Logo Design Visual Technique #9: A System of Shapes

A. Michael Shumate

A. Michael Shumate

The concept “system of shapes” may sound too formal and even a bit daunting to digest, but it is just a way of saying that any design can contain simple, repeated visual elements.

Finding the subject for the logo is just the beginning. Even with the simplest concepts, such as a single-letter monogram, there is virtually no end to ways of drawing each letter or subject.

When using a system of shapes, one can impose a grid to reconstruct the image. Grids are handy for seeing relationships, measurements and angles. The grid can employ curved corners or not. Sometimes a particular curve or shape can be repeated to good effect. Those shapes could even come from the type font of the accompanying signature. Systems of shapes can be stylized, curvilinear, rectilinear, distorted, geometric or blended into some unique overall confining shape. The possibilities are endless, and surprisingly simple once you dissect them. As you begin to look for them, you will see all sorts of different visual systems for making logos. It can be helpful to collect them for future reference.

One easy method for getting the hang of this technique is to look at an existing logo. To avoid plagiarism, don’t use the same subject; just copy the style or system of shapes. Now construct your image using that style. Voilà! A new and unique design.

Making a unique mark from an ordinary letter or subject is not hard. Here we have some Ws, trees, lions, stars, hearts and hands, and owls. Each logo is different from others of the same subject because each was constructed with its own system of shapes. You could make a new tree by using the system of shapes from one of the lions or a new W from the system of shapes from an owl. The possibilities are endless.
Here are 33 different eagle logo designs. Each uses repeated shapes, angles, line thicknesses. Some use geometric or other shapes to form parts. Each one is a system of shapes that could be used to draw a new logo. Since the subject matter is different,
you are not plagiarizing.
Almost any concept for a logo probably has already been used. It is the visual treatment that distinguishes various logos. That often involves using a system of shapes as well as combining elements. Within a given logo, don’t use more than one system of shapes.

Adapted from Logo Design Theory: How Branding Design Really Works

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