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John McWade has been one of my favorite people since the early dawn of desktop publishing. He not only knows his business when it comes to using the computer to design -- he presents his teachings in exquisitely designed and produced publications... we're thrilled to welcome John's first contribution to DT&G...

How to design a logo of letters

Are you known by your initials?
Turn those letters into a terrific signature!

By John McWade

Companies of every kind sign their names with linked letters called ligatures. Ligature means to tie. Ligatures make excellent business signatures. They're handsome, simple and compact. And they're fun, too -- we all have initials!

Some letters link in one typeface but not another. Others link in lowercase but not in upper. What follows are a variety of ways to get your letter pairs beautifully together.

Use shared strokes

Many letter pairs form natural links; they have identical parts or complementary shapes that fit like hand in glove. Let's begin with the easiest letters to link -- those that have identical adjacent strokes.

Using Shared Strokes

HK are an ideal pair; each letter is distinct from the other, but their adjacent stems are identical. Link by removing either stem and abutting the letters. Two colors put the emphasis on one letter or the other. This is a good way to handle an acronym in which the second letter is the more important. (Sample)

Almost-identical strokes

Pairs like UR share not-quiteidentical strokes, yet often flow naturally together. To link neatly, you must usually sacrifice some parts; here, the R gave up a foot, the U a serif. (See Sample)

join the strokes

In Illustrator, set the letters, Create Outlines, and move together. Cut away the unneeded pieces, leaving the remainders overlapped, then in the Pathfinder dialog, select Add to shape area

Remove a strokeHere, a phantom stroke hints at what's not there! This is particularly effective with Modern typestyles such as Bodoni and Didi that have extremely thin strokes.

Remove a stroke

Remove one leg and move the letters together. (See it completed)

Remove part of a stroke

Letters with angled and overhanging arms -- F K T V W X Y Z -- benefit from this technique, which is especially attractive in serif typestyles. The illusion is that of a stencil; the line is interrupted, yet our eyes "fill in" the missing part! (Like this sample)

Negative space spells out

What's in the negative space? Negative space is the area in and around your letters; it has shape and volume and always affects the viewer's perception. Negative space is always present. In the best design it plays an active role, as it does in the TP above. Watch your negative space!

Reverse the field

Put negative space to positive use! Add a same-color field behind your letter, then reverse the second letter out of the field. Especially effective with three character acronyms. (YO! Check it out!)

Working with negative space

Crop! Crop! Crop! Crop

Your intrigued reader will linger for valuable moments on this design! Crop away the bottoms of your letters, and the viewer's eye must complete the image. Add a company name or other horizontal graphic to span the gap.
      Reversing the field (light on dark) modifies the look and often improves it. Always check! (Letters without field)

We'll make it easy for you...

Before and After

There are 27 more pages to this article, but too many to publish here. So, all you have to do is download this PDF file and you'll have the whole article. The final print is made to fit a three-ring binder. That way your Before & After articles are kept nice and neatly titled and numbered.

Before & After has been sharing its practical approach to graphic design since 1990. Because our modern world has made designers of us all (ready or not), Before & After is dedicated to making graphic design understandable, useful and even fun for everyone.

Why not just subscribe and get Before & After in your mailbox -- then you don't have to go around catch-as-catch-can trying to pick up articles. Want more? Try these

John McWade is publisher and creative director of Before & After magazine in Roseville, CA. This article and PDF are Copyright 2005 Before & After magazine, ISSN 1049-0035. All rights reserved


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