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We’ve been pondering the power of the business card to create promotional buzz, and we gave you a gallery of unique business cards to spark inspiration for your own promotion design, whether for yourself or a client.

And here, we’ve got 24 more examples of business card inspiration!

Business Card Inspiration Abounds!

Designer: Jose Canales

Designer: Josh VandenAvond

Designer: Salih Kucukaga

Designer: Anastasiia Rafayenko

Designer: Josip Kelava

Agency: NNIDO

Design Firm: Helium Creative

Designer: Kevin Moran

Designer: Marta Satterthwaite

Designer: AnnaRose Girvin

Designer: Pola Leszczyńska

Designer: Amber Asay

Designer: Mushky Ginsburg

Designer: Alessandro Risso

Designer: Kultprosvet

Designer: Steve Wolf

 

Designer: Eric Nyffeler

This last business card is extra special not just for its beauty (I mean, come on!) but for the fact that Nyffeler has recently retired the moniker ‘Doe Eyed,’ a pseudonym under which he had been creating vibrant and joy-filled gig posters since 2009. His career is shifting to focus fully on the field of editorial illustration. Read more about Nyffeler’s calculated refocusing in an interview from earlier this month.

Find more inspiration on HOWDesign.com here:

10 Beautiful Business Cards Designed for Newer Brands
29 Beautiful, Unique Business Cards
Signage Design Inspiration, Tips, and Tricks from 5 Leading Firms

The post 24 Business Cards Designs Making Impressions appeared first on HOW Design.

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5 Tried and True Design Devices for Logo Designers

Thanks to Bill Gardner and LogoLounge and judges Aaron Draplin (Draplin Design Co.), Von Glitschka (Glitschka Studios) Su Mathews Hale (Lippincott), Andreas Karl  (Karl Design) Chad Michael (Chad Michael Studio), Emily Oberman (Pentagram), Yo Santosa (Ferroconcrete) Felix Sockwell, Alex Tass, and Alex Trochut for all their insights and opinions into the logo design trends and insights that tried-and-true as well as impacting design in a fresh way right now.

Crests

When applied appropriately, crests can convey a sense of tradition, whether the brand has a rich history or not, and they blend a variety of design elements to create a cohesive look. “I like them because they are complex but still simple to read and take in,” Glitschka says. “A handful of these were in my top-rated logos.”

Draplin adds, “I loved the ‘pack a bunch of stuff in’ crests I saw. But of course, those work best when you can read all the stuff, say, on a T-shirt. I just dug the detail, line consistency and overall spirit of how people packed in a ton of info to such beautiful lock-ups. That’s how we used to do it on the top of a barrel carrying—I don’t know—hard tack or some shit.”

Copper & Brave by Braue: Brand Design Experts 

Printed Threads by Paul Sirmon LLC

Elevation Beer Co. by Sunday Lounge

Geometric Devices

“I have noticed the use of basic geometric elements—circles, squares, either on their own or involved in constructions where symmetry and logic were involved,” Tass explains. “It is definitely a classic direction, but one that never gets old.”

Steeple Bay by Gardner Design

Tsukat by Brandforma

Stacks by Greg Thomas

Monoline

“The unified weight look has really caught fire over the past decade, where an image or typography is designed with a single stroke weight,” Michael observes. “I enjoy this approach, but it is difficult to master beautifully.”

Outbound Coalition by Brokenstraw Art & Design

Fluent by Tractorbeam

Magnus Alpha by Mauricio Cremer

[Discover 6 things to avoid when designing a logo]

Handcrafted Logotypes

With so many breweries and coffee shops popping up everywhere, it’s no surprise that hand-lettered, artisan logos are still relevant. People crave the details over the monotony. Sockwell thinks it’s simpler than that. “There’s a lot of digital stuff that looks impersonal, and this goes directly against that.”

In the same vein, seals and type on a curved baseline were prevalent. As Santosa notes, “They are classic devices, but I’m guessing it’s really popular because it gives a crafty/artisan feel.”

Green5 by Denis Ulyanov

Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild by Chapa Design

Wild Theory Brewing Co. by Sunday Lounge

Highlighted Silhouettes

“The highlighted silhouette look has been around for over 100 years, so I found it comforting to know designers are still employing this and successfully so,” says Michael. “Of course, as with any style, it is all about execution and avoiding regurgitating a form we’ve all seen a hundred times. The highlighted silhouette is here to stay.”

Keg Creek Brewing by Oxide Design Co.

Highbrow by Spin Design

Khi-Khi Milk Co. by J Fletcher Design

[Online Course: Logo Design Basics]

The post 5 Tried and True Design Devices for Logo Designers appeared first on HOW Design.

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Is it Possible to Commission a Decent Logo Online?

A memorable and effective logo design is like the ballet: It looks easy, but it represents thousands of hours of hard work and sweat, research and thought, plus an occasional dose of frustration, distilled into a tiny beautiful moment. Within the field of graphic design, logo design is a subspecialty that commands high prices, and for good reason. However, there are now plenty of websites where, for nominal fees, anyone can commission a logo or create one themselves by choosing from a kit of icons and typeface options, mixing and matching to their heart’s content.

This development was inevitable, and many professional designers hate the thought that their years of training and expertise are not valued by potential clients who think design services are overpriced and that their kids could do just as good a job designing a logo. It’s almost too easy to make fun of the whole thing as a design travesty, etc.

But assumptions aside: Is it possible to commission a decent logo from one of the interactive places? We decided to find out.

Designing a Logo with an Online Service

I invented a company whose sole product is called Cat Crunchies, and randomly selected a logo design website. It promised four separate logo concepts (though you receive only one as a final) created by two dedicated designers, with 48-hour turnaround, unlimited revisions, and a money-back guarantee. With a coupon offer, the lowest-priced package cost $39 (normally $149).

On each round of comments I gave deliberately ambiguous feedback. In an ideal world, when this happens a graphic designer comes back to the client for a quick conversation to clarify and learn what he or she was really hoping to see. Because my only option for phone contact was with a very nervous-sounding project manager working out of what sounded like a telemarketing room, I was never given an opportunity to communicate directly with the people responsible for bringing my vision to life.

JOB SPECIFICATIONS

Exact name to appear on logo: Cat Crunchies

Slogan (if any): Vegan, gluten-free treats for cats

Preferred style of logo: Modern

Look and feel: We want to convey the feeling of love for your cat and wanting to give him or her the very best healthy treats.

Additional comments: Comes in six flavors, provides 12 essential vitamins and minerals, cleans teeth and promotes healthy gums, responsibly sourced ingredients.

I added a random photo of my own cat, who sadly never made an appearance in any of the logo versions.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE BUSINESS

Started in a garage in Brooklyn in the fall of 2017, Cat Crunchies aims to give cat owners a healthy alternative to heavily processed treats found in supermarkets. We give 15% of profits to animal shelters and sponsor quarterly Adopt-A-Cat fairs. Every batch of Cat Crunchies is baked by hand and packaged in our signature tins.

EXPECTATIONS

Based on the information I provided and the above criteria, ideally the logo would allude in some way to a cat, perhaps communicate the idea of a crunchy treat as opposed to a daily meal, and also emphasize a healthy, small-batch, socially responsive vibe. I asked for “modern,” so I was hoping to see clean, contemporary-looking solutions to the assignment.

Version One: The Aristocat

This solution was puzzling from the get-go. The Disney quality of the illustration doesn’t fit with any part of the design brief.

Client request after round one: Can we please try different and fewer colors, these look cartoon-y, and a more modern style of letters? Note: It isn’t only the colors that’s lending this one its cartoon vibe; it’s the illustration style. The designer needed to read between the lines of what I asked for and what I was objecting to, in order to fully resolve the issue.

What I got back? Salmon pink makes an appearance and the typeface has gone from a vaguely thorny serif to a squared sans. Not more modern, but definitely different. Cat remains the same.

Client request after round two: I like the colors better, but the cat looks very feminine. I worry that cat owners will think these treats are just for girl cats. Is there a way to fix that?

Resolution: Disney cat is gone, replaced with Maneki Neko, the lucky cat charm popular in Japanese and Chinese cultures. Huh? Less feminine perhaps, but not more appropriate—in fact, that kind of came out of nowhere, and doesn’t suit the brief either. Many people associate the color pink with femininity, so the designer might have tried to address that by presenting another color choice.

Decision: Unusable.

Managing a Web Design Project from Start to Finish: A HOW Design University Course

Version Two: Corporate Cat

Navy blue and maroon are odd color choices for this project, considering they are most often seen in conservative palettes used for banking and/or insurance companies. Nothing about the color choices feels organic or food-related, says “cat,” or communicates anything about the use of natural healthy ingredients.

Client request after round one: I would like to see how it looks to play up the “Vegan” and “Gluten-Free” on this one since this is important to our customers. Can the colors look more like cat fur? [Note: this last remark was a deliberate attempt to be annoying.]

What I got back? Vegan and gluten free are now red instead of blue. No other methods of emphasis: change of scale, typeface, position were sent. Comment about cat fur colors ignored.

Client request after round two: Can we put the “vegan/gluten-free” into a separate little burst or a bubble? Also it would be good to try colors that look more like a cat.

Resolution: Half-hearted bubble drawn around existing words, with addition of a background color that is the same value as the red type, so the type basically disappears from lack of contrast. Second ask to try cat fur colors ignored. Designer appears to have given up.

Decision: Unusable.

Version Three: Hello Amoeba Kitty

This one was so depressing from the get-go (boring colors, unappealing blobby cat) that I almost didn’t attempt to work with it. Still, hope springs eternal.

Client request after round one: Could this one feel more exciting and show how owners love their cats? Maybe the letters are too plain, or the colors? [Note: This is a kind of typically vague client feedback. Unhappiness is expressed, but no real solid direction offered.]

What I got back? I have no idea what happened here. I imagine the designer with six YouTube windows open, texting, and microwaving a Hot Pocket while talking on a headset.

Request after round two: This one still doesn’t feel like it shows how you love your cat, maybe it’s the color or maybe it needs something that says love, like hearts or a hug?

Resolution: Holy crow. That heart is applied like a Band-Aid with no attempt to integrate it into the rest of the design. If the solution doesn’t work, solve it another way. Colors unchanged.

Decision: Unusable.

Version Four: Peek A Boo

The initial try had a playful quality that I appreciated. Although the cat looked a bit like an insect, this one seemed the most promising of the four design options.

Client request after round one: I think this would look good with fun colors and if the word crunchies was not cutting into the cat. Is it possible to say “cat” without showing a drawing of one? [Note: this was not a direct request to take the cat out.]

What I got back? The cat is gone, never to return. Colors are definitely more “fun.” The word crunchies is still overlaid atop the word cat, though.

Client request after round two: The word crunchies is still cutting into the word cat, can you move it down? (Perhaps I should have asked for the restoration of the cat drawing just to see what might have happened.)

Resolution: I got everything I asked for.

Decision: So is this a good logo? Sadly, no. Just filling a client’s requests doesn’t make for good design; a designer has to listen to feedback then think on it and offer better solutions. Most clients don’t speak the language of design well enough to be able to say what they really want; a designer’s job is partly to act as interpreter, define and solve the problem, and make suggestions on how to get there. This logo has some worthwhile qualities—the use of a textured typeface that jumps up and down from its baseline for the word Crunchies communicates noise and activity, and overall the design feels lighthearted, suitable for a pet treat product. But the kerning on “cat” is terrible and the word cat is not properly centered over crunchies.

Why It Just Didn’t Work

On all four options, there were no real explorations of other concepts or potential solutions on any version after feedback. Changing small details like a type color or adding a burst to an existing design that isn’t working tends not to solve the problem. If a client asks to put something into a bubble, chances are good the designer has to rearrange things, play with scale and maybe a different typeface. What I got back weren’t really new versions, they were just quick alterations on the first idea. It felt like there was no opportunity for the designers to play and experiment, to try other options as what-ifs … in other words, the fun part of their jobs seemed absent.

This is not meant as a critique of the talent or abilities of the people assigned to my project. It’s more an illustration of the basic fact that all design, and logo design in particular, is about communication and vision. The designers and I never spoke but went through comments provided through an online form, via a middleman who probably had a dozen other projects he was trafficking at the same time. Even at the busiest, largest design agencies a client always has a chance to meet with the people on the design team, hear what they have to say, engage and exchange ideas, and collaborate. That’s what was missing from this experience, and that’s how I ended up with a hot pink and lime green logo for my vegan, gluten-free, small-batch Cat Crunchies.

Know what it is to put your own design acumen behind a great logo design? Don’t just let it sit there. Submit it for consideration to the HOW Logo Design Awards, accepting entries for a limited time!

The post What’s Wrong with This Picture? Designing a Logo with an Online Service appeared first on HOW Design.

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You’ve probably heard the term “value proposition” thrown around at a few meetings before. While it might seem like a buzzword, it is one of the most important things for your business to define and take ownership of. Oftentimes in branding, we talk about the importance of knowing your “why”. With value proposition, we’re really focusing on the “what”. Your value proposition defines what it is that you have to offer your key stakeholders. Put simply, your value proposition is your niche. It’s what makes you stand out from the crowd.

What’s a stakeholder?

A stakeholder is anyone that holds a stake in the work you do. For designers, the key stakeholder is commonly thought of as the client. The client is certainly central to your work, but they are not the only stakeholder involved. Other common stakeholders for designers include your team, collaborators, the industry at-large, and the end user/audience for the work itself.

Here’s the tricky thing: More often than not, the value you THINK you are providing to your stakeholders is actually different than the value that THEY are seeing. As a result, when defining your value proposition, it is critical to keep an open mind and evaluate both the value you are personally projecting, and the value that is being perceived by those around you.

Recently, we published a series of toolkits called Give All that capture all of the methodologies we’ve leveraged with hundreds of clients over the years at verynice. One of those toolkits, Value Proposition, is great for working through this important process.

Here’s a quick activity from the toolkit to help you define your value proposition:

First, begin by digging into as many things as you can that shed light on the way in which you have been projecting your value. This might look like a collection of public-facing material (like social media posts, website content, etc.). If you don’t have any of that, think back to the last time you explained to someone what it is that you did. Read through all of this, and take some time to reflect.

  • What message is being projected about the value your work provides?
  • What keywords are you using the describe what makes you or your service/product unique?

Next, evaluate the way in which your value is being perceived by others. Take some time to speak to existing customers, and ask them what it is that they think is valuable about what you do.

  • How do these interpretations of your value line up with the value you’ve been projecting?
  • How can you refine your messaging in order to make that value more clear?

Based on what you’ve learned thus far, attempt to write a short description (no longer than 3-4 sentences) that defines your value proposition. This should be informed by both the projected and perceived value that you’ve just uncovered, but also a range of other factors, including thoughts around the following:

  • Your key stakeholder’s greatest need, and the way in which your work fulfills that need.
  • Your greatest competitor, and the key differences between your work/approach and there’s.
  • Your own personal values, and what drives your perspective of the world.

I won’t sugar coat this, this is not an easy task. That said, if you see your value proposition as something that is in a constant state of further definition and evolution, it takes some of the weight off of the process as a whole. The best thing you can do is start. Know that it is natural (and actually great!) for this value to change! A few final tips, selected from the best practices section of our Value Proposition toolkit:

  1. When developing your value proposition, work with your existing audience to get an understanding for how you are being perceived, and see how that differs from the value and unique differentiation you’re projecting in your current marketing material. If you are starting something from scratch, and do not have an audience to get feedback from, you can also have conversations with previous coworkers or employers about your work in general.
  2. A common mistake in value proposition design is to spend too much time thinking about your competition, as well as all of the cool features and benefits of your organization. Don’t get tunnel vision! Instead, think about your users. What do they need? How are those needs currently being fulfilled by your competitors? How do you fulfill those needs in a better way? Take the time to understand how the need that you are meeting fits into the ecosystem of their other needs (which may be fulfilled by others!).
  3. The value proposition has to speak to your core competency. As a result, it will be impossible to appease every pain point of your users. Stay true to what you know you can deliver well, and rank the identified pain points informed by this reality.

Understand your client’s marketing objectives fully when you complete this certificate in marketing.

The post How to Define Your Value Proposition appeared first on HOW Design.

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Italian lighting manufacturer Axolight hired Teikna Design to complete a total rebrand to be unveiled during the 2017 Milan Design Week. This work, which included a logo redesign, strategic repositioning, photo art direction, the website and catalogs, was driven by the idea that Axolight should no longer primarily target reps and dealers but rather appeal to specifiers and the design community. Previously, Axolight was perceived more as a product than a design-oriented brand—despite the company’s proven commitment to innovative design solutions and technology. This significant shift in focus required a radically different visual language, which was inspired by midcentury-modern style: basic geometric forms, vibrant colors, the font Futura and the strong, impactful use of graphic patterns.

The work on the catalog started in January 2017, with a deadline of March, in time for Milan Design Week 2017, which had a focus on lighting, says Claudia Neri, Teikna’s principal and design director. That was a tight schedule for producing 250-plus pages featuring more than 100 products. “Moreover, quite a few new products were still in the prototyping stage as we were at work on the layout of the catalog,” Neri says. “This resulted in a kind of double-sided pressure: On the one hand, the printers needed to have our files ASAP; on the other, the engineers were still testing products and kept changing the specs, inevitably delaying our work.”

Teikna’s brand repositioning work was barely finalized when it was put to the test on the catalog. Any critical issue was tested live on the project. “We had to keep rewriting some of our own rules,” Neri says. “Overall, it was a fantastic opportunity to test the strength of the brand system we had devised.”

The day the catalog was shipped, Teikna received a phone call from Axolight CEO Roberto Vivian telling the team how incredibly pleased he was, as the new catalog channeled his vision for a radical change of the brand. Axolight’s existing clients and partners were also positively surprised, and everyone agreed it was a quantum leap forward, Neri says. And it didn’t go unnoticed that upgrading the design and overall image hadn’t happened at the expense of practicality and usability.

Title Axolight Bespoke Design Catalog | Design Firm Teikna Design, Milan; www.teikna.com | Creative Team Claudia Neri, art director/designer/copywriter; Elisa Stagnoli, design assistant | Printer Grafiche Antiga | Client Axolight

The post Ray of Light: Award-Winning Annual Reports Design appeared first on HOW Design.

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Is this you?

  • You see your client’s projects as more important or valuable than your own.
  • You take your client’s business more seriously than your own.
  • You put your own business development (including bookkeeping and billing) on the back burner and literally do your own stuff last or not at all.

If so, then you probably also suffer from The Feast or Famine Syndrome. You know, when you are forced to take whatever comes along (a.k.a. “word of mouth”) because you believe you can’t afford to do otherwise. Or you settle for cheap clients, and sometimes even abusive clients.

This must stop!

Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

In Part 1 of this article, we established that the way out of Feast or Famine is to begin with these 3 mindset shifts:

  1. Shift from “The client’s project is the real work” to “My business is my priority.”
  2. Shift from “I want my clients to be happy” to “My happiness counts most”
  3. Shift from “Why won’t they respond?” To “The ball is always in my court.”

Now it’s time to add some action, because if scattershot marketing leads to a roller coaster of projects, then steady and focused marketing is the antidote.

In other words, you can harness the power of marketing to smooth out the waves of unpredictable work.

Building on those 3 new mindsets, here are 3 actions you can take:

  1. “My business is my priority.” = “My tasks get done first.” That means, you tend to your own business growth first – literally! Do it first thing in the week (don’t leave it for Friday) and first thing in the morning, when you are thinking most clearly. Don’t put “paying” client work ahead of researching your target market, sending out your email newsletter or attending a networking event. Don’t sacrifice your future to a measly client project! Prioritize your own strategic planning, self-promotion and billing. Carve out time for yourself, put it in your calendar and protect that time as if it were your lifeline, because it is!
  2. “My opinion counts most” = “I do my best for myself too.” That means committing to doing your absolute best for yourself! Use your own common sense. Do what you know is best or, if you don’t know, get help from someone who knows. Don’t let yourself flounder. Your clients get help from experts (that’s you) and so should you.
  3. “The ball is always in my court” = “I know what my next step is.” That means, instead of waiting for a response from anyone, you don’t even expect one and you already know what you’ll do next. For example, if you submit a proposal and don’t hear back within a week, re-send it with a friendly note that says, “Just want to make sure you saw this – please confirm receipt.” That way, when a prospect or a client does respond, you’ll be thrilled and even a little surprised. In the meantime, assume responsibility and always be poised for action. And, don’t give up when the people you want to work with don’t respond to your messages. Keep reaching out and showing your interest, your persistence and professionalism – humor helps too. Because you really have no idea what’s happening on their end. So don’t assume the worst!

None of this is hard, especially if you’re already making the effort to cultivate the right mindset.

On a practical level, all it takes is a little bit of your attention every day. 30 minutes could be plenty. In fact, treat yourself like your own client, if that’s what it takes to put yourself first.

And if you need help, take advantage of the complimentary 30-minute mentoring session I offer to pick my brain and get your questions answered.

The post How To Stop the Feast or Famine Syndrome: Part 2 appeared first on HOW Design.

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5 Tried and True Design Devices for Logo Designers

Thanks to Bill Gardner and LogoLounge and judges Aaron Draplin (Draplin Design Co.), Von Glitschka (Glitschka Studios) Su Mathews Hale (Lippincott), Andreas Karl  (Karl Design) Chad Michael (Chad Michael Studio), Emily Oberman (Pentagram), Yo Santosa (Ferroconcrete) Felix Sockwell, Alex Tass, and Alex Trochut for all their insights and opinions into the logo design trends and insights that tried-and-true as well as impacting design in a fresh way right now.

Crests

When applied appropriately, crests can convey a sense of tradition, whether the brand has a rich history or not, and they blend a variety of design elements to create a cohesive look. “I like them because they are complex but still simple to read and take in,” Glitschka says. “A handful of these were in my top-rated logos.”

Draplin adds, “I loved the ‘pack a bunch of stuff in’ crests I saw. But of course, those work best when you can read all the stuff, say, on a T-shirt. I just dug the detail, line consistency and overall spirit of how people packed in a ton of info to such beautiful lock-ups. That’s how we used to do it on the top of a barrel carrying—I don’t know—hard tack or some shit.”

Copper & Brave by Braue: Brand Design Experts 

Printed Threads by Paul Sirmon LLC

Elevation Beer Co. by Sunday Lounge

Geometric Devices

“I have noticed the use of basic geometric elements—circles, squares, either on their own or involved in constructions where symmetry and logic were involved,” Tass explains. “It is definitely a classic direction, but one that never gets old.”

Steeple Bay by Gardner Design

Tsukat by Brandforma

Stacks by Greg Thomas

Monoline

“The unified weight look has really caught fire over the past decade, where an image or typography is designed with a single stroke weight,” Michael observes. “I enjoy this approach, but it is difficult to master beautifully.”

Outbound Coalition by Brokenstraw Art & Design

Fluent by Tractorbeam

Magnus Alpha by Mauricio Cremer

[Discover 6 things to avoid when designing a logo]

Handcrafted Logotypes

With so many breweries and coffee shops popping up everywhere, it’s no surprise that hand-lettered, artisan logos are still relevant. People crave the details over the monotony. Sockwell thinks it’s simpler than that. “There’s a lot of digital stuff that looks impersonal, and this goes directly against that.”

In the same vein, seals and type on a curved baseline were prevalent. As Santosa notes, “They are classic devices, but I’m guessing it’s really popular because it gives a crafty/artisan feel.”

Green5 by Denis Ulyanov

Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild by Chapa Design

Wild Theory Brewing Co. by Sunday Lounge

Highlighted Silhouettes

“The highlighted silhouette look has been around for over 100 years, so I found it comforting to know designers are still employing this and successfully so,” says Michael. “Of course, as with any style, it is all about execution and avoiding regurgitating a form we’ve all seen a hundred times. The highlighted silhouette is here to stay.”

Keg Creek Brewing by Oxide Design Co.

Highbrow by Spin Design

Khi-Khi Milk Co. by J Fletcher Design

[Online Course: Logo Design Basics]

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Is it Possible to Commission a Decent Logo Online?

A memorable and effective logo design is like the ballet: It looks easy, but it represents thousands of hours of hard work and sweat, research and thought, plus an occasional dose of frustration, distilled into a tiny beautiful moment. Within the field of graphic design, logo design is a subspecialty that commands high prices, and for good reason. However, there are now plenty of websites where, for nominal fees, anyone can commission a logo or create one themselves by choosing from a kit of icons and typeface options, mixing and matching to their heart’s content.

This development was inevitable, and many professional designers hate the thought that their years of training and expertise are not valued by potential clients who think design services are overpriced and that their kids could do just as good a job designing a logo. It’s almost too easy to make fun of the whole thing as a design travesty, etc.

But assumptions aside: Is it possible to commission a decent logo from one of the interactive places? We decided to find out.

Designing a Logo with an Online Service

I invented a company whose sole product is called Cat Crunchies, and randomly selected a logo design website. It promised four separate logo concepts (though you receive only one as a final) created by two dedicated designers, with 48-hour turnaround, unlimited revisions, and a money-back guarantee. With a coupon offer, the lowest-priced package cost $39 (normally $149).

On each round of comments I gave deliberately ambiguous feedback. In an ideal world, when this happens a graphic designer comes back to the client for a quick conversation to clarify and learn what he or she was really hoping to see. Because my only option for phone contact was with a very nervous-sounding project manager working out of what sounded like a telemarketing room, I was never given an opportunity to communicate directly with the people responsible for bringing my vision to life.

JOB SPECIFICATIONS

Exact name to appear on logo: Cat Crunchies

Slogan (if any): Vegan, gluten-free treats for cats

Preferred style of logo: Modern

Look and feel: We want to convey the feeling of love for your cat and wanting to give him or her the very best healthy treats.

Additional comments: Comes in six flavors, provides 12 essential vitamins and minerals, cleans teeth and promotes healthy gums, responsibly sourced ingredients.

I added a random photo of my own cat, who sadly never made an appearance in any of the logo versions.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE BUSINESS

Started in a garage in Brooklyn in the fall of 2017, Cat Crunchies aims to give cat owners a healthy alternative to heavily processed treats found in supermarkets. We give 15% of profits to animal shelters and sponsor quarterly Adopt-A-Cat fairs. Every batch of Cat Crunchies is baked by hand and packaged in our signature tins.

EXPECTATIONS

Based on the information I provided and the above criteria, ideally the logo would allude in some way to a cat, perhaps communicate the idea of a crunchy treat as opposed to a daily meal, and also emphasize a healthy, small-batch, socially responsive vibe. I asked for “modern,” so I was hoping to see clean, contemporary-looking solutions to the assignment.

Version One: The Aristocat

This solution was puzzling from the get-go. The Disney quality of the illustration doesn’t fit with any part of the design brief.

Client request after round one: Can we please try different and fewer colors, these look cartoon-y, and a more modern style of letters? Note: It isn’t only the colors that’s lending this one its cartoon vibe; it’s the illustration style. The designer needed to read between the lines of what I asked for and what I was objecting to, in order to fully resolve the issue.

What I got back? Salmon pink makes an appearance and the typeface has gone from a vaguely thorny serif to a squared sans. Not more modern, but definitely different. Cat remains the same.

Client request after round two: I like the colors better, but the cat looks very feminine. I worry that cat owners will think these treats are just for girl cats. Is there a way to fix that?

Resolution: Disney cat is gone, replaced with Maneki Neko, the lucky cat charm popular in Japanese and Chinese cultures. Huh? Less feminine perhaps, but not more appropriate—in fact, that kind of came out of nowhere, and doesn’t suit the brief either. Many people associate the color pink with femininity, so the designer might have tried to address that by presenting another color choice.

Decision: Unusable.

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Version Two: Corporate Cat

Navy blue and maroon are odd color choices for this project, considering they are most often seen in conservative palettes used for banking and/or insurance companies. Nothing about the color choices feels organic or food-related, says “cat,” or communicates anything about the use of natural healthy ingredients.

Client request after round one: I would like to see how it looks to play up the “Vegan” and “Gluten-Free” on this one since this is important to our customers. Can the colors look more like cat fur? [Note: this last remark was a deliberate attempt to be annoying.]

What I got back? Vegan and gluten free are now red instead of blue. No other methods of emphasis: change of scale, typeface, position were sent. Comment about cat fur colors ignored.

Client request after round two: Can we put the “vegan/gluten-free” into a separate little burst or a bubble? Also it would be good to try colors that look more like a cat.

Resolution: Half-hearted bubble drawn around existing words, with addition of a background color that is the same value as the red type, so the type basically disappears from lack of contrast. Second ask to try cat fur colors ignored. Designer appears to have given up.

Decision: Unusable.

Version Three: Hello Amoeba Kitty

This one was so depressing from the get-go (boring colors, unappealing blobby cat) that I almost didn’t attempt to work with it. Still, hope springs eternal.

Client request after round one: Could this one feel more exciting and show how owners love their cats? Maybe the letters are too plain, or the colors? [Note: This is a kind of typically vague client feedback. Unhappiness is expressed, but no real solid direction offered.]

What I got back? I have no idea what happened here. I imagine the designer with six YouTube windows open, texting, and microwaving a Hot Pocket while talking on a headset.

Request after round two: This one still doesn’t feel like it shows how you love your cat, maybe it’s the color or maybe it needs something that says love, like hearts or a hug?

Resolution: Holy crow. That heart is applied like a Band-Aid with no attempt to integrate it into the rest of the design. If the solution doesn’t work, solve it another way. Colors unchanged.

Decision: Unusable.

Version Four: Peek A Boo

The initial try had a playful quality that I appreciated. Although the cat looked a bit like an insect, this one seemed the most promising of the four design options.

Client request after round one: I think this would look good with fun colors and if the word crunchies was not cutting into the cat. Is it possible to say “cat” without showing a drawing of one? [Note: this was not a direct request to take the cat out.]

What I got back? The cat is gone, never to return. Colors are definitely more “fun.” The word crunchies is still overlaid atop the word cat, though.

Client request after round two: The word crunchies is still cutting into the word cat, can you move it down? (Perhaps I should have asked for the restoration of the cat drawing just to see what might have happened.)

Resolution: I got everything I asked for.

Decision: So is this a good logo? Sadly, no. Just filling a client’s requests doesn’t make for good design; a designer has to listen to feedback then think on it and offer better solutions. Most clients don’t speak the language of design well enough to be able to say what they really want; a designer’s job is partly to act as interpreter, define and solve the problem, and make suggestions on how to get there. This logo has some worthwhile qualities—the use of a textured typeface that jumps up and down from its baseline for the word Crunchies communicates noise and activity, and overall the design feels lighthearted, suitable for a pet treat product. But the kerning on “cat” is terrible and the word cat is not properly centered over crunchies.

Why It Just Didn’t Work

On all four options, there were no real explorations of other concepts or potential solutions on any version after feedback. Changing small details like a type color or adding a burst to an existing design that isn’t working tends not to solve the problem. If a client asks to put something into a bubble, chances are good the designer has to rearrange things, play with scale and maybe a different typeface. What I got back weren’t really new versions, they were just quick alterations on the first idea. It felt like there was no opportunity for the designers to play and experiment, to try other options as what-ifs … in other words, the fun part of their jobs seemed absent.

This is not meant as a critique of the talent or abilities of the people assigned to my project. It’s more an illustration of the basic fact that all design, and logo design in particular, is about communication and vision. The designers and I never spoke but went through comments provided through an online form, via a middleman who probably had a dozen other projects he was trafficking at the same time. Even at the busiest, largest design agencies a client always has a chance to meet with the people on the design team, hear what they have to say, engage and exchange ideas, and collaborate. That’s what was missing from this experience, and that’s how I ended up with a hot pink and lime green logo for my vegan, gluten-free, small-batch Cat Crunchies.

Know what it is to put your own design acumen behind a great logo design? Don’t just let it sit there. Submit it for consideration to the HOW Logo Design Awards, accepting entries for a limited time!

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If there is one thing that probably won’t ever go digital, it’s wedding invitations. The long-held tradition of sending wedding invites to guests. According to etiquette expert Lizzie Post, co-president of the Emily Post Institute, going paperless is not appropriate for a wedding—especially when keeping in mind they are kept as keepsakes, not to mention considering your older guests. Wedding invitations are alive and well on Etsy and at letterpress shops across the world who still print the old school way.

“Weddings are such an important event in a person’s life and for many people, this might be the only formal event thrown in their honor,” said Post. “A mailed invitation carries clout and sentimentality for such a revered event; the formality of the invitation reflects the formality of the event, and a physical representation of this event in the communication stage is still important, even if it’s a small wedding.”

In celebration of print wedding invitations, here are some outstanding examples of wedding graphic design—and what makes them special.

1. Nothing beats a treasure hunt map

Portland-based graphic designer Ian Collins designed his own wedding invites with his wife—by giving it an “In the Woods” touch. By using their home printer and a rented laser cutter. “Our wedding was in the woods, and we hoped the pop-up trees would give our prospective guests a taste of event they would be attending,” said Collins. “The RSVP card was perforated, which let the guest remove the response card and keep a handy map of the surrounding area. An accordion-style field-guide was also included, with illustrations done by my wife of local plants and animals.”

2. Anecdotes illustrate a couple’s love story

Dallas-based graphic designer Emily Holt says a perk of being a graphic designer is designing your own wedding invitations. “But the downside of being a graphic designer?” she asks, “you can design your own wedding invitations—and basically have to—I could have easily spent 50+ hours on mine, so I tried not to overthink things and keep it simple.” She explains how she dated her partner Brad for six years before getting hitched, so she wanted to incorporate their love story into the design. “I illustrated icons for major milestones in our relationship for the back of the main invitation. From there they’re a mix of simple, graphic patterns and my favorite color palette.”

3. It’s a way to bring the wedding’s vision alive

Melissa Arey, the graphic designer behind Hello Invite has made countless wedding invitations. Since she first fell into the business after making the invitations for her own wedding. “When my husband and I got married, I did all of our wedding paper goodies, I loved every minute of it, thinking this would be so much fun to do for a living,” she said. “I was so shocked at how many compliments we received from the invites to the programs and reception mementos. What started with one set of invites quickly grew through word of mouth and here we are almost seven years later and each year gets busier than the last.”

Arey says that she hopes to give a strong introduction to the couple’s big day with the invitations. “I love meeting new brides and bringing their wedding vision to life on paper,” said Arey. “I strive to make their wedding invitation one of the first glimpses into their special day as unique and beautiful as possible.”

4. It’s a way to charm wedding guests

To Mount Pleasant-based designer Sarah Reed, wedding invitations are a way to charm guests into the big day with illustrious stationery, beginning with the save the date all the way through to the place card. She is known for the watercolor map invites which is ideal for out-of-town guests traveling for the wedding—which offers a where’s-where map that includes hotels, receptions and city landmarks.

“We don’t just make invitations—we go through all of the logistics and design elements for the big day to make sure that no detail is left untouched,” says Reed, who quotes Charles Eames: “The details are not the details. They make the design.”

5. It’s the ultimate way to display next-level creativity

Designer Kelli Anderson created a Paper Record Player as a wedding invitation for one couple; Karen, a rights advocate lawyer, and Michael, a Grammy-nominated sound engineer. “Music brought them together so it is only fitting that their invite should be delivered in music form,” said Anderson. “Their invite is a record player, that when spun, will play a song they wrote together.”

Anderson explains that the booklet-style invite has paper folding that amplifies the sound of a sewing needle moving across the grooves of a flexidisc record. “The hand-spun record yields a garbled, but scrutable listening of an original song by the couple,” she said. “It requires a bit of tinkering and folding —effectively championing the inner science-nerd kid in the recipient. The whole thing serves as an interactive packaging for the song—which can be experienced on the paper record player.”

“It felt really important that the invitation reference the social role of music in bringing people together… and ideally would feature an original song by the couple to seal the deal,” she adds.

6. It’s a way to take photography off Instagram

Elana Dweck is the founding designer of Mélangerie, a New York-based bespoke paper project company which designed genius-level Viewmaster Invitations, where guests are mailed the retro 1980s photography toys as wedding invites. Really, pop in the rotating photo card and fit in a custom image reel to wedding guests. “It’s sent off with the wedding card, and of course a Viewmaster,” said Dweck. “Guests can check out your photos and have a bit of fun themselves.”

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