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In this, the second part of our Road Maps feature, we take a look at building iconic/symbol and illustrative logos.

[Ed – this is the closing installment of our Logo Design Road Maps feature. To start at the beginning, see here.] Iconic or symbol driven logos are the most common and are what the average person thinks of when they think logos. The configuration is usually very similar – a detached icon (or symbol) on top of (or beside) the company name. In absolute terms, this is what we’re talking about.symbol-iconic-logoWith the advent of social media and their need for avatars, these types of logos have only become more popular over the past few years. They’re versatile, able to be adapted to a wide variety of applications. Iconic logos are also very effective for branding – think the Nike swoosh and the Apple apple. They’re usually very simple in construction and able to be used at a wide range of sizes. Let’s take a look at the Road Map for designing iconic or symbol driven logos.logo-design-road-map-iconicIn order to flesh this out fully, we’ve broken down iconic logos even further, into three distinct categories featuring examples from our logo gallery to illustrate the various concepts.

Letter form iconic logo.

A very popular version of iconic logos, this type of design features an icon created out of one (or more) of the first letter(s) of the company name. Can also be worked into literal iconic treatments (see Cluepedia below for an example.)cluepedia-iconic-logo

Literal iconic logo.

An icon that describes, in literal visual terms, a core activity of the company or product represented. In the case of Cluepedia (above) the icon illustrates the crowdsourced technical answers thrust of the website. The fact that this is also a letterform icon, with the figure created out of the letter ‘C’ is a bonus.

Metaphorical iconic logo.

These kind of icons are designed around visual metaphors of the company or product represented. In the case of Ingena, they wanted to represent the ‘lifting’ of start-up companies to the “next level.” ingena-iconic-logoWhat better way to suggest that than using a metaphorical image of kites, worked into a brutally simple icon. Metaphorical icons are often hard to “sell” to the client, unless they understand the underlying symbolism as part of their business plan.

Abstract iconic logo.

Abstract icons don’t really mean anything, but are simple, ubiquitous graphics that look ‘pretty’ over the text portion of the logo. These are the easiest logos to design, but are often the most nondescript design sproduced unless particularly clever. These types of logos are often the result of a poor client brief, or faulty initial Q & A (most designs pitched as part of logo design contests or crowdsourcing effort will fall into this category for that very reason).protair-x-iconic-logo-designThat’s not to say that abstract icons don’t have their place – they do – but should be approached with a great deal of care in order to avoid designing a logo that’s similar to something already in use by someone else. When there’s no rhyme or reason to a logo, it runs a higher risk of having been designed before.

Sketching & Rendering.

As odd as it may sound, desktop design software can sometimes be limiting in the early developmental stages of a logo. Despite all the nifty advances in technology there’s nothing that beats old-fashioned doodles and sketches when it comes to working up early ideas, even for simple iconic logos. You may have to work up your doodles into a presentable form to get approval (while a designer may understand the potential of their sketch, it’s highly unlikely that the client will). That’s why this area is surrounded by an arrowed circle. You will have to go through several rounds of sketching and rendering to hone in on the right design.

Illustrative logo Road Map.

Which brings us to the final – and sometimes controversial – categories of logo design, that being illustrative. Some designers will argue that illustration has no place in logo design at all and that illustrative logos aren’t even logos (as a push back against that, I’d offer up a lot of sports team franchise logos.) As a fair notice, my background is that of an illustrator so I might be a tad biased. Anyhoo, here’s the map..
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Like we did with our iconic logos up post, we can break illustrative logos into four fairly distinct categories..

Realistic illustrative logo.

This type of illustrative logo pretty well defines itself. Realistic. This logo is one of the most realistic we’ve ever done at our shop..illustrative-logo-badlands

Cartoon illustrative logos.

Illustrative cartoon logos aren’t for every application so proceed with care. If they are applicable, cartoon logos offer a wide range of marketing and advertising possibilities.cartoon-logo-illustrative

Stylized illustrative logos.

Stylized illustrative logos are often the most difficult to obtain client approval on. Sort of a combination of various types of illustrative logo types, served up in the designer’s personal style. Accordingly, these logos are often the most satisfying for the designer.
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Abstract illustrative logos.

Abstract illustrative logos are just that – extremely detailed and rendered abstract graphics that may, or may not, have something to do with the core activity of the company it represents. Very similar to abstract iconic logos but with more ‘oomph’.
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Rendering & sketches.

We covered sketching and rendering in our iconic logo road map, but as initial sketches are CRITICAL in an illustrative logo approach, it’s worth revisiting again with a few notable differences. Rather than simply doodling away to your heart’s content, you may wish to bring in some photo reference on an illustrative logo – clients (and their customers) can be sticklers for detail so you want to make sure you’re being accurate in whatever you’re portraying in their logo. Also, it’s impractical to render every single sketch, so it’s a good idea to get approval BEFORE going to render, as opposed to our iconic logo doodles where it’s possible to render multiple iterations. For that reason, sketches presented to the client need to be as finished as possible.

Download our Logo Design Road Maps Infographic.

And there you have it. A series of logo design road maps that should help you determine the proper approach for almost any logo design project.
how-to-design-a-logo-road-mapssmTo view the full sized Logo Design Road Map click here (file size warning: 140k). Any thoughts or suggestions? Drop them in the comment section if you’re so inclined.