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The Leap from Words to Images

By Chad Gordon | February 15, 2016


I’m often asked how we come up with logo designs from thin air. My answer? It’s never from thin air. It’s a process and it actually starts with words.

Words? Don’t you just Google images and look through fancy designer swatchbooks to come up with ideas?  Or doodle until something happens?

Assessment Makes for a Calculated Leap

It all starts with our Assessment process. We discover a lot when we do this. We interview key members of an organization, their clients and stakeholders. We also review their competition. Then we create a report and share it with our client. Key themes about their existing brand and the future of their brand become clear.

We turn those key themes into a list of Key Words. We share these with our client, too. Key Words are a list of around five descriptive words that define the essence of an organization’s brand and establishes a foundation from which all branding components are created. These aren’t key words for SEO, nor are they meant to be used in copy. They represent who the company is and what it aspires to be. And they guide our design process.

The key words are active, descriptive or emotive (“hero, aggressive, empathy”). We avoid passive, inherent or cliche words if possible (“service, value-added, professional”). It is important that the words are outward facing – not “this is what we are like on the inside,” but rather, “this is who we are, or what we mean, to our customers.”

A sample of a recent key-word list we created for a client:
– Tenacious
– Know-how
– Scrupulous
– Sensitive
– Eager
– Hidden Treasure

We’ve even used, “Bada Bing, Bada Boom.”

As a designer, I need these words to create purposeful and meaningful design. Words conjure images, color and even typefaces. Individual words speak to a specific company trait that generates aesthetic or aural connotations that can be implemented into design or copy (“Sensitive” might have soft, organic shapes and pastel colors for example). However, the power of the Key Word list is in the grouping. Cross association amongst the words brings greater creative impact and takes a brand in directions that are more powerful and unique. While “sensitive” brings it’s own set of visual connotations, when you cross that with “tenacious” different visuals are generated.

So there is no magic bag that we reach into and pull out logo ideas. The ideas are guided by homework, strategy, and the visual associations we make with words.

– Chad

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Chad Gordon

Chad is the Creative Director, overseeing the development of virtually every original design. Chad studied photography in Edinburgh, Scotland, and has a degree in photo illustration from Ohio University. In 1991 he worked with Reuben and Company as a photo assistant before joining designRoom as a designer the following year. Chad has received numerous national awards, has shared in his team’s many Addy Awards, and has had his work published in several international design publications.Chad is experienced in all phases of creative design, including concept development, art direction, photography, typography, print production, and website design. Chad’s specialties are photo illustration and identity development. His unique infrared photography has been shown in numerous galleries around northeast Ohio. He is an avid baseball man, a crafty pitcher with speed and movement on his fastball, and played on championship teams in the Roy Hobbs League.

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