The Secrete Evolution of a Visual Identity

Logos are perhaps one of the most memorable aspects of a brand. Most everyone can recall the logos of top brands like Nike and Apple. A good logo is memorable, iconic and, like the Nike and Apple logos, can withstand decades if designed well.  But while most people can identify top logos, most have no clue how these logos came to be.  

Today is a little peek into the secrete evolution of a visual identity, in this case my designs for the CSU-Pueblo College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS) Southern Colorado (SOCO) Conference.

Marker Sketches
The graphic design process begins with a client meeting where the needs of the project are discussed. In this case, the CHASS department wanted to revitalize the old SISSY Conference and rebrand it as the SOCO Conference. They wanted a new identity that was fresh, that would embrace what makes Pueblo unique, not be specific to any one department within CHASS, and stand apart from other university conferences.  I encouraged to embrace the South American heritage and to explore the idea of bridging the university with local community leaders (which is the whole reason for the SOCO Conference's existence).


The next step was visual research: I googled images of Mexican painting for color inspiration, Aztec and Mayan patterns, contemporary Brazil and Argentinian graphic design, and similar design and color approaches from countries on the other side of the globe, namely Switzerland and France.  My intent was to find a style that was uniquely South American infused, like Pueblo, but would also have a global appeal.  As I googled, I began a number of little marker sketches in my sketchbook (see above).

Digital Sketches
I picked out the top four marker sketches and began working them up in the computer, exploring more pattern, shapes and typography options in black and white.  I generated another large batch of digital sketches and, again, I picked out the top four best concepts for exploring a range of color options.

Digital Roughs
After generating a ton of marker and digital experiments, I selected the absolute best, usually two to three design,s and I refined them for the client presentation.  I usually present my logos to clients the "old fashioned" way on printed and mounted mat board for both the tangibility and because it's easier to show my clients what their future logo would look like printed. One side of the mat boards show the design in black and white so my clients can judge all the designs without color bias.  This side also shows the design at about one inch, the usual size found on a letterhead or as a sponsor logo on a newspaper advertisement. As the client's narrow their selection to their top favorite, I flip the board over and show them the color options for that design.

The above design is my solution to the client's original idea of depicting a bridge as the symbol linking the university with Pueblo leaders.  I created an abstract representation of modern cable-stayed suspension bridges like the San Francisco East Span Bridge rendered in a Mexican/Swiss style of line.  When colored blue, the bridge also represents the nearby Rocky Mountains. 

Client's can't imagine every creative possibility--that's your job.  So when a client tells you what they want, don't be afraid to explore other options too.  For example, my client wanted an icon logo, which I supplied, but for every project I do I usually present at least one deviant design that I feel still fits with their other needs and explores a new creative option they hadn't thought of before.  Above was my typeface-heavy deviant and below is another deviant that moved away from the idea of an iconic bridge, but still explored the idea of saying what makes Pueblo unique, such as our many days of warm sunshine.

Above was the selected rough, which I'll now refine, present as a semicomp and then turn over to the client in print and web-ready file versions. And there you have it--the secrete evolution of logo design!  It's a lot of work, but it's also a fulfilling process, especially when you get great clients and a lot of interesting ideas to explore as I did with the SOCO logo.


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