Logo design sketches that don’t work

A friend wants to set up his own graphic design business here in the UK. The proposed name is Five 54, representing the degrees of longitude and latitude where my friend was born. He thought it’d have a nice personal meaning to the otherwise impersonal name.

Here are some rough sketches to give a look at the start of my design process.

Logo design sketches

Logo design sketches

Logo design sketches

Logo design sketches

They all tie in with the lines of longitude and latitude, and some use the circular symbol for degrees, but there’s no option that stands-out, no real idea.

Iconic logo designers might come up with 10 usable ideas after an hour sketching, but after a similar length of time it’s back to the drawing board for me.

Richard at Ace Jet 170 recently posted an article about how rough layouts sell the idea better than polished ones, and take a lot less time, too. Slightly off-topic, Richard also has a hardcore collection of Pelican Books — worth a look.

If you want to see an example of how sketching helps you arrive at a great idea then take a look at the process behind smashLAB’s Sinkit logo.

It’s not important how good you are at sketching. What is important is that you use a notepad to churn out as many ideas as possible before using a computer.

33 responses

  1. I absolutely love looking at design sketches (of any type). While I only pretend to be an amateur graphic designer, we utilize a lot of rough sketching in my line of work (structural design) as well. And although it is rarely artistic in nature, it’s almost without fail the easiest way to transmit an idea or scheme.

    I don’t know of any sites that show logo design sketches. But occasionally you find a blog or other little gem with a peek at some intermediate step in the process.

    It sometimes takes a bit of cojones to post your rough work too. I’ve been involved in a few open-sourcey graphic and logo design activities lately. I posted a couple of sketchy things (not logos per se) but ideas in relation to sketching and inkscape here and here. But I’m no great artist by any stretch.

    Lately I’ve been submitting some entries for the xmms2 logo contest. Your post has given me some impetus to post a few of my concept sketches on my blog.

  2. Funnily enough, I was looking at that Sinkit logo this morning. It is brilliant isn’t it. I hadn’t seen the sketches though. I totally agree with your remark about the anticipation; there’s real tention there.

    Big thanks for mentioning Ace Jet by the way.

  3. awesome – real life experimentation. Seeing the processes behind the finished product always brings additional insight.

    I like the idea of superimposing the 4 and 5 but I don’t see any that really pop. Most of those are difficult to interpret quickly. Logically speaking you’d think playing up the long/latitude motif would be the right path.

    15-19 have a definite studio or salon appeal and would make good signage for a brick and mortar establishment.

  4. Quite enjoyable to see the process. I think I would have had a hard time understanding the point of the logo if you did not mention the idea behind it, though I do like some of the designs very much. I thought your handwriting was going to be better. ;)

  5. See the cool thing about reading all these graphic design blogs, like yours here, is we can all relate to each other because we’re all designers. Your explanation about the tedious process behind designing a logo is spot on. Recently I’ve been trying to come up with a logo for a local hair salon here, and lemme tell you… I’m in the same boat as you. After pages and pages and countless sketches later, I too need to go back to the drawing board… again :(

    Oh and here’s a quote… “I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying.” (Michael Jordan)

  6. ilker, there may be a set of final drafts coming up soon. If so I’ll let you have a look.

    Nice sketches Richard Q! Thanks for linking to those. Drawing, as with most things, is practice. I used to take a few art classes but my skills have subsided since then.

    Richard, that is a coincidence. The people at smashLABs contacted me recently about their ‘design can change’ project, which brought them back to my attention.

    TPB, glad you liked seeing some sketching. I might dig up the sketches behind my personal logo (of which there are many, many more).

    Beth Ellen, yeah, my handwriting is nothing special, although I do write to my grandparents from time to time, using a more flowing italic joint writing. It’s nicer to look at but not very usable for logo designs. ;)

    PG, I’d love to take a look at the sketches you’ve gone though if you ever want some feedback. Is your quote for the reader submitted section below?

  7. It’s all too rare that we actually get to see the evolution of a logo. Many entrepreneurs have NO idea how a simple concept that may not be so great, can evolve into something memorable and useful…. especially if they only see the final 2-3 mock-ups from their designer. Great post!

  8. Sketching the ideas out are always good before going to the computer. Our teachers have us do thumbnails before anything else. I’ve always hated doing them, but I have realized it becomes A LOT easier to create the designs if you sketch them out first than if you go right to the computer.

  9. Every time I design a logo, I end up thinking “what ever made me think I could be a designer?” It takes me so long to come up with a concept sometimes, so it’s really, really comforting to see that other designers go through the same thing. Thanks for sharing your process- I really enjoy these posts.

  10. David,

    Per the end of my previous comment, I’ve gone and done it. ‘It’ being posting some sketched out ideas for a logo submission contest on my blog.

    While likely not a source of great design inspiration, it might encourage more talented people to do the same.

  11. Good post. Very insightful – I must admit I hadn’t thought much about this. Lucky I’m not designer – if I am one day (would like to be) then I’ll keep this in mind. Cheers!

  12. Thanks for sharing the process.

    Cannot help but notice that perhaps you were subliminally channeling the great old Studio 54 logo!

    Love your work.


  13. I’m feeling number 21 (though I know nothing of the company).

    Im getting the impression these letterforms are laid on a grid. The five might be to the 54th power, or they might be city blocks.

    either way, a playful way of exploring the letterforms.

    You might consider a skewed aspect to give the letters and numbers dimensionality, as though they were on opposing planes, and to break away from the seemingly arbitrary idea that they must convey coordinates. Also, assuming you start looking into type choices, varying the word “five” from the “54” could yield interesting results.

    at this stage in the process, I find it useful to port over ideas to the computer, though seasoned designers discourage that in general, it seems. but hey, i was weaned on the computer, and im much more divergent with a mouse than a pencil (sure, all the young designers say that, but i swear on it =) )

  14. Hey, I have a question, how do you go about turning sketches into artwork on the computer? I am an amateur designer, who has a couple of people who like what I draw, but I have always been a strictly pencil and paper kind of person. I honestly don’t know how to translate what I can put on a piece of paper to what you would see in a proof. I have a client who really likes a sketch I made of a potential label for her skin care line, but I don’t really have the slightest clue how to turn it into something submittable. I am not a computer illiterate. I have Photo Shop and use it to touch drawings up occasionally, but I don’t know how to truly create something on it.

  15. Patrick,

    Many thanks for leaving your thoughts. You posted them on the day I left for holidays, hence the late reply.

    I might pick this project up at some point soon, so I appreciate you commenting.


    The software you need to recreate logos in digital format is Adobe Illustrator. You’ll find that all professional designers use it often.

    Let me know if you have any other questions you think I can help with.

  16. I have a real estate company in Costa Rica and we are looking for a logo our company name is Latitude 8 Realty which of course this is where we are located. Would it possible for you to submit ideas and please let me know the price for creating a logo for us. I truely understand there is a art to this this is not my business real estate is. Thanks Sue

  17. Hello Sue,

    Please take a look at my logo design questionnaire, found here (update: no longer available).

    When you answer my questions I can reply with a quote for logo design.

  18. Absolutely scintillating David! Over the period of time I have grown to be an ardent fan of your works and continue to be ga-ga over your designs and articles hitherto! Commendable set of achievements your site has, really appreciable! 3 cheers for your hard work and talent :):):)! Even I’m quite lined in the logo/graphic design pathway and I must say I’m in the learning stage ( I’m 17 for now), and I shall not hesitate to assert that your site has been of incredible value to my learning about significant “must-dos” in the space of logo/graphic design. Once again, congratulations for putting up such an appreciable learning and an exceptionally crafted resource!

  19. Veerender,

    Thanks for your very kind words. I’m glad to know the content here has been of help, and I sincerely wish you all the best with your graphic design career.

    Drop me a message if you think there’s ever anything I can help with.

  20. Any word on final sketches or a logo?

    I absolutely love looking at other designer’s sketch books. I go through mine from time to time and say… “Wow, I can’t believe they didn’t LOVE that one…”

    PS: Your work is awesome.


  21. Nice to see the failed sketches. I know it’s frustrating sometimes trying to come up with a design. Usually if you just keep at it, something evolves. I liked this article. Thanks. So…how did the logo turn out anyway? (or did you post it and I’m just not seeing it)

  22. Another cool post.. this is reassuring – as I too am a firm believer in rough sketches at the preliminary stages of logo design. I’ve seen elsewhere that designers try to refrain from this. Their argument being that clients will not always be able to fully conceptualize the sketch – I on the other hand disagree. Sketches are great step towards project collaboration.

  23. Derek,

    Nothing was ever completed with this one, but I reckon I’ll return to it at some point, if only for a personal project.


    My clients don’t usually see sketches until a sample is published in my portfolio. The reason being that it can hinder the process if too many options are presented.

    Thanks to you both for visiting.

  24. Whether the final solution ends up being soley typographic or includes and illustration every logo needs to start with an idea that is worked out with a pen/pencil and paper. Thanks for the great illustartion of the value of the idea and sketching.

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