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Anatomy of a Logo

I recently designed a logo that, while seemingly simple, provides a good example of the work it takes to get to “simple.” The client was Divers Direct, the world’s largest scuba retailer, and they needed to brand their new water sports division — specializing in everything from scuba lessons to packaged adventures.

The goal? To develop a strong, trusted brand and a logo that connotes action, adventure, energy, excitement — and of course, water. The target market was the young and active crowd, as well as youthful baby boomers.

Anatomy of a LogoThe logo needed to be simple, unique and dynamic — working in all contexts and in all media — a symbol that together with the name would capture the same energy exhibited by the active, adventurous sportsperson who would naturally be attracted to the brand.

So… with that and the basic criteria for what makes any good logo, there were a couple specific challenges that also had to be addressed:

  1. The brand name was Emocean — a play on “emotion” and “ocean.” Did you read it correctly? If you read it as “e – mocean” or worse, “emo – cean” — I think you can see the challenge. So how could the name be made to read correctly and quickly? It’s a design problem, and a pretty tricky one if you think about it.
    • Sub-branding would need to be incorporated for other offerings under the overall Emocean umbrella. The first rollout would be “Emocean Club” and then extend to others, eventually — how would the new brand image be adapted for these different usages?
      • The symbol and the type would need to work separately as well as together, especially when used on product.
        • A slogan would also need to be developed and locked up to the logo and sub-branding as needed. So another line of text would need to be accommodated for as part of the overall logo.

        That was the basic puzzle that needed solving and my marching orders to get started. OK, now the creative part…

        The symbol (brand mark)

        I started, as I always do, by doing a bunch of pencil sketches. Yes, with a pencil… the kind with lead that you sharpen… and then draw on paper. It allows me to explore the most ideas in the shortest amount of time at this early idea phase. No computer or tablet. Yet.

        The design structure was based on circles and ovals, and lo and behold, applying the Golden Ratio confirmed its balance.

        Anatomy of a LogoI pursued many different options and then took the best ideas onto the computer and explored them deeper. But I homed in fairly quickly on the first letter in “Emocean,” particularly the small letter “e.” I’d been sketching water and waves in my roughs, and the “e” was the perfect shape for a dynamic, curling wave — indicative of water, energy and adventure — all the things that needed to be captured in the brand identity. But perhaps most importantly, it connoted emotion. Perfect!

        I presented several different ideas, but felt strongly that the small “e” and wave would be the perfect graphic hook for this icon. Fortunately, the client agreed and it would become central to the Emocean identity — linking the symbol to the name.

        The text (logotype)

        Concurrently, I worked on the legibility of the name and how that might be handled through design, typography and/or color.

        • I felt that graphically separating the “em” portion from “ocean” worked well if there was a subtle separation but not so much that the word became disjointed. There needed to be just the right balance. Positioning the word “ocean” so it fell directly under the symbol was one subtle one way to highlight that part of the name, but it needed more. I didn’t want to do anything too obvious or distracting, such as an underscore.I experimented with bold vs. light type and changing the colors of both parts of the name but I felt it caused too much separation. Then I thought the additional line of text for the sub-branding could work nicely underneath to highlight the word “ocean,” almost as an underscore — but instead of drawing a line under “ocean,” underscoring it with a word instead. Bingo! That worked, both highlighting the part that aided legibility without causing too much separation that would defeat it.
          • Next, the typeface. After exploring many, many alternatives — I kept coming back to Keedy. It had both the roundness and quirkiness I was looking for, and I felt it would complement the round design of the symbol and fit the hip, fun, adventurous nature of the target we were appealing to.
            • Also, since the lower case “e” concept for the symbol worked so well, it made sense to integrate that into the first letter of the name — creating a direct link between the word and the symbol. So rather than the standard capital letter for a name or proper noun, we would keep it all lowercase. Lowercase typography is also friendly, youthful and contemporary — again, perfect for our needs here!

            Putting it all together

            Anatomy of a LogoRefining the design of the symbol, the type and the colors took many more iterations — balancing the size, scale and spacing of the type with the symbol, and then working out a plan for the slogan and how that would integrate with the logo both with and without the sub-branding.

            The colors were also refined, working out the flat Pantone inks for flat color printing versus four-color process printing, and how those same colors would translate to RGB for online and screen usages, including slide decks. Another thing that had to be considered was how the logo would work in reverse white as well as solid black — all things that should be determined upfront rather than later, when there may be no good solution. Creating master files in various formats with all the different variations for all different usages was the final step.

            The brand mark is already serving a purpose beyond that of just a logo — as an identifiable device that informs the design of other graphic communications and marketing materials. This is a powerful way to launch a new brand, solidifying it in the minds of its consumers.

            All-in-all, I think it came together very nicely — and I hope that in the end, it looks a lot simpler than what I explained here.

            All images copyright © 2014 Paul Biedermann, re:DESIGN.

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