One Hour Logo Design Process
Peter Evers, marketing and communication guru, as well as good friend, works as a volunteer at the Osteoarthritis and Rheumatism Foundation for 4 hours each week. Currently he is helping in setting up the ‘Better for Joints Foundation’, which promotes the freedom of choice between different alternative treatments next to regular medication, but without favoring either. They aim at providing information to patients suffering from arthritis, rheumatism, low back pain, RSI and some other joint diseases.
Peter asked me if I could spare an hour and see what I could do for them in terms of logo design, as their current logo was not very professionally appealing or representative of the foundation’s purpose. I decided to take this up as a personal challenge and give myself exactly one hour for the complete design process of the logo.
In this article, for your enjoyment, I will describe the design process from start till finish.
For the new logo, I was provided with a short design brief that included the required text, preferred colors, a description of what the foundation does, some keywords, and the old ‘logo’.
The old logo is not really a logo but a thrown together combination of a clip-art image with the foundation’s name in Verdana Bold. The preferred colors they specified were turquoise and blue in a couple different shades.
The keywords for the new logo were the following:
- Bones / Joints
The foundation wanted to see their (dutch) name in the logo ‘Fonds Beter voor Gewrichten’, as well as the subtext ‘Keuzevrijheid in behandelwijze gewrichtsklachten’ (Freedom of choice in treatment of joint diseases).
Since I only had an hour for this logo design process, I allowed myself 10 minutes of ideation and concept sketching time, before picking a concept and start the digital development.
I wanted to work with the movement and activity keywords in a friendly design that was also representative of their purpose of providing freedom in medication choice. I tried incorporating some bone/joint visual metaphors, but decided they were too corny and limiting.
The idea that most appealed to me was that of an abstracted jumping human figure, symbolizing movement, activity and freedom all at the same time, styled enough to not become too generic and anonymous. I decided this was my best bet both in terms of conceptual appropriateness and in terms of feasibility within the given time span. At this point I had 50 minutes left.
I started by creating the stylized running man the way I had it in mind. I wanted it to look like it was leaning forward to imply motion and speed, but I also wanted to keep it abstract and somewhat ambiguous.
Twenty more minutes down the road I had the figure looking pretty much the way I wanted, and was pleasantly surprised that it provided me with quite a unique symbol that did not immediately remind me of another brand or logo, while it was not too abstract either.
For the text I experimented with some italic serif fonts at first, and I used gray as a color since I wanted the text to be secondary to the symbol. The full name seemed a bit long to me so I visually split it up by using a lighter shade for the word ‘fonds’ (foundation), thereby also emphasizing the actual name of the foundation.
So about 40 minutes into the project I was already pretty happy with what I had so far, but felt it could use more improvement. I experimented with relative text versus symbol sizes, positioning and coloring, and also came up with the idea to create a square version of the logo with an abbreviation, which could be great for business-to-business use rather than public consumer-aimed use.
As you can see at this point I took a bit of a chance by spicing it up to a somewhat more modern look by using a subtle gradient and a suggestion of reflection, after remembering that they will mostly be using it in high profile campaigns and online, as well as the fact that they were afraid of alternative treatments receiving negative and dull ‘hippie-like’ connotations.
This last point also led me to change the font to a friendlier and more professional looking one. I decided to change from serif to sans serif, but stay with italics to keep the feeling of movement. Helvetica Rounded seemed to do the job of combining friendly with professional, and provided a nice rhythm that also worked great with the abbreviated version of the logo. The subtext was added, set in light turquoise non-italic Helvetica Rounded, which brought a nice touch of balance and detail to the logo.
I was very happy with the overall look of what I had now, but while finishing the fine-tuning and manual kerning I was struck by another idea that put me on a side track and in doubt a bit. I decided I still had time to throw together a quick test example of my new idea: The same symbol, but duplicated and mirrored. Even though this surely emphasized the foundation’s goal of freedom of choice while providing the logo with more balance and harmony at the same time, it turned out to kill all sense of movement and direction, so I discarded the idea.
I went back to some last turbo-charged fine-tuning while the final minutes were ticking away, and then… Boom. That was it. The hour was up. I sent the previews of my designs for both the full version and the abbreviated version to the people at the foundation, sat back, and enjoyed the afterglow of an extremely productive hour.
Then I suddenly bounced back up from my chair when the next logical thought struck my mind: They are going to ask me for some changes. Of course, it was naïve to think I could create a fully satisfying logo within one hour. But, since I enjoyed working on the logo, I happily embraced the idea of working on it some more and decided, since this was charity after all, to give them another hour for the eventual changes.
When after a few days I received the email with feedback, the remarks were mostly positive, along with some small, predictable things they asked me to change. Here’s the things they stated:
- We are really liking the font and the color of the logo
- We love how you managed to create the sensation of movement
- We like to have the abbreviated version as well
- We are not sure about the sub-text, so could you remove this?
- Oh and we think it looks a bit like a whale, please make it look more human
Eh, wait… what? A whale?
I scratched my head for a bit while I re-opened the files and tried to find the whale. To be honest, I kind of understood what they meant, but then again, not at all. I was a bit upset that they wanted me to make it look more human, thinking they wanted me to add arms or eyes or a head with hair. If they wanted an obvious human-like shape, why didn’t they use their old clip-art logo?
However, the more I looked at it, the more apparent it became. I had created a whale.
I had to make it look more human, because there would undoubtedly be more people with the whale association. So, I went back to playing with the shape of the symbol and tried to find out what made it whalish. It turned out to be the rounded head or upper-body of the figure was the key, and by shaping this more like a human torso I was able to painstakingly turn the whale into a human without the need for adding arms or eyes.
I was quite happy with this. The extra hour also gave me the chance to do more accurate kerning, and balancing and positioning of the reflection as I now had ‘plenty of time’, and that kind of detailing always pays off. Also, even though there is still a small voice in the back of my head telling me the old symbol was better looking and more unique, this new version provided me with a perfect compromise between the client’s wishes and my original concept. The proof was in the next email:
“Hey Mark, we love it. No more comments.”
So, what do you think of the result? And have you ever tried to create a logo in a single hour? Let me know!