Good logos often seem effortless. They look so simple and obvious, that it is tempting to think that hardly any work was put into them, that they just popped on the screen the moment it was turned on. However, nothing could be further from the truth. In this post I will demonstrate what a bumpy ride designing a logo can be, even for a seasoned graphic designer.
The project in question was for a photography and video editing studio named Aurora Studio after the famous Aurora Borealis, also known as northern lights. The client has asked for a logo that will evoke the sensation of light, color and motion. The challenge was to grab the essence of these abstract concepts, and to somehow place it on a piece of paper. What more could a designer possibly ask for?
At first I spent some time looking at photos of this amazing natural phenomenon. Like the frames of a film, northern lights never look exactly the same. They are constantly in motion, and their outline is hazy and vague. I did notice though that they look like strands of light fading upwards, and that was the element I first tried to imitate. I came up with the following draft.
But this was hardly a logo. A good logo has to be simple, so that it can be reproduced in various sizes and on various platforms, and still look the same. This first draft was far too complex and detailed. However, it did have some of this hovering, translucent feeling I was looking for. Next I set out to try and simplify the image, reduce it to it’s most basic components. I came up with this next draft.
Now, this was closer to what you may call a logo. It was still quite complex, with many small details. But nowadays, when the definition of a logo is gradually being broadened, this could work. Knowing that I needed to present more options for my client, I decided to take it further and try to simplify it even more. The next sketch had retained only one feature of the original drawing – the broad, horizontal sine wave .
I sort of liked this sketch. The central rectangle had a vertical proportion that retained some that elevated feeling. The sine wave looked as though it was reaching beyond the boundaries of this frame, and that was a positive connotation. I thought it could serve as a neat and powerful symbol. However, I had to admit that too much of the light and transparency was lost in the process. Like Wile E. Coyote after yet another failed attempt to catch the road-runner, I went back to drawing board…
If there was something wrong with my previous attempts, it was that they concentrated too much on the light and motion, and too little on the studio itself. They were abstract in nature, which is suitable for many kinds of logos, but not all. I wanted at this point to try and incorporate a clearer reference to the studio’s line of work. I came up with idea of using the element of the photographic film. Though all filming today is done digitally, it has remained a strong symbol of this industry. Overlapping pieces of celluloid film could signify video editing and at the same time provide a colorful, translucent look, reminiscent of my original sketch.
But I was still not happy with the shape. A symmetric arrangement seemed too banal and unimaginative. I was looking for a more vibrant composition, that would symbolize freedom, nature, movement. I started playing with the elements, moving them around. At this point I knew I was getting close to the solution. It was just a matter of finding the right arrangement.
And finally there it was. A symbol that said all the things I wanted it to say, with only four pieces of whirling film. The basic cyan, yellow and magenta colors blended naturally to create an additional green, purple, and blue. It was very colorful, and yet subtle. I added the text in an ultra-modern font called Flexo, which complemented the symbol nicely. I presented all the sketches to the client, and she picked this last sketch without hesitation.
I later created a matching “dark background” version, which is sometimes needed. Notice how the translucent effect is preserved, though the light is added, rather than subtracted.
I went on and designed a business card to go along with the logo. The front side is very neat, allowing the dominant logo to express itself. The back is an extension of the logo’s basic concept, with overlapping films creating a colorful background for the studio’s website address.