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Just Typing Out that Logo. Could it be Dangerous?

Why Logos are Important to Brand DNA

I used to think that logos were an after thought and only a small part of the brand identity toolkit. However, as someone who has been designing a lot of custom lettering and type over the last year, I now believe that a decent logo is a must. This is because a logo is the underpinning DNA of the whole brand language. If we think in terms of call and response, the logo calls the tune, while the colors, the images, and the text typography of an identity are the response. You really need to nail your logo for the rest to follow.

With that in mind, when you design a logo or title, do you search through a few typefaces on the computer, type out your word, and then tweak it a little bit.. and then call it done? … sorry to rain on your parade, but that is professional suicide.

Calligraphers and Signpainters Often Tread into Default Territory Also

Calligraphers and sign painters can equally default as one trick ponies, who churn out the same style lettering without stopping to think about actual word design. Just because words are hand painted does not mean that they are well considered or well thought through.

It’s all About Looking Under the Bonnet

So if this is your game, you are treading a dangerous walk. If you rely on default you are not actually getting to know the little nuances that make a typeface or calligraphic hand what it is, and what gives it that special character. A good course helps you to look under the bonnet and understand how the letters are made. Just as someone’s eyes, nose, and cheekbones give their face its character, small nuances such as curves, stroke widths, counter space, and height are what make each individual letterform within a character set graphically interesting and expressive. And it is experimenting with the way that each character sits with its neighboring character in a word that makes your logo sing. If you stick to default your logo is going to look just like all the others, which doesn’t seem logical, as brands and logos are meant to stand out not blend in. This is especially pertinent when nearly every Melbourne University student folio I see seems to be using geometric sans. The typographic vocabulary of students is much broader in Europe and the USA, probably due to a greater cross-fertilization of ideas.

Why Get off Screen?

The best way to get to know a letterform is to get off the screen, put a pencil in your hand and carefully and precisely draw it. Then draw the whole word. Why by hand? Because these letters were originally drawn by hand not digitally. Believe it or not, once you know how to draw, and edit using the tracing paper technique, it’s much much faster, and much more creative.

This is the skill that I traveled to The Cooper Union USA to learn, it is a very rare skill here in Australia. While the skill is undergoing a revival in the USA, slowly Australian Designers need to follow suit if they don’t wish to be ignored or deemed as irrelevant.


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