Make your mark: how we design logos

Logos live large in our imaginations. Who doesn’t recognize the golden arches? The iconic swoosh? The cherry red bullseye? Without even naming these brands, it’s likely you know exactly which three mega-companies we're talking about.

But how does a logo go from an idea to a reality? At Interrupt, it's a time-intensive and thorough process of taking ideas and identifiers then distilling them down to their visual essence. It takes many different brains coming together, fashioning countless iterations, to create something that stands out from the crowd and represents the core of a company.

“We go into it thinking larger than the logo” says Associate Creative Director Erin Kunz. “We're first thinking about the entire brand and what it represents, the tone it needs to set.”

Erin also says it’s not just about creating a fantastic stamp for your company through a logo (though it helps); it’s about backing it up so that symbol builds equity. “You have to construct positive customer experiences and products to make it meaningful,” she said. “The Nike swoosh is not meaningful just because of its visual connections to the brand name. It’s important because the company made such an impact on the culture and in their product categories."

We’re diving into the step-by-step process with our creative team to learn how they make the mark (literally).

First, we talk. (To everybody, and a lot.)

Whether in our proprietary Brand DNA workshops, formal interviews, casual conversations or brainstorms, the research period involves a ton of discussion. The Interrupt team is meeting with a broad cross-functional team to understand deeply what the brand represents, its product and essentially, its personality. Without that grounding, logos can feel generic or disconnected. “We take this time to understand, is this brand work an evolution or a revolution?” Erin said. “Are we just making minor updates and refreshes or are we shifting the brand’s DNA and its approach to market? That’s the conversation we align with the client on.”

Creatives, draw your pencils (or digital pens)

A team of creatives are tasked with drafting the first ideas. “I like to start physically on paper, sketching out as many ideas as possible, good or bad,” Troy said. Fellow designers might save the trees and go right to the screen, depending on where they like sketching. The point is play, exploring all the possibilities for representing the company in a small symbol. “We typically have multiple creative team members working on it at once,” says Director of Brand Content Jen Molnar. “Then it's a process of alternating between individual work and team collaboration to explore a huge number of different creative directions.”

Design, align and refine.

Several designers have absorbed the brand’s ideas and values and drawn up their own best and worst ideas. It all gets shared with the wider team for feedback, where everyone works together to decide what they will refine, riff on or dispose of. This is an extremely thorough process—hundreds of typefaces will be reviewed and considered. "In some cases the letterforms in the wordmark are completely custom, whether hand-drawn by the designer or in collaboration with a type foundry," says Associate Creative Director Sara Syrek. The team takes the creations that made the best impression and begins the iteration phase.

Rinse and repeat (and repeat, and repeat).

Designers refine even further, making small tweaks here and there, in a recursive process that ensures the strongest ideas will rise to the top. In fact, one logo might be designed in 20 different versions, altering proportions, fonts, colors or placement. And every time a review is called, designers have to clearly articulate the rationale behind every detail of their proposal.

“we ask a lot of why’s,” troy said. “there’s a story behind every concept. we’re working with our research team and reviewing the competitive landscape, thinking about what this brand stands for, its personality, its DNA—then looking at ways to embody all that in a single identifiable mark.”

Then we meet (yes, again!)

After a few cycles of design and review with multiple designers, the team starts to focus on the prevailing concepts, whittling the working team down to the one or two people who will take the final concepts to the finish line. It’s a process of elimination, boiling down many elements to a few core visual representations. Once the team has decided on the best options—the logos with the strongest rationales and tightest execution will bubble to the top—they set about exploring how each works in real-life applications.

We test how they work IRL

The team (and equally important, the client) needs to see the logos in the wider context. What are the different versions and color variations? How does the logo reproduce at a very large or very small size? How can animation bring the logo to life? What does it look like on clothing, packaging, signage, ads? Those are just a few of the questions addressed as designers start testing out the logo in real life scenarios. While they won’t go through every application, they’ll make sure to have several examples to help everyone visualize the full life of the logo within the brand's visual identity. "A logo is part of a whole system of color, imagery and typography," Erin said. "At this stage, we're seeing how the logo fits into that wider world, how it all works together."

The big reveal to the client!

By the time we get to the unveiling, we’ve reviewed hundreds of typefaces. Hundreds more icons. We’ve researched, brainstormed, sketched, reviewed, sketched again, created mood boards and labored over months to come up with three to five fantastic concepts that capture a brand’s personality. The time is finally right to present them to the client, laying out the various rationales behind each design and discussing together what best captures the essence of the brand.

A brand is more than its mark, but its mark can be the most recognizable element of its visual identity. To create the right logo is a labor of love by multiple talents working for hours and hours across months, ultimately crafting something that communicates a brand’s core values.

Why is it so intensive? Because we’re determined to do more than just design something cool; we’re designing something that simply and distinctively embodies the brand, one that can stand out and stand the test of time.

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