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

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


The world we live in is primarily the world of forms.  Even if color and shades and surface textures were totally missing, the majority of objects around us would still be recognizable by their forms.  So it is quite natural to commence our exploration by choosing a visual shape that will dominate the logo.

Often when you start a logo project you already have some clues about what real world objects it must allude to.  Say, an agricultural company may want to have a plant in its logo, a publishing house may want a book, and Apple naturally wants an apple.  But it's not often as straightforward as this.  In fine arts, people are pleased by naturalness or natural-looking fantasies; in logos, they favor abstraction and simplicity.  Thus, in professional logos it usually requires some guesswork to realize how the shape relates to the main idea of the composition.


Fig. 1  Want to figure out how's this done?
"Abstract" means "purified, cleared of all non-essential components."  But it doesn't always mean "simple" and never means "boring."  Just a square or a circle won't do.  When working with shapes, you should strive to find an unusual view, a peculiar combination, or a strange rendering of basic forms.  It is perfect if, looking at your form, a viewer can see that it's built on a simple principle and at the same time realizes that it would be difficult to reproduce it, either by hand or on the computer.  For instance, the rule governing the density of the lines on Fig. 1 is fairly obvious, but it is not so obvious how to achieve similar results unless you know this particular trick.  This "know-how" is the hidden added value that arrests viewers' eyes even if they're not actually interested in the techniques used.  


Okay, enough preliminaries.  Let's go and see how this works.  Fire up your favorite vector drawing package (Illustrator, or Freehand, or Corel Xara...) and start playing with forms.  All drawing programs offer tools for making rectangles, polygons, and ellipses that are easy to manipulate and tweak.  And in a surprising number of cases, these simplest forms are sufficient.  You may not even happen to employ straight lines or Bezier curves tools.


  If you have a predefined idea to present in your logo (such as a plant or a book), start from trying to reproduce it with these geometric forms.  If you have none, just go wild and play with the forms as a child would play.  For the case project I decided to restrict myself to just one of the simplest forms---squares---to see what good can be squeezed out of them. I've made a couple squares and started to move, rotate, and resize them.  Very soon I've run across a configuration (Fig. 2) that inspired some "ah-ha" and a more purposeful further work.  Indeed, the two squares flattened to different levels show some kind of a spatial, 3D scene; they seem to point with their rightmost angles to a location that is somewhere in front of the plane of drawing.
Fig. 2  "So what?" you may say.  Wait a moment...

Fig. 3  The first move made on purpose
Kai Krause sayeth, "once you see something interesting, SAVE it."  Of course much more important is to realize that you've got something interesting and to guess how to profit from it.  In our case, the 3D-ness is the spark, and we should build on it.  Combining the two squares as shown on Fig. 3 brings the point of perspective to the surface of the drawing and greatly intensifies the impression of a 3D construction.  The next logical step is to add another square and to squeeze it even more (Fig. 4). This makes the appearance of a fan-like posy quite obvious and persuasive.
Fig. 4  Once you've got the idea...

  Wait a minute.  Once our abstract composition has acquired third dimension and other real-world traits, it starts to matter where the top and the bottom are and how the gravity interacts with the thing.  Experiencing gravity "from the womb to the tomb," we usually do not trust artwork compositions that seem to ignore it too carelessly.  In our case gravity implies a lot since the bunch of squares we've created may be easily regarded as consequent "movie frames" of a flat square falling away from the eye.  Of course it's not nice when it "falls" sideways.  So lets rotate the whole composition 90 degrees clockwise (Fig. 5).  This does well for perception of the thing, doesn't it?
Fig. 5  Let's settle down!

Fig. 6  This way, please
But there's something more to it.  In the world of forms, right-to-left occurs to be no less important than top-to-bottom.  Trained by years of reading, we tend to scan any graphic, especially if it contains text, from left to right and from top to bottom.  Our logo, too, has some preferred horizontal direction due to its asymmetry---but this direction is in conflict with our perception.  Looks like the thing is unstable, about to fall.  But let's flip it horizontally (Fig. 6).  What a mystery---it's not falling any more, it is now moving swiftly and dynamically ahead!  The direction of our eyes' movement has coincided with the direction of intensifying, concentrating the traits, so that the culmination is now close to the lowest right corner.  

Created: Jan. 19, 1997
Revised: Jan. 23, 1997