Videos

Logo Design Theory: How Branding Design Really Works

Preface to Logo Design Theory Video Course

Introduction to Logo Design Theory
Introduction to Logo Design Theory

Are there unchanging, bedrock principles of branding design that can be learned and practiced to create identities that might last their clients forever? Yes! This free video course will lay it out, step-by-step. Based on the book, Logo Design Theory. About this book, the great identity designer Ivan Chermayeff said, "at last, somebody understands what identity design is all about and how it is accomplished."

Famous Fails in Logo Design: Xerox
Famous Fails in Logo Design: Xerox

The 2005 Xerox logo was not designed in conformity to the Core Principles of Logo Design, and consequently, did not reproduce well in a multitude of situations where any logo should be able to reproduce. Learn what went wrong.

Famous Fails in Logo Design: AT&T
Famous Fails in Logo Design: AT&T

AT&T had a timeless logo from Saul Bass designed according to the Core Principles of logo design. In 2005 they replaced it with a much weaker logo that cost them much more money in implementation. After struggling with this inferior logo for years, they finally went back to a logo that conforms to the Core Principles. See for yourself.

Famous Fails in LogoDesign: United
Famous Fails Logo Design: United

Continental got a terrible logo in 1991 that did not reproduce well. When United and Continental completed their merger in 2012, They had the name United and the inferior Continental logo. After struggling with this flawed design for 7 years they finally had it revamped.

Before you Begin Logo Design Theory
Before You Begin
Logo Design Theory

It is human nature to jump in the deep end, eat your dessert before your vegetables and to skip the fundamentals and dive right into the really meaty bits. I ask you to do it the right way. Give yourself a a good foundation of design essentials, then branding perspective. And then, suitably prepared, you will understand better the Core Principles.

Foundational Priniples of Graphic Design

Seeking true Principles in Art and Design
Seeking True Principles
In Art and Design

There are true principles in every area of artistic endeavor including branding design. I won’t pretend to know them all, but I’m sure I’ve discovered at least a few. Those are what I want to share in these videos. It doesn’t matter where knowledge comes from; when we find true principles, we would do well to adopt them.

Professional, Prima Donna or Artsy-Fartsy
Professional, Prima Donna or
Artsy-Fartsy

A professional is a person who can do a good job and who works in good faith for the benefit of his or her client. A professional puts the client above self. He or she takes appropriate pride in putting the job first and in being capable of consistent excellence. The humility is recognition that the performer is not the center of attention. The performance is.

Five Myths About Creativity
Five Myths About Creativity
.

Some of ideas on creativity are as fanciful as frog feathers. I’m not claiming that frog feathers aren’t real. Maybe they are. All I know is that all frogs of my acquaintance have no feathers. Likewise, many of these notions about creativity are quite different from my experiences. Sometimes it helps to define something by eliminating things that are confused with it. That exercise will be particularly useful in our discussion of creativity. Let’s dispel some creativity myths.

What is the Purpose of Graphic Design?
What is the Purpose
of Graphic Design?

Few people correctly understand the purpose of graphic design. We should not expect it of people outside our profession, but how few graphic design students or even working professionals grasp this principle? Understanding this simple truth will give clarity to so much of what we try to do.

Form Follows Function
Form Follows Function

It is sometimes easy to get distracted from the essential function of a creative project. This is especially true when esthetics are also an integral part of the function, as with corporate identity. But esthetics are not the only function of a corporate identity. Clear thinking must override gut impulses in this area.

Basic Principles of Graphic Design
Basic Principles of Graphic Design

It is human nature to jump in the deep end, eat your dessert before your vegetables and to skip the fundamentals and dive right into the really meaty bits. I ask you to do it the right way. Give yourself a a good foundation of design essentials, then branding perspective. And then, suitably prepared, you will understand better the Core Principles.

Legibility and Contrast
Legibility and Contrast

When we can see and read what is written or perceive the elements of a picture, we call that legibility. Legibility is a function of contrast. Achieving this is easy if you know the basic principles.

Color and Contrast
Color and Contrast

Every color has a value as well as hue and saturation. This is the key to avoiding five common contrast mistakes designers make with color.

Evolution of Some High-Profile Identities
The Doctrine of
Coincide or Contrast

Simply put, elements in a design should either coincide or contrast. This basic doctrine will answer a wide range of design questions. Here we will only deal with type and layout.

Branding Fundamentals

A Brief Overview of Branding History
The Doctrine of
Coincide or Contrast

Branding design is not a modern pursuit. We can learn much by looking at the branding forms and practices of the past. It is as old as civilization and each type of branding had its own constraints and limitations, just like branding design today.

Evolution of Some High-Profile Identities
Evolution of
Some High-Profile Identities

Nobody can live long enough to learn solely from making one’s own mistakes and expect to have learned very much before dying. It is wiser to try to learn from the successes and mistakes of others. It’s less painful and learning what works and what doesn’t can happen much faster. This is especially true of branding design.

Great Designers of the Last Century
Great Designers
of the Last Century

There have been branding designers whose work has naturally been more in conformity with the core Principles. We can learn so much by studying their work.

Big Branding Agencies and Studios
Big Branding Agencies and Studios

There are also big brand consulting firms and larger design studios that have executed many of the brands we recognize today. Many of these identities have withstood the test of time and were kept for decades, while other identities were replaced after only a relatively short life.

Core Concepts - Generating Concepts

Corporate Identity Components
Corporate Identity Components

Before we try to generate concepts, let us stop to remember that there are four different kinds of corporate identity design components.

Branding Concepts
Branding Concepts

Among all the different logos and corporate identities that you have ever seen, there are only four basic categories of concepts. They are: 1) Corporate Activity 2) Corporate Ideals 3) Corporate Name 4) Abstract

Knowing Your Client
Knowing Your Client

You will create your best designs when you understand your client’s needs— and even better, when you understand the needs of your client’s customers, because they are the real audience for any corporate identity.

Branding Concepts: Self-Brainstorming
Branding Concepts:
Self-Brainstorming

Group brainstorming is an advertising technique for generating ideas. Self-brainstorming is a technique you can use alone to generate more and better branding concepts. Here's how.

Core Principles: 7 Deadly Sins of Logo Design​

23-Blowout
Blowout

For most viewers of this video, the word “branding” naturally conjures up images of logos, ads and labels. Branding in the modern sense actually has its origins in a practice that is thousands of years old. Agricultural branding of cattle practiced today is very old. It didn’t start with cowboys in the Wild West; it dates all the way back to ancient Egypt. Not only was its purpose the same as it is today—to identify whose cow was whose—but the nature of those brands was similar to modern cattle brands. They were fairly simple, and they had to be easily recognized. The purpose of a cow brand is the same as a corporate identity or brand in modern marketing: to identify the owner.

24-Solid-Black
Deadly Sin of Logo Design #1:
Can't Work in Solid Black

Every identity ought to be able to work in one single flat color, like black. Even if black isn’t the official “corporate” color, if the design doesn’t work in black, it doesn’t work.

25-Lack-of-Mass
Deadly Sins of Logo Design #2:
Lack of Mass

Mass gives an identity visibility at a distance or in small sizes. The shapes that make up the identity should not be lightweight or thin. An identity with insubstantial and flimsy parts is ineffectual and visually feeble.

26-Obscure-Contrast
Deadly Sins of Logo Design #3:
Obscure Contrast

Legibility is readability, the capacity to be correctly perceived or clearly deciphered. It is necessary in every brand design. Legibility is a function of contrast. And contrast is a function of value. It doesn’t matter so much what the hue or saturation is in the colors. What matters most for contrast is sufficient difference in value. Any logo that has low contrast–and therefore low legibility–has failed its very reason for being: to be clearly seen and read.

27-Wayward-Parts
Deadly Sin of Logo Design #4:
Wayward Parts

Wayward parts in a brand design means there is visual conflict between the elements, parts of a brand design that don’t fit or harmonize with the rest or elements are not compatible or are mismatched in some manner.

28-Overlapping-Elements
Deadly Sin of Logo Design #5:
Overlapped Elements

Unefined shapes can mean poorly drawn shapes. It happens at all levels of branding. Vector art is the medium in which all identities should be created, but it can be deceptive. It can give the impression that shapes are better than they are because the edges are crisp and clean without necessarily being well rendered or refined.

Unrefined
Deadly Sins of Logo Design #6:
Unrefined Shapes

Unefined shapes can mean poorly drawn shapes. It happens at all levels of branding. Vector art is the medium in which all identities should be created, but it can be deceptive. It can give the impression that shapes are better than they are because the edges are crisp and clean without necessarily being well rendered or refined.

30-Tiny-Elements
Deadly Sins of Logo Design #7:
Tiny Elements, Thin Lines

Thin Lines and tiny elements is a frequent fault of branding design that relates to both imagery and to typography. We have already dealt with the problem of overall mass. A similar but distinct issue is that of tiny elements or thin lines, even when found in a logo that has sufficient overall mass.

31-What's-Left?
What's left?

Some designers may think these Seven Deadly Sins are just my opinion, and as such, may be easily ignored, but they would be wrong. Each one is rooted in the way humans see and the physics of light and vision or the physics of printing or web reproduction. Some people feel unduly limited when they become acquainted with the Seven Deadly Sins of Logo Design. But they really are your friend.

Core Principles: Visual Techniques of Logo Design

Containment
Logo Design Visual Treatment #1:
Containment

I see Containment in two ways: Shallow Containment and Deep Containment. Whereas Shallow Containment gets overused in branding, Deep Containment still can be an invaluable tool that every designer needs to know about.

33-Planar-Silhouette
Logo Design Visual Technique #2:
Planar or Silhouette

Ligatures and flourishes (or swashes) are typographic combinations and decorations are another tool in a branding designer’s toolbox. Ligatures and flourishes (or swashes) will be useful mostly as options for wordmarks and monograms because they are typographic in nature. Indeed, employing either technique can change an ordinary signature into a wordmark.

34-Fragmentation
Logo Design Visual Technique #3:
Fragmentation

Fragmentation is a technique that can provide many of the benefits of shading without the drawbacks, as long as you follow some easy guidelines. Let’s talk about it. A design can be broken up into smaller portions using stripes, dots, triangles or any other repeatable solid shape. These shapes can be tapered (in the case of lines) or rendered at different sizes (in the case of dots, triangles or squares.

35-Unique-Coincidence
Logo Design Visual Technique #4:
Unique Coincidence

When it comes to branding design, every new client’s corporate activity, ideals, name or initials carry unique visual opportunities that will work only for that particular kind of business or name or set of letters.

Logo Design Visual Treatment #5: Linear Treatment
Logo Design Visual Treatment #5:
Linear Treatment

Creating an identity entirely out of lines has some unique opportunities and some dangers. As with fragmentation, the technique of rendering the whole identity with lines alone risks making the lines or spaces too delicate for clarity in small sizes or viewed from a distance. Drawing lines that are too lightweight for the overall size will make the whole logo too insubstantial (Deadly Sin of Logo Design #2: Lack of Mass). If lines are close together, it is safest to make lines and gaps the same thickness.

Logo Design Visual Treatment #6: Ligatures, Swashes and Flourishes
Logo Design Visual Technique #6:
Planar or Silhouette

Planar images and silhouettes are used in a surprising number of identities. A planar image is one that renders shadows as a solid dark color, and lighter parts as a solid light color or white, with no shading. A silhouette is similar but uses only the contour of the whole subject and disregards any light falling on it.

Logo Design Visual Treatment #7: Negative Shapes
Logo Design Visual Technique #7:
Negative Shapes

Negative shapes is an extremely versatile and useful tool for branding designers. Trying to force two concepts together often results in ruining a branding design but negative shapes, as a technique, allows the combining of visual ideas in a way that can work very well.

39 Logo Design Visual Treatment #8: Essence Essence
Logo Design Visual Technique #8:
Essence

In identity design the most important question to ask is not “What can I add to this design?” but rather, “What can I remove? How can I simplify it, reduce it?” and “How can I show the essence of this subject?” As I have stressed before, a good logo is not an illustration or a photograph. It is a symbol that reminds us of something, but it needs to be elegant in its restraint. This has been the whole trend of the corporate-identity design industry for the past century.