Over the last year or so I have received a number of emails from designers asking me about the importance of creating logos using guides, grids and lots of pretty circles.
I can fully understand the anxiety and uncertainty that seeing these methodical and scientific structural breakdowns can leave on your soul.
A personal example of what I am referring to the single page identity guide that I put together for Wavepulse Acoustics.
The bit in particular that seems to cast great despair is the first image on the sheet. Here I have some pretty pink and blue lines, circles and arcs, all of which demonstrate, with the addition of some mathematical type letters and arrows, my dizzying prowess at forming an unbreakable foundation for my logo designs. :-)
The questions I have been asked usually boils down to one thing: Is it necessary to create logos with such lazer like precision?
My answer is usually No & then maybe.
Would it surprise you to learn that the grid based image below was put together AFTER I had designed the logo minus the arrows and X and Y letters, grid, arcs and guides?
I will add that all the guides and measurements you see serve a purpose and are not just eye candy. In these examples they provide information on how to position the logo next to other elements in a design as well as important alignment information.
I designed the logo with basic horizontal guides to help with basic alignment as you would do with page layout designing. But the logo WAS designed without the X/Y, without the semi-circle to the far left, and without the little arrows denoting 2 times X etc.
Only once I had the overall design nailed, the typography selected, did I then add the more precise guides, grid and pretty circles with fancy measurments to fine-tune the logo. The Wavepulse Acoustics logo was actually one example where I did want to be super precise with the horizontal alignment between the type and the logo mark.
The important thing to remember is that these additional fancy measurements were used to finalise details and were NOT used in the basic construction of the idea.
This is not to say that these guides and circles are all for show, hot air and poppycock.
Form And Visual Aesthetics
One must have an understanding of form and visual aesthetics, and the confidence to know when something created with mathematical precision needs to be manually tweaked with something that looks better optically even if it puts your guides, grid and pretty circles out of alignment.
You might often hear of people altering letter or word spacing based on a visual/optical preference whilst casting aside the usual precise rules and mathematical measurements that can leave some text looking a little odd. Not every design that uses precise alignments and measurements will look right. Are we looking for a natural and ‘right’ looking fit or a forced yet unnatural looking fit?
The same principle of manual/visual tweaking opposed to mathematical precision can be applied to logo design. The same visual tweaking in the face of precise mathematical alignment can make a great logo a super great logo.
Knowing and seeing the guides and the pretty coloured lines and circles in your head whilst you are designing IS super useful. It allows you to visually gauge space and structure so it looks good to the eye. You can then apply the more rigid process of adding the grid and rules to see if things could be improved based on a more mathematical approach, or if the design is better off formed from a more organic ‘slide to fit’ approach like I did above.
Some of my logos which were created with visual accuracy and basic horizontal guides for alignment of separate elements include: Tom & Teddy, Safer, Feedly and Tamara Kauffman.
Examples of my logos where I used more precise methods to fine-tune the finished design include: Frictn, Panelit, Skiplex, Foehn & Hirsch and Keyboard Kahuna.
Sometimes that vertical space between the logo mark and the first word and the space between the first and second word need to be the same for balance.
In the case of Keyboard Kahuna I also ensured that the little man icon had a left/right padding (Y) equal to that vertical space between the exterior edge of the logo mark and first word also (Y).
But sometimes this precision and consistency will not work on a visual level and all the guides, grid and pretty circles in the world won’t help it.
Foehn & Hirsch was a little different and I was particularly anal about how space the initials took within the box which you can see by where I have added the various X and Y labels.
In these two examples the fancy measurements are not hot air but do provide a level of accuracy, precision and consistency that some designs require.
The Skiplex logo was designed with an eye for the angles then I applied the guides to ensure that the top of the K, the dot on the i and the angle of the e all matched as the green line shows.
The pink circles were only added to show the client where I had given thought to this overall sense of consistency and design structure as they represented key areas of intersection of vertical and horizontal elements.
Every line and circle has a purpose and helped the client see deeper into the construction of the logo.
The Flip Side
There are cases where I see the most over-the-top structural breakdowns where every conceivable angle, curve, line and space was formed from any number of intersecting arcs and curves.
I even doubt my own sense of self when I come across these amazingly ‘over’ detailed breakdowns. Pretty sure the adding of each line and circle took longer to apply than the actual design of the logo.
A reasonable example of this visual delight is the breakdown of the Apple logo. In cases like this circles and arcs will aid with the precision of a vector image but I see some examples where the designer has just gone way OTT. Another area of design that DOES benefit from the application of arcs and circles would be the creation of typefaces and custom type based logos.
On first inspection anything that is formed using a breathtaking variety of intersecting arcs and curves will look impressive but do not always assume this was the only way the logo could be ‘designed’.
The idea for a logo often comes from the mind or pencil in a hand, and not a startlingly large quantity of guides, grids and pretty circles.
So next time you doubt your own ability to design a logo because you don’t quite see the need for guides, grids and pretty circles or see a logo breakdown with too many guides, grids and pretty circles to count try not to have an aneurism. There are examples out there where the designer has just had too much coffee and has felt it important to show us how a circle was formed from a million other circles.
On the flip-side there are some brilliant examples of structural breakdowns that WILL allow you to see exactly how something was formed, and allow you to see aspects of a logo design that might not have been immediately apparent.
Keep in mind that having an awareness of a visual alignment, spacing and consistency is super important and that in some cases the application of the guides, grids and pretty circles will help you tie-up loose ends and finalise an already solid logo design, or as in the case of the Skiplex logo also help you show the client the level of detail not immediately apparent.