Imagine the situation, you have just got a new logo design project, but the product or service doesn’t really inspire you. You sit down and start trying to brainstorm ideas, but your mind is blank. What can you do?
1. Create a mood board
To get good ideas out of your brain, you need to feed it with inspiration first. One of the best ways to do this is to create a mood board of inspirational imagery. First, think a little about the market you are trying to appeal to. What sort of things do they like, watch, read or listen to? What other brands would the same people be interested in? Visit some of the sites they might like and download some of the imagery as reference, watch a music video and take some screenshots. Buy a few magazines or newspapers for the demographic and tear out interesting type and imagery.
It doesn’t have to stop there. Take out your phone and walk around taking photos of interesting things you see, like signage or old half torn posters, textures or interesting shapes.
Once you have your imagery collected together, you can either create your mood board digitally using Pinterest (or similar) or do it physically. I do both but definitely find that when I am uninspired the act of ripping up and arranging images on large sheets of paper helps unblock my mind. Plus, when you’re finished you can put them up all around you.
Then look at your mood boards and notice what you like about the elements. Are there colours, typographic styles or shapes that stand out to you that you can use in your own work?
2. Mind Map out ideas
Mind mapping is one of the first creative thinking techniques I turn to when I need ideas. It’s a way of getting all of your initial thoughts out on paper, then allowing them to develop through associations. Start with a word or two that encapsulates what the company/product does. So for example it was a plumbing company you would just write plumbing in the middle of your page. Then create a branch and write a word related to plumbing and branch off that with another associated word. Keep the associations loose and allow yourself to go off on tangents as this can lead to interesting ideas. You don’t have to stick with just writing either, try adding doodles or sketches to your mind map. The act of drawing can give you additional ideas as you can start making visual associations. For example, you might draw a water droplet and the shape reminds you of a leaf or a face, so you could draw those too.
3. Break things down into the types of logos you could create
One of the things that might be hindering your creative progress is that your brief is far too open. This makes it difficult to know where to start. Try breaking down the type of logo design ideas you could create, then work on them one by one
i) Create symbols and recognisable elements
Confine your thinking to the type of symbols you could create. If we refer back to the original example of a plumbing company, you might see how many different ways you could create a tap or spanner symbol.
ii) Add elements to a word
Write out the name of the company in different ways for example uppercase, lowercase, serif, sans serif etc. Do any of the letters lend themselves to be transformed into something related to the product or service? For example, could one of the letters become a plumbing tool?
iii) Use the first letter of a company’s name
If you took the first letter of the company, how could you use it to become an icon or interesting element? Could you incorporate a symbol with the letter in some way?
iv) Use geometric shapes
Sketch out different ways you could use geometric shapes. Could they contain the company name or part of it? Could they form part of a symbol?
v) Combine letters
Is there any way you could combine two or more of the letters to create an interesting effect? You could do this if the company name is made of two words. How many different ways could you combine their initials? Alternatively, are there any shapes formed when you put two of the letters within the words together. For instance, the Fed Ex logo famously forms an arrow between the ‘E’ and the ‘x’
vi) Create type only logos
Experiment with different fonts to see how they affect the mood and style of the words. Try using them uppercase, lowercase and with tight and loose kerning between letters. Google now has an impressive range of downloadable fonts, as do sites like Font Squirrel which are free to use for commercial work.
4. Sketch out ideas
If you’re someone who is used to designing on the computer straight away, try stepping away and using a pen and paper. The act of sketching allows you to quickly express ideas. Plus, you will also have the benefit of visual associations. So when you draw something roughly it might remind you of something else.
5. Mark Making
Try making marks with different tools to get different effects. For example, use a brush pen to get a variance of lines, or a slightly dried up brush with ink to make random marks on paper. Dab a sponge with paint on paper, or use watercolours and then spray from a distance with water. Scan or photograph the effects and see how you could incorporate them into your work. If you don’t have “real” paint, try using some random brushes you’ve never tried before in Photoshop or an app like Procreate.
6. Use a random word to inspire ideas
Here’s a more unusual suggestion to try if you’re still not inspired. Go to an online random word generator, and get a random word. Think about the word and things associated with it, you could even mind map it out. Then see how you could relate back any of those things to your logo problem. For example, I went to the random word generator and got the word “father”. I would then mind map that word and see how it could relate back to a plumbing logo. It might make you think about depicting a family or think about a father who has tried and failed to fix his family’s tap. Once you feel like you have exhausted your ideas from one random word, you can always get another. The idea behind this exercise is that it breaks you out of your normal way of thinking, with the potential for fresh ideas.
7. Make your own creativity cards
This is something to do when you have a bit of downtime. You can then use the creativity cards the next time you are stuck. Make some cards, a similar size to playing cards. On each one write something that might stimulate new ideas. For example “What if you used a continuous line?” or “What if you change the scale?” The next time you need some inspiration turn over a card and think about how you could apply it to your design.
Bonus – places to find examples of great logo design
A gallery of logo design inspiration
Search through the branding section of Dribble for inspiration
Take a look at the branding section of Behance for a wealth of inspiration
The inspiration Grid
A gallery of image eye candy
Logo Design Love
A blog written by graphic designer David Airey who also has a book of the same name
Check out the branding section of colour lovers which shows the trending colours in logo design
Good luck with your logo design and I hope you’re now feeling inspired.