The ultimate logo manifesto (part 6)

Part 6: The Zen of Logo Design

Logo design is one of those things where you really have to be in the right head space (at least I do) to really develop a quality product. It’s not like typesetting a brochure or color correcting photo. Logo development is as much an exercise in design as it is a journey through the abstract. It really helps if you can shut off the analytical side of your brain and just let your consciousness be your guide.

If you’ve done your thumbnails as was discussed in Part 1, you have a good start and can get the juices flowing by transitioning those sketches into digital reality. But often those sketches don’t always translate from the page to the screen; invariably something is lost and you find yourself staring at the monitor wondering what went wrong, or what is missing that will make that logo the dynamic, impactful design you originally intended. Here are a few tips to help you sort things out:

Shut out the world.
One of the things that’s hardest to do, whether you work at home or at an office is to remove yourself from the daily activities that surround you. I’ve found that in logo design, it’s important to isolate yourself from any distractions. Logo development is a very right-brained, creative activity and often works best if you can devote several hours straight to the brainstorming and creation of logo concepts. If you are constantly interrupted — especially with analytical, left-brained activities — you’ll lose any of the good creative rhythm you may have established.

It’s best if you can just close the office door, or if you don’t have a door, shut out the world by putting on some headphones, cranking up the iPod and drowning out all the distractions. I cannot emphasize how important it is to create an environment that is free from distractions to achieve that creative, inventive workflow that is critical to logo development.

Walk away.
As strongly as I preach the importance of being able to create an environment where you can string together several uninterrupted hours of design time, it is also important to back away from the computer and let your mind breathe.

This doesn’t mean you have to remove yourself from the creative environment, but instead allow you some time to gain some perspective and think about what you have done; reflect on the effectiveness of the logos you’ve created. A few minutes or hours away bring clarity and fresh eyes to a project that allows you to see your work anew and make sure that you are on the right track with your thought process and identify any possible areas for improvement.

Let go.
Sometimes letting go of a troublesome logo concept is a very cathartic and cleansing experience. I’m not talking about saving it and trying something else. I’m talking about making the bold step of deleting the file in its entirety; trash it and move on. Make a decision to get that one particular concept out of your head for good; don’t give yourself an out or a safety net to go back to it later. Just delete it.

This is a very common practice for me. During the course of logo development, I may permanently delete several concepts from my working files; ideas that just don’t seem to translate or that I’m spending too much time on. There’s something to be gained from a fresh start and I’ve learned not to be afraid of what I might be losing in a concept, and embrace the possibilities of what the next idea may bring. Sometimes an idea just isn’t worth it, but you have to explore it for a time to get the concept out of your head so that you can make a clean break and move on to better things. In many ways, it’s akin to living like there’s no tomorrow. Design with no regrets

Draw inspiration from everything.
I like a clean, organized office. I hate clutter. But when I design logos that’s when I bring out the junk. I bring out toys, photos, old magazines and I lay them around my workspace; no order, no logic.

I do this to give my mind something to do when I’m stuck or searching for new ideas to try. You never know when inspiration will strike you and from where it will come. It could be the curves of an old Hot Wheels car, or an odd crease in a back issue of Sports Illustrated. Contours, lines and shapes all have ways of tapping into abstract thought and allowing someone in a creative head space to see things not as they are, but how they will be.

Go ahead, stare.
It’s always been my philosophy that a good logo is just waiting to be found. To paraphrase Michelangelo: “The statue was already in the marble, all I did was to clear away the unneeded stone.” This may sound a bit funny, but it’s not uncommon for me to stare at a blank application workspace for extended periods of time. I let the waves of the monitors refresh lines wash over my eyes until I see in that white nothingness of my digital canvas, the logo that’s meant to be on that screen. From then on, all I have to do is create it. It’s all about detaching yourself from your conscious, logical mind (the one that worries about time tables, font usage, image orientation, etc.) and letting the artistic mind come to the forefront and show you what needs to be done.

All of this may sound funny to some, but to a designer being creative is serious work. To achieve a desired result it’s important that you put yourself in a position to be creative and sometimes this means shutting out the world, or simply telling your co-workers not to bother you for extended periods of time. The zen of logo creation is a very real component to effective logo development and something not to be dismissed or overlooked. So set aside some time to get your head right and develop an environment where a wandering mind is a critical component to focused work.

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