The do’s and don’ts of using logo grids

Rebecca Creger

Logo grid systems, construction guides and circles can be a very powerful technique for creating logo designs and conveying the value of a logo design to clients. But not everyone is successful at using them, and they don’t alway add value to a logo design.

Logo grids are only one type of design technique, and aren’t necessary for every design project. Here, we’ll go over the do’s an don’ts of using logo construction guides:

Do: Create an entire design identity using relevant grid systems and geometric shapes from day 1.


Jewish Museum Logo Animation from Sagmeister & Walsh on Vimeo.

Sagmeister & Walsh’s identity design for the Jewish Museum in New York is a great example of a grid system that makes a logo design successful. They created the entire brand identity based on the grid system of the Star of David symbol, and the result was a unified and striking visual identity.

By using a logo construction guide, their designs evoked the past and introduced a fresh, modern look to the museum’s brand.

Don’t: Over-rationalize every single line of your logo with “mathematical” grids, empty metrics and imaginary geometry.

To create Yahoo’s 2013 logo rebrand, CEO Marissa Mayer and their in-house design team used a “mathematical” blueprint as a logo construction guide. They released the video above to explain their precise design process, and to point out “some of what was cool/mathematical” in the design.

When it came to the exclamation point, Mayer states that “our last move was to tilt the exclamation point by 9 degrees, just to add a bit of whimsy.” These mathematical explanations weren’t convincing to some, and the design was widely criticized. Many in the design industry called it’s “mathematical” qualities nothing more than baloney. This is an example of when using “mathematical consistency” doesn’t necessarily result in a better design.

Do: Use a grid as a guide to create a timeless logo

ShellGrid

Raymond Loewy’s logo design for Shell Oil used a logo construction guide as a guide to create an iconic design that hasn’t changed much since 1971. Not every line of the logo matches the grid exactly, but the grid is clearly an integral part of the design, which was more powerful and recognizable than the previous logo designs.

To learn more about the design process behind the Shell logo, find a copy of Design Basics.

Don’t: Apply mathematical ratios to a logo where they don’t exist.

Apple

This widely circulated logo construction guide was not used to create the Apple logo, but has been used by some to explain the timeless appeal of the design.

This graphic claims that the Apple logo is a good design because it’s composed of perfect circles and follows the Fibonacci sequence and golden ratio. This claim has been soundly debunked by several mathematicians and designers, and if you look closely you can see that the lines of the apple do not adhere to strict geometry, and that the numbers do no add up to the golden ratio.

It’s only natural to want to quantify good design down to geometry and numbers, and it would be awesome if there was a magical mathematical formula we could use to create perfect logo designs. But perfect geometry doesn’t always appeal to the human eye, and one could argue that the apple logo is successful because it’s not geometrically precise.

Do: Use grids and geometric shapes to add polish and symmetry to your design

99D alap

This elegant winning logo design uses a construction guide to great effect, and was a finalist in this September’s Top 9 at 99designs. To create their design for the “All Day Ruckoff” logo contest, designer Kaelgrafi used a construction guide to achieve symmetry and maintain consistent spatial relationships between each line and curve of his design.

Perfect circles were used to create the corners of each shape, and it’s clear that the designer made a refined sketch of the design beforehand and polished it up in a vector program. This is a successful example of using a grid and basic geometric shapes to create a compelling and professional-looking design.

Don’t: Use construction grids to make a weak design look stronger to a client

butterflygrid

Here, we’ve created a design that’s an example of when a logo construction guide does not add any value to the design. All elements were added later to make it seem like a the designer put a lot of though into the logo, and they weren’t actually used to create the design.

Conclusion

If you choose to use use a construction guide in your logo design process, make sure that it has meaning and actually enhances your design instead of distracting from it.

Have you seen any good or bad logo construction guides lately? Share in the comments!

The author

Rebecca Creger
Rebecca Creger

Rebecca was born and raised in the Bay Area, where she currently lives. She has a BFA in Design with a Visual Communications emphasis from UC Davis. Her passions include travel, design, pasta, and hanging out with her Beagle, Spud.

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