Are All Graphic Designers Logo Designers?

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This is a guest post by Erik Ford from we are pixel 8, a boutique design and marketing agency with offices in Los Angeles and New York. You can follow Erik on Twitter or read more of his writing on the wearepixel8 blog.

I am a graphic designer. Does that mean I am a logo designer as well?

I will start off by saying that the answer to that question is an emphatic no! Now, before you start screaming at your monitor, let’s examine how the outside world defines a graphic designer.

According to Wikipedia, a graphic designer is;
“… a professional within the graphic design and graphic arts industry who assembles together images, typography or motion graphics to create a piece of design.”

This is an incredibly broad assessment and therefore can be mistakenly misinterpreted to mean you can do it all. The fact is, there are a multitude of fields under the catch all umbrella of graphic design. There are print designers, package designers, web designers, icon designers, interface designers, logo designers and on and on and on. So, I will start by saying that, by simply calling ourselves graphic designers, we are not, by default, experts in any or all of these fields. And though the general public may not understand this, we, the “professionals” must accept that there are vast differences between each of these fields.

They are not readily interchangeable like your favorite hat collection. Each has its own set of guidelines, history and mythology. In fact, if you are a designer who can truly master multiple disciplines, I politely genuflect before you because I am not of your blood type. For me, I will attempt to master one field and always be students of whichever additional field I am trying to conquer.

With that said, I am not a logo designer. I love designing logos but, to me, a logo designer is a person, like Duane, who dedicates themselves to mastering this field above all others. This may seem like a strict definition of the term but I feel I have so much to learn that I would never be comfortable calling myself a logo designer.

But, this does not stop me from making daily strides to reach my end goal of being an effective logo designer and I would like to humbly share with you some tips that have helped me along the way.

Study. Learn. Repeat process.

Do you need a degree to be a logo designer? That one, I cannot answer and there is enough discourse online covering this topic more eloquently than I can. But, whether you have formal training or not, you must always be a student of your craft (even when you are a self described master). For example, if you do not know the difference between serif and sans serif, logo mark and logo type, you probably want to hit the local book store or subscribe to any of the great blogs dedicated to logo design and start reading.

It really isn’t enough to put and icon with some text and call it a logo. Every single nuance of the final art must have a role to play in the whole. And, before you can even understand that role, you have to know the terminology at the least.

Now, this can seem daunting and often times it is difficult to know where to even begin. There are literally countless books published every year covering topics pertinent to becoming a logo designer, many of which are pretty expensive. So, how do you choose which ones are right for you? Take some time out and sit in the book store and just read through a few before you purchase them. I do this on a regular basis. You can often times find me at the Barnes & Noble at the Grove drinking a large cup of coffee behind a mountain of design related books. Here is a starter list that I have found to be incredibly helpful in my journey.

Typeface: Classic Typography for Contemporary Design by Tamye Riggs

New Vintage Type: Classic Fonts for the Digital Age by Steven Heller & Gail Anderson

Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities by David Airey

Designing Logos: The Process of Creating Symbols That Endure by Jack Gernsheimer

Thinking with Type: A Critical Guide for Designers, Writers, Editors, & Students byEllen Lupton

Before you know it, you will have your own personal library that you can refer to on a regular basis. Believe me. This can also be addictive. So, know when to just say no to a particular purchase if you find yourself blowing all of your profits at Amazon.

Logo design tutorials will hold you back.

Don’t get me wrong here. I love tutorials. Hell, I’ve been known to write one or two myself. In fact, the tutorials you find online, in books and in magazines are excellent learning tools for getting the hang of a specific application. But, in my opinion, what you will not glean from a tutorial is the process in which it takes to create a successful logo for a client: one based on their needs, their audience and/or their company/product. And, if you rely solely on tutorials to advance your career as a logo designer, you are doing yourself a grave disservice. Whereas, you may become quite adept at a particular tool, you will not have to foundation to use that tool.

For me, a better source of logo design education is reading about the process behind a particular logo that was developed by a particular designer. From the design brief, to the research, to sketching, to client presentation, these articles and posts are chock full of the “why” behind a logo and not necessarily the “how”. This shared knowledge will have far more of a positive impact on how you grow as a logo designer than any particular tutorial ever will.

Plus, I believe that these are tried and true examples of the process you will profit from more than tackling how to accomplish the final art in Illustrator. Why was that particular symbol used? Why did they choose that particular typography? Why did they create that particular color palette? This will aid you in making determinations for your particular project.

Here are some of my favorite posts about logo design processes in no particular order. These are by some of the best logo designers, in the field today, who have taken the time to share their expertise that have been nothing but inspirational for me.

Logo design process revealed in 23 steps by Douglas Bonneville

The Logo Design Process From Start To Finish by Jacob Cass

A Special Need Logo Design Process by Brian Hoff

Sikbox Logo Design Process by Abduzeedo

Artistic Expression: Logo Design from Start to Finish by Jacob Cass

A Complete Logo Design Process For An Eco Green Logo by Sneh Roy

troove logo design process by Helvetic Brands

Logo Process – JoomlaBamboo Identity Development by Graham Smith

Insyndia Logo Design Process by Jeremy Bolton

Logo design process of Scroll Magazine by Veerle Pieters

Logo Design: Start to Finish by chopeh

Photoshop is not your friend

This one happens to be my personal pet peeve. Logos should never be designed in Photoshop! In case you didn’t hear me the first time… Under no circumstances should you ever design a logo user a raster based application like Photoshop! Sorry for yelling, but I had to get that off of my chest. A common and, dare I say fatal, mistake made by untrained logo designers is the use of Adobe Photoshop to create a logo design.

Logos are supposed to be vector based artwork. Period. There is no wiggle room here. They are meant to be resolution independent. When you use Photoshop, you are predetermining the resolution of your document and locking that resolution in for all eternity. If you deliver a logo in Photoshop that is 300px x 200px at 72dpi, then this logo will always be in these dimensions and at that resolution. The client will not be able to scale the design up for larger use or use the logo in print collateral. Why would anyone commit such a heinous crime?

I know that I am being dramatic here, but this cannot be stressed enough. Iʼve received logo assets from clients in a Photoshop document only to be told that is what the designer delivered to them. After locking myself in a vacuumed room and screaming at the top of my lungs, I politely explained that this will not be sufficient to work with and we will have to charge them for redesigning their asset as a vector based logo (insert client locking themselves in a vacuumed room screaming their heads off). So, do yourself a favor, never launch Photoshop when you are ready to take your sketch work digital.

What the hell does all this mean for you?

It is my opinion that, if you are to be a successful graphic designer, you probably want to pick a niche and become the master of that domain. I find that being a jack of all trades usually means you are a master of none. This does not mean that you cannot be a web designer and a logo designer. But, talent notwithstanding, each field requires that you obsessively dedicate yourself to learning everything there is to learn about that field. So, just because you can layout a beautiful web page does not inherently mean you can design an effective logo and vice versa.

Photo by Eleaf

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