The Art of Logo. Part I: Your Media. Forms
we live in is primarily the world of forms. Even if color and
shades and surface textures were totally missing, the majority of
objects around us would still be recognizable by their forms. So it
is quite natural to commence our exploration by choosing a visual
shape that will dominate the logo.
Often when you start a logo project you already have some clues
about what real world objects it must allude to. Say, an
agricultural company may want to have a plant in its logo, a
publishing house may want a book, and Apple naturally wants an
apple. But it's not often as straightforward as this. In fine arts,
people are pleased by naturalness or natural-looking fantasies; in
logos, they favor abstraction and simplicity. Thus, in professional
logos it usually requires some guesswork to realize how the shape
relates to the main idea of the composition.
||"Abstract" means "purified, cleared of all non-essential
components." But it doesn't always mean "simple" and never means
"boring." Just a square or a circle won't do. When working with
shapes, you should strive to find an unusual view, a peculiar
combination, or a strange rendering of basic forms. It is perfect
if, looking at your form, a viewer can see that it's built on a
simple principle and at the same time realizes that it would be difficult
to reproduce it, either by hand or on the computer. For instance,
the rule governing the density of the lines on Fig. 1 is fairly obvious, but it is not so obvious
how to achieve similar results unless you know this particular
trick. This "know-how" is the hidden added value that arrests
viewers' eyes even if they're not actually interested in the techniques
Okay, enough preliminaries. Let's go and see how this works. Fire up your
favorite vector drawing package (Illustrator, or Freehand, or Corel
Xara...) and start playing with forms. All drawing
programs offer tools for making rectangles, polygons, and ellipses
that are easy to manipulate and tweak. And in a surprising
number of cases, these simplest forms are sufficient. You may not
even happen to employ straight lines or Bezier curves tools.
If you have a predefined idea to present in your logo (such as a
plant or a book), start from trying to reproduce it with these
geometric forms. If you have none, just go wild and play with the
forms as a child would play. For the case project I decided to
restrict myself to just one of the simplest forms---squares---to see
what good can be squeezed out of them. I've made a couple squares
and started to move, rotate, and resize them. Very soon I've run
across a configuration (Fig. 2) that inspired some "ah-ha" and a more
purposeful further work. Indeed, the two squares flattened to
different levels show some kind of a spatial, 3D scene; they seem to
point with their rightmost angles to a location that is somewhere in
front of the plane of drawing.
"So what?" you may say. Wait a moment...
The first move made on purpose
Kai Krause sayeth, "once you see something interesting, SAVE it."
Of course much more important is to realize that you've got something
interesting and to guess how to profit from it. In our case, the
3D-ness is the spark, and we should build on it. Combining the two
squares as shown on Fig. 3 brings the point of perspective to the
surface of the drawing and greatly intensifies the impression of a
3D construction. The next logical step is to add another square
and to squeeze it even more (Fig. 4). This makes the appearance of a
fan-like posy quite obvious and persuasive.
Once you've got the idea...
Wait a minute. Once our abstract composition has acquired third
dimension and other real-world traits, it starts to matter where
the top and the bottom are and how the gravity interacts with the thing.
Experiencing gravity "from the womb to the tomb," we usually do not
trust artwork compositions that seem to ignore it too carelessly. In
our case gravity implies a lot since the bunch of squares we've
created may be easily regarded as consequent "movie frames" of a
flat square falling away from the eye. Of course it's not nice
when it "falls" sideways. So lets rotate the whole composition 90
degrees clockwise (Fig. 5). This does well for perception
of the thing, doesn't it?
Let's settle down!
This way, please
||But there's something more to it. In the world of forms,
right-to-left occurs to be no less important than top-to-bottom.
Trained by years of reading, we tend to scan any graphic, especially
if it contains text, from left to right and from top to bottom. Our
logo, too, has some preferred horizontal direction due to its
asymmetry---but this direction is in conflict with our
perception. Looks like the thing is unstable, about to
fall. But let's flip it horizontally (Fig. 6). What
a mystery---it's not falling any more, it is now moving
swiftly and dynamically ahead! The direction of our eyes'
movement has coincided with the direction of intensifying,
concentrating the traits, so that the culmination is now close to
the lowest right corner.
Created: Jan. 19, 1997
Revised: Jan. 23, 1997