I have a very creative job but I still rarely get very excited about the things I’m working on. More often than not I’m creating art for people who are not artistic yet think they can write the book on graphic design because they’ve seen enough of it (not accounting for quality). Much of the stuff I end up working on is way more cluttered and gaudy than graphic design should be and I spend my creative energy trying to work it out so that it’s not an absolute train wreck. It’s really exhausting when a customer is stuck on an idea that is just bad and I have to compromise good design practices to give them what they want. I sometimes wonder if they’re actually seeing what’s in front of them or if what they’re envisioning in their own head is clouding their perception. Either way, 75% of what goes out there is not something I’m content to put in my portfolio. Unfortunately, the more bad design that gets out there, the more other people see it and accept it. There are hundreds of internet companies who create logos that are barely a notch above clipart for next to nothing and people buy it because it’s cheap. Standards become lower as the whole thing becomes self-perpetuating and our culture is saturated with poor design (especially now that almost anyone can get their hands on a copy of Photoshop or Illustrator).
Once in a while I get a customer who realizes they are working with a professional in a field they are not trained in and they are content to pass along their vision and just let me run with it. It is in these rare moments that I just love being a graphic designer. I met a woman today who is getting her company off the ground and wanted to have a logo created. Usually these meetings start with the customer showing me clipart and a handful of MS Word standard fonts that they just love (though they don’t realize how overused and cheesy they are). Today my customer simply said, “I want something simple, recognizable and reproducible in various forms of media.” YES! This is what EVERY logo should be! At the same time she presented me with a challenge because she said that she wanted the logo to have a sort of “painted” or “roughed-up” look to it. This is kind of hard to achieve and still have the logo be clean and timeless (by timeless I mean you don’t look at it and think, “this was created in the 80′s, 90′s, etc”). My other challenge was that she wanted to use initials for the logo and the letters “NP” don’t balance well together because the “N” has a stem coming all the way down on the bottom left side while the “P” leaves the bottom right side empty. This creates an imbalance, leaving the left side with more visual weight. After looking through countless fonts, I ended up creating my own font that would move towards better balance between these two characters.
All in all, I think this turned out to be pretty successful in terms of good graphic design and following my customer’s vision. I would still prefer that the letters didn’t have the painted look just for the sake of being more timeless but it still works well and I think the customer will have a logo that she can be proud of. The logo can be used with or without the signature and still be unique and memorable.
For all you entrepreneurs and future business owners out there, a word of advice in case you ever need to have a logo created: a logo is not intended to tell your company story, or even to explain what your business does. It is meant to be an easily recognizable image that your customers will associate with your business. Think about some of the most successful logos in our culture: What does an apple have to do with a computer company? What does a swoosh have to do with an athletic shoe company? What does a bright red target have to do with a department store? Not much, really. Sure, some of these do have stories behind them, which is great, but when it comes down to it they are successful because they are simple and easily recognizable. Most of the general public don’t know that the Nike swoosh is a graphic representation of a wing from the Greek goddess of victory, Nike. Does knowing this or not knowing this fact make Nike more or less successful? No. It is just a good, simple, easily identifiable mark. Simple is sexy. Food for thought.