How to Design a Logo

by | Feb 5, 2015 | Tips & Tricks, Updates & Opportunities | 2 comments

Kind of off topic for a photography blog, but let me talk about a design project I was working on last week.

Have you ever thought about how knowing and understanding principles of design has a lot to do with developing your eye for creative and more pleasing composition in photography?

In fact, I would say that working as a graphic designer was one of the best things I could have done (without knowing it) to prepare me for a career as a photographer. Many of the same principles I follow when creating a design on paper go through my head while composing a picture through the viewfinder.

If you have an opportunity to design a logo or fulfill a design project for someone, don’t pass it up as not having anything to do with your love for photography. Pulling up something off a blank canvas makes your brain think a whole lot harder than simply arranging elements in a landscape that already exist.

In that sense, photography is so much more easy than design. And we really abuse it sometimes. Photography is art. It is creative. It’s not just shooting what’s there. It’s arranging what’s there in a way that delivers an important message to the viewer, just like a good design. Push yourself to the next level, read The Non-Designers Design Book (the first book I ever read on graphic design) and start developing your photography skills by delving into learning some practical design skills!

Anyway, here’s the steps I went through to design a logo for Leiss on Life last week, “Leiss” being the last name of a blogger who writes about biblical principles in health that lead to a better, more productive life. Here’s the picture he sent us that he wanted his logo to portray:


1. Sketched out some comps

Being in a family of artists, we all put our heads together to come up with some ideas. Here’s where knowing how to draw with a pencil comes in handy. We included some funny ideas just for laughs.

1 Initial Path Sketches

2. Refined the chosen comp

The client chose #3b as his favorite comp and my brother quickly threw these embellishments together to provide some different variations. Notice there’s still no color and the variations are not all that different from each other.

Refined comps

3. Digitized the chosen refinement

The client said he liked #7, so I took that idea and digitalized it on the computer in a few different variations. A lot of time was saved by not going to this step at the very beginning, and waiting until the client had narrowed down all the ideas to the one that he liked best.

2 Colorized Path

4. Remained flexible

I thought the project was almost done at this point, but it turns out that when the client took the colored ideas to his circle of reviewers, he came back with the news that the logo simply wasn’t accomplishing the purposes he was looking for. He pointed to #4 on the very first page of comps and gave us some more direction. This amount of change in a project doesn’t normally happen, but a logo is such an important element in a business that you want to make sure the client has what he wants in the finished product. While change isn’t expected, you should always prepare for it when you set up your contract.

So anyway, we were basically back to the drawing board. We put together a few ideas on paper again, adding color because it could be done quickly with marker.

3 Initial Apple Sketches

5. Kept it simple

The client assured us that we were going in the right direction, but thought it looked too busy. He was right, and gave us some direction on removing elements that didn’t have meaning by replacing them with elements that did.

4 Colorized Apple Sketches

6. Re-digitized with the new idea

The client really liked these and gave the go ahead to put the one in the bottom right corner on the computer. I did so, providing a few variations in shading and shape.

4 Colorized Apples

7. Send final documents

Don’t things look a whole lot better on the computer? It’s tempting to start on the computer because you know it will look better, but you will never be able to quickly and cost-efficiently get something to this point if you don’t start with simple, creative, artistic drawings at the beginning.

4 Colorized Apple Sketches

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  1. SarahLeePhoto

    Very interesting. What program(s) did you use in digitalizing the art? What different layers did you use in all the logo elements?

  2. James Staddon

    Because I know Photoshop better than Illustrator, I digitized the logo in Photoshop and worked in that program until the logo was approved. From there, I expanded it in Illustrator. I could have built it from the ground up in Illustrator (which is the method I would recommend) if I had a better knowledge of that program.


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