OF THIS MODULE
A COURSE BY STUDIO CARO
TIP: Add this page to your bookmarks to easily come back to this course whenever you like.
Start this course as if your business is brand new, even if you’ve been around for a few years. To guide you through this course, I am designing branding for a fictional 80’s skating rink in LA! Excited yet? Enjoy designing with me!
In this first module I want to emphasize the importance of having a clear brand strategy. I believe to have a good strategy means being able to answer as many questions as possible. What do you sell and why? Who do you sell to? Why? Who is your ideal customer? Why? Feeling overwhelmed yet? Don’t panic, we’ll find ourselves some answers in this module.
The first part of creating a solid business strategy is defining your mission and vision. This may seem a bit boring at first, but it is essential for creating a business and branding to your heart!
Generally, your vision is where you want to go with your business in let’s say 5 years, the long-term goal. Your mission is how you will reach this point with short-term actions.
Think of when you first started out, what was your drive? Why did you want to sell your specific product or service? This may involve some research and investigation. It’s safe to say ‘to own a profitable business and make a lot of money’ is never a good answer. We’re looking for an authentic and human business strategy here. People buy from people, don’t forget!
Mission: At RetroRink, our mission is to provide the ultimate 80’s roller experience, immersing our guests in the vibrant spirit of the iconic decade. We aim to create a nostalgic haven where people of all ages can relive the energy, music, and fashion of the 1980s while enjoying the excitement of roller skating. Through our unique blend of entertainment, atmosphere, and themed events, we strive to transport our guests back in time, fostering joy, connection, and memorable experiences.
Vision: Our vision is to become the premier destination for 80’s roller entertainment, known for our immersive retro atmosphere, exceptional customer service, and exciting themed events. We aspire to be the go-to venue where individuals, families, and groups can gather to escape the present, embrace the past, and create lasting memories. By continuously innovating and delivering outstanding experiences, we aim to be recognized as the ultimate embodiment of 80’s roller nostalgia, captivating visitors from around the world.
Next to having a clear mission and vision, you should also always be able to define your company values. Even it’s just a few words, these greatly help in making the right decisions in your business. Your customers want to know what you stand for. Also try and be consistent, not wanting to be everything for everyone. For instance, in most industries sustainable products live in a higher price segment than products that focus less on the environment. It is possible but less likely. Think about what values you want to prioritise in order for your customers to take you seriously.
If you’re looking for more inspiration on how to define your mission, vision and value, I recommend reading books like Start With Why by Simon Sinek.
1. Authentic nostalgia: At RetroRink we value historic accuracy. We pay attention to detail, ensuring that our decor, music, fashion, and overall ambiance authentically reflect the vibrancy and spirit of the 80’s.
2. Inclusivity: We believe every single guest should be able to enjoy themselves. We have zero tolerance for discrimination, violence and hate speech, or any expression of disrespect.
3. Innovation & Creativity: We’re constantly looking for new ways to innovate the experience at RollerRink. We embrace cutting-edge technology, creative event concepts and engaging activitaties to surprise and delight our guests.
4. Exceptional customer service: We prioritize our guests’ satisfaction and always go the extra mile to give them an unforgettable experience. Our staff is friendly and knowledgable.
When you sell to everyone, you sell to no one. You want clients who really appreciate your brand. Be as specific as you possibly can when it comes to your ideal customer. At first, this may feel as narrowing down your options ergo losing sales. But there are nearly 8 billion people on this earth, so is your group of ideal customers really so narrow as you think?
Another example to wash away your fear: I’m not a vegetarian (yet) but I do love me some good vegetarian food. This means you will always appeal to more people than just your ideal customer. But your brand will always be stronger if you have a clear audience.
How to define your ideal customer
If you’ve already been selling your product for a few years, looking closer at your current client base may be an easier start. Ask around or create a feedback form to send to your customers. What do they like? What movies do they watch? What does their house look like? Do they live in a city or the suburbs? What are their hobbies? You can even give them a name! Your ideal customer can be one detailed profile or a few different ones. You can have both customer profiles (selling from business to customer) as business profiles (selling from business to business, in this case the event planner).
The more questions you can answer about your ideal customer, the better. These questions cover their demographics, their interests, their lifestyle,… If you find this all to be quite overwhelming, you can use my cheat sheet (see download below) as a starting point.
1. Sarah Nostalgia
Age: 40 years
Occupation: Marketing Manager
Background: Sarah grew up in the ’80s and has a deep appreciation for the music, fashion, and pop culture of that era. She is always seeking opportunities to relive her favorite memories and experiences from the ’80s. Roller skating was a significant part of her childhood, and she now enjoys it as a fun and nostalgic activity.
2. Alex Roller Enthusiast
Occupation: Software Engineer
Background: Alex has been an avid roller skater since childhood and is passionate about the sport. They are skilled in roller dancing and enjoy showcasing their moves in a vibrant and exciting environment. Alex is always seeking unique roller skating venues that are LGBTQI+ friendly, offer a mix of entertainment and an engaging atmosphere.
3. Emily Event Planner
Occupation: Event Planner
Background: Emily is a professional event planner who specializes in creating unique and memorable experiences. She is always on the lookout for distinctive venues to host special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, and reunions. She appreciates venues that offer themed experiences, as they provide an extra element of excitement and create lasting memories for her clients.
Every company needs a name. My tip would be to stay close to the company values and keep it simple. If you’re having a hard time thinking of a name, gather some of your friends for a brainstorm sesh. Play around with a wordcloud. Hire a copywriter. If you decide to play around with ChatGPT: be sure to double check for any existing suggestions. It’s very bad at inventing non-existing stuff.
Please be aware once you have your name (and in a little while also your logo) it’s very important to protect your brand. It might help to registrate your name and logo as a trademark. If you need help in doing so, I would advise contacting an IP lawyer who knows the law in your region and how to registrate.
It is important to note that using the registered logo indication (TM-symbol™ or R-symbol®) is only appropriate when the logo has undergone the formal process of trademark registration. In many jurisdictions, falsely claiming a registered trademark status for an unregistered mark is unlawful.
We’ve defined your strategy and ideal customer, great! Now let’s get into the design theory. A good logo should be versatile and scalable, reflecting the brand’s values and industry appropriateness. Consistency with the overall brand identity is key, and investing time and effort in its design is crucial. Uniqueness sets it apart while ensuring it leaves a lasting impression on viewers. To me, the best logos are easy on the eyes and not too complicated. Let’s dive in!
The answer to this question may seem simple but there’s more to it than meets the eye. A logo can be just text (such as the Coca-Cola logo), only a pictoral mark (such as the Twitter bird), or both. These variations all have different names. A logo only containing text is called a logotype. A logomark is a logo like the Twitter-bird, that only contains a pictorial mark. Some logos are illustrations that look like a word.
Branding is more than just a logo. Ideally, you have a brand guide that shows you different rules for how to design any product such as packaging containing your typical typography, colours and other design guidelines. In this course we’re starting with just a logo as I focus on small businesses and those just starting out.
In these times, where more and more mobile devices are being introduced to the market, it’s important to have variations of your logo that can fit all these different devices. This is what we’ll cover in Module 5: Usability. For now, let’s look into some examples and learn the difference between what could be ‘good’ or ‘bad’ design.
To explain what makes a logo bad or good, nothing works better than showing examples! A classic is the iconic Nike logomark. This logo has the potential to be universally recognized by people worldwide. The Nike swoosh exhibits simplicity and readability, whether it is scaled down or magnified in size. This is essential, because it ensures versatility across various applications. You want a logo that is seamlessly usable, so that it will never prevent you from trying whatever idea you have. Even if that implies printing it on an earring.
What you don’t want is weird, ambiguous or vague symbolism. To the extent that is possible, also check if your symbol or drawing could have an offensive meaning in other cultures.
“Once you saw it, it can’t be unseen”
Have you ever noticed that Walmart, despite being a supermarket, doesn’t include a shopping cart in its logo? Likewise, FedEx, a shipping company, doesn’t portray a car or box in its logo. McDonald’s doesn’t feature fries in its logo, Pizza Hut doesn’t showcase pizza in its logo, and so on… But why not?
First of all these are of course big companies, and their brands have become so well-known they no longer need to literally depict their products or services. If you’re just starting out, it may be safer to do so.
Choosing not to depict the obvious product in your logo may differentiate you from your competition. If you choose to put coffee in the logo of your coffeebar, you will probably resemble at least 5 other (mediocre) coffeebars in your neighbourhood.
This however doesn’t mean a restaurant can’t picture fries in their logo. If your business involves only one product, I think it’s smarter to picture this in your logo. If you have a make-up brand, I think there is enough proof that a simple, classic and stylish logotype works best (L’Oréal, Maybelline, MAC,…) and leaves you the choice of selling or not selling whatever products you like.
Putting eyeliner in your logo will leave people expecting your eyeliner is the best product you sell. You could also choose to create different logo variations for different divisions inside your brand, such as L’Oréal does for its professional line.
I plan on creating a few variations such as the main illustrated logo and a compact logotype.
A good tagline is key. This is a slogan or catchphrase that customers can’t forget. Think about it. Do below examples sound familiar to you? Can you come up with a great tagline for your brand?
– “Just do it!” by Nike
– “I’m loving it” by McDonalds
– “Open happiness” by Coca-Cola
– “Because you’re worth it” by L’Oréal
Before I start creating any logo, I want to feel inspired and create a moodboard. I have different techniques that I will share in the video below. Looking for inspiration is essential for creating a good design. It shows you if anything has been done too much already. Done with the internet? Take a walk outside! Pay attention at how other shops or businesses try to stand out from the crowd.
Colours have the power to evoke emotions and convey a message. Understanding the principles of colour theory can help you as a designer to make informed choices that align with your desired brand image and target audience. This module contains a lot of theory and may feel a bit dry, but I trust it to be of great value to you in order to create a colour scheme that fits you and your brand.
You may have heard about the different emotions each colour is associated with. Every colour has good and bad emotions. If you want to know more about this I’ve listed all colours, their meaning and examples of brands using them in the cheat sheet below.
Colour theory is a fundamental concept in art and design that explores how colours interact which each other and how they can be combined to create visually pleasing compositions.
Primary colours are red, blue and yellow. They are the building blocks of every other colour and cannot be created by mixing other colours.
Secondary colours are created by mixing equal parts of primary colours. Secondary colours are orange (red + yellow), green (blue + yellow) and purple (blue + red).
Tertiary colours are achieved by mixing equal parts of a primary color with an adjacent secondary color on the color wheel. For instance vermillion (red + orange), amber (yellow + orange), magenta (red + purple).
Analogous colours are all tints of one and the same colour. Fifty shades of gray, if you will.
Complementary colours are hues positioned directly opposite each other on the colour wheel and always make a good contrast. I like to call them ‘married colours’. These colour pairs have a remarkable ability to enhance and harmonise each other when used together.
Does it resonate with you how the colours below make such a good pair? Below you can also download my cheat sheet which contains a colour wheel.
Hue, saturation, value
Of course above mentioned colours are not all colours in the world. There’s actually an infinite amount of colours. There are infinite possibilities of wavelengths and combinations that can be perceived by the human eye. Fascinating, right?
To somehow describe colours as best as we can in a finite way, there are a few systems in place I’d like to introduce to you. These systems are also often used in (design) software and may seem familiar.
Hue refers to the purest form of a colour. Think of the basic family members such as red, yellow, blue,… Additionally, hues are not altered by adding any white or black. When you add black, it becomes a shade. A tone is a muted version of a hue that you achieve by adding grey. When adding white to a hue, it becomes a tint. Now you can impress all your friends if y’all ever join a quiz about graphic design.
Saturation also known as chroma or intensity refers to the purity or vividness of a colour. A highly saturated color appears vibrant and intense, while a desaturated colour appears more muted or grayish.
Value determines the relative lightness or darkness of a colour. It describes the perception of how light or dark a colour is, regardless of its hue.
RGB are what I call ‘online’ or ‘web-safe’ colours. RGB is a colour profile which is only usable on screens and online. RGB colours consist of red, blue and green.
CMYK is used for print ergo everything used ‘offline’ and is generally perceived as less vibrant compared to RGB colours, due to the nature of the colour reproduction process in printing.
These are the 2 most important colour models in graphic design. It’s important to note there can be some variation in perception between RGB and CMYK due to the differences in colour gamuts and the limitations of different mediums. Designers often need to consider the specific colour models and adjust colours accordingly to achieve the desired visual outcome in both digital and print contexts.
Now, how do we apply all that we learned in this module to our logo design? In branding, there is always a set of primary colors (the most important ones that define your brand) and more ‘supportive’ colors (secondary colors). Be aware this is not the same kind of ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ as in colour theory. In branding this is just a way of saying certain colours are used more often than all others. The primary colour palette is always present in your logo.
To decide which colours are going to be in your logo or branding, it’s best to consider all of these aspects:
– What emotion do you want to evoke in your customers? What do they feel when they think of your brand?
Happiness, joy, energy, hope, tranquility,… Remember the psychology of colours and the cheat sheet at the top of this page.
– Understand your target audience and ideal customer.
Research and understand your target audience’s preferences, cultural context, and psychological responses to colours. If you want to take this seriously, organise a focus group with people who already buy from brands like yours. Don’t just randomly put a poll on Instagram because your followers and friends are not necessarily your target audience. Opinions can help, but only if they’re coming from the right audience.
– Look at similar brand’s colours.
Studying your competition is always a great idea.
– Create a colour moodboard.
Compile visual inspirations (we learned how to do this in module 2) considering images with colours that resonate with your brand. In the colour moodboard this can be images totally unrelated to your brand, if you’re inspired by the specific colour palette. You don’t want to choose colors that are too similar or that may create confusion. Look for opportunities to differentiate your brand while still being consistent with your industry’s expectations. Remember how Starbucks’ logo is green while they service coffee. Brown may have seemed the logical choice for a coffee brand, yet loads of coffeebars use brown. Just because something seems logical doesn’t make it a great choice. In my experience, talking to clients who have no experience in design this is what they often find the hardest part. Design, unlike an exact science, relies on feelings and interpretations, making it a nuanced and abstract process to navigate.
Typography, just like colour, is one of the most important elements of your branding. To me, there are as many fonts out there as colours: infinite! Then can you find the right fit for your brand? In this module you’ll learn all about it, and I’ll also show you some of my all-time favourite can’t-go-wrong fonts!
TYPOGRAPHY RULES TO BE TAKEN EXTREMELY SERIOUS OR JUST ABOUT ENOUGH TO DESIGN AN AWESOME LOGO
You may be primarily familiar with the fonts installed on your laptop or PC such as Arial and Times New Roman. Good news: like I said there are an infinite amount of other great options out there, both free and paid. Later in this course I will show you how to use fonts to create your logo. For now, be inspired. This list may also be useful at a later stage in this course.
Google Fonts is a free and extensive library of open-source fonts. You can browse through a wide variety of fonts, preview how they look, and easily download them for use in your projects. Google Fonts is a great option especially for web-based projects. You can use Google Fonts in both personal and commercial projects without any cost. In my opinion this is the best free font source.
Font foundries are companies that focus on creating top-notch fonts and sell directly through their website. Monotype and Hoefler&Co are one of the best-known foundries. A nice independent one is Colophon.
Font marketplaces offer a wide selection of fonts from various designers and foundries, also with different licensing options. Some popular font marketplaces include MyFonts, Font Squirrel, Creative Market, and Envato Elements.
Free fonts: There are numerous websites that offer free fonts for personal and commercial use. The most popular one is DaFont, then there’s also FontSpace, and Font Squirrel. While using free fonts, always ensure they come with appropriate licensing and usage permissions. A lot of fonts have a free demo version that don’t include all characters for testing purposes only.
I myself use a mixture of all of these. I’m always on the look out for nice new fonts for future use and I can literally never get enough.
Disclaimer: You may have heard of Adobe Fonts. Adobe Fonts is a well-known but non-independent foundry, but in this course we can’t use any Adobe-fonts for the simple reason they don’t allow use in any other app than Adobe. Lame but that’s just the way Adobe chooses to sell.
When purchasing, using or downloading a font it’s important to know and understand the licensing options. Using a font implies you’ve agreed on the license terms.
Commercial vs. Non-Commercial Use: Most font licenses differentiate between commercial and non-commercial use. Commercial use typically involves using the font in projects that generate revenue or are intended for promotional purposes, while non-commercial use refers to personal or non-profit projects.
Now you know where to find fonts, let’s see how we can finally make a choice for our brand.
In general there are 2 important style differences. We have sans-serif fonts (such as Arial) and serif fonts (Times New Roman).
Serif typefaces have small decorative lines or strokes called serifs that extend from the ends of the main strokes of the characters. These serifs can be seen as small ‘feet’ or ‘tails’ on the letters. Serif typefaces are perceived as more traditional and often used for body text in printed, ‘offline’ materials such as books and papers. Examples of serif typefaces include Times New Roman, Garamond, and Georgia.
Sans-serif typefaces as the name suggests, lack serifs. They have clean, simple, and straightforward designs without the additional decorative strokes. They are often used for headlines, titles, user interfaces, and online content. Popular sans-serif typefaces include Arial, Helvetica, and Verdana.
Have a baseline? Use 2 different fonts! For the sake of leading the customer’s eye, your brand’s name should be the first thing they read. Then, your baseline can shine below it. In general, if a font has a sans-serif logo, the baseline will be in serif and vice versa.
Now that we’re getting an idea of the look and feel of our logo, we’re going to take a look at how to make it functional and usable across multiple devices and packaging. There are so many different applications both on- and offline. As you already read in module 2, a good logo is versatile and scalable.
To achieve this seamless quality across different applications, we need to create a vector file (.ai, .pdf, .eps, .svg).
This is not as simple as trying to convert a bitmap to a vector file. We need to start designing in the right software right away. When making our logo in Module 7: Design, we will use the free version of Figma which is a vector-based app. The most famous vector-based app is Adobe Illustrator. You may have heard of Adobe Photoshop, which is a bitmap app and thus not ideal for creating logos.
Bitmap images, also known as raster images, are composed of a grid of individual pixels, each having a specific color value. These images are resolution-dependent, meaning they have a fixed number of pixels per inch (PPI) or dots per inch (DPI). Bitmap images are well-suited for representing complex, detailed visuals like photographs and realistic illustrations. But keep in mind: scaling up a bitmap image will mean pixels can become visible. In general, a bitmap file is a picture or is handled in printing the way a picture is handled.
Common bitmap file formats: JPEG, PNG, BMP, and GIF.
Vector images are created using mathematical equations that define the geometric properties of shapes, lines, and curves. Rather than consisting of pixels, vector images store information about the paths, points, and attributes of the objects within the image. Vector images are resolution-independent since they are defined by mathematical equations. They can be scaled up or down without any loss of detail or quality. The image remains smooth and sharp, regardless of the size.
Common vector file formats: SVG, EPS, and AI (Adobe Illustrator).
TIP: In bitmap applications such as Adobe Photoshop and GIMP you can export .png’s with a transparent background. On some platforms when uploading an .svg is not allowed, using a transparent .png is a good alternative.
Generally speaking we can determine 2 main categories for our logo:
1. Offline & print: from a billboard to a t-shirt to signage, banners and a pen. Anything you can print your logo on.
2. Online & mobile: from responsive webdesign to native apps. The logo needs to adapt to different screen sizes in different systems (iOS, Android).
You also need a favicon (a condensed and simplified version of your logo designed specifically for small-scale usage, such as browser tabs, mobile app icons, and social media avatars).
When designing webpages and apps, it is generally advisable to utilize the .svg format due to its scalability and flexibility. However, certain platforms, including some social media platforms like Instragram, may have limitations that prevent the direct use of .svg files. In such scenarios, the optimal course of action would be to upload a .png or .jpg image file with the highest resolution available.
You may feel a bit overwhelmed or under the impression you need to make an infinite amount of variants. However, in my opinion 4 is enough. Some brands only have 2 variants.
Here’s the variants I would recommend designing so you will have a logo for any possible situation or application:
1. Main logo: the full version of your logo to use in ideal cases.
3. Logotype: a version of the logo using only text (see Module 2: Inspiration & moodboard, sometimes your main logo is already a logotype)
2. Alternate logo: a version of the logo that covers situations or applications where the main logo doesn’t fit.
4. Monogram: a version of the logo using only brand initials, great for small sizes.
Now that you have a clear direction for your branding, we can start the fun part: designing! We start by some loose sketching, jotting down the first visual ideas for our business. If you’ve never created a logo so far, grabbing a pencil to sketch may feel a bit intimidating. However, not taking it all too serious will help you overcome that fear.
Now, on to the most important part: design! This can a very technical module, but don’t worry. I’ll guide you through every step! I create my logos in Adobe Illustrator. This app is the industry top standard, but works through a paid subscription. A brilliant alternate and free app is Figma, which we’re going to use in this course! The best way to create your logo is to follow my actions and pause while watching the videos. You can also choose to start creating your own logo right away, or follow my design as an exercise.
In this video I’ll explain how to navigate any Figma document, using a trackpad or regular mouse, in Windows or in Mac.
The shapes tool together with the pen tool is the most important tool to start designing a logo. (add icon of the tool here)
The pen tool is your friend! It’s a tool that lets you draw vector art from point to point. Remember ‘connect the dots’ art? This is essentially creating your own dots and connecting them at the same time. (add icon of the pen tool here)
Like I said before, you can totally choose whether you start designing your own logo but recreating my design is a great way to start as an exercise and just to get the pressure off.
I would be delighted to see the results of your work! Feel free to send your self-created logo or any questions, feedback and suggestions you may have to firstname.lastname@example.org.