Design 101: Logo Design
I must apoligise for the huge delay in getting this written up and published. A lot of things have happened in the past 7 months and this blog entry definitely ended up on the backburner. It also went through a couple iterations in that time. So without further ado, let’s get on with it!
Originally I was going to talk about logo design and GUI design at the same time, but the article became quite lengthy. I have decided to split them up and deal with them one at a time. The first part will be about Logo Design.
This is a little hard to talk about actually because the classical definition of logos doesn’t have to apply to VN logos in the same way simply because of their primary (and generally only) use.
To talk about this, I’m going to have to talk about the difference between raster (bitmap) and vector images.
Raster: Raster means pixel based. Programs like Photoshop, Sai and Gimp primarily use this format. Each pixel is designated a colour when they make up a picture. The more pixels you have, the more detail you have. This is why resolution is important. With 72ppi you have 72 pixels for every inch. With 300ppi you have 300. This is why commonly you can scale down perfectly fine, but you can’t scale up. You can’t make pixels out of thin air, so the ones you have will simply be stretched over a larger and larger area and eventually the image will become pixelated.
Vectors: Vectors on the other hand are mathematically based. Programs like Illustrator and Inkscape use this format. Because vectors are based on maths they are infinitely scalable. The calculations between the curves and angles adjust to the different scales.
As you can see, the two primary differences between the two are mostly about how they scale and function. Both have pros and cons and some suit certain things better than others.
In the world of logo design, vectors are pretty much solely used because they are scaleable. Want the logo on a letterhead, an A1 poster and a thumbtack? No problem. Want the logo to be on a billboard, the side of a building or on an aeroplane? No problem. This point of versatility is also why most logos tend to be on the simple side, or at least can be simplified. Think Nike, McDonalads or BMW. They can be put on pretty much anything and still clearly communicate the brand. That is a good logo.
However, VN logos can technically be a little different and while I still subscribe to the best practice of simplicity and versatility, it would be false to say that is the only way. VNs mostly exist on screen and mostly in certain resolutions. They can afford to be raster and they can afford to be more on the complex side. I would still recommend creating the logo at a significantly larger size than you think you will need so you have yourself covered, but it can still be functional. If you are thinking of going beyond the screen and do print items as well, I do start to think a vector has definite advantages over raster, but it’s still not impossible.
That gets the technicalities of resizing out of the way. Now what about actually making it? This is going to follow the post I made about the design process, so check it out for more details.
THE LOGO DESIGN PROCESS
For this part I am going to use an example logo I made for ‘Four Chambers of the Human Heart’ by Initials.
The first thing I did was discuss with the client what they were looking for. What was the full title of the game? What is the genre? What type of feeling or message do you want it to have? Since there was already an existing logo, did you want to keep any of those elements? The answers formed the basis of a brief that I could follow as I went through the design process.
The first step I took was to create a mind map about the logo. This is basically to give myself some direction when I was researching and making sure I covered a range of topics and not just get stuck looking at one option.
Next came the research, where I looked at everything from other game logos to anatomical pictures of hearts. How you collect the research is up to you. I sometimes prefer to see it all laid out on a page, but saving the images in a folder, bookmarking them or saving them to a site are all equally good. The important thing is that they are there for you to go back to. You don’t want that horrible feeling of looking for that one image on Google that you can’t seem to find again.
After that I worked on some ideation. Basically sketch down any ideas you possibly have for it. Don’t analyse them yet, just get them out. It’s okay if they are terrible at this stage. Maybe there is a good idea in there somewhere, but you will never know if you dismiss it before you even draw it. In the same vein, an idea that might seem good in your head might come out terrible in practice and it’s better to know then and there. One of the tips I was told with this stage was to draw with pen as it will stop you getting caught up in fixing things. You just want to cover the pages with your mental scribbles.
Once I was done purging my brain of ideas I looked at the sketches with the brief in mind and selected a couple to muck up to the next stage. I basically judged these on how well visually they could work and whether the idea came across okay. I was also looking to make sure I had a range of ideas present.
Finally I get on the computer to start mocking up the designs. This part should be pretty easy as you just did the hard thinking part. Now you just can relax and create them. You can focus solely on the aesthetic parts. I tried different fonts and different ways of balancing the text. I tried different ways of creating and treating the images. At this stage I was working in greyscale. I could worry about colour later when I knew the idea was okay. Just try lots of different things and don’t be afraid to move things around if they don’t feel right.
Usually you would have another vetting session here as ideally you want to have around 3 logos for your client to choose from. Anymore and you can risk them being overwhelmed with choices. However since I was dealing with another creative I took a risk and provided 7 different options.
Feedback from the client resulted in 2 options being chosen. I took these too and further explored them, now with colour and different type options. You start giving them final polish at this stage. I did up a sheet for each design with a number of options and variations available from which the final logo would be chosen.
The client decided to go with the one they favoured in the original review round, which is the top set, and so the design process was completed!
The original BCM logo was made a fair while ago and after a couple years I decided it didn’t actually fit with what we were doing. I was going to be redesigning the GUI as well. I knew I wanted to use hexagons (what’s more futuristic than hexagons?) and a nice new san-serif typeface. I also knew that I wanted to keep my original colours with the primary green and secondary purple and yellow. Compared to the old one, I knew I wanted to make it more streamlined, clean and modern.
For the new one, I focused on the type first and arranged it so it formed a nice strong square. I had to adjust the line weight so they all visually looked the same since if some letters are smaller than others, the line width would be smaller too. Then hexagons because hexagons. I tested it out with some colours, some gradients, making sure it scales okay, see what it looks like on different backgrounds. Generally, I was pretty happy with it and it’s a definite improvement on the old one. It’s easier to read, cleaner and has given me some great ideas for the GUI, which I’ll go over in the next post.
With Witch/Knight I was thinking about the GUI first as well, seems to be a habit of mine. I was originally going to go with something wood and metal inspired because of the fantasy genre, but after playing Skyrim I decided that I really, really loved those menus. I was pretty set on using the slash in the title to some degree as well since it was pretty unique, so I started to research modern variations, celtic knots and linework. At one point I got this idea to have the slash be the centre piece and then have it flanked by two other pieces, as if they had opened to reveal the logo. This eventually evolved to include a celtic knot pattern as well as ideas merge together. I also had to do some fiddling with the type since the W was too curved. I wanted it to be sharper, so I made my own by basically rotating an M.
Last one I will talk about is Nachtigal. I had already design the GUI for Nachtigal before I did the logo since we hadn’t actually decided on a title when I started designing. I already had a set style, all old fashioned and florishy. I also already had some typefaces decided. So my choices were already confined, which isn’t really a bad thing. Sometimes designing with complete freedom is a nightmare because there are so many options, which is why you try to narrow your choices with research, concepts and decisions. Originally the game was going to be called Naghtigalle but that doesn’t exactly look pretty. So I suggested Nachtigal, an alternative spelling of the name, because the letters worked better together. Beautiful~ I typed out Nachtigal in our display font and adjusted the letters. Hmmm, it looked pretty boring right? It didn’t have any of the flair the GUI had. So I started blending in these elements in photoshop. This is a pretty common technique I use when I’m making these quick logos. I start in Illustrator, switch to photoshop to do some painterly type stuff since it’s a lot more friendly, and then drop it back into Illustrator to live trace it, thus turning it back into a vector. I then took it back into photoshop as a smart object and made it look gold looking.
I usually keep both my AI and PSD files (the big one) and also save out TIFF and PNG versions. This way I’m pretty covered if something pops up and I need the logo bigger than I expected.
And so that concludes the logo half of this 2 part blog post. Next time I’ll be posting the half about GUI. Thanks for reading and as always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask!