One of my first college typography projects was to illustrate an adjective (I think the class was VisCom 322a with Wendy Emery). I didn’t fully comprehend the task at the time and it took me several comps of several different words to even start to get the hang of it. In the end I chose the word “Resurrect” and my finished product was still fairly lifeless and boring. My instructors usually liked my sketches more than my final product; when I cleaned things up they tended to loose their character. It took me a couple of years to realize that it was strictly and exercise in stylizing text for logos and headlines (what can I say, I fell asleep a lot in class).
(Preliminary Drawings and Progression)
(Final Draft Below)
A great example of illustrated type can be found at your local music shop. Heavy/Doom/Death/etc. Metal band logos are the epitome of typography illustrating definition. The logos are usually hand rendered, extremely embellished and incredibly hard to read. Over the years I have enjoyed struggling to read metal logos in the record store and online. They have a tendency to be symmetrical and as graphic and gruesome as possible. The letter forms often mimic blood splats, dripping intestines, bones, dead trees, lightening and anything sharp. When viewing these logos there is no mistaking the music’s attitude (but you’ll probably misread the name). Similar logos won’t be found on the latest pop-chart-topper or easy listening bargain bin. Take a look at these ones I found online:
Now I am not saying that all of these logos are beautiful examples of custom type, but I do believe that they are great examples of really pushing the limits of illustrated type. There is no reason why this type of emotion can’t be conveyed in more mainstream projects. Granted these logos can be nearly impossible to read which is allowed because these bands aren’t worried about being recognized and sold to the general public. The rules of corporate logos don’t keep them up at night. Lets review the 5 cardinal Rules of Logo Design brought to you by Entreprenueur.com:
(Frankly I hate design articles like this in business periodicals. It gives business men and women a false sense of entitlement and they think they can argue with designers about what is good/bad)
- Your logo should reflect your company in a unique and honest way. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many business owners want something “just like” a competitor. If your logo contains a symbol–often called a “bug”–it should relate to your industry, your name, a defining characteristic of your company or a competitive advantage you offer.
What’s the overriding trait you want people to remember about your business? If it’s quick delivery, consider objects that connote speed, like wings or a clock. Consider an abstract symbol to convey a progressive approach–abstracts are a great choice for high-tech companies. Or maybe you simply want an object that represents the product or service you’re selling. Be clever, if you can, but not at the expense of being clear.
- Avoid too much detail. Simple logos are recognized faster than complex ones. Strong lines and letters show up better than thin ones, and clean, simple logos reduce and enlarge much better than complicated ones.
But although your logo should be simple, it shouldn’t be simplistic. Good logos feature something unexpected or unique without being overdrawn. Look at the pros: McDonald’s, Nike, Prudential. Notice how their logos are simple yet compelling. Anyone who’s traveled by a McDonald’s with a hungry 4-year-old knows the power of a clean logo symbol.
- Your logo should work well in black and white (one-color printing). If it doesn’t look good in black and white, it won’t look good it any color. Also keep in mind that printing costs for four-color logos are often greater than that for one- or two-color jobs).
- Make sure your logo’s scalable. It should be aesthetically pleasing in both small and large sizes, in a variety of mediums. A good rule of thumb is the “business card/billboard rule”: Your logo should look good on both.
- Your logo should be artistically balanced. The best way to explain this is that your logo should seem “balanced” to the eye–no one part should overpower the rest. Just as a painting would look odd if all the color and details were segregated in one corner, so do asymmetric logos. Color, line density and shape all affect a logo’s balance.
These are the exact same rules used to grade our corperate identities in various class projects and they are tried and true in today’s world. The majority of metal logos won’t fit more than two of these “requirements” and that’s ok, because people in that world don’t give a fuck about corperate rules. When designing for the corporate world you must switch gears, but it is always good to step outside of your comfort zone.