How To Design a Visual Brand Identity For Central City, Home of The Flash

Central City is the home of the Silver Age version of the DC Comics superhero, The Flash. It’s a large, vibrant city in need of a visual brand identity that highlights the hope and energy it represents.

As with any visual brand identity I work on, I start with the main logo. The main logo will be the centerpiece. My efforts centered around playing with the lightning bolts and Cs. The Flash is the most recognizable part of Central City so I wanted to create something that referenced that while being a unique emblem for the city itself.

To the sketchbook!

I drew a circle and adjusted the weight. Then, I cut a small portion to make the simple C. Inside the C, I created my own lightning shape using the grid. When it came to the colors, I pulled inspiration from The Flash – the red and gold shades. Within my Adobe Illustrator artboard, I worked on the various ideas that tied into the idea of Central City.

My Adobe Illustrator artboard.

The shapes (the C and the lightning bolt) can be seen portrayed in various ways throughout the branding of the different districts and areas of the city. My research revealed the following areas within Central City: Downtown, the Waterfront District, the Theater District, the Upper East & West sides, and the Lower East & West sides. Downtown features two buildings in front of the main C and the lightning shape within the line art. The Waterfront District is a variation on the main logo with shades of blue and ripples in the center representing the color and movement of water. The Theater District logo is inspired by the masks commonly used to represent the acting profession. The lightning strike in the middle splits the mask referencing the city’s hero. With the Upper & Lower sections of the city, I took the inside shape and manipulated it to subtly reference that section of the city. You can see the inside is raised when used for the Upper sides and lowered for the Lower sides. The West sides are pointed to the west while the East sides point east.

Beyond the presence of metahumans, Central City has a lot to offer. I wanted to design additional logos that reflect that. Beyond the main logo, I created logos for such Central City landmarks as the coffee bar Jitters, the Central City Police Department, Central City University, and S.T.A.R. Labs. I took the logos and tested the brand concepts within mockups of various city advertisements. I also designed apparel for the city itself, CCU, and S.T.A.R. Labs.

Shirts for the people.

This project was initially inspired by The Flash on The CW as well as my love of the creativity of fictional locales within comic book universes. This was fun to work on and a joy to see come together, as I figured out exactly what I wanted to do. I’m thinking I want to do more of these full brand projects in the future.

~b.

**view the ENTIRE brand proposal on Behance HERE!**

 

How To Design A Basketball For March Madness In Illustrator

March Madness, also known as the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, is the greatest post-season in all of sports. It’s one of my favorite times of the year. This time around, I decided to create a logo that celebrated it’s return.

The concept I had was a basketball in the center with brackets feeding into it. I started with the basketball since that would be centerpiece. A lot of things can be made in Illustrator simply by positioning the right shapes in the right places. I started with the circle. Once I applied the right amount of stroke on the circle path, I copied the circle twice. I positioned the two additional circles so the bottom and top curves, respectively, would line up like they are seen on a basketball. The two crossing bars were applied and positioned to complete the center image.

Cutting away the portion outside of the center was done in three steps:

  1. highlighting everything thus far and doing Object > Path > Outline Stroke
  2. drawing a new circle on top
  3. applying Divide Objects Below and deleting everything outside the main circle.

Step 1 was necessary because I used Stroke to create the weight. If I had attempted to draw the circle and Divide Objects Below in that state, the cut would have been incorrect. I didn’t want the blank center to count as something to cut. The circle(s) must be counted as rings and not full circles.

Cutting stroked circles vs. Cutting circle outlines.

The brackets were pretty easy. I just drew one bracket with the desired weight and copied the positioned the rest. I added the text “March Madness” in the center and used “Unite” Shape Mode in the Pathfinder window. I like to unite the vector paths to make sure there aren’t any small white border lines separating the different layers. Uniting the paths helps ensure that the concept is seen as complete and not an assemblage of parts.

After finishing this and posting on my social media, I saw an interesting thread. Carrington Harrison posted a March Madness style bracket of Kanye West’s best songs – the #KanyeMadnessBracket. Immediately, I started working on a Kanye version of my March Madness concept. I kept the same brackets on the outside and created a simple Kanye West illustration. I used a Kanye photo as reference and made the center image. I started with the head shape and worked on everything fitting within and around it.

Those glasses were chosen because they are iconic and easily recognizable as a past Kanye staple. I played with the colors and even made a graphic for my personal #KanyeMadnessBracket Final Four.

Big events breed big, creative ideas. Glad I was inspired to design a couple of ideas to add to the fun of the season!

~b.

Case Study: Torchwood Institute

Torchwood. Outside the government. Beyond the police.

Consider this an extension to my #WhovianBobbie design series. Torchwood is one of the spin-off shows of the incredible television program I’ve grown to love, Doctor Who.

The Torchwood Institute was founded in 1879 to protect Britain from extraterrestrial threats and secure alien technology for Britain. The Torchwood TV show focuses on the small modern day team that is based in Cardiff, Wales.

In this project, I challenged myself to come up with a new logo for a new version of Torchwood. Since this would technically be a rebrand of sorts, I started with studying the previous logos. The first Torchwood logo was simply the letter T inside of a hexagon. The newer version of the institute’s logo, used in the show, is composed of hexagonal shapes arranged to make the letter T.

With this in mind, I decided to continue the tradition of using this particular shape. However, I wanted to see if I could come up with something different. My goal was to design something that was more of an evolution of the logo rather than a complete departure from tradition.

In my handy dandy sketchbook, I start looking at options for the hexagon and how to incorporate the letter T within it. If the initial logo for Torchwood was a single hexagon and the newer version was several arranged beside one another, how about I overlap hexagons? This created an interesting opportunity to create the letter T within the shape. I toyed with filling the letter as well as various sections but decided to make it an outline type logo. I wanted something that would be clean and recognizable. I pictured what would, in my opinion, look best on a clear office door. I didn’t think a big block T was necessary for me to get the point across.

In the final stage of the design process, I actually cut everything outside of the center. I tend to want to cut as much as possible when refining a concept. This decision also made the T on the inside more of the focal point. After arriving at the final logo, I applied a little color to it. The colors chosen took inspiration from the title sequences of the TV series.

Coming up with logos inspired by TV shows and other media is always fun. With each new project, I learn. Creative exploration is essential to keeping your mind sharp and curiosity satisfied.

~b.

Case Study: Freeland Electric Co.

In my humble opinion, Black Lightning is one of the best shows on television. It’s the newest addition to The CW Network’s family of superhero shows. It’s based on the DC Comics character Black Lightning and his family. From the music to the acting to the storylines, I have thoroughly enjoyed the program thus far. So, as is custom with me (see 100 Fictional Places and Doctor Who as examples), I wanted to design something inspired by the show and the fictional world it depicts. The result was this Freeland Electric Company logo.

Get it? (Electric…lightning…I’m clever)

Concept

Freeland is the fictional city that Black Lightning is set in. So I got into my sketchbook and started coming up with some options. The main idea I had was to somehow combine the letter F with a lightning bolt. The lightning bolt is often used as a symbol for electricity so the challenge was to represent it in a unique way within the letter.

I’m fond of using the grid and simple shapes to construct logos. I like the challenge of designing a logo that accomplishes its goal with as little as possible. When making logos that involve letters, I’m trying to discover what is the minimum required for the viewer to recognize the letter. Even within the relatively simple concept, there were some different options in how to present the combination.

Colors

The colors of the brand are taken straight from the Black Lightning promotional poster. Typically, when I design something inspired by a show or movie, I like to use the eyedropper tool to take the colors directly from the reference.

Result

I love designing logos. So it’s fun to come up with these ideas and see where I can take them. It’s great to take opportunities to do work outside of in-house and client projects. Helps me practice my craft and express myself in new ways.

Why just tell people what I’m enjoying when I can show them through my work. I like sharing these types of pieces on my social media and tagging the franchises I’m paying homage to through the vectors I push in Adobe Illustrator.

~b.

How To Pull From Various Sources of Inspiration

There is a great value to inspiration. Inspiration makes you feel something. It influences you. It stimulates you to do something creative. It’s the spark that can ignite an ever burning flame. The need for inspiration is real. However, you need not limit your sources of inspiration. 

One of the sources can be and should be real life.

No matter your area of expertise, getting outside for inspiration provides you with a fresh view. As a graphic designer, of course I am inspired by the outstanding work I see from the designers I follow. I’m also inspired by the work I see out and about. I’m inspired by people, nature, scenery, etc. For example, let’s say you’re trying to design a brand identity for a city or town. You’ll want to look at other municipal branding projects to see what other cities have done. But the best way to get started is to take in the city itself. Take photos of the landmarks. Talk to the citizens. Walk around and get a feel for the city. The inspiration is around you. When trying to capture a specific locale, you need to experience it and know the nature of the scene. That will allow you create the symbols/icons you need.

Looking at other similar logos can be inspiring but just doing that is limiting. Taking in the real life outside live and through photos challenges you to interpret in an original way. Capture the originality of your own perspective. There are a lot of tigers, panthers, lions, etc. in the world of sports. The reason why there’s such a variety of designs is because each designer has captured a unique perspective of the animal through photo references. A tiger is a tiger, but what you pull from its features is what makes your design yours. If you’re only looking at others’ interpretations, you’re limiting the potential of your own creativity.

Every project you take on may not have a direct example you can look to as a guide. Play with the perspective and the visual representation of things that currently exist in the world. Get creative with how you use the elements you see. Expand your sources of inspiration as much as you possibly can. It will often surprise you where the spark will come from.

That spark could also come from outside of the market that you’re operating in. When I create branding for Kappa Kappa Psi & Tau Beta Sigma National Convention, I am pulling inspiration from other fraternities and sororities. However, I more so pull inspiration from the Super Bowl, Final Four, NHL, NBA, Oscars, Grammys, etc. Dreaming big means you’ll bring the most value to each and every project. I want my work to be able to stand in the same room as the work from much larger brands in much larger markets. I’m not limiting myself to work like mine. I’m inspired by great work across genres, styles, and markets.

To be the best version of yourself, you need to keep your mind and eye open.

~b.

What I’ve Learned About Commitment, Consistency, & Time

Time is the most precious resource. I have friends who have full time positions but also pursue passion projects and other purposeful endeavors after work. So, they know the power of time management. I am far from a master of time but I have learned the power of scheduling time to work on my designs, videos and blogs. You’ve heard a million times that we all have the same 24 hours each day. It’s an immutable fact. But sometimes we get trapped by the idea of having to do everything in that 24 hour period. That trap causes you to think, if you don’t accomplish everything on your 35 task long to-do list, you’re a failure. That fear of failure can keep you from attempting anything at all. Start with one 30 minute period and one task to complete.

Start.

“Without commitment…”

Doing weekly blogs and weekly videos first requires commitment. The commitment is the state of being dedicated to a cause or activity. It’s the initial determination. Denzel Washington, in his acceptance speech at the 2017 NAACP Image Awards, stated that “Without commitment, you’ll never start.” You have to first discover within you what you want to do. Preferably what you want to deposit into the world for the benefit of others. I knew I wanted to do more. I knew I wanted to give more than just what I did at work and for freelance clients. I wanted to share as a way to help people understand design and give insight into the world of graphic design, branding and content creation. I also wanted to practice my craft and get better in as many phases of creativity as possible. It’s important to maximize the potential I have and inspire others to do the same. The better I get at designing and communicating, the better help I can be to others in all aspects of my creative life.

“Without consistency…”

Consistency is not easy. Multiple times I’ve done the 100 Day Project, where I designed a logo every single day for 100 days. I committed to the project and wanted to see it through. But, somewhere in the middle of the project, I hit a wall where I realized just how much I’ve committed too. Consistency is about showing up every day. The improvement and desires I expressed in the previous section are only achieved with consistent, purposeful practice. It doesn’t have to be perfect each time. Denzel Washington says, “Without consistency, you’ll never finish.” We all have to power through those “I don’t feel like it” days. We are responsible for the kind, quality and amount of good work we do. There are more people than you think counting on, appreciating and benefiting from your consistency – “your showing up moments.”

One hour of focused time on one task, building something you’re passionate about, is better than no time spent at all. Commit to your purpose. Consistently work towards being better at it.

Life would be easier if I were to just go to work and go home. But much less fulfilling. Take and use the time you have to deposit as much of your gifts and talent as possible into the world.

Keep working. Keep striving.

~b.

Bonus: Denzel Washington’s 2017 NAACP Acceptance Speech

How To Put Together A Website Project Plan

Over the past few years, I’ve put together website project plans for National Councils and committees that details our path to a successful website build and launch. I worked on the designs for the current Kappa Kappa Psi and Tau Beta Sigma national websites. Through those experiences, I have discovered a process that works well for me. Creating a plan and presenting that plan is important to do before starting any massive project. It is especially crucial when working with multiple people. The general 5 steps that I typically lay out are the following: setup/strategy, content gathering, design, testing/approval, and launch.

Setup/Strategy

First and foremost, it is paramount that everyone involved know the purpose of the website and the target audience. None of the remaining steps can even begin until everyone is on the same page. Here is where the north star is established. The particulars will need to be discussed. What content will the user need to be able to access? What content is of highest priority? We need to create and agree on an initial sitemap. The sitemap establishes the hierarchy within a website. This helps in creating the menu and information structure. Speaking of structure, I usually suggest setting up a Content Management System (like WordPress, for example) at this stage.

Content Gathering

Once we are all on the same page, we can begin gathering content. You know what you want to display on the site. Now, it’s time to get all that information. Making content gathering its own stage allows you to do inventory and double check the accuracy of the information. It’s much easier to correct any mistakes here before getting lost in the fully designed website. Also, content doesn’t just refer to the information but also any visual assets that need to be gathered or created.

Design

This is where we finally populate the site when all the content that has been collected. We’ve set the table. Now, it’s time to put the food on it. You’ll be designing the website with the sitemap in mind as the structure and populating it with the content collected. Obviously, outside of launch, this is my favorite stage. It is here where the aesthetics and functionality are put together to create something great.

Test/Approval

After everything has been designed, it’s at this stage we test everything. We’ll need to click all the links, make sure everything works properly, and make sure nothing crucial is missing. At this point, we may show additional parties the website to see if it works as it should. At this stage, it’s often necessary to get fresh eyes on the site. You’ll want some people who haven’t been looking at this project for months to give it a look. It might be good to get a sample of your target audience to see if it works for the user you had in mind.

Launch

We have finally arrived! This starts the official countdown to releasing this thing into the wild for the world to see. For the Kappa Kappa Psi national website & the Tau Beta Sigma national website projects, this is where we transferred our work from development to the live server. Once we confirmed everything was working to our liking, we took off the countdown/dev splash pages and went live!

The best way to lay out this process is to work backwards from the desired launch date. Give each stage more than enough time to be completed. It’s always better to finish early than to be scrambling late. Laying the entire plan, with dates attached to each, is great for tracking progress and accountability. Plan, prepare, and present like a professional.

~b.

How To Create A Logo For Super Bowl 52 Like The Logos of Old

Last year, I talked about my dislike for the decision the NFL made to standardize the Super Bowl logo. I was a big fan of the personality shown in the old logos. So, I decided to start a design series in anticipation of the then-upcoming Super Bowl 50. I continued that with my Super Bowl 51 design. This year, after much struggle and many deleted concepts, I arrived at my version of the Super Bowl 52 logo.

Super Bowl 52 will be held at the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, Minnesota. So, the very first thought I had was to try to incorporate the unique shape of the stadium architecture in the logo design. Deciding how to incorporate the shape proved more difficult than anticipated. I mistakenly tried to jump right into Adobe Illustrator and play. After failure and frustration were achieved in vector form, I took a step back and decided to go to pencil and paper. Sometimes you have to just stop and start over instead of trying to force a square peg into a round hole – especially, when you’ve created an obscene amount of layers with no solution in sight.

Wikipedia
So much failure in vector form.

Once I recalibrated and created a new concept on paper, I felt a lot better about the possibilities. In 2018, I’ve pledged to do more pencil and paper work – not just for rough ideas, but drawing full concepts before opening Illustrator. With the Super Bowl 52 concept, I finished my idea and then analyzed it. I drew guides on the drawing, which helped me see how I would want to construct this on the computer. It is important to determine as much as possible before opening Illustrator. The drawing, with guides for construction, proportions, and angles, helped give me clarity before assembling the vectors.

The hardest part of designing these Super Bowl logos – actually, logos in general – is achieving something I feel like could even stand in the same room as those that have come before. I’m not comparing myself to other designers, positively or negatively. It’s about the work. It’s about creating something that has a worthwhile polish that will appreciated and accomplish the goal. I was constantly looking at the Super Bowl logos that have come before, while reviewing what I had done for 52. I arrived at something I felt comfortable enough showing to the public.

~b.

Creating A Logo To Recognize Outstanding Student Musicians

Few things excite me more in my position at Kappa Kappa Psi & Tau Beta Sigma National Headquarters than getting an e-mail asking me to design a new logo for a Fraternity or Sorority program or initiative. My love of designing logos is well documented at this point. So how do you think I responded to a request to re-design the Kappa Kappa Psi awards page with 10+ new logos?

Continue reading “Creating A Logo To Recognize Outstanding Student Musicians”

How To Create A Graphic Design Video Show With A Cool Name

In 2018, I embark on a new creative journey. Towards the end of 2017, I decided I wanted to produce more video content on a consistent basis. I began working on a new video series to premiere in 2018 called “Run The Layers”. Run The Layers is a show created because I thought it was a cool name and I love Adobe Illustrator (+ the entire Adobe Creative Cloud) and making logos. The purpose behind the show is to take the viewer on a journey on how designs are created. I want to break down all the layers, figurative and literal, within pieces of graphic design.

Continue reading “How To Create A Graphic Design Video Show With A Cool Name”