory work, before hiring me to take on the rebranding.
This is where I basically went back to the previous Sputnik idea, with the dots/circles, which does reflect the link to programming scripts within the VFQ process, and tried to look for a new and different approach…
I also quickly looked at the 'science and equations' aspect, so focusing more on a typographic solution that literally played into the 'science' portion of the brand name.
I kinda like the way some of the names look, using the brackets to make a faux equation out of the initials.
You'll see I was still playing with the idea of the Sputnik visual integrated into the science equation aspect also.
However, I didn't get a sense of 'new and different' from any of these, so this direction has been put on pause.
Moving on, I started playing with bigger and more solid circles, maybe planets orbits, or extensions of the Sputnik, or even molecules\atoms RE Science…
This last shape started to trigger something which I needed to explore further (below).
Those solid circles with holes, eventually reminded me of rocket boosters, and the massive engines of a rocket!
Seems an obvious connection, but you can get so entrenched in a previous idea, that it's not always easy to see another direction.
Immediately excited by this new direction, as it screamed: massive, big, science, space, movies, everything that Rocket Science VFX is about, and gets involved with.
I also could see how this could be developed in a clean, fresh, bold logo format, and it got us away from the overly common side profile view of a rocket.
This bottom engine view is also so powerful, and represented so much energy and power, not to mention opening up a number of visual openings for logo ideas.
Have to say, I was getting quite excited at this point…
This is the initial mock-up (red imagery above) of the rocket engine view. A really strong, clean, bold and simple image that creates a totally different perception of a rocket.
Also, this form of logo would be easier to use, replicate, scale, place and play with due to it's square boundary box.
I then, at some point, when thinking of a way to alter it a little bit from a regular 5 engine rocket.
So I got back to thinking of movies, TV's and then another 'lightbulb moment': recalled that movie projector reels would be a perfect play. By adding it a 6th big circle, you have a very 'subtle' reference to a movie reel.
I don't want it to be too obvious at all, but a compromise would be adding a solid circle as in the right hand version.
So the result is a compact logo mark, formed from the most powerful and amazing part of a rocket, it's engine and boosters, along with a cheeky nod to the movie reel.
I like incorporating 'cheeky nods' as and when I can.
- So here are some preliminary logo lock-up's (above, and number referenced below), using 2 main initial font styles to provide better context for the rocket engine logo idea. I have used both the movie reel, and non movie reel version, as they are quite different in overall look and feel.
- I started to like the way a more defined 'badge', or contained logo block, could be created from the logo and the wording. I added a dummy tag-line, as I think it would be useful to include one with the logo, (something the client and I would look at later).
- This was a bit of a fluke, but the initials fit nicely into the 5 circles, but this would only really work as a larger format logo, and could possibly be animated through spinning, or something else altogether.
- The movie reel version with the large solid circle actually looks quite cool in this format.
- Also very strong, solid and fuss free layout option.
I do like this taller 'stacked' version (above). It has more information and wording than I'd usually be comfortable with, but if nicely spaced does works well as a prominent brand mark.
I can almost imagine flames and smoke coming out of the engines, towards the screen/user, and maybe slowly rotating as the rockets etc do when they start their journey to space.
The Next Phase
After showing the client the previous logo mock-ups, and ideas, there was some great feedback.
One of the suggestions: to try and turn the previous 'flat' ideas, into something that had more depth.
I did play with this suggestion (sketch above) by tilting the previous flat designs, and came up with some logo sketches of the rocket booster engines, and nozzles, at a far more dramatic angle: tilting it closer to the 'viewer'.
I've added hint of a ‘capsule’ nose to the top of the engines, or alternatively a very extreme depth of field, of the entire length of the rocket shooting off into the extreme distance.
IN terms of being able to bring their logo to life through animation, this could see flames, smoke, and shimmering invisible heat effect, and vibration, as the engine rumbles into life.
So this is where the project is at the moment, and I'll update this Ongoing Case Study with further updates, sketches, ideas and comments as they occur.
After having my BT Broadband upgrade to BT Infinity brilliantly ballsed up by a BT contractor, leaving me with no broadband at all, I ended up having to making a number of horrifyingly frustrating calls to BT's abysmal call service hotlines.
The calls to BT started at 6pm Monday evening, and after 4 separate calls, and talking to 6 different people in various parts of the world, I gave up the will to live at 11pm being no better off in getting my broadband up and working.
However, all this time on hold and listening to scripted questions, I ended up sketching some ideas for a logo project I'm currently working on. The one with the frame has a nice symmetry as the P and G are/would be the exact same form, just flipped vertically, with the H sitting behind, but gelling all 3 initials: PHG, together. It's a little more interesting that just having 3 regular initials, and basically does become a logomark in it's own way. It could be used independently of the full length typemark; Pleasant Hill Grain, for example, rather than being a regular logomark that typically always forms part of the whole logo.
I think twiddling my thumbs would have left me close to wanting to commit a terrible act upon myself to avoid the ongoing misery, but the doodling actually proved to be very soothing and actually actually lead to a decent idea to pursue further. Hadn't previously seen that the P & G could be formed from the same shape thus creating a reasonable solid, and quite unique initialmark
Not sure what the moral is of this tale, but maybe always have a pen and some paper handy should you ever find yourself stuck in an infinite loop of BT helpline hell.
I don't often share my sketches: I feel that within the sketches are possible other ideas for new projects, and it can sometimes seem a little trusting to bear your creative soul in such a way as to just asking to be ripped off. Guess I'm not feeling so cynical today. However: all images are Copyright of imjustcreative-Graham Smith 2012.
Currently working on a new logo project called Shark: a swimwear brand focusing on creating performance mens swim trunks for the aqua competitive.
Initially started out trying to shoehorn in a sharks tail as a form of serif on the S (first lot of doodles on first image), but soon realised that there was a possibilty to manipulate the entire S rather than just a portion.
The aim now is to try and stylise the S to have some form/shape that represents a shark, but without being too lifelike/realistic/literal, but also not so abstract as to have no idea what the hell it is.
I have been inspired by Gothic, BlackLetter and calligraphic style fonts as an initial direction for the logomark. The challenge right now is designing it so it doesn't appear like a seahorse, or too much like a hammerhead shark or other undesirable manifestations of unrelated animals.
The general idea is to fashion the shape so that it looks like the shark is in a tight twist, all ready to fiercely swipe out its tail into your face whilst propelling itself forward.
There is one doodle I do like, which is in the sketch directly above and is next to the feint 'h'. A little too realistic for this project, but liking the overall form.
Very early days, but I also think we are pretty close to nailing this. My goal is to create a form of this mark that would look utterly awesome as a upper arm tattoo.
Have been fortunate to have had some enjoyable, and meaty, logo design projects over the last few months which has meant a lack of work updates on the blog. To remedy that here is a little peek into a recent logo design (redesign) project.
Unfortunately unable to put a name to this project which means it's a little difficult to put any of this into context, but I know some people enjoy looking logo design sketch work.
I am able to share that the overall emotion this logo needs to portray is of: strength; offensive as a rule, but showing a confident defensive nature as an underlying message: eye on the objective, pushing forward against the objective, not conceding any ground; reliability and assurance during times of anxiety.
What you might find interesting is how the angle of the head and position of the shield can make a real difference to how this is interpreted as a whole.
With head looking up there is a real confidence, and an almost distinguished feel, as well as a clear field of view on the objective. With head looking down feels this chap is ready for anything yet still feels confident but has an immediacy to it. I guess the latter is standing to attention whilst the former is preparing for battle.
Loved this project as small details really made a big difference to the message conveyed.
Not all clients will have an accurate idea of how a logo design is created, some may have a good idea, some may think they know but don't and some just admit to not knowing the first thing.
In the past, I have had a number of occasions where I assumed aspects of my logo design process were obvious. Fail. Confused and unhappy clients can be avoided if you lay it all out on the line before commencing work.
Writing detailed logo design process posts is a big help here, but it's not the only thing you could be doing.
Confusion is easy to make, easy to remedy
The confusion is easy to understand when you consider that most logo designers have their own unique way of working. How many ideas will you first show, how do you go about generating ideas, how do you submit ideas to your clients, how much you do envolve the client with your idea process? There are many more aspects to our job that can be hard for a client to understand.
Just securing that next logo project, getting the brief and getting stuck in is not enough. Do you want a sound footing from which the client can understand and fully appreciate how and what you are doing? Then the more you can communicate your methods and what the client can expect the better. No matter how much they are investing in you, we all need to be reassured that what we are spending out hard earned money on is in good hands.
Silence is not generally conducive to a happy and assured client.
I can't tell you exactly how to achieve this, as I mentioned a few paragraphs back, we all have different ways of working. Consider this. Even if your client understand and appreciates design, they are still unlikely to know and understand your own unique way of working. This much you can pretty much be sure of.
Try not to assume that they will see what's coming, or when to expect something or know how you plan to present your ideas. Do you have any unique skills, do you work significantly differently to other designers you know? If so, you need to try and communicate your intended process once you ready to get started.
How I roll
I have a rather organic way of working, no two projects start the same. It all comes down to the brief and the nature of the logo design. My process is very free flowing and can appear to be quite scatty if you look at my process out of context. Even though it's all perfectly natural and methodical to me, to others it can seem quite disjointed.
In the past I would fall back into 'assuming' a clients understands my way of working, and I would forget to fully explain myself at various stages. Even though I have outlined my basic approach at the proposal stage, this is still not enough to satisfy any doubts or concerns or expectations a client might have.
With each new client, I need to explain my methods as they present themselves. My explanations are tailored to the client and to the job in question, so there is always a personal feel to my communications, even if the email takes hours to write.
I don't present 3-5 complete concepts, then expect the client to choose one. Then go through a round of tweaks and revisions. This method has always seemed sterile, forced and just odd to me. That's just my own personal view.
Trust your brief, Trust your instincts
I trust my gut. I trust my instincts. Having a thorough brief is essential to starting on the right track, an incomplete or scatty brief and you have a uphill challenge. An example of how an incomplete brief 'my fault' derailed a project can be seen in the logo process post for Apple & Eve.
Experience has shown me that I tend to 'imagine' a solid idea right from the outset, (even if I have a incomplete brief, go figure) and this is where I focus my time. I have to feel totally sure about it, I have to be able to sell this initial idea with all my heart.
Now, how I go about showing this initial idea can vary, it can be a loose pencil sketch or it can be a neat Illustrator vector file, it all depends on the project. But this is where it has and could go a little topsy turvy. If I don't put into context this initial idea/concept, the client could be assuming this is actually the 'finished' idea, especially if you are showing vector artwork.
It just seems to be that if you show someone a vector file, with fonts and colours, they will naturally see it as a finished idea, unless ofcourse you say otherwise.
An example of this is a recent logo design for MyModernMet. My initial idea/concept is on the left, the final artwork is on the right.
I don't always start sketching, often I can start visualising direct in Illustrator. Other times I will have pages and pages of pencil doodles, it just depends on the project. So this is a good example of how this initial gut idea/sketch/concept can evolve. Quite a difference between the two, but the left hand image was created to just 'portray' my general idea and direction, without jumping fully in.
The initial idea was VERY loose, but in my head it was fully formed. I have to keep reminding myself that clients don't actually have access to my thoughts.
It was chosen as a framework from which to explore and expand upon, even though in it's present form, it was less than appropriate for the clients requirements.Without explaining your methods and your reasoning, showing the left hand idea without any explanation is likely to 'freak' someone out. It might seem obvious, but one can forget that you are the only one that truly understands your design process.
I have started using this screenshot as an example of my process with new clients, it demonstrates quite effectibly how a seemingly raw idea can spring to life, given the trust and confidence of the client.
I do stress to each client that during the early stages, what they are seeing are basically the raw visions in my head. I ask them to imagine this image being scribbled in pencil on a napkin. Anything I show at this stage is an 'idea/sketch/concept' and needs to be viewed as such. That the client is seeing the raw interpretations of the brief knocking around my mind, rather than a polished final piece of artwork.
I keep reminding the client of this until I am in a position to start showing them more final artwork.
It's down to you
This was just to give you an idea of how I tackle this particular issue. Providing graphic examples of your process, a before and after can greatly help a client get on board with your logo design process. How you go about it is ultimately down to you, but it's something I still have to keep reminding myself to do. Just because it's second nature to me, for others it's likely to be a totally foreign experience, and baby steps are needed.
The more the client understands 'you' and 'your process' the happier you all will be, and the project will more likely bop along quite nicely thank you very much.
I'm inviting a discussion on the risks of showing all your sketch ideas for a logo design process. Logo development and design process posts are becoming more popular and are a valuable way to show your work in context. Reading about how other designers reach their final logo designs can be very enlightening to say the least, often showing the rest of us new ways to approach our own logo development.
A recent example of a logo design process post is Plancast Penguin on Scott Hansen's website, created by Alex Cornell. This is one awesome development post, well worth reading. You can see how many ideas and sketches that Scott puts out there for all to see. On one hand very very cool, but on the other, makes me nervous seeing so many excellent ideas of Scott's not used, free for anyone to potentially copy, borrow or steal.
Also, another great example of a logo process post for Ian Matteson, is by Shelby White of Wanken. I love the end result so much, but just check out the variety of styles Shelby explored before settling on this great typographic option.
As designers, we have to be careful, eyes everywhere to protect our final logo designs. It becomes a matter of urgency when we feel one of our own logo designs may have been copied or heavily inspired from.
The logo process can be exhausting, lengthy and at times tedious and frustrating.
We work to that final goal discarding any number of solid and curious ideas during brainstorming and sketching process. Any number of these ideas could be logos in their own right. I have many ideas and unused concepts littering my paste board. The odd successful logo design has been born from previously discarded ideas on other logo projects. I even have a special Illustrator file where I paste the more interesting unused ideas for future reference.
Those of us that publish our sketches as part of a logo design process post for all to see, are baring our inner souls, showing the inner mechanisms that drive us to realise that final logo design.
Any number of our sketches could be taken and used by others as a basis for a logo design in it's own right.
If we openly publish all these ideas and sketches for the world to see, are we then leaving our selves wide open to having our work taken from us? Not just the final design, but all those valuable ideas that are formed from our experience and skill. Ideas that had we kept to ourselves, would remain ours for future development. If you do publish logo process posts do you show all the sketch ideas or do you just show a select number of sketch ideas?
Some months after you have published an in-depth logo design process post, you see a completed logo design in some inspiration gallery that clearly was taken from one of your sketches. Ironically, this logo design seems to have captured peoples imagination more than the logo you yourself created.
So how would you feel? Would you care? If you did care, did you assume your sketch work should be protected as much as your final logo design? Or is it just fair game? Have you ever seen a logo design clearly inspired or copied from one of your sketches?
Do you accept this could happen, that it's a risk worth taking for being more professionally transparent? Or have you not even really considered it?
Interested to see what think about this.
Up and till recently, I have been a little guarded about my ideas and sketches. It's painful enough to imagine a logo design being copied, let alone any number of these potentially valuable sketches. I am in two minds now, and will be posting a new logo design process post with some select sketches on newly complete logo project called 'Keyboard Kahuna', but certainly not all of them.