The Evolution of a Logo: My Process of Branding Myself

If you have a brand, and especially if you’re a graphic designer, having a logo is important. Logos help establish your identity, and if you’re a designer, it’s another way to show your talents. When designing a logo, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Is it timeless? Will it still work a year from now? 5 years from now?

  • Is it scalable? Is it easy to see at small (as small as a favicon) and large sizes?

  • Is it versatile? Does it work for digital and print material?

  • What does it represent? Does the logo embody what I want it to? What does it say about me as a designer?

I’ll take you through the process of creating a logo to brand myself with, and I’ll show you some of my previous logos and then explain what did and didn’t work with them, based on the four questions above.

My First Logo

When I designed my first logo back in my sophomore year of college, I had very basic knowledge of graphic design. The logo was simple and clean, but it was fairly boring. I knew how to use the pen tool to make basic lines, and I knew how to make shapes. I had also recently learned how to design banners, which clearly I was very excited about.
LD-LOGO

The biggest problem with my first logo is that it was the first idea I had, whereas now I know the importance of sketching out ideas, setting goals for your design, and clearly defining what you want your logo to represent. When I designed this logo, I just wanted something that looked good. However, the goal of graphic design is not just to make things look good. Design is about form and function, it’s about usability, and it’s about solving problems. Having a pretty logo with no meaning offered no representation of who I was as a designer. So, let’s consult the questions:

  • Is it timeless? There’s no guarantee that banners would be trendy in the future, or that I would like banners in the future, or that I would like teal in the future.

  • Is it scalable? Scaling this down would make it hard to read, both because of the size of my name and the thin stroke of the letters in the logo.

  • Is it versatile? The logo is too detailed and complex to work with other images, and it would only look good standing alone.

  • What does it represent? I like shapes and lines. And banners.

Logo #2

As I began taking graphic design classes, I found myself learning a ton of new skills. I could make things look 3D! I could cut out parts of an image! I could divide a shape into different parts! I learned about the pathfinder tool and my world changed! It was a very exciting time for a young designer such as myself. However, my abundance of new knowledge and skills meant that my next logo was a little too eccentric.
LD-Logo-Design

This logo looked cool, but it had a bit too much going on. Some of the shadows and angles were not aligned or positioned property. Plus, it didn’t pass the four questions:

  • Is it timeless? The specific colors and 3D look of this logo could become outdated or out of style over time.

  • Is it scalable? Somewhat, but the lines in the design would get lost as size decreases.

  • Is it versatile? The logo only looked good on a dark gray background, and changing the colors made the logo look very different, so the colors needed to remain the same always. This meant the logo always had to be on a dark background. Short answer: No, not versatile.

  • What does it represent? The logo gives off a fun, playful vibe. While some of my work does have that style, the logo somewhat limits its portrayal of my capabilities and discredits more professional, serious work I design.

Current Logo

To reach my current logo, I put a lot of time and effort into creating the best possible design. I sketched out countless ideas, playing around with different ways I could align my initials and create interesting shapes and lines. I wanted to convey professionalism and position myself as a successful motion, UI/UX, and identity designer. Thus, I wanted my logo to be simple, bold, and easy to read, while still looking visually interesting.
LD-Full-Logo

I chose this design as my current logo because it looks sleek, professional, and clean. My initials combine to form a shape that looks like a mouse pointing towards my name, which brings the eye to my name. This logo is extremely effective alone (without my name next to it), making it ideal for marketing materials and branding. It passes all four questions, as well.

  • Is it timeless? Yes. The simplicity of the logo means it can adapt to different mediums, no matter what the future has in store.

  • Is it scalable? Yes. The logo is still easy to comprehend when it is as small as a favicon, and its boldness means it looks strong and powerful when sized larger.

  • Is it versatile? Definitely. Again, the simple lines and design of this logo means it can work for any product, whether that’s a 3D video, a business card, or printed on a pen. The shape is what makes the logo recognizable, which means I can change the logo’s color based on the product and not lose recognition.

  • What does it represent? This logo represents usability and clear, comprehensible design, which is what I focus on most in my work. With the move towards mobile devices and smaller technology, making designs usable and understandable is crucial, and this concept is demonstrated in my logo.

Branding yourself visually takes a lot of time, but once you decide on a logo and style for yourself and your brand, you’re going to look a lot more legitimate and well-established. To learn more about branding yourself, check out my blog post with 5 steps to build your brand online.

logo01logo02

lisadzera

5 Steps To Building Your Brand Online

So, you had an idea. You want to sell a product, offer your expertise in an area, or post content online about something you’re passionate about. But where do you go from there?

brand01

1. Think about it.

  • Who are you? Write it out.

  • How do you want to represent yourself?

  • What are your goals?

  • What do you want to be known for?

  • How can you represent these abstract concepts in a concrete way?

Once you’ve thought about how you want to be perceived, ask yourself what you can do to ensure that your brand is translated to others. This includes visuals, content, marketing methods, and general business practices. Your brand should reflect who you are, and you should remain true to yourself.

brand02

2. Create a website & visuals.

  • Purchase a domain name.

  • Develop a website that reinforces your personal brand.

  • Design a logo and color scheme that reflects who you are.

  • Use those visuals in your business card, resume, and cover letter.

People like visuals, and visuals are a key way to communicate your brand. If you love kids and want to open a fun after-school program for toddlers, your website shouldn’t be black Times New Roman on a white background. The design of your website, business cards, and other assets help establish your identity. You’ll also look a lot more legitimate and well-established, which will help you gain attention and business.

brand03

3. Blog.

  • Create a blog on your website.

  • Put all your blog posts on LinkedIn.

  • In every post, link to others sites and other pages within your site.

  • Write about things you’re passionate about.

  • Include visuals, such as infographics, photos, charts, etc.

Blogging is extremely useful for boosting your search engine optimization (SEO). Blogs give websites 434% more indexed pages. And you don’t necessarily have to write articles; you can take photos, write poetry, post videos, design graphics, etc. Do whatever comes naturally to you.

brand04

4. Use social media effectively.

  • Post about your blog & other updates.

  • Use Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Google Plus, Instagram, etc.

  • Posting on Google Plus is an effective and easy way to boost your SEO.

Social media is an excellent resource for you to use to increase your branding. Posting your blog on other sites (with unique descriptions for each medium) increases the amount of links to your post, which indexes it higher on search engines. Tailor what you post to each form of social media. For example, if you post an article about 5 tips for UI design, tweet one of the tips with a link to the rest. If you’re posting it on Facebook, write a short description of the blog post. And make sure you post on Google Plus! That will do wonders for your ranking on Google.

brand05

5. Reinforce your brand.

  • Send your blog posts to websites that accept article submissions.

  • Comment on other blogs/websites with links to related posts you’ve written.

  • Continue to blog, and don’t forget to link to pages within your site.

While your branding should be intentional and well thought out, at the end of the day, the most important thing is that it’s genuine to who you are. Create and share content about things you’re passionate about, be honest with who you are, and be open and vulnerable with your writing. Good SEO, an awesome logo, and an interactive website won’t help you out if your content is dry and uninspiring. So, whether you have an established brand or you’re just starting out, remember that the most important thing (as cheesy as it sounds) is to just be yourself.

Rebranding Mental Illness

Rethink: Psychiatric Illness is an organization at UNC Chapel Hill that aims to create networks and end the stigma related to mental illnesses. They are committed to changing the way we think and talk about mental illness, and they accomplish this by organizing events aimed at fostering understanding among students and raising awareness about the current challenges in our mental health system. Their biggest project is a student-led sensitization training held several times a year, where students learn the basics about mental illnesses, the resources available at UNC, and how to be an affirming friend and peer.
 

Rethink is an important and influential organization with a community-based approach. They aim to make all members feel welcome and comfortable. Rethink is innovative, modern, and filled with intelligent people. Thus, when they contacted me about redesigning their logo, I was immediately interested.
 

Rethink’s past logos did not quite portray the message they wanted to send. They included brains, lightbulbs, and question marks. They wanted to move past those: brains were too cliché, lightbulbs gave the wrong implication (i.e. that ending mental illness is as simple as turning on a lightbulb), and question marks implied that people with mental illness were just confused. Other mental health organizations use puzzle pieces and gears; but again, that implies that people with mental health issues are broken and need to be “fixed” or “put back together.” While mental health should be addressed, people who are struggling should not feel like they are broken or incomplete. We needed to move past their previous logos (below) and portray what Rethink was about now.
 

rethink01rethink02rethink03

 

Rethink’s leadership team explained to me that they wanted to communicate concepts such as “homegrown” and “familial” to describe Rethink. We decided that using a head would be the best way to represent mental illness, but that the ideas of community and support could be represented using multiple heads. That led me to the idea of overlapping heads to show a sharing of ideas and connection among individuals. For colors, I went with a teal blue color combined with a deep purple. Using cool colors is calming, and the contrast of the dark purple with the soft blue allows for easy readability. I noticed that when the two heads overlapped, they formed a shape that looked like a lightbulb, so I added that element into a few sketches, just in case the Rethink team wanted to move in that direction instead.
 


rethink01rethink02

rethink03rethink04rethink05
 

After seeing the initial drafts, the Rethink leadership team liked the text used in the top row of logos and liked the bottom center design with the head outlines overlapping. The overlapping heads represented community, and having outlines meant one head was not “on top,” which would imply that some people are more important than others. After making a few more edits, I created the final logo in blue, purple, and white to give the team color options.
 


RETHINK_purple_squareRETHINK_white_squareRETHINK_blue_square

 

Working with Rethink gave me an opportunity to think critically about how to represent the complicated topic of mental illness in a logo. I was challenged to create a logo that represented community and support and moved away from traditional mental health logos that rely on brains, puzzle pieces, gears, and lightbulbs. I also enjoyed the conversation as we discussed what we wanted the logo to communicate and the importance of what certain designs would imply about mental illness.

Designing A Political Campaign

When Samantha Cabe approached my blog06social media marketing class asking us to design her District Court Judge campaign and social media presence for her, I was immediately intrigued. I’d never designed anything for a political campaign and was excited about the opportunity. We had a team of about 50 students all working on various aspects of her campaign: design, social media presence, PR, photo/video, etc. I was part of the graphic design team: our main project was designing her logo. Rather than most logo designs that rely on a symbol, for campaigns, your name becomes the symbol. We needed to ensure that it stood out.

Design Goals

Samantha was the only woman running in her race. She wanted to use that to her advantage; thus, she wanted her scabe_edited2logo to emphasize that she was a woman. However, she did not want to do this by emphasizing her first name, because the man she was running against was named Sam. Emphasizing “Samantha” too much could confuse voters. The campaign was for a local election; the main town in her district was Chapel Hill, NC. UNC Chapel Hill’s colors are light blue and white, and Samantha went to UNC Law School, so she wanted to integrate those colors into her logo to show her dedication and ties to the community. She also wanted to use purple if possible; it’s her favorite color and the color of Western University, where she went for her undergraduate degree.

The Signature

Samantha wanted her campaign to feel personal and relatable. Rather than only using big, blocky text, we decided to give it a more personal feel by using her actual signature for her name. We asked Samantha to sign her name and then scanned it in and retraced it with the pen tool. Lucky for us, Samantha has beautiful handwriting, so the signature became an essential design element. Her flourishes and flowy cursive also helped with her goal to emphasize her femininity.

The Typography

To contrast her signature, we used thick, prominent block text to display her last name and desired position. This was especially important for campaign signs to ensure that they were easily readable. Because her signature was so unique, we decided to keep the rest of the words in the same font, as adding a third font would make the sign look cluttered and awkward. This emphasized readability while also drawing attention to the element that wasn’t blocky and bold: her first name. As a result, the viewer’s eye drifted to the name “Samantha,” which helped communicate that she was a woman running for this position.

The Colors

A major part of political campaigning includes signs that are displayed along the road. We didn’t want to use a light blue background for her sign, because almost all the signs in Chapel Hill have a light blue background. Samantha’s needed to stand out. We also considered how her sign would look in the day and at night. At night, car headlights reflect white. Thus, having a sign with a white background and dark text will be more difficult to see at night—the white background would wash out the text. On the other hand, having a dark background with white text is very easy to see at night, so we designed her logo for that. At night, CABE (the most important part) is clearly visible on the signs in white text against a dark purple background.

Why the purple background instead of black or navy blue? Purple is seen as a more “feminine” color, and none of the other candidates with signs up had a purple background, so Samantha’s would pop out in a sea of white and light blue. Plus, Samantha really wanted to use purple and was thrilled that it was so prominent.

The design team and I still wanted to use light blue in the logo to show Samantha’s ties to Chapel Hill. We decided to make the words “Samantha” and “For Judge” in light blue. Having just one in light blue would look strange, but making both of them that color tied the logo together and made everything feel very cohesive.

The Result

Samantha was thrilled with the final logo. She loved the personalization with her signature, the colors were exactly what she wanted, and her logo looked professional but not intimidating/corporate. Using the logo we designed, we went on to use a similar style to design graphics for her Facebook page and her website.

header