Sep 22, 2014

Presentation, Organization, Communication 3 – Elements: Form

Form is one of the easier elements of design to define and recognize. Form simply takes a 2 dimensional shape on a 2 dimensional surface and makes it appear 3 dimensional. It’s what makes a circle into sphere, or a square into a cube. We can do this using value, color, texture, and perspective, to create the illusion of light and shadow which reveals form.



Perhaps the simplest creation of form comes from values like in the pencil drawing in the Art & Copy poster above. Imagine the drawing of the smoke starting as lines and shapes, then being filled in with different values that suggests growing, bubbling clouds of smoke. The drawing then appears to have depth that isn’t really there because its on a 2 dimensional surface. The decision for creating the smoke comes from defining a light source, and wherever there is less light, the values become darker.

The logo above is in color, but it doesn’t use multiple hues to show its form. It’s a single hue with different values added to it. The values fall the same way as before where there is an established light source and the highlights and shadows fall around the object according to that light source.


Here, designer Kris Bazen only uses 2 colors in the entire logo. There are no gradients or transparency in the shapes, so the form comes from using the lightest color where the highlights would be on the car.

On the Army Knights logo it is the same principle. It is made up of solid colored shapes and the colors are arranged by value, the lightest representing highlights and black the darkest shadows. The logo is not perfectly realistic, but is good enough to be believable. The light source is coming from the upper left and all drawn shapes are determined by that.

What is known as Flat Design usually appears as though it was made up of construction paper and is a great way to study form, because it is focused on “stacking” shapes to create it. It is usually drawn in 1 point perspective and uses solid colors like the examples before. Fraser Davidson is one of the masters of using color to represent light and create form in design. Here is a great example of that; solid colors and 1 point perspective, but the images do not lack form because of the established light source and believable application of color.

In my opinion, there is no better “flat” illustrator than Justin Mezzell. Although you can find gradients and texture in his work, I think his most impressive pieces are those that only use solid shapes and limited colors. Mezzell’s style is a bit like cubism, where for example, he will show multiple sides of a building, but without perspective. It’s as if you took a cardboard box and flattened it out. From there he “stacks” shapes to create depth and form. In the illustration above, nearly every line runs straight across the page (top to bottom or left to right) but his use of color and light creates the form of a building with protruding elements and another building in the distance.


What makes Glennz Tee's illustrations so great is his ability to create form using solid colors. He is great with light and shadow, minimal color palettes, and uses multiple perspective points (usually 2) to create form and depth. All that is being used in the Space Defenders illustration and what is different here from work like Mezzell’s is the perspective, or viewer’s angle, which keeps the work from looking flat.

The Importance of a Light Source

As we’ve seen you can’t properly convey form without establishing a light source. All of your decisions will stem from that. So what happens when a design uses color and shape randomly to create form, or doesn’t follow a light source? You can look at the below images for an example.

This logo uses a confusing application of shape, color, and value to create its forms. It has no established light source and the entire logo appears chaotic. The shapes that were drawn are randomly placed, struggling to have form. Because there is no foundation of light to start with, the end result is unbelievable.

This logo also has no established light source and the shapes that fill the logo are also randomly placed. Does the light come from directly overhead and center? If so, the highlight (yellow) would not fall on the nose/snout as it does, which appears as if the light is from the upper left. The black and purple shapes fall randomly as well; there is purple where there should be black (according to the light on the horns).

It doesn’t take a lot to get started on the right path of creating form, it’s all about the light source. From there, the values fall from light to dark as the light disappears. If you’re using multiple colors, remember that the lightest color represents the brightest highlight, or try using warm colors for light and cool colors for shadow. Below are a few links to help you develop your form skills further:

How to Draw Perspective Shadow (YouTube) 

Jun 27, 2014

Well, I Fucked That Up. What I Learned & What I Still Don't Know

A recent logo project of mine started as any good one does. The client and I had good conversation via email, setting up a schedule, a budget, and had a good brief and good ideas to start the project. This was one of those where when I sat down to gather images and make notes to sketch off of I thought "I'm going to crush it!".

Where I Went Wrong

No Contract - I don't always do contracts with clients. It's rare that I don't get paid for my work, especially when I hold the files hostage until final payment, but a contract will make sure you do. At least, it gives you some legal power. This project started so well, I thought there was nothing to fear and everything was going to go smoothly. I received 50% upfront payment to begin and trusted I wouldn't have any problems with the client.

Overly Confident - I guess a better way to say that is I was cocky about what I thought I could do, because I never mentioned fees for additional rounds of revision. I always do 1 for free if it is needed and thought that would be all I would need for this project. I was excited about this and thought there was no way I could fail.

What Happened

I usually do 1-3 logo concepts to show a client. For this, I presented 4 because I felt really good about all of them. And when I say good, I mean I truly felt each one was a version of something they wanted, that followed the brief, that was of a quality I approved of, and worked in every application they needed. (We just didn't have color selected yet).

The client didn't like any of them. At least not any as a whole, only elements of some. I said I would get back to them in a few more days with more concepts. I was a bit stunned, these logos just "wasn't what we're looking for".

Gathering myself and still feeling confident because I had some other designs in the sketchbook and in the original Ai file, I took the best remaining 4 logos, went with their input from before, and put them into a PDF presentation, but this time with a couple of pages that broke down the aesthetic of the images of logos they liked which they supplied me with. It was detailed, pointing out patterns and connections between everything they liked, how I carried that over to this new batch of designs, and another page which explained what inspired my designs and how it related to their business.

The client didn't like any of them.

At this time, they still had not lost hope, but I had. I felt like I absolutely nailed it. . . and the client wasn't interested in anything I was showing them. I then gathered 4 more designs I had previously considered and presented them, keeping in mind the previous comments they had before. We then started changing shapes, fonts, and they gave me completely new designs to go off of. They supplied colors. I changed a stroke from 12pts to 6 pts, added strokes, tried alternate color applications. I gave them whatever they wanted, just to get the project over with because there was nothing more I could do myself to help them, except to build what they were telling me to. So I did, sent off 3 more of their ideas for designs and took a 3 day break from the project.

When I got back to the emails, there was suddenly a deadline and it was the next day. Not only did I have 1 day to do more of their final request, but I was up against the clock too, and my 3 day absence was not appreciated. They "would liked to have had more time to do the final design".

So, I did it, matched their final request perfectly, sent a preview image of the final design, sent the invoice for the remaining 50% initial payment (with no revision rounds charged) and held the design hostage until payment was received.

All I received after was an email saying "due to the lack of progress on this project, we decided to move in a new direction. We felt like we weren't getting an acceptable level of work". Without a contract biding them to this project, There was nothing more I could do. I got screwed, but it was my own fault.

What I Learned

Do A Contract - At least with people you've never worked with before. There are 3 clients I've had for years now and our projects always go smoothly and turn out awesome. I like being able to crank out a quality design for them without any paperwork or worry about if I'll be getting paid. But I have to realize that not everyone is that awesome to work with.

Stay Grounded and Prepare For Everything - I won't ever go into a project again without laying out all the possible delays and charges for those additional hours. Have a system of work/payment and stick to it. Don't ever think you're going to crush a design so hard that there's no way anyone wouldn't like it or want to change it.

What I Still Don't Know

Suddenly, A Wild Deadline Appears - There was never a mention of it before. It was on my schedule and we were in contact every day or 2.

Why The Logos Weren't Good Enough - They saw 12 original designs and didn't like any of them. I did exactly what they wanted when they showed me exactly what they wanted, and they didn't like any of those. I have no idea what this was about.

What Is Good Enough? - I hope I get to see their final logo. It's probably not a good thing to do, but I think I want to see it because I want to compare myself to it. It has to be a really creative, smart, well crafted design I think. It's got to be something that makes you feel dumb because you didn't do it first. I guess I'm looking for what I missed in the project.

Stay thirsty, friends.

Jun 2, 2014

A Logo For $50 & My Response

I thought this would be an interesting share. I'm sure if you're a designer and have been for a few years, you've gotten that email from that guy who wants you to do some work for them on the cheap. The very. very cheap. It's happened a few time to me, and tonight I felt I should respond in a bit of a different way. Here is the original email and my response below. 

My name is X owner and founder of X. I came across your portfolio a few weeks ago, and was extremely impressed by the work you do in the logo and identity branding field.
X is a small company that we are just kicking off that illustrates collaboration on projects amongst designers while executing the highest perfection those designers can commit. I am sending you this email because I would like you to be a part of our roots, and grow this business with us.
I am offering you a position on the team at X for which you will work on mascot design to the best of your abilities. Like any other position, the pay gradually gets better as you go, but there are conditions and non-traditional factors about the income for employees of this company, so let me explain - [Below]
Steps towards your individual project completions for X:
1) I give you a name, or a theme, or an idea of a mascot logo for you to execute
2) You complete the mascot logo / branding for me, then securely send the files over to me
3) Either myself or one of our other designers will use the logo you created to construct a large package of social media designs such as Twitter graphics, YouTube graphics, etc, as well as phone and desktop wallpapers using the logo for all
4) This whole package - Logo, Twitter graphics, YouTube Graphics, and the Phone & desktop wallpapers - will be sold to a client willing to claim the package for $100 - $129 depending on the quality of everything in the pack.5) Once it is sold, I will send you 50% of the payment that was received for the creation of the logo put in the pack
Keep in mind, the price for these packs will get higher as we grow our business. Also, the amount of new clients we get will increase over time, as we begin to show the world the power of beautiful logos and brandings. We hope that you enjoyed hearing our ideas and strongly consider joining our business as we see it an opportunity for all designers alike.
Hope to hear from you soon & have a great day!
- - - - - - - - - - - -

Hello X, 

Thank you for writing and thanks for the position offer at X. I gather that this is sourcing opportunity where you pay me as a freelance designer to execute the logos for the projects you need? In this case I must charge my regular logo rate starting at $550. This cost is based on a simple equation of what i want to make per year (allowing 2 weeks off for vacation and holidays) which is within the average salary of others of my profession with similar experience and "skillz", in my same area of the country as tracked by the AIGA, divided by how many projects i need to do monthly to make said salary, and spaced out in a schedule that is achievable. This cost covers the week I will spend . . .

1.) researching the client and subject

2.) gathering information and files (usually reference photos and "inspiration")

3.) sketching ideas - i usually take 2 to 3 days on this part. it is essential to the end result of the logo. this part of the process often involves lots of "creative thinking" and doubts about my choice of profession and what i'm doing with my life, followed by long walks through the city pondering the project and hopefully not getting lost like that one time in Columbus when i ended up in an area that gave me an urge to listen to Eminem and develop a strange "hood accent" so that kid who asked "yo, do you smoke?. . . you do drugs?" wouldn't think i was educated or had anything of value and just leave me alone cause i'm trying to crush it on this logo project, man. 

4.) sorting out the best sketches and thinking hard how they will work in the real world and most of them are kind of crap so i revisit my anxiety about life and if i'm going to be able to pay the bills when i'm only able to do work that is so average and why can't i generate great ideas like Banksy? he's so damn good. 

5.) taking the best sketches that i believe will work and doing "tight sketches" of them so i have a blue print to build from when i import it to Illustrator

6.) even most of those look like crap now so have to cull those down to the best 1-3 ideas left and hope one of them will work.

7.) the last day or two is building those sketches into actual vector logos and somehow making them into a respectable design that the client, his audience, and i are proud of and the more i re-draw and refine my work the better it becomes, so i'm usually doing about 5 versions of the same idea, only better, and it takes time to do that and sit at my computer starring at the work and finding new flaws i hate about it and need to correct. 

from there on, clients usually want to make changes to the logo, which i will do 1 round of for free but charge $40 for each round there after. i do this to deter the client from going on and on with changes which eats into the time i have for other projects and before you know it 2 weeks later i've done 7 rounds of changes for nothing, haven't been paid the final 50% of initial cost ($550) and the client ends up with some terrible bastardized version of the original logo i presented them and can't even use in my portfolio because its so horrible but his wife and nephew love it so, what the hell, they have to live with it. 

That is why i must charge a starting flat rate of $550 to be able to ride the bus, feed my son (think about the children!), eat things from Wal-Mart's grocery, and pay that damn evil Verizon company. But to stay within your budget of $50 - $60 per logo i can send you some loose sketches of any ideas i can come up with over the next 1 to 1.5 hours based on the mascot you provide. 

Brandon Moore

May 13, 2014

City Pride: 2015 Orlando City Soccer Logo

As Orlando City Soccer prepares to move up to MLS and into a new potentially kick-ass stadium, they have released their new logo to the public. The previous mark was in no way a respectable logo, so this was sure to be an improvement and possibly something really great.

The new shield is very close to Arsenal FC but a unique shape for MLS. It might have 1 too many strokes, but mostly I feel the outer stroke is a bit thin, making the logo feel cheap, generic and being white makes that worse.

The lion's flaring mane is done well, save for the 1 odd point at the very top which is the only point that doesn't look organic. The chin and line running under the chin needed another round of refinement. The chin being the roughest part of the logo next to an oddly rendered long, smooth "chin line" creates a focal point (for the wrong reason) because of the tension there. The subtle crown on the lion is a nice touch and hints to OCS's championship more cleverly than a star does, as is usually used.

The oddest thing is how each element is so separate from the other. There is a lack of unity here and the only reason you know each belongs here is because they're placed inside the shield. The color application separates too much and the font choice has too many angles and not enough roundness and "flow", like the lion and shield does. It feels like the lion really needs some white pulled into it to keep visual rhythm with the shield and type. Or better yet, the whole thing might need a third color.

The color palette is surprising, Although this purple swatch seems like the same from the old identity and is a great choice, the elimination of red and choice of gold is lame. The old red/purple/gold palette was very strong and as far as I know, completely unique in the sports world, at least at the pro level.  Red gives the identity energy and without it feels flat and boring, made worse by the pale gold which is really more of a tan.

The type is the weakest point of the design. There is a kerning issue between the L and A that could have been addressed how the A and N were done, or at least just tightened up there. the A and N overlap create another bad eye distraction because those are the only 2 letters that are treated this way. Also, the A is even more of an oddity because of the disconnection of the crossbar. No other letter has any kind of disconnection like that. The leading could also be increased. Note the large difference of space between "Orlando" and the shield edge compared to "City", There is plenty of space under "City" and the type feels crammed together.

The overall concept is really good. It's easy to see why they chose this design because the idea of the lion with a mane made from the sun is appropriate and damn cool. It's simple and just good enough to feel like it belongs in MLS. It is what average sports logos are: a good idea that lacks in execution.

Much more interesting than the new logo is the "Paint the City Purple" campaign which will be a street art marketing campaign in the city.

The Orlando City Council granted permission for the soccer club to paint temporary murals on the sides of seven privately owned buildings around Orlando. The murals, which will kick-start the team's rebranding effort, are meant to highlight the unique character of Orlando. They will feature the team's new logo, though not prominently. The murals, each painted by a different local artist, will remain in place for a month.
Not only is this a really cool idea for any city, but it's so needed in Orlando where most of downtown is made from boring, bare concrete rectangles. It's the most boring city I've ever been to and has a serious lack of personality. It's "brandalism" but it's better than nothing. The team wants to paint the city purple and kill the staleness of Orlando? I'm all for it! Fingers crossed local designers Josh Smith (Hydro74) and Justin Mezzell are part of it.

Apr 18, 2014

Unconquered Spirit - 2014 Florida State Semioles

"Ignition Tradition". That's the phrase Florida State University and Nike are going with for the 2014 season paired with some logo refinements and a lot of new uniforms. "New" is definitely the focus here. Everything has been tweaked and changed, and the phrase "Ignition Tradition" couldn't be more inappropriate. There's nothing here that suggest long school standards and values or bringing back lost items. The only thing that remains for FSU athletics is the color palette. But bad marketing line aside, Nike has finally done what they seem to only be capable of a few times a year; making a really good football uniform.


I can't remember the last school to change it's uniforms to only have 2 helmet options, but Florida State shows good restraint. Having a primary to build your identity on and an alternate to keep things interesting is the right way to go about it. They're both painted with the "HydroSkin" finish from HGI which like many others now appears to be a metallic paint with a satin finish, though i'm still not sure if that's correct.

What will probably stand out to fans the most is the refined spear design. But then again, it's such a subtle change many may not even notice a difference. The lines are bolder, cleaner, and my favorite new trait is they cross each other in the back. The colors work best on the gold helmet, but even when they are reversed and put on the red shell it still works well enough even though what was highlights become shadows. A lot of type placed on helmet bumpers is unattractive but the new FSU marks work really well.

There was also a gold helmet with gold mask option submitted by Nike, but FSU elected not to use it. It can be seen in the promo pics and it was my favorite option as the gold mask added some simplicity to a uniform with a really intricate jersey.


The basis for this design is still the Nike template style of fill-in-the-blank design. But, what they do inside of those jersey panels is very impressive. FSU has always had a unique design on their collars but it's never been any good. Nike took that idea and made a stunningly beautiful pattern for the collar and sleeves. There seems to be a level of thought and craftsmanship put into this jersey that Nike usually completely overlooks, even with Oregon. The way the pattern on the collar comes together at the front point and how it follows the sleeve/shoulder seem perfectly shows that.

We've come to just expect terrible number fonts from Nike now and this is not a beautiful, amazing font but it isn't the typical garbage either. I think it's just this side of acceptable. There are good weights, proportions, and curves in each number and the digits look pretty consistent. I'm not sure if the white outline is needed with a gold number here, it just creates visual vibration and makes the numbers harder to read.

The road jersey is exactly the same except for the body color being white and the number trim being red. The gold number is interesting and an unexpected choice against white but works well enough because the red trim solidly defines the number, making it easy to read at distance. The pattern on the red version works a little better because it appears to "fade" into the jersey where here there are solid blocks of color.

Of course, there has to be a black alternate and I'm not opposed to that idea, but the design really falls apart here because all the gold in the Native pattern has been replaced with black. This creates so little contrast that you can't read any of the shapes or designs and the gold number just screams for attention. The palette itself is really nice, but the way the colors are used makes for a confusing, inconsistent and unattractive jersey.


It seems Nike is favoring solid colored, stripe-less pants this year and I am in favor of that. It's a good decision with this intricate jersey and carries a really nice rhythm with the helmet and large gold numbers. This isn't the smallest size you will see the new logo, but in this application it embroiders really well and looks great on the pants hip. A hip logo is always a very nice, subtle detail on a pair of football pants when you don't need a stripe or pattern of any kind, and keeps it from being completely boring as well.


The black jersey and pants options bring the whole set down for me, but the primary options, even with the red and black helmet make for a really interesting and unique uniform. That's something that I don't say very often about college football uniforms.

Grade: A-