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The Fun (But Sometimes Dirty) Birth of a Logo

There it is: the glorious signed contract for a fresh, new project. Assessing the work ahead, it’s like waiting to take a bite of your first ice cream cone of the summer: a fear of it being over too soon. I want to make the most of it and enjoy every sweet, delectable bite.

In this case, the contract is for a new logo. The company has used their previous logo for more than two decades. For a while, it worked. However, it was beginning to look dated so we decided together to freshen it up. What we wound up with was a complete metamorphosis (which, in this case, is a good thing.)

I have a process when developing a new logo (if you can call a truckload of notebooks, nubby pencils and a sketchbook a process.) I take notes. I list attributes of the company. Who are they and who do they want to be? Will the owner laugh if I toss a talking noodle into the first set of drafts? (Speaking of noodles, watch this.)

The Sketches
I sketch a lot. I sketch the name and relevant icons searching for some clever twist. Maybe it’s in the negative space between letters. Maybe it has nothing to do with the company name at all, but who they are. Sometimes I get completely off track and start drawing scrolls which have absolutely nothing to do with the drafts I will present to the client. I’m just loopy that way.

In most cases I can find what I’m looking for within one Moleskine sketch page. In this case study I am about to demonstrate, however, it took me THREE pages and several late nights to find what I was looking for. The company name left nearly nothing to imagination, so I was searching for some icon that would represent them and yet still be clever enough to make you go “ohhhhhhhh neaaaaat” when you figured it out.

Sketch page #1:

RBK Millwork Logo Sketches

These sketches were the beginning stage of this particular logo. I got nearly nothing out of them. Some of the rough lettering was refined digitally in the end, but most of this was bunk.

Sketch page #2: 

RBK Millwork Logo Sketches

These sketches got me a bit closer to where I wanted to be, but as you can see in the top right, I became over-tired and distracted by curly things.

Sketch page #3: 

RBK Millwork Logo Sketches

And there it is! You can’t see it yet, but it’s there. The clever twist I was looking for.

The final logo:

RBK Millwork Logo Design

Do you see it? Look back at the last batch of sketches. It’s that strange angled shape that ended up reversed in the final logo. What the heck is it, you ask? It’s the use of negative space. If you look closely, it represents a cabinet door that is slightly ajar. This millwork company produces custom cabinetry for commercial businesses.

Of course, there are a zillion steps between sketch and final digital copy, but the birth of the logo really begins with how much graphite I can smear on my hands, face, dog…

Your brand is important. Even if your logo is established and memorable, it should go through a refresh at least once every five to ten years. Don’t let it go more than twenty years if you care about your business persona. Would you invite people to your home if you were still displaying army green paisley curtains and a deep red shag carpet?

Well, maybe.

Do you have any stories about a rebrand you have completed? Was it successful? Was it a struggle?

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