If you're in the market for a new computer for graphic design, you've come to the right place. Our selection of the best laptops for graphic designers will suit you if you need a portable workstation. But if you require superior ergonomics, a bigger display and more power for less cash, then you're better off going for a desktop.
As a graphic designer, a computer with sufficient specs is a must for creating work that will please clients and take pride of place in your portfolio. You want a machine that has a pin-sharp screen and delightful-to-use mouse. But there's a lot of choice out there – which is why we've put together this guide.
12 essential tools for graphic designers in 2018
Here, we've selected five of the best computers for graphic design. Whether you're a Mac user or a Windows wizard, you'll find something in this list that suits your needs.
Generally speaking, the more you pay the better the machine. But don't worry if you're on a tighter budget – we've picked the best cheap computers for graphic design, too. Read on for our selection of the best desktops out there…
Let's be clear: this computer isn't necessary for most of us. The majority of graphic designers simply don't need this amount of power in a machine – and the cost is astronomical.
But there's a reason why Apple's new powerhouse workstation, the iMac Pro, is so darn expensive – in fact, there are several. And if you're one of the minority of professional users that need this level of power, and can afford the price tag, this is currently the best machine on the market.
First, there's the display – that incredible 27-inch 5,120 x 2,880 resolution display. Apple says it can produce in excess of one billion colours. If you've ever wondered whether you're really seeing your designs at their best, then this iMac's screen is about as true as you're going to get.
Combined with your choice of either 8GB or 16GB HMB2 AMD Vega graphics, the full beauty – and, of course, any errors or flaws – of your work will be seen in dazzling 5K quality.
This is the fastest and most powerful product Apple has ever made. And as you'd expect from Apple, keen attention has been paid to the ergonomics of the peripherals. The wireless Magic Mouse, Magic Trackpad and Magic Keyboard mean you have all the control and nuance you can handle.
The iMac Pro is overkill for all but the most professional of users. If your workflow doesn't involve intense creative tasks, huge file sizes, major editing or 3D rendering at very fast speeds, you won't need this amount of power. (And if it does, but the price tag rules you out, try looking at a high-spec 5K iMac).
However, if you need its power and can justify the cost, the iMac Pro is an incredible computer for graphic designers.
Read more about the new iMac Pro
It may sound clichéd to say that the Microsoft Surface Studio is the Windows-based answer to the best iMacs on the market, but clichés are generally rooted in truth.
This is no inferior substitute, however – it's the go-to workstation for Windows users. Check out the paper thin 28-inch PixelSense Display that puts the vast majority of other 4K screens out there to shame.
But that's not the best bit – it's touchscreen as well, meaning you can actually draw straight onto the monitor with the superb Surface Pen. If you've not used it before, you'll be surprised just how accurately the 4,096 levels of pressure-sensitivity allow you to sketch and draw. Saying it's just like a pencil and paper isn't really too much of an exaggeration.
Read our hands on look at the Surface Studio
It's hard not to be wowed when you first lay eyes on the monumental 34-inch curved screen of the HP Envy all-in-one. The ultra-wide QHD (3,440 x 1,440 pixel) LED backlit Micro Edge display is unlike pretty much anything else you'll currently see on the shelves.
It's an astonishing amount of room to let your creations breathe, and displays plenty of screen furniture to let you make edits and changes with the utmost convenience. It's like having a dual display, but without the clunky hardware. Pretty nice for catching films and TV box-sets on your downtime, too.
Inside there's 8GB of RAM, a quad-core seventh generation Intel Core i7 processor and a 256GB SSD + 1TB HDD combination hard drive. A top spec for your cash.
This is the Apple Mac to go for if you've got a fraction of the budget that the iMac Pro is being sold for. And if you think that means you'll be getting an inadequate machine, then think again – there's a reason why Macs are so popular among designers.
It may not be 5K, but we love the stunning 21.5-inch Retina display that you get with this iMac. It features a wider range of colours than some competitors' monitors thanks to its DCI P3 colour space. It means you get more accurate colouring and a greater vibrancy.
And because Apple puts such care into the construction of all its equipment, the keyboard and mouse are a joy to use as well.
Read our sister site TechRadar's full Apple iMac with 4K Retina display review
If you're looking at the price tags of the other computers for graphic design in this list, and then looking at your budget and seeing a mismatch, fear not – the Lenovo Ideacentre 910 is a more budget-friendly buy.
Considering the price, the processing power you get to render your designs is surprisingly brawny, with the quad-core Intel CPU and 8GB of RAM taking the strain. The Nvidia GeForce graphics card is a welcome addition, too – fine if you're wanting to implement animation.
You're not shortchanged on the size of the screen, either. But measuring 27 inches at the diagonals, the downside is that you're only dealing with Full HD, with an option to upgrade to 4K at a higher price.
So you've got a perfect design portfolio, you've mastered all the nuances of responsive web design and your user experience skills are tip top, but there's something holding you back from progressing in your career. Sometimes, to get better at your day job, you need to look a little outside your particular specialism. You could take on a side project, try a new creative hobby, or simply pick a cutting-edge new area to skill up in. We asked seven top web professionals what they were planning on doing to add some new strings to their bow.
01. Game development
“I love playing video games (at the moment I’m currently hooked on Stardew Valley), and there are some really great ones coming out from indie developers that I follow on Twitter,” says frontend developer Anna Debenham. “Watching them share their progress of crafting walking (as well as dancing) bears, and teaching cubes to chase a banana using machine learning, is something that has really inspired me.”
Game development software is becoming more and more accessible for beginners, and platforms such as VR are opening up possibilities for more confident web pros. Debenham plans to try her hand at building a 3D game using Unity.
Get started: Build your own WebGL physics game
02. iPad design
There are plenty of great painting apps to help you create artwork on the go, but it takes time and effort to make the most of them. Web designer and frontend developer Katherine Cory finally invested in an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil last year, with the aim of using Procreate to create amazing digital paintings, but is still getting to grips with the new workflow.
“I naively thought I’d start creating work as great as the time-lapses I see on Instagram, but after a few hours of playing and only creating scribbles, I’ve realised it’s a skill I need to learn,” she smiles. “I’ve signed up to an Udemy course and have joined Skillshare. Hopefully, by the end of the year I’ll be creating designs like a pro (pun intended).”
Get started: Paint a classic fairy tale scene with Procreate
03. Artificial intelligence
Digital transformation consultant Sally Lait started playing with neural networks last year, and she’s keen to expand her skills. While AI isn’t something she aims to offer directly to her clients, Lait thinks it’s an important area for web professional to be aware of.
“With AI being a growing corner of tech where there’s a lot of hype and even greater amounts of ethical concerns, I’d like more hands-on, practical experience to better inform my knowledge of these important issues,” she explains. “I see it as my responsibility to experience and understand the impact that different technologies can have.”
Get started: How the intelligent web will change our interactions
“2018 is the year to get back to combining technology with stories from real people, therefore I’m relearning a skill from years ago: podcasting!” announces frontend developer and consultant Jenn Lukas. Lukas used to co-host the Ladies in Tech podcast, and will be reprising her skills with a new show No, You Go alongside CEO Katel LeDû and Sara Wachter-Boettcher. To get the podcast launched smoothly she’ll be learning the new WordPress updates, refreshing her audio editing, and brushing up on interviewing skills.
Get started: 18 great web design podcasts
05. Soft skills
Don’t forget ‘soft’ skills such as communication and persuasion. Improving these can have a massive effect on your career. Over the coming months, Make Us Proud’s Inayaili de León Persson aims to focus on design leadership and research, to suit where her career is currently headed.
“I’ve been reading a lot of books and articles, and watching talks around these subjects, and I’m planning to attend some conferences too – and, of course, learning on the job,” she shares.
Get started: How to network successfully
06. AR and VR
An area that’s getting a lot of attention at the moment is virtual reality and augmented reality. In order to understand the possibilities and the limitations in this medium, creative director Shane Mielke plans to spend some time getting to grips with the new tools that are making VR and AR more accessible, including Unity and ARKit.
“By understanding the tools and process, I can more confidently solve design and navigation problems in a world that doesn’t follow the standards of the web-only projects that I have most of my experience in,” he explains.
Get started: The VR web is here
07. A rounded approach
While all these new tools and techniques are exciting, if you try and learn every new thing that comes along, you’ll find yourself running to stand still. So if reading this list is putting you into a panic, worry not.
“If you can think algorithmically, share your skills, work with a team and empathise with users, there will always be work,” councils Web Standards specialist Bruce Lawson. “Being rounded is the skill I want to develop.”
This article was originally published in net, the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers. Buy issue 304 or subscribe.
Ulrike Rausch is a type designer and letterer, and the founder of her own type foundry, LiebeFonts. Her studio is dedicated to crafting handwriting fonts with love, with the likes of KFC using her lettering to give its branding a personal touch.
In her talk at TYPO Berlin 2018 (tune in to the livestream here), Rausch shattered some of the romantic illusions surrounding font design and pointed out that handwritten fonts can go from unique to boring very quickly if they’re used unimaginatively.
So how do typographers keep their work fresh? In her talk, 'Brush, Ink and Code – The Making of a Font', Rausch revealed some advice for combining digital know-how with traditional methods in order to create a handwritten font with a sense of individuality.
Here are some of the key tips from the talk, which Rausch says help “preserve the liveliness of irregularities.”
01. Create handwritten alternatives
Repetition of letter shapes can kill the charm of a handwritten font dead in the water. After all, even the neatest human handwriting contains subtle idiosyncrasies between one use of a letter and the next. Why should handwriting fonts have an uncanny sense of uniformity about them?
One way around this is to create handwritten alternatives. This is what Rausch did for her KFC lettering, with the project taking around a year and a half to complete thanks to this extra level of effort with the type design. By creating different variations of each letter by hand, the branding team had the flexibility to shake-up the lettering in its marketing and stop the font from becoming stale.
02. Use OpenType features
If there was one message Rausch was keen for typographers to take away from her talk, it was to use OpenType features. If you’re unfamiliar with OpenType features, don’t worry. According to Rausch, design software tries its hardest to hide these features from its users.
So what are they? Put simply, they’re a series of tools that make fonts look and behave differently, which is perfect for changing characters in handwritten fonts. When used with a batch of handwritten alternatives, OpenType features, in particular the contextual alternate feature, are a way of jumbling up the occurrence of a letterform.
There’s a lot of scope for flexibility with OpenType features. For example, they can be programmed to sniff out repetitions of a letter shape that appears twice in a row, or multiple times in the same sentence. Perfect for keeping handwritten fonts lively.
03. Make sure the client uses the features
If OpenType features are hard for designers to find and use, just think how difficult it is for clients with no typography skills. For Rausch, her KFC lettering was sure to be the pride of her portfolio, with the alternate lettering set to spice up the fast food chain’s marketing.
This wasn’t quite the case. When she saw it in reality, the lettering had that handwritten yet uniform look she dreaded. The reason? KFC had not turned on the OpenType alternate features option when it came to writing out its branding messages.
04. Beware the glyph palette
Even if you’ve been extra careful and alerted the client to the OpenType alternate features, this doesn’t mean you’re home and dry yet. That’s because each piece of design software, as well as making OpenType features hard to find, apparently doesn’t make them straightforward to use, either.
One particular glitch Rausch pointed out could be found in the glyph palette. If this is opened up while working with a set of alternate fonts it has the annoying habit of turning off the contextual alternate feature. Definitely one to point out to your client before you see your hard work become another repetitive handwritten font out out in the wild.
If you're passionate about augmented reality (AR) and want to be the first to try the upcoming True AR SDK by WayRay, you're in the right place. Global holographic AR technology company WayRay is currently running the True AR Challenge, an online competition where designers and developers are invited to share their ideas for AR applications for cars.
WayRay has brought amazing partners to the challenge, so you’ll get to pitch your idea and present your solution to top specialists from academia (ETH Zürich, EPFL), business (Roland Berger GmbH), and industry (Porsche AG).
How to enter the challenge
To enter the contest, register online, download the materials and visualise your idea of an AR app interface for cars. The most creative, original, and user-friendly concepts will be granted $2,000–$5,000 and shortlisted for the US-based hackathon later this year, the winner of which will walk away with $40,000.
The online phase lasts until May 30, culminating at the onsite Hackathon, where designers will team up with developers to create AR app prototypes and compete for their share of the $160,000 prize pool.
Here's a step-by-step guide to enter:
Register at https://wayray.com/sdk/challenge
Confirm your participation in the automatic reply
Download the materials (rules, PowerPoint template, images, videos)
Fill in the application form in the PowerPoint template
Use the images to visualize your AR app interface and add the pictures to the template
Optional: use the videos with different road scenarios to visualize an animated version of your AR app, upload your videos to any file hosting service and put the link into the template
Convert the filled PowerPoint template into a PDF file and send it to email@example.com, open until 30 May 2018.
Shortlisted finalists will be notified by email by 30 June 2018. For full terms and conditions, visit the dedicated challenge page on the WayRay website.
When deciding who makes the shortlist, the judges will be looking at the following criteria:
Creativity (How original is the AR app?)
Relevance (Does the AR app serve a user need?)
Design (Did the participant/team put thought into the user experience? Is the AR UI pleasant to look at?)
Founded in 2012, WayRay is a global holographic AR technology company headquartered in Switzerland. In keeping the full R&D process under control – from product concept to prototype testing – WayRay has morphed from a startup into a full-cycle manufacturer of holographic optical systems, hardware, and software.
WayRay’s solutions for the automotive industry include Navion, the first-ever aftermarket holographic AR navigation system; the embedded Holographic AR Display, a built-in solution for car makers; the True AR SDK for developers to create AR apps for cars; and Element, a gamified car tracker for smarter driving. In the last few years, WayRay has carried out successful projects with car manufacturers like Honda, Porsche, and Rinspeed.
Great logo design requires a complex mixture of design skills, creative theory and skilful application. Any designer worth their salt can create a fit-for-purpose logo, but truly mastering all aspects of the craft takes time. Of course, logo design is just one small subset of branding, but the logo or brand mark remains the centrepiece of most branding schemes.
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In this article, we bring you advice from branding experts to guide you in creating the best logo for your brand or product. We'll kick off with 10 golden rules from logo design specialist David Airey (this page), then move on to examine each element in more detail: research and strategy, typography, shape and symbolism, colour theory and finally using your logo design.
David Airey's 10 golden rules of logo design
When you think of a person who’s impacted your life, it’s almost certain that you can picture what he or she looks like. And so it is with the brands from which we often buy. We can easily picture the logo just by thinking about our experiences with the product, company or service.
Where there was once just a handful of companies operating within a particular market or niche, there might now be hundreds, maybe thousands, all competing for attention, all wanting us to look at them first. That creates increasing need for brands to visually differentiate themselves so they’re not confused with competitors.
That differentiation is achieved through brand identity design – a range of elements that all work together to form a distinctive picture in our minds. Depending on the company, the identity can include uniforms, vehicle graphics, business cards, product packaging, photographic style, coffee mugs, billboard advertising, and a raft of other items, right down to the font choice on the website.
It’s important to remember that when we look at something, we don’t read first. Before anything else we see shape, we see colour, and if that’s enough to hold our attention, then we’ll read. So in every instance, regardless of company, the small but essential element in the brand picture is the logo.
Our job as designers is to distill the essence of a brand into the shape and colour that’s most likely to endure, because visual appearance plays a critical part in forming a connection in our brains between what we experience and who we experience it with (the brand). In many respects, a company’s logo is akin to our loved ones’ faces.
When the right logo is aligned with an excellent product, and when it’s in place for a significant amount of time, it can eventually become a priceless asset for any company. The Nike swoosh, McDonald’s golden arches, the Michelin man, Mercedes’ three-pointed star, the Woolmark symbol – these are just a few of the more high-profile examples. But besides their ubiquitous nature, how do you give a logo the best possible chance of reaching a similar status? There are universal traits within every successful logo project, and I’ve outlined some here to help improve the quality of the marks you create.
01. Lay the groundwork
One of the most interesting parts of being a designer is that you get to learn new things with each new project. Every client is different, and even in the same profession, people do their jobs in many different ways.
To make it easier for consensus to be reached on your design idea, you need to ask your client the right questions from the outset: Why are you here? What do you do, and how do you do it? What makes you different? Who are you here for? What do you value the most?
Those questions might seem quite straightforward, but they can be challenging to answer, and they’ll lead to further questions about your clients’ businesses. What you discover in this phase of a project will help to determine the strongest possible design direction.
02. Treasure your sketchpad
Using a sketchpad is a chance to rest our eyes from the glare of brightly lit pixels that tend to dominate our lives. But more importantly, recording different design ideas can be much quicker when there isn’t a digital device between our hands and our brains. So if you wake in the night with an idea you don’t want to lose, the pen and paper by your bed is the ideal way to remember. Sketching also makes it easier to put shapes exactly where you want them – there’ll always be time to digitise your marks later.
When you’re describing design ideas to clients, prior to digitising a mark, it can be helpful to share a sketch or two, making it easier for them to visualise the outcome without distraction from typefaces and colours. Don’t share too much, though – only the best ideas.
03. Work in black and white
Leaving colour until near the end helps you focus your attention on the basics of the idea rather than something that’s much easier to change. A poor idea can’t be rescued by an interesting palette, whereas a good idea will still be good regardless of colour. Picture a well-known symbol. Think of it now. It’s the form we remember before the palette. It’s the lines, the shapes, the idea, whether that’s the bite from an apple, three parallel stripes, four linked circles in a horizontal line, or something else.
04. Keep it appropriate
A mark must be relevant for the ideas and activities it represents. An elegant typeface will suit a high-end restaurant more than it will a children’s nursery. A palette of fluorescent pink and yellow isn’t going to help your message engage with male pensioners.
Crafting a mark that bears some resemblance to a swastika, regardless of industry, isn’t going to work. You know these things. They’re obvious. But it goes a little deeper. The more appropriate your rationale behind a particular design, the easier it becomes to sell the idea to a client. And that can often be the most challenging part of a project. Designers don’t just design. They sell, too.
05. Aim for easy recall
Simplicity aids recognition, especially when so many brands are competing for our attention. You want to give onlookers the opportunity to recall a mark after just a quick glance, and that’s not possible with an overly detailed design. A trademark has to be focused in concept – have a single ‘story’ – and in most cases must be uncomplicated in form. This is because it needs to work at a variety of sizes and in a range of applications, from a website icon in a browser bar to signage on a building.
06. Strive for difference
When your clients’ competitors are all using a particular typographic style, or the same kind of palette, or a symbol placed on the left of the brand name, do something different. It gives you the perfect opportunity to set your clients apart rather than have them blend in.
But so much similarity in the marketplace doesn’t necessarily mean your job has become easier, because it takes a brave client to buck the trend. By showing imagination in your portfolio, you’re on your way to attracting the kind of client you want.
07. Consider the broader identity
It’s rare when you see a logo in isolation, on its own without the context of a website or business card or drinks menu or app icon. That’s why a client presentation needs to encompass a variety of relevant touchpoints to show how a logo appears when seen by potential customers. It’s a little like when you’re stuck in a rut – it can help to step back, to look at the bigger picture, to see where you are, what you’re surrounded by.
In design terms, the bigger picture is every potential item on which a client logo might appear. But always consider how the identity works when the logo isn’t shown, because while important, a symbol will only take an identity so far. One way to achieve cohesive visuals is to craft a bespoke typeface that’s not only used in the logo, but that’s also seen in marketing headlines.
08. Don’t be too literal
A logo doesn’t have to show what the company does, in fact, it’s better if it doesn’t, because the more abstract the mark, the more enduring it can become. Historically you’d show your factory, or maybe a heraldic crest if it was a family-run business, but symbols don’t show what you do. Instead, they make it clear who you are. The meaning in the eyes of the public gets added afterwards, when associations can be formed between what the company does and the shape and colour of its mark.
09. Remember symbols aren’t essential
Often a bespoke wordmark will do the job, especially when the company name is unique, such as Google, Mobil, or Pirelli. But a version of the logo that works in small confines will always help. That might be as simple as lifting a letter from the name and using the same colour, or it might incorporate a symbol that can be used as a secondary design element (wordmark first, symbol second) instead of as a logo lockup where both pieces are shown alongside one another.
Don’t be tempted to overdo the design flair just because the focus is on the letters. Legibility is key with any wordmark, and your presentations should demonstrate how your designs work at all sizes, large and small.
10. Make people smile
Injecting some wit into the work will not only make your job more fun, but it can help your client to become more successful, too. It won’t be appropriate for every profession, such as weapons manufacturers and tobacco firms, but whether you choose to work with those companies is another thing. The somewhat less contentious law and financial sectors are filled with companies identified by stuffy and sterile branding, putting some humour into the identity for such clients is one way to set them apart.
There’s a balance, though. Take it too far and you risk alienating potential customers. But regardless of the company, people do business with people, so a human, emotional side to your work will always have a level of relevance.
Next page: Logo design research and strategy
Before pen hits paper on any new logo design project, thorough research is essential. Here are five logo design tips for nailing this crucial first stage of the process.
11. Understand your competition
Before you even start working up a logo design concept, ensure you research your target market thoroughly. Your client should be able to provide some information about their competitors to get you started.
Compare all the logos in their competitive set. This research may well reveal some entrenched branding conventions in that market sector, and that can sometimes help your process by playing on familiar visual associations.
But bear in mind that many of the world’s most recognisable logo designs stand out specifically because they eschew trends and think differently.
12. Ask the right questions
Strategy is becoming an increasingly important part of the branding process. What this means in practice will often depend on the scale of the project, but it all starts with asking the right questions.
Michael Johnson’s book Branding: In Five and a Half Steps is dedicated to Johnson Banks’ creative process, and covers complex challenges such as formulating brand strategy in far more detail than we could ever hope to here.
In it, Johnson advocates asking the following six things of the brand you’re working on as a starting point:
Why are we here?
What do we do, and how do we do it?
What makes us different?
Who are we here for?
What do we value the most?
What’s our personality?
13. Stay flexible during the process
Once you’ve formulated a strategy, you don’t have to set it in stone. There’s a reason that Johnson Banks’ creative process has that extra half step: that 'and how do we do it' part of the question represents the grey area between strategy and design.
According to Johnson, it can be a two-way street. Some conceptual, strategic ideas that work in theory may fall apart in practice when visualised; conversely, a compelling visual solution that emerges from left-field during the design stage can feed back into stage two and help evolve the strategy retrospectively.
14. Respect a brand’s heritage
Widely heralded as a trend, the so-called ’retro branding’ movement was kicked off by North’s much-lauded rebrand of Co-op, which reinvigorated its original 1960s mark and won one of Computer Arts magazine’s coveted Brand Impact Awards in 2016 in the process.
NatWest and Kodak followed within a few months, but we argued here on CB that we should be wary of the retro design trend. However, where genuine heritage and untapped potential exists in a mark, avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water and consider bringing it to the fore.
“It's vital to put your ego to one side and not dismiss designs created by others – and in doing so consider evolution as well as revolution,” argued North co-founder Stephen Gilmore in an essay in Computer Arts issue 259.
15. Remember: a logo is just one ingredient
As Brand Impact Awards judges Bruce Duckworth and Mark Bonner discuss in this video filmed during 2016’s judging day, logo design is just one small part of the modern branding process.
As Bonner puts it, the pyramid has inverted: people now engage with a brand through a huge variety of different touchpoints, and the logo is not always their first point of contact with a brand.
Keep this in mind as you develop your logo design: stay versatile and flexible, and consider how the logo interacts with the rest of the brand experience, from packaging to tone of voice.
Next page: Typography in logo design
Choosing the right typeface is a critical part of the logo design process – indeed, many of the world’s most recognisable brands are wordmarks, relying entirely on typography to convey their message.
Here are our logo design tips to get more from your typography.
16. Choose your typeface carefully
Sans serif fonts have dominated logo design in recent years, often going hand-in-hand with the minimalist movement – examples include Pentagram’s high-profile rebrands for Windows, MasterCard and the University of the Arts London.
In 2015, Google famously exchanged its longstanding serif logotype for a much friendlier, more contemporary sans serif. But don’t let trends cloud your own judgement: a serif font could still be the right choice for your latest project, particularly if you need a stylish and luxurious or traditional and professional feel, so take the time to research your options.
17. Tweak and refine to add personality
If you use an existing typeface in a logotype, particularly a near-ubiquitous one such as Helvetica, there is often more pressure on other touchpoints, such as imagery, colour palette, tone of voice and so on, to develop and enhance the brand’s personality.
Skilful tracking and kerning is essential when setting a simple logotype in an existing typeface. Wide-tracked type can feel sophisticated and authoritative, while tight, meticulous kerning can help lock individual letterforms together as self-contained unit.
Once in logotype form, tweaking and modifying the typeface can also smooth links between letterforms, or add a unique twist to fit the tone of the brand – one example would be shearing off letter terminals at matching angles to give a sharp, progressive feel.
18. Consider illustrated, fully-bespoke type
Sometimes an existing typeface just won’t cut it, and a hand-drawn typographical treatment feels much much more appropriate for the brand. Perhaps the most iconic example, which has evolved gradually over more than a century, is Coca-Cola.
Compared with its fierce rival Pepsi, which has been through at least seven major iterations, the market leader sports much the same logo as it did in the late 1800s. If Coca-Cola had ditched that familiar scrawling script for a sans serif, like Pepsi did in the 1960s, there would have been uproar.
The point is simple: get a truly unique, custom bit of illustrated type spot-on and you’ve bought yourself some powerful brand recognition with genuine longevity. (Although if all else fails, these free handwriting fonts are pretty great options).
19. Explore serendipitous letter combinations
Monograms don’t have to be restricted to dressing gowns and wedding invitations, and when given the right treatment, company initials formed into a typographic lockup can make for a simple but effective emblem for a brand.
This is notably true in the fashion sector – Coco Chanel’s interlocking Cs and Yves St Laurent’s dollar sign-esque lockup being standout examples.
Sometimes even the simplest typesetting can reveal serendipitous ‘accidents’ that, developed properly, can lead to twists of genius. One classic example is Landor’s FedEx mark, the hidden arrow between the ‘e’ and the ‘x’ making an otherwise plain sans-serif logotype the toast of logo design critics the world over.
Try typing out the brand name in different typefaces and perhaps a similar happy accident could occur in your own work.
20. Take ownership of an entire typeface
If your client can afford it, working with a specialist bespoke type design agency such as Dalton Maag or Fontsmith to develop a fully branded typeface family can put typography front and centre of a brand’s personality, transcending the logotype and permeating all brand communications.
Between them, these two agencies have worked for an array of brands including Nokia, Lush, Rio 2016, Sainsbury’s, ITV and Lloyds. “Type defines the tone of voice of a brand by its emotional qualities,” Dalton Maag founder Bruno Maag told Computer Arts in the video interview below.
“A grotesque typeface such as Univers, Arial or Helvetica feels more masculine, mechanical and engineered – colder – than, say, a Frutiger, which is a humanist sans serif with more open, warm, friendly, approachable tones. Whereas a serif typeface may appear old-fashioned, or bookish.”
Next page: Shape and symbolism in logo design
Some of the world’s most iconic brands are recognisable when the company name is removed. An even more exclusive club has achieved ownership of a particular shape so that it doesn’t even need to be fully realised into a logo form to be associated subconsciously with its brand.
Here are five logo design tips to help you master shape and symbolism.
21. Strip it back to basics
There are a few golden rules to which all the best examples of logo design adhere. Firstly, and perhaps most importantly: simplicity.
Put thought into your concept, but don’t overwork the execution, or adorn a mark purely for the sake of it. You want ease of recognition, as well as versatility of scale and application. Think: will it work as well when used tiny in the footer of a website, as it will emblazoned on the front of a building?
A great way to test the simplicity of your concept is to keep subtracting elements until you reach its most basic form. Be brutal here. Is it still recognisable if you sketch it quickly with a few rough strokes? What are its most unique, defining features? Generally speaking, the simpler a logo design, the more memorable it will be.
22. Understand shape psychology
There are certain ‘clip art’ style visual cliches guaranteed to make any logo design expert gnash their teeth. Avoid common offenders such as light-bulbs to represent ’ideas’ or globes as shorthand for 'international’ at all costs.
But shape psychology goes far beyond the obvious. Often used as a symbol of the hugely influential Bauhaus School of Design are the yellow triangle, red square and blue circle – the product of research by Wassily Kandinsky, who argued that shape and colour can transcend cultural and language barriers.
Kandinsky argued that bright, zingy yellow complements the angular sharpness of a triangle; cool, spiritual blue is a perfect match for a circle; while an earthy, visceral red partners nicely with a square. We’ll explore colour theory in a bit more detail later on.
23. Master grids and structure
It’s becoming increasingly common for design agencies to air their sketchbooks in public, whether on online platforms such as Behance or Dribble, or as part of project case studies on their own websites, or released to the design press.
Often these workings include the technical side of a design’s composition, revealing and discussing the grid that underlies its construction and the specific curves and angles that define the shape.
Such projects can be invaluable reference points to inform your own work, and can help make abstract design principles such as the golden ratio come alive in application.
24. Employ negative space
Smart use of negative space in a mark can raise a smile, using wit to aid brand recognition. As discussed above, FedEx is an oft-cited example of smart negative space used in a purely typographic mark, but there are plenty of stand-out examples of symbols employing it too.
Used cleverly and appropriately, negative space can also pack extra meaning into a logo design, reinforcing the theory that simplification through subtraction can lead to a more memorable brand mark.
25. Make use of wit and humour
Negative space is just one way to raise a knowing smile. The late, great Alan Fletcher, founding partner of Pentagram, was one of the leading pioneers in employing simple wit in graphic design, a practice that lends itself beautifully to logo design in particular.
Originally written by Beryl McAlhone and David Stuart and recently revised and updated by Nick Asbury and Greg Quinton at The Partners, seminal design book A Smile In The Mind: Witty Thinking in Graphic Design is an ideal reference if you’re keen to introduce wit and charm in your work, packed with inspirational examples from the world’s leading exponents, including Fletcher.
As Quinton and Asbury say in their introduction to the 2016 version: “Wit is big business, integral to the success of giants such as Google, Apple and Coca-Cola… wit is the alchemy that turns suitcases into adventure vehicles, vacuum cleaners into household friends.”
Next page: Colour theory in logo design
The psychology of colour is fascinating, and plays a pivotal role in building a brand association, whether you’re crafting a symbol-based logo or a wordmark.
Here are five logo design tips to help you employ colour theory in your work.
26. Understand the colour wheel
At the core of colour theory is the colour wheel, an essential tool for combining colours in different ways that was originally sketched by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666. The most common version features 12 colours, based on the ‘RYB’ colour model.
Here, the primary colours are red, yellow and blue, with the three secondary colours (green, orange and purple) created by mixing two primary colours. Finally, six tertiary colours are created by mixing primary and secondary colours.
There are six main techniques for creating pleasing colour harmonies using a colour wheel. Complementary colours are opposite each other on the wheel (such as red and green, eg Heineken, or blue and yellow, eg IKEA); analogous colours sit next to each other on the wheel; and triadic colours involve three evenly spaced colours around the wheel.
Other schemes include split-complementary (which uses two colours adjacent to the main base colour’s complement); rectangular, a four-colour scheme based around two complementary pairs; and finally square, another four-colour scheme where, unlike rectangular, the colours are evenly spaced.
27. Manage colour schemes carefully
Many of the colour harmonies above require careful management in order to be successful in a logo design, and colours often shouldn’t be used in equal quantities.
Complementary colours can be too intense if used excessively, for instance, while analogous schemes have the opposite problem: they are gentle and pleasing to the eye, but lacking in contrast – and you should select a dominant colour, using the others as support and accent colours only.
Triadic schemes are much more vibrant, but again pick one dominant colour of the three. For beginners, it’s often safest to opt for a split-complementary scheme as there’s a good natural balance of contrast and harmony.
Rectangular and square schemes are both relatively versatile given the extra colour to play with, but again one should always be dominant – and you should pay particular attention to the balance between warm and cool colours.
28. Use colour to control mood
Your choice of colour palette can make or break a logo design, partly for simple aesthetic reasons, but also because of the psychological associations of colours – which we touched on briefly as part of the Bauhaus theory on the previous page.
On a simple level, colours on the warm side of the spectrum – such as red and yellow – are bold, uplifting and energetic, while their cooler counterparts, blue and green, exude calmness and feel more reserved.
This is particularly relevant when it comes to branding: on an emotional level, in terms of how consumers feel when they look at it; but also on a practical level, in terms of market standout.
Read our designer’s guide to using colour in branding for more on this.
29. Research sector-specific colour trends
A brand 'owning' a colour in its sector can provide an enormous competitive advantage, achieving instant recognition – in some cases even without a logo, or even a mention of its name.
Of course, owning an entire colour isn't easy, and it goes way beyond the logo design: skilful planning and execution is needed across all elements of the brand and its advertising.
Depending on the popularity and market saturation of a particular colour, we could be talking as specific as an officially registered Pantone shade (such as Cadbury 2685C), or as general as being the only brand in competitive set to use that colour.
In order to achieve colour-based standout in any given market sector, the first step is to understand what the prevailing trends are – blue, for instance, is commonly used in the financial sector, while green is frequently found in branding for environmental organisations. Sometimes it pays to avoid the obvious.
30. Don’t forget black and white
After all this talk of colour, it’s easy to forget that some of the world’s most iconic logo designs are purely monochrome, and make powerful use of the stark contrast that this palette affords.
Of course, even if your primary logo design is in glorious technicolour, it still needs to work effectively in black-and-white for different applications.
If your logo design uses colour to convey meaning, think about how you can reflect that meaning when the colour is removed. Sometimes this may mean changing the contrast between different elements of your design so that they still convey meaning when reproduced in monotone.
Next page: Putting your logo design into practice
Logos don’t exist in isolation: they need to be applied. Once you’ve perfected your logo design, the final stage is to bring it to life as part of a wider branding scheme.
Here are five logo design tips to get this important final stage spot-on.
31. Always get a second opinion
Don’t underestimate the value of a second (or third) pair of eyes to identify things that you might have missed during the design stage. Once you’ve worked up your logo design concept, always make the time to sense-check it for unforeseen cultural misunderstandings, innuendos, unfortunate shapes and hidden words and meanings.
Many design studios advocate pinning work-in-progress up on the walls to enable constant peer review, but if you’re a lone freelancer then try to find some trusted peers to cast an eye over your work – and return the favour, of course.
32. Develop the rest of the brand world
A logo design is just one small component of a branding scheme – and should be developed in tandem with other activation points as part of a wider ‘brand world’.
This term is integral to the branding process at Shoreditch-based agency SomeOne. And as co-founder Simon Manchipp sets out in the video interview with Computer Arts above, it’s much better to achieve coherence between different elements than simply consistency.
“Consistency is solitary confinement – the same thing every day,” he laments. “Cohesive is different: a more flexible, smarter way of doing things.”
33. Consider how to bring it alive
In the modern branding marketplace, a static logo that sits quietly in the corner of a finished piece of design work is often not enough. Consider how your logo design could come alive in motion for digital applications, and collaborate with animation or motion graphics specialists if necessary to explore its potential.
Here are a couple of examples of logos brought to life through animation: firstly, Function Engineering by Sagmeister & Walsh, which adds a playful, Meccano-like twist to the mark.
And secondly, the University of the Arts Helsinki by Bond, which bends, twists and distorts to enhance the dynamic, modern feel of the type-led logo.
As the VR revolution continues, more advanced immersive brand experiences are becoming increasingly accessible, and in recent years branding agencies have also explored the potential in generative design and user participation to introduce a much more dynamic, unpredictable component to logo design.
This is not always possible, of course, but keep an open mind and experiment with new techniques when you can.
In the video above, two Brand Impact Awards 2016 judges – ManvsMachine’s Curtis Baigent, Ben Gibbs from Wolff Olins – debate the role that interactivity and motion design could play in future of branding.
34. Help your client roll it out
Thorough brand usage guidelines should cover everything from colour options, to minimum and maximum sizes at which logo designs should be used, positioning rules, spacing – including exclusion zones from other design elements – and any definite no-nos, such as stretching or distorting.
Some agencies swear by them to ensure a smooth, consistent handover to a client’s in-house team; others feel they can be overly restrictive and prescriptive.
Design-focused imprint Unit Editions has published two titles dedicated to best-practice examples from around the world – Manuals 1 and Manuals 2 – that make for invaluable reference tomes for your studio bookshelf to help you get them right.
35. Deal with public criticism
Over the last few years, social media has become more prevalent, and every man and his dog has developed an opinion about design. Accordingly, this final point has developed from an occasional annoyance into something that anyone working on a relatively high-profile rebranding exercise should bear in mind.
As we’ve set out above, a great branding scheme is about much more than just a logo design, but on platforms such as Twitter, when a newly released project is often encapsulated by a single image, this is often the first and only thing the public jumps upon.
London-based DesignStudio has experienced this backlash several times in the last couple of years, first with Airbnb and more recently Premier League – it explains how it deals with social media criticism in the video clip above.
Johnson Banks embraced the growing interest in design, and harnessed it during the design process itself in a hugely ambitious, fully open-source rebrand of Mozilla – involving the public at key stages of the process and enabling them to steer the creative routes chosen.
Be thick-skinned: take valuable feedback on board, and let the rest wash over you.
Starting and running a successful design studio takes guts, determination and a fair bit of business savvy. It can be hugely rewarding, but you also need to know what you're letting yourself in for.
As our freelance survival guide shows, there are plenty of considerations to bear in mind when going it alone – but these responsibilities are multiplied when you're running a business and have staff, infrastructure and other things to worry about.
Whether you're just starting out or are looking to build your reputation and grow your studio, we've gathered together a collection of content to give you the insight and inspiration you need to be successful.
This includes creative business advice, useful insights on how to create a better studio culture and working environment for your staff, and self-promotion and portfolio ideas to get your name out there.
So read on for our essential guide to how to run a more successful design studio. If we haven't covered a particular burning question for you, fear not – we will continue to add to this collection with more invaluable studio advice each month.
Having raised almost $100,000 on Kickstarter – nearly $20,000 over its target – Design Canada, a documentary about the history of Canadian graphic design, is premiering this summer.
It's five years since Greg Durrell, who is a partner at Hulse & Durrell, and his collaborators Jessica Edwards and Gary Hustwit began filming. The team thought they were finished last year, but ended up having to delay the release in order to rework a story arch.
Throughout filming, they met the heavyweights of Canadian graphic design – the people responsible for the design thinking that ultimately shaped the nation.
Watch the trailer below and read on for our exclusive interview with Durrell…
What inspired you to start the project?
Growing up in Canada, I realised I was surrounded by beautiful symbols and logos, but I could never really find any information about them. As my frustration grew, I decided to make a film about it. When I began the project I didn’t even know anyone who had made a film before. A mutual friend put me in contact with Jessica and Gary and a half-decade later, the rest is history.
Did you discover any new design work?
I feel like I discovered archives which had not been seen in decades. Tracking down Canada’s design pioneers was often a challenge. Little information existed about them online and when I showed up at their homes often I would be looking through their body of work for the first time. The Canadian design story was not documented in the same way as in the UK or US.
In terms of my favourite design from the project, I think the CN Railway logo was the one which had the biggest impact on design in Canada because prior to that identity, Canadian companies had logos with frilly maples leaves, beavers and various kitschy-Canadiana elements. CN showed Canada that you could modernise and still be Canadian.
Who were you most excited to talk to?
Having the opportunity to interview Massimo Vignelli about Canadian design two years before he passed was a huge honour.
Why do you think your Kickstarter campaign was so successful?
I think there was a lot of exceptional work from that period that has not received the proper recognition that it deserves and people are curious to learn more.
How did you keep motivated over so many years?
The story was something I was very passionate about and I knew from the start that it would take years to complete. I believe that small daily habits can build into extraordinary outcomes, so motivation wasn’t a huge issue. I’ve always enjoyed long-term over short-term projects.
Why did you decide to delay the film's release in 2017?
The decision to delay the release was doing what was best for the film. We had a narrative thread that weaved some of our stories together, and it was not working. It was one of those situations where on paper it sounded great but in executive it was off and we knew we could fix it. This resulted in delaying our release nine months, blowing up our timeline, reshooting new stories and then reassembling everything. but it was worth it.
Will the film help boost Canada's reputation?
Regardless of what it does, or does not do for Canada’s international perception, I hope people take away that graphic design matters and it influences our lives every day. If we can become more conscious of it and use it as a tool, we can build a better country and ultimately a better world.
How can people see the film?
Follow us at www.designcanada.com and on social @designcanfilm to stay up to date about screenings near you and the digital release at the end of the summer.
This article will appear in Computer Arts issue 280, on sale on 29 May. Subscribe here.
If you're on the hunt for some web design inspiration, look no further. Pixel Pioneers, a one-day conference for web and UX designers as well as front-end developers, is returning to Bristol's harbourside on 8 June, this time preceded by a day of workshops.
Following on from last year's inaugural event, Pixel Pioneers Bristol will feature some of the brightest minds in web design and user experience, such as Ida Aalen, Simon Collison, Sarah Richards and Heydon Pickering. The talks will cover design systems, inclusive interface design, variable fonts, content design, how to influence users' perception of your site's speed, and more.
You can also choose between two workshops on Thursday, 7 June:
Easy and Affordable User Testing with Ida Aalen
Psychology for UX and Product Design with Joe Leech
Plus, An Evening Afloat With Shopify, a free conference warm-up aboard the Grain Barge will include an informal fireside chat with designers Mike Kus, Djuro Selec and Michael Flarup about their top tips for work-life balance in the creative and tech industries, and how we keep ourselves motivated, accountable and on track.
Pixel Pioneers founder, former net magazine editor Oliver Lindberg says: "A lot of the big UK conferences are expensive and/or tend to be in London. Freelancers, small businesses and students often miss out on going to events because of the cost and the time sacrifice involved. I wanted to change that and create an affordable event with international speakers for local communities, right on their doorstep, so people don’t have to travel. It made sense to start in Bristol because the city (and the whole South West for that matter) has such a vibrant tech and digital community."
"I'm particularly excited about the focus on user-centred design. There will be a lot of talks, crammed with practical takeaways, that will explain how to make the web better and improve user experiences for everyone. Bristol has an amazing UX community, and I'm thrilled to be able to bring some true pioneers to the city, such as Ida Aalen, who will come all the way from Oslo to tell us how to do user testing with limited resources.
"Or Sarah Richards, who created the discipline of 'content design' and leads the way in creating user-centred content. I'm also excited about adding workshops to the Bristol schedule for the first time. For example, as Joe Leech's psychology talk was so popular last year, I've asked him to come back to run a full-day workshop on UX psychology."
There will be plenty of networking opportunities, including an after-party with free drinks. Student and group discounts for five people or more are available. Please contact the organiser for details.
Pixel Pioneers is also working in partnership with GWR to offer conference attendees heavily discounted rail fares to and from Bristol. If you're planning to travel on a GWR route, go to this page and select 'Bristol'. You'll get a London to Bristol return for £44, for example (this is for a fixed outward journey with flexibility on the return). You only need to be able to provide proof of attending the conference.
We're offering an exclusive 10% discount for Pixel Pioneers Bristol, which applies to both the conference and the workshops. Just use the code 'creativebloq'.
Pixel Pioneers brings top web design expertise to Somerset
Website first impressions matter. But not as much as you think.
Most of us have heard so many clichés about the importance of first impressions that we’ve probably never questioned their worth. After all, we know from our own experience how quickly a bad impression can put us off—a person, a restaurant, a brand, you name it.
But there’s another side of first impressions that doesn’t get as much attention, and it’s this: they don’t last. Unless that first impression is backed by something of substance and quality, it will soon be dismissed.
I noticed this recently when conducting some competitor research for a client. My process is to compile a list of competitors, then look at their homepages. I open each in a new tab, take a quick screen shot, and then click around the page to see what else they might be doing of interest.
For this research project, I noticed that many websites looked impressive at first glance. They did a great job in the first few seconds of creating a strong impression for the visitor. I started to get worried: what if the competition was really tough?
And then after scrolling around for a bit, I noticed a common trend. Most of these websites devoted the bulk of their attention to creating an attractive landing screen. The more I used their sites, the more frustrated I became. Only one website followed through on the promising user experience their homepages hinted at.
Clearly, these websites hadn’t thought passed the first impression, and that’s a big problem.
First impressions matter less than they used to.
Back in the day, it’s possible that most brands made their bread and butter off those initial seconds of contact. Consumers simply didn’t have much more to go on.
But today’s consumers are savvier than ever, and they do their research. If your homepage does its job, they’re going to be on your site longer than six seconds, reading your content and learning more about your brand. That’s only a good thing if your website follows through on the good impression you made at the beginning.
There’s a saying that the fastest way to kill a bad company is through good marketing. If you put all your budget in the packaging and none in the product, your customers will notice and it won’t take long for your brand reputation to plummet through the floor.
Design deep: carry the original impression through to the end.
There’s another critical error in the strategy that over-invests in the homepage to the detriment of the rest of the site: not every visitor to your site will see your home page. More and more, entry pages are blog posts, service pages with high-ranking SEO, or landing pages promoted by AdWords or social media. This means that those businesses that put all their energy into 6-second website first impressions are neglecting other entry streams.
So, how can you make sure the first impressions you make on your website lead to the outcomes you want?
Focus on overall usability. You want your users to have a good experience on your site. That means giving TLC to every part of your website, not just the most attention-grabbing parts.
Look to your personas. Think about who’s visiting your site, and where they need to go. One of the key tasks of your home page is to help direct visitors to other parts of the site. Make sure it speaks to your entire audience.
Think about your website holistically from a conversion standpoint. Your home page won’t close a lot of sales—but that’s OK. It can divert traffic to pages that are more suited to the task.
Have consistent messaging. If your headline is bold and splashy but the rest of your site copy reads like an instruction manual, the contrast will be noticeable to your visitors.
A first impression will keep you in the game. It won’t close the sale.
The mythology of the all-important first impression needs to die—or at least get modified a little. A good first impression will certainly help you start a relationship with your best foot forward, but it won’t get you across the finish line. For that, you need to be able to back your bluster with competence.
This is essential for your website as much as it is for life. Those first few second visitors spend looking at the top screen of your homepage (or any other entry page) are important, particularly for keeping visitors from bouncing. But it’s not your main tool for conversion.
To convert, you need to think of your website holistically, including all the different ways that visitors may find it, and the visitor path they’ll take one they’re on your site.
Anything less is too shallow to do you or your visitors any good.
The post You Need to Design More Than Just Your Homepage appeared first on build/create studios.
Perhaps one of the best things about being alive in the social media age is the unsightly rush to have opinions whenever a new logo design is revealed. Given any new logo, the internet – that is, Twitter – can't wait to critique its every detail and pick apart all its faults. It's the first step on the road to being hailed as a modern design classic a few years down the line.
10 of the best logos ever
Even better is when a well-meaning but entirely unqualified CEO decides to take matters into her own hands and design the logo herself, as Marissa Mayer infamously did with the Yahoo! logo back in 2013. So the news this morning that the First Lady of the United States had unveiled an exciting new initiative and also designed the logo had us, quite reasonably, rubbing our hands in glee.
Melania Trump's initiative, entitled Be Best, aims to encourage children to literally be best in their individual paths, while focusing on the three biggest issues facing young people today: well-being, social media use, and of course, opioid abuse.
While it's clearly driven by the very best intentions, it's already drawn plenty of internet shade, particularly for the jarringly ungrammatical name and its pamphlet on safety online that's a mildly updated copy of another pamphlet from 2014. But what's really got us going is that logo.
According to the White House, FLOTUS designed it herself, and while Melania has form for claiming other people's work as her own, in this case we can quite believe it. Apparently Melania likes clean lines and wanted something that would appeal to children, and this is the result.
An unkind person might suggest that it looks like it was scrawled with a chisel tip marker in five seconds, then scanned and coloured in Photoshop. We think it looks more like it was drawn on-screen using free chisel tip Photoshop brushes. Others have been less kind.
For once, we're enjoying a social media logo backlash without an ounce of the usual low level guilt that we usually feel when everyone's ripping on a perfectly acceptable design that's just a little unexpected and different. Keep it coming, Twitter.