Mother Goose Learning Center

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When I was a young design student, I had a class assignment to develop a logo for a fake product whose name was something like "White Night Sugar". I remember I created three rough pencil treatments for the project. Two were pretty simple, mostly type-dependent treatments, and the third was a fairly elaborate rendering of a knight on horseback. I was pretty impressed with myself - as I recall, it was a decent rendering, though very detailed.

My teacher walked around the room critiquing the designs, and helping us select which one to move forward with to a complete design. He looked at my three treatments, complimented me on the rendering of the knight drawing, but told me it was "too illustrative" and suggested I pick one of the other two simpler pieces to follow through on.

I was a little pissed - I was a Graphic Design Major with an Illustration Specialization, so I could draw better than most of my classmates, and I suppose I enjoyed projects where I could use that skill. Over time, though, I realized I was creating overly complex logo designs, and I needed to tame that instinct. I don't have that knight logo project anymore, but I'm sure if I saw it today, I'd agree with my teacher completely. I feel as strongly now as he did then, that a logo should convey a concept with a minimum amount of detail - the more shapes, colors, text and complexity you add, the piece begins looking less like a corporate identity and the more like an illustration - and the more difficult it becomes to reproduce on different media (clothing, signage) and at small sizes (business cards, websites).

That brings me to this project, a logo design for a preschool childcare facility. I didn't work directly with the client - this was another agency-driven project. The agency came to me because the client specifically wanted an elegant, illustration-dependent logo. But now, being gunshy about such things, I tend to push too far in the opposite direction in trying to keep things simple and stripped down. I submitted three concepts total, and the other two were much simpler, but this is the one the client chose. And I'm okay with it, despite the fact that it's a pretty detailed goose - the colors are limited, the shapes, though realistic, are still pretty simple - it was a nice compromise.

Detail of the logo. Just two colors - but I used tints
of those colors, for maximum effect.

And speaking of the colors, I did something here that I tend to do often - I used only two colors, but I used tints those colors as well. This is an old-school offset printing-based technique for saving money in printing, since if you're printing a logo (let's say it's a pear image with text next to it) in two colors (black and green), and you wanted to include a lighter green (for a highlight), you could still get away with using those two spot colors - you'd just print the highlight as a percent of the green. However, it's very doubtful my client here would ever print their logo, especially using spot colors (they'd probably just go process, as in CMYK printing) - but I still use the tint technique to limit the colors, thereby unifying the design. Now you know - please don't go stealing my secrets.

An aside: for those of you who don't know (and who might care) - and this is real design/color theory nerdiness - here's the proper use of the terms "tint", "shade", and "tone":

tint: when you add white to a basic hue, lightening it
shade: when you add black, darkening the hue
tone: when you add both black and white (or, of course, gray) to a hue, desaturating it

So you see, when people say they like different "shades" of a color, they typically mean variations in the hue - which isn't technically accurate. But if you go around explaining, "Actually, a shade is adding black to a hue", they may punch you in the nose, so don't try it. I don't want to get in trouble. I've already had my own altercations concerning color theory, and I don't want to go through that again.

The only sticking point on this logo was the hat - after doing some research on traditional images of Mother Goose, I first had a bonnet on her - but the client thought it looked too old fashioned. We then went with a wide-brimmed straw hat, but that didn't look right, either, so I found a picture of this hybrid bonnet-hat style, rendered it, and the client was pleased. I didn't consider myself a hero; I was only doing my job.

The alternate bonnets - the first one in an earlier
color scheme, deemed too masculine - also sans
tinted highlights.

And that was the end of my involvement - I submitted the logo and the client was reportedly pleased. My wife saw the logo recently (I think it was online) and went crazy, screaming, "That's your work, my husband! I am so proud that I married you!" And then she baked me a blueberry pie. Not really. I wish that's what happened, though - maybe someday my logo work will earn me pie.