The Benefits Of Starting Logo & Brand Side Projects

Work can get so intense that one benefits from side projects or hobbies as burn-out can hit you quicker than you can say burn-out.

I am eminently qualified to say this as some of you know I had a breakdown five or so years ago, and I am also eminently qualified in the managing of my work and personal life as much as one can.

When you are working as a creative you are super privileged to be able to work on the feeding of your soul as well as working for clients. Both can benefit your monthly earnings if you play it right.

Side projects are so important as they provide balance. You may really enjoy your job now and can’t even imagine ever getting pissed off with it but it can happen, and I would say it is likely to happen rather than not.

I have significant periods where I feel utterly fed up with the thought of having to spend another day on the Mac; these are the days that you need to try and plan for and create a preemptive plan to reduce their occurrences.

Unevolved Brands

Unevolved Brands was my first proper side project which turned out to be such a fun thing to work on. I had no idea it would take off as it did after I posted the first few unevolved brand examples on this blog.

Seeing those first few comments inspired me to knock out a few more which then lead to creating a dedicated Tumblr for it which then created a monster and it soon spiralled upwards and outwards. Unevolved Brands subsequently being featured in many of the main line blogs and websites including: Gizmodo and Fast Co Design.

As with anything like this interest starts to wain and things end up just ticking along. It still picks up new visitors, and I still keep unevolving a few new brands each week. One of the biggest lessons with Unevolved Brands was not totally appreciating the level of traffic that a popular project can generate, and not to mention all the back-links and references.

Had this been on imjustcreative I would have benefited from some real link juice so this is when I decided to transfer the project from Tumblr to a sub domain off imjustcreative: With the project transfered I could then redirect the domain away from Tumblr, and direct it to the sub domain.

I had missed the boat on this one but I did have plans for other projects so my thinking was to create a series of sub websites much like Undersconsideration with Brand New, FPO etc.

Should I ever find a great new project recipe I would not miss out on all hose back-links and site visits.

Financial Motivation Helps

Part of my motivation to start these sub websites was based on being part of the BuySellsAds network: Adpacks, and I really wanted to keep them happy with healthy stats etc.

The best way to keep an advertiser happy is to increase overall site visits whilst maintaining a valuable and interesting experience without dropping post quality. It’s not just about volume; overall variety and frequency is crucial as well as the consideration of both advertisers and website visitors. Treat them as equals.

Realising I needed to find a new project to run along side Unevolved Brands I did consider a few options. One of these was Font Fuddle but I have currently put this on hold for the time being. Font Fuddle is more a quiz than a side project but it does take time to create each fuddle and subsequent answer, and let it known I do actually have client work to fit in.

Inspired By

In the world of logo design rarely is a seemingly unique idea totally unique. A truly unique idea can happen but for the most part we live in a world full of examples and inspiration that we can’t ignore, and much less hide from.

Much of what we do is inspired by the work and styles of others, and the same can be said of the music and art world. My next project was inspired by a number off creatives who have explored the world of logo and brand design; some of which are shown below.

Unevolved Brands was inspired by one example in Los Logos Compass. In the book is a small picture of the Google logo is simplified to just round circles, and this was something that really caught my interest. Expanding this concept to cover as many brands as possible was totally on the books.

I was recently intrigued by the large scale work of WeAreDorothy who produced a number of illustrations based on popular brands minus the wording in a project entitled: You Took My Name.

Just as recently a prolific designer going by the name of Viktor Hertz came up with the quirky logo project: Honest Logos where the brand names were replaced with tongue-in-cheek statements or wording based on alternative perceptions.

Logo mash-ups are not new and have been around for some time. In 2010 JohnsonBanks posted some curious logo mash-ups such as the Gügle one below whereby popular brands were halved and sewn together to make hybrid brand names.

The web is both vast and intimate. On one hand things of interest can go unnoticed for months, and even years, then you stumble on it and wonder how it could of passed you by.

Whilst writing this post and doing some research on the links above I stumbled over the website of Mario Amaya. Mario has an epic collection of brand logos swapped with other brand names which was done way back in April 2008.

It’s only now that I have come across his work.

I started Brand Reversions without knowing about the prolific examples as shown by Mario but the discovery of these logo mash-ups just goes to show seemingly fun ideas are rarely unique when you have the whole world at your finger tips.

That seemingly cool and unique idea has probably been done before; you just haven’t come across it yet.

Brand Reversioning

Note: As mentioned above huge hat-tip to Mario for blazing the logo mash-up trail.

With the inspiration at your finger tips moulding an idea into a project serves several uses. The idea to swap competing brand names into the style of the other was just too tempting to pass up. I have had moments where I was sure I would get drawn into some legal letter swapping but I was hoping that these companies would see the lighter side of the project.

Indeed the AA ended up adding as a favorite the RAC-AA Brand Reversion on Flickr which went some long way to show that some brands do have a sense of humour.

The whole concept of swapping out one brand name into the clothes of a direct competitor really shakes things up. Some of the examples look totally natural and normal yet some look decidedly odd


8-bit Brands

8-bit Brands was realised through my passion for everything 8-bit. GIven that I grew up with the ZX81 and Commodore 64 my heart totally belongs to the good old days of home computing. The 8-Bit Brands idea came quickly whilst working on a brand reversion, and the name seemed to roll of the tounge.

This is a hugely fun and self satisfying logo project, and I can honestly say this one is just for my own satisfaction. I love seeing how popular brand logos look after having a few blocks thrown at them.

So. Why So Many Logo Projects?

The driving reason why I spend so much time with these side projects is that they are all immensly educational and fun. Ripping and dissecting each popular brand really makes you understand and appreciate the level of thought and work that has gone in to each logo and the visual identity in general.

You get to see what portions of the identity work in tandem and what elements are strong enough to work on their own. Some logos work better as part of an overall identity family whereas some logos appear strong and proud on their own. Each has it’s merits and demerits but sometimes designers and agencies do get this balance wrong.

With Unevolved Brands I got to see what made each brand logo uniquely identifiable just through colour and element position. This project made you realise how we recognise some brands based purely on colour and structure.

From construction to colours to shapes and form form to structure and typography; Unevolved Brands has really opened my eyes to appreciating and creating unique designs.

This also applies to Brand Reversions but in a slightly different way. With this I am reinforcing my own appreciation of how crucial the right type selection is for a brand logo, and also goes to show others how a different combination of letters can look just plain wrong. An example of this wrongness is the Canon-Nikon and AA-RAC reversions. Yet the RAC-AA reversion works out pretty well.

When creating structure from type we have to look at the overall balance or unbalance created by the letters especially with a typographic word mark such as Canon.

Each Brand Reversion involves checking up on that that particular brands identity guidelines whilst specifically looking for direction on typography and font selection. A few of these brand reversions have been quite tricky and time intensive but some have been knocked out in a few minutes.

With 8-bit Brands I am having to dissect each and every logo within an inch of its life then working out how it can be simplified to blocks without much loss of form and shape.

The Twitter bird logo mark was one such example where the finer details such as the beak and the ruffles of hair proved virtually impossible to accurately retain.

Much can be gleaned from looking at and dissecting other peoples work.

This is the main reason why I invest so much time on these projects. I am looking and studying everything about each logo, brand and identity which I would hazard a guess most people don’t do except for a passing glance now and again.

The Projects

Unevolved Brands:  Website & Flickr Set

Brand Reversions: Website & Flickr Set

8-bit Brands: Website & Flickr Set

Inspiration Credits

Mario Amaya: Logo Mash-ups — Viktor Hertz: Honest Logos — JohnsonBanks: Logo Mash-ups — WeAreDorothy: You Took My Name



Written by: Graham Smith: The Logo Smith
1st Posted: 2011/05/17 & Post Updated: 2014/05/09
Filed In Categories: Books, Famous Logos, Flickr, Inspiration, Logo Guidelines, Opinion, Tips & Advice

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