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CreativeLive Visual Designer Jacob Wilen on The Art of The Logo

by Topher Kelly
art & design

In a competitive world full of creative companies, Why are there so many terrible logos!? A logo is a customer’s first impression of your brand and what it represents. We always encourage others to refrain from judging a book by its cover, but let’s be real — that happens everyday. Take a look at your logo – does it portray what it needs to? If you are unsure, we’ve brought in CreativeLive‘s lead visual designer Jacob Wilen to shed some light on the subject. Although Jacob joined after the creation of creativeLIVE’s current logo, he  has crafted innovative designs for big brands from Intel to General Motors to Hilton Worldwide and even OKCupid. In other words, he knows a thing or two about design. Here are Jacob’s 5 logo commandments.

Commandment #1: Thy logo must work in all sizes

Imagine your logo wrapped around a Boeing 787. Now imagine it engraved on a small pinky ring. Will it still be legible? These are extreme examples, but you would be surprised by how many projects call for unique displays and formats. Be prepared! Extremely ornate and complex illustrations (or tons of subtle gradients) are a no-no. Apple’s original logo design is a well-known offender:

Commandment #2: Before adding color, thy logo must work in black and white.

This law really puts your design to the test, stripping it down to the bare bones of line and shape. Does the color-less version look fabulous when engraved into glass — or debossed into leather?

Commandment #3: Keep thy typography tight.

If you are using lettering as your mark, be sure to study up on the principles of kerning and leading before sending it to press. The subtle art of optically adjusting the position of each character can make or break your logo’s integrity. Glee‘s logo is an infamous and recent offender of bad kerning. Can you see where they went wrong?

jacob wilen

Commandment #4: To thine own logo be true.

Do lots of research to make sure that nobody has a similar logo to yours. Even if you spot a twin in a different industry, you could end up being sued for marketplace confusion. Your initial research should also include a very thorough audit of your competitor’s brand design. How can you stay visually appropriate to your industry, but still stand out in the crowd? Put your own twist on it.

Commandment #5: For better or for worse, I thee wed.

Think of your logo as a tattoo—You can’t change it later. Well, I guess you can. But you will have to redo your website, business cards, t-shirts, mobile app, wallpaper and reception area. And then explain to your customers why you have a “New look, but same great taste!.” It can be more awkward than laser scars from your old tribal armband tattoo.

Check out some of Jacob’s original logo designs here (roll over each logo to view the colorized versions).

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Topher Kelly

Topher Kelly is a San Francisco-based freelance writer and editor at CreativeLive. Follow Topher on Twitter@Topher_LIVE.