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Art is in the Process

Fri, Dec 23, 2005

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The more simple a logo design, the more work that went into it. It’s almost a shame that most people only see the finished product. Even if process work were made public, most people couldn’t appreciate it. However, to the designer, the real art is in the steps taken to achieve the finished product. Somewhere along that process, the designer had an ‘Ah-ha!’

Art is in the process. The process is what keeps this artist going, and this artist believes the same holds true for every other artist. The process can be joyful and it can be painful. Into which mood the process puts us is irrelevant because we each start the process in search of the ‘Ah-ha!’

I am a graphic designer and I specialize in corporate identity systems, in short, logos. I choose to market myself as an identity designer because that type of design brings me the most ‘Ah-ha’ moments.

One of these moments which I recall most vividly is when I was designing the identity system for my own company.

Designers often name their firms after themselves, and I my firm is no exception. My last name is Eichhold. Spelled phonetically, it’s eye-cold, so I named my firm Eye-Cold Design.

The name was tentative at first, but I decided to stick with it because I liked the images that I was beginning to associate with it. I thought of an eye or set of eyes focused intently; something that would look cool on a private investigator’s office door. I began to think of myself as a design investigator in that I am one who is detail-oriented and collects clues to put them together to tell a neat, short story.

The ‘Cold’ part was interesting to me as well. I envisioned ice in many forms. It is solid and slippery. Ice cannot move, but it is able to cause much motion.

The first part of this particular design process began with a search for an eye that looked intently focused. Flipping through stock photographs I found these two to best match my criteria.(image a.). The eye on the right is a great pic, but I decided against having an intimidating eye staring down my prospective clients. The eye on the left I like because it had the intensity and focus for which I was looking, and it appears to have a gazing-into-the-future quality.

The next step was to make my eye look cold. Using the cool side of the spectrum, I set out to illustrate some sort of frost pattern over the eye or icicle eye lashes. I settled on making the eye brow look like an icicle, and making the iris blue.

As you can see in the picture, I did just that. I was pretty proud of the icicle eye brow I drew, but it didn’t go well with the picture. Besides that, the eye looked cold, but the flesh looked warm (image b.).

The next logical step was to illustrate the eye and remove the photo. Besides, this was supposed to be a logo, not a PhotoShop retouch. I was left with a floating eye and a floating icicle. The icicle was too detailed and was taking too much attention away from the eye, so needless to say, it had to go (image c.).

I then tried to simplify things by making a simple line drawing (image d.). I quickly realized that was a dead end. I needed to simplify even further.

I looked for the most basic shape in the picture. That shape was the elipse of the iris (image e.). That was when the ‘Ah-ha!’ hit. It hit so hard that I don’t even have any process work to show for the steps taken between the first elipse and the finished product. For this reason, I credit the finished product to Divine Providence. If you don’t believe me, take a look at what is left from this project (image f.). There isn’t a lot to show how I got from the elipse in the middle to the final logo at the top. However, for the sake of education, I will make up some process work to show what was probably going through my mind during this design trance.

Once I had the vertical elipse in place, I copied the elipse, turned it horizontal, and made it a certain percentage (about 300%) larger (image g.). Probably what happened next was that I filled the smaller, vertical elipse with a gradient mesh to make it look more like an eye (image h).

This googly eye was not the look I was going for, but I was getting closer. I copied the large, horizontal elipse, filled it in dark and placed it over the eye (image i.). I then searched for an appropriate type style (image j.), defined my PMS colors(image k.), and put on the finishing touches.

Then, there it was; my logo. The focused, intense look I was seeking had been achieved using just three elipses.

Looking at the finished product, the answer seems so simple and obvious. Often, when people see my logo for the first time, they respond with, “Wow.”

The funny thing is that I responded the same way when I saw my logo for the first time on my computer screen. I also catch myself saying, “Wow” upon seeing logos which I did not design. Such a response is the result of knowing that there is no other solution. That knowledge is accompanied by a feeling that the logo being viewed was meant to be designed for that particular company from the beginning of time. The logos that stir these feelings are the logos that are most simple and obvious.

The uneducated man will say, “I could do that.”

The truth is, the uneducated man could draw it, but he cannot come up with the idea. The idea, no matter how simple, is the result of hours of repeated jotting, sketching, collaborating and finally, eliminating.

The logo design process begins with compiling ideas (many very good), and ends when all but one remains. Logo design is not a process of building an idea out of nothing. Rather, it is a process of eliminating ideas until your business, its services and what it stands for is represented by almost nothing (such as three elipses).

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