The Art of Logo. Part I: Your Media. Finishes | WebReference

The Art of Logo. Part I: Your Media. Finishes


Here, "finish" is an umbrella term for all that you do with your logo after you've finally decided that both the visual and the text are ready, sit in their proper places and have their proper colors.  Finishes include various decorations such as surface textures, drop shadows, highlights, gradients, transparency, etc. This category is, all in all, a sign of modern computerized technologies---you couldn't see a drop shadow or a marble texture in a pre-desktop-publishing publication or, God forbid, a logo.

People generally believe that cool finishes is what makes their graphics professional.  Far from that.  Finishes may give, as the word implies, a finished appearance, but no amount of drop shadows will improve a logo which is designed poorly with regard to its shape or color.  Strictly speaking, finishes do not represent a separate media, so in applying them you can refer to all the principles I've tried to outline above.  Feel free: Once you've made a cool thing and you know what makes it so cool, you're unlikely to spoil it with wrong finishes.  (Although this happens time and again.)

Speaking of tools, the stage of applying finishes is where you quit your vector drawing package and export your creation into Photoshop or other painting program.  (To be fair, Corel Xara is one vector package that's capable of making transparency and some sort of drop shadows, thus almost eliminating the need to edit the exported bitmap.)  For a designer, finishes are primarily a technical issue; it's a matter of learning and applying certain tricks---of the sort that is taught a lot on web design related sites and in magazines.

So what do we have in our logo to fiddle with?  First of all (although this is more relevant to the Forms section), note how the dot above the "i" comes close to the point where the squares' corners converge---but does not coincide with it.  One general form-related principle (looks like I've not covered it so far) is that lines and points that come close enough tend to "snap" at each other in the urge to reduce the overall number of elements in the picture.  So let's move the text a bit so that the dot above "i" covers exactly the point of convergence.  (The letter "i" is really a favorite for logomakers, by the way.)


Fig. 12  Adding a stud
This looks great and helps to integrate text and graphic into one tight bunch.  But now that this "i-dot" has become the center of the composition it definitely wants more prominence and visibility.  First I tried to stress this location with a solid-colored circle bigger in size than the original i-dot.  But no matter what color I tried for this disk, it just wouldn't stand out as I wanted it to.  Surely some kind of a finish appeared to be obligatory here.  So I painted the disk black and applied an eccentric radial gradient from white to black, turning the disk into a sphere (Fig. 12). That's it!  

  Basically our logo is ready.  Other finishes that can be applied are something of the "add sugar and milk according to taste" kind.  To better balance the graphic on the top, I added a drop shadow to the text with an intention to make it appear heavier.  It turned out, however, that the drop shadow looks best when its top half is gradually erased (Fig. 13) in order to prevent encumbering the area where text and graphic are neighboring.  This example gives me an opportunity to mention two more issues pertaining to drop shadows---which are certainly one of the most used types of finishes.  First, you should mind the direction of the imaginary "light beam" that produces the shadow and check if it clashes with what your shape and its colors imply (for example, in our case the northwestern light would not be acceptable since the visual suggests light casted from northeast).  Second, the color of the drop shadow doesn't necessarily have to be pure gray; you may use any tint to better match colors in the rest of the logo.
Fig. 13  Time to quit playing and call your boss

  The last word on finishes is that many of them look cool when you zoom into your logo full-screen, but turn into mud and scratches when the logo is reduced to the real-world size.  For instance, if you were planning to use our sample logo in small sizes, you'd better remove the drop shadow and increase the size of the sphere a bit.  Also, as is the case with letters, scaling a logo up or down may require changing its proportions (the height/width ratio) just a bit for better perception of the form.  

Created: Jan. 19, 1997
Revised: Jan. 24, 1997