Personally, logo design is my favorite neighborhood within the bustling metropolis of graphic design. It is the creation of marks that can represent everything from entire countries to your favorite local restaurant. The world would be a bland, uninteresting, and potentially confusing place without logos. The design of such important visual markers is a big part of my work and the end result of some of my greatest mental adventures.
Looking at the some of the best athlete visual brands and finishing the latest season of Luke Cage on Netflix inspired me to create a new brand identity project series: #HeroesAreAthletes. As a logo & brand identity designer, I am always coming up with ways to practice and get better at my craft. I’m also in the creative place in my life where, if I think it’s cool, I’m going to try it.
#HeroesAreAthletes is a design series where I put together a visual brand concept for fictional characters that are considered heroes of their fictional story. At least at first, I’m going to be focusing on comic book heroes. The logo for the series itself plays off comic books. The logo is inspired by the top left corner of comic books, where publishers typically feature the company’s logo, the price of the book, and the number of the issue. I designed the logo with the official Creative Bobbie logo at the top, “Heroes Are Athletes” text in the center, and a simplified cape tail with a star.
The first brand concept I tackled was for the bulletproof hero for hire, the power man Luke Cage. Using other athlete brands as inspiration, I wanted to create something that used the least to represent the most. Luke Cage was sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. He gains the powers of superhuman strength and unbreakable skin through an experimental procedure he was subjected to involuntarily. He now uses his powers to protect Harlem. My logo concept speaks to who he is and his story.
The logo is created on a 6×8 grid. In the United States, prison cells are usually about 6 by 8 feet in dimension. His initials LC are both seen. The overall shape refers to his real first name: Carl. The top right can also be interpreted as a closed fist from the front. (The intro to the Luke Cage series sees him punch at the camera.) I went with a blocked, heavy logo that speaks to his power. The colors are inspired by the Netflix show’s branding and his initial appearance in Marvel Comics.
After arriving at a logo I liked, I began seeing how I could apply and extend his brand. I created a full brand presentation with hoodie mockups, a shoe design concept, and even coffee packaging design. “Getting coffee” is a recurring joke within the show. I also included his catchphrase “Sweet Christmas” throughout.
The next hero to get the branding treatment was Misty Knight. Misty is one of my favorite characters on the show. She’s been through a lot and maintained her strength through it all. She deserves a great visual brand identity. Misty is an outstanding police detective in the New York City Police Department who often teams up with Luke Cage. After going through many possiblities, I arrived at her logo. Obviously, I combined her initials M and K. The disconnected left side of the M represents Misty’s bionic arm. The left side of the M is actually a sword, a common weapon of knight – a play on her last name. The circle surrounding the mark is left over from my initial plan to incorporate a basketball reference some how, as Misty has a background as a basketball player. The colors were chosen from her and her bionic arm using the eyedropper tool in Adobe Photoshop.
This whole project is another example of finding the joy in the intersection of what I do to what I like/love. I’m going to continue this journey with other heroes I feel I can make a visual brand concept for. What heroes should I do next?
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.
On my About Me page, I mention how I started down the path of graphic design. I didn’t always use or even know about Adobe programs. My chapter brother and mentor Shaun Harrison, the visionary behind Supernerd, introduced me to the power of the Adobe Creative Suite (now the Adobe Creative Cloud). It took me awhile to realize the wealth of options I had. I started as strictly a Photoshop user. Once I learned about the difference between raster and vector images, I opened my mind to the idea of using Illustrator. Since then, my vector dreams have taken me on quite a fulfilling journey.
In 2017, Adobe Illustrator celebrates 30 years of existence. It is my favorite program to use and one I greatly appreciate. What better way to show my appreciation than to create and share a series of logos I made in the program.
I’ve talked about simple looking logos making lasting impressions. A way to make a great impression visually is to understand and utilize the power of negative space.
Currently showcased in my portfolio is a visual brand identity project known as HOTEL REIGN. The project taught me, as each one does, just how involved and all-inclusive the term “brand” really is.
When I am approached to create a visual identity for a brand, I must first research the market it resides in. Each market, each type of business, comes with its own challenges, goals, and requirements. The hotel and hospitality market is particularly interesting to me because of the service and experience it provides for people. Hotels across the country invest a lot in their visual brand. The reasoning behind their investment speaks to the essence of “branding” itself. You can apply these general concepts/goals to your creative work, regardless of area of focus.
With my 32nd birthday coming up, I decided to do something for the occasion. From June 9th through July 10th, I am designing and posting a new logo on my Instagram. I’ve done a few daily projects and have learned that they force me to practice my craft and help build discipline. The more I work, the more I learn.