How Do I Start Every Project?

Simple, with black ink on white paper.

Creating an indelible mark that completely represents a company or organization’s full offerings is obviously no simple task. At best it’s like a high wire act involving balancing elephants and eggs where one bad move can result in a painful mess. The best way I prevent such calamity is by starting every logo project the exact same way. Black ink, white paper.

Of course at the start of the project, our clients have a multitude of ideas on imagery, appearance and probably have the whole thing wrapped in a technicolor dream coat of hues. Before any color choice can any be decided, my job is to make sure that the logo is legible at all sizes, easily identifiable, and most importantly actually looks good. And of course it needs to properly represent our client.

To best achieve this goal, I commence with destroying another stark white piece of paper with the erratic scribbles of a creative mind solving a puzzle. I like to think of this like “showing your work” in Math class. If the result doesn’t look right, you can always go back and check your work to see where you went awry. If I’ve done my job correctly, then I have a uniquely uncomplicated design that can be converted to any color on the spectrum while still communicating effectively. How do I accomplish this enormous task?

Well for starters, I think the less colors a logo uses, the better it is. The best logos use only one color and can be identified from a mile away. Think about the greats like Nike, Apple, or McDonalds. You may not purchase or support these companies, but you know exactly who they are when you see the swoosh, bitten apple, or those golden arches, regardless of the color they’re currently printed in.

I come from a traditional design education that focused on simplicity. As I’ve grown as a designer, I’ve come to truly appreciate its purity and understand its importance. Simple design makes for great logos that eases the viewer’s mind by communicating effectively. Great logos feel good to become familiar with. We clear out a little space in our brains to retain its meaning in an ever growing mental library of pictographs. Also, Simple design is cheaper to reproduce. It will cost you less money to print a one color logo on your crew’s t-shirt then it will to dye sublimate a full illustration with gradient tones.

For all these reasons, I start every project with black ink on white paper. But Travis, don’t you use a pencil sometimes? Sure. I use whatever writing implement is in front of me for sketches. However, before I scan a drawing in to be digitized, it’s always drawn in black ink on white paper. Aside from it giving me the highest chances of getting lucky and getting a clean image trace, black and white have the strongest contrast of all the colors on our palette. It provides the best looking contrast, and when done correctly the two work together to make visual harmony, and of course a great logo.

Hunchback Graphics