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Design Cafe logo project continued from previous page. It might be helpful for you to open the sixteen logo finalists file in another window and follow along...

Logo Design: Critical Thinking

Chuck Green with some insights on Logo Design...

Fred -- my comments about the logos

My comments on the specifics of how another designer executes a particular concept--what typefaces and colors they choose or the character of his or her illustrations--is subjective. Design, to me, is opinion and it is challenge enough to effectively communicate my own design opinions without trying to recast yours or others.

Best of intentions

Clients often make this very mistake. With the best of intentions, they suggest some adjustments they hope will make the solution more palatable to them. I'd rather hear the client's broad reservations than have them try to fix what I've done. As a matter of fact, if I don't blow them away with a solution, I feel as though I haven't done my job. You go to a restaurant, after all, so you don't have to cook and you should hire a designer so you don't have to design. If you don't like what you ordered at the restaurant, you send it back--you don't rush into the kitchen and take over for the chef.

As a designer, the most meaningful contribution I can make to this exercise is to brainstorm ideas with you -- and I think, for this project, the concepts could be more powerful.


The mission, as I read it, was to "Create a logo for a place for friendly, helpful, casual discussions amongst graphic designers, publishers, illustrators, photographers and others interested in the pursuit or creation of visual communications."

Do the underlying concepts of these images speak to the friendliness or accessibility of the forum? I understand how a coffee cup, for example, might symbolize a cafe, but, a coffee cup alone (to me) doesn't cast the excitement of a virtual meeting place. Instead, let's backtrack and think about how the concept could have been strengthened.

If I was tackling this project, I would sketch out all the images I could think of that represent the associated concepts: design, a "virtual" place, friendliness, conversation, computer communications, visual-orientation, a sense of place, meeting place, tools of the trade, symbols of the groups associated (publishers, illustrators, photographers...), and so on. If I had trouble thinking of ideas, I'd visit some illustration or photography web sites and do a search of those terms to see how other designers attack the problem.

With those in hand, I'd then try matching up ideas. How about, for example, surrounding a monitor (to symbolize the computer) with a series of chairs (to symbolize the group)? Or creating a series of cartoon speech balloons each with a symbol of one of the associated interest groups? Not groundbreaking perhaps, but you get the idea. The point is, a concept based on a one-dimensional symbol is tough to make interesting, combining two symbols is often what elicits that coveted "Why didn't I think of that," reaction.

Stretch further

A few of the logos use a dual concept idea but I would stretch further. Logos are important--they establish and represent, in some cases for many years, the purpose and style of an organization. It is the image that people will see, often with no other context, that says this is what we're about, this is why you want to be on our side, this is what makes us distinctly different from all the other organizations that do what we do.

Yes, it's a tall order. But that is why a good logo often takes ten, twenty, thirty hours or more to create. It takes critical thinking, a killer concept, and lots of experimentation.

Chuck Green

[Editor's Note: I am honored and pleased that Chuck has taken his time to contribute this article about logos. Chuck and I go back quite a few years -- to the dawn of desktop publishing in fact! Chuck is a fellow alumni of the DGEF training circuit, and a number of other conferences and symposiums. I've always held the highest respect for Chuck's design sense -- always considering him one of the ultimate, ivory tower design industry celebrities -- right up there with Jan White, Alex White and John McWade. After seeing his latest design industry milestone "Graphic Workshop: A Step by Step Guide"

Chuck Green is the principal owner of computer software company Logic Arts Corporation, and has worked with clients including AT&T, Lotus Development Corporation, and the United States Navy. He is the author of Rockport Publisher's Design It Yourself: Logos, Letterheads, & Business Cards; Desktop Publishers Ideas Book, 2nd Edition; and Clip Art Crazy, and is a frequent contributor to, and column writer for, several design and business publications. He lives in Glen Allen, Virginia.

Others include:

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