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By Darlene
(from the Fall 1980 newsletter of the Wisconsin Calligraphers Guild)

Although calligraphy is separate from sign-painting, typography, and mechanical lettering, the serious calligrapher is bombarded with requests to do odd jobs, such as lettering on blueprints and architectural drawings, or making huge signs for grocery stores.  I was asked recently to undertake a sign for a gas station, 44" x 70".  Although the pay was tempting, I declined their offer, knowing I did not have the materials, the knowledge of paint & large brushes - nor the desire - to work that large. The poor calligrapher must assess his ability and materials before undertaking such tasks.  He must seriously ask himself what direction he means to lake in commercial calligraphy.
I, myself, find that I am leaning toward graphic design.  Relating calligraphic elements into the design of logo types is certainly challenging.  I am not an expert in this field; I've read no books to help me approach logo design.  This article means to relay my own thoughts and experiences concerning the nature of designing a logo.
A logo is some type of identifying mark used by companies, publications, and corporations.  Ideally, it will include the image of what the organization represents or manufactures.  A mark must also be adaptable to many applications and have the ability to be reproduced dearly at any scale. Simplicity, identity, and adaptability are the marks of a good logo.
As calligraphers, we must be aware of the possibilities of design.  I am intrigued as to the number of great calligraphers who are also great designers: type designers, graphic designers, book designers, etc.  We cannot dispute that design plays an important part in calligraphy.  Calligraphy without good design is like a Mercedes-Benz without gas; it's beautiful, but it doesn't go anywhere!  As calligraphers, we are designers of the page, relating and unifying elements into a pleasing whole.  So calligraphy needs design -- but does design (particularly graphic design) need calligraphy?
Calligraphers constantly fight an uphill battle for recognition in a society overrun with type.  We have to compete against computer typesetters which can squeeze type, elongate it, italicize it, lighten it, make it bolder, etc.  These machines can spew pages of type in a matter of minutes!  So how can we follow an act like that?  For one thing, we are human and that is working in our favor.  As calligraphers, we know letter-forms and how they relate to each other.  In most cases, the machine operators who program the typesetting computer know the mechanics of punching keys very well - but they don't know beans about letters.  But since calligraphy is so flexible, and since type was originally based on calligraphic forms, we can play the game in our own ball-park!
It is important to try to discover the purpose of the logo and how it is to be used.  It is helpful to assess why a client is pitching out his old trademark.  A short time ago, I spoke with the owners of a fine clothing shop whose logo featured an old fashioned lantern. They felt it was appropriate, as their store was built in the period when these lanterns were prominent, and their decor reflected this.  But when the owners proudly presented their business card and someone remarked, "Oh, you sell lighting fixtures!", it was time for a new logo.
Gather as much information as possible on the likes and dislikes of your client.  Assimilate the feelings they want expressed in a logo.  Perhaps they would like something splashy and attention-getting, as in "Tilly's Spicy Tacos", or maybe they would like to appear more subdued, "Gallant's Elegant Dining."  A logo can set the mood, tempo, and image of an organization.  Good design speaks.  Large firms understand that corporate identity is a major consideration in dealing with the public.  Their aim is to present an image/identity the consumer trusts.
Thus, graphic design must provide the means for instant and favorable recognition.  Next, determine the intended use of the logo.  Will it be decorative or functional?  An elaborate design with many clever convoluting and converging lines may be perfect for the letterhead of a textile company, but may be extremely inappropriate when reduced and stamped onto fabric as that company's identifying mark.  Also, a design which may look beautiful quite small may fall apart as a design when used on a billboard.  So size and use are very important factors.  It is always best to keep your designs simple, with clean, distinct lines. The design should sell itself.
As a designer, you must be flexible.  Don't insist on using historical letter forms because they are historical forms.  Imagine the reaction you may stir if you render "Sassafrass Sign Company" using the long 's'!  Not very many people understand that there were two historical 's's.  Unaccustomed, they would read, "Faffafraff Fign Company" and question your knowledge of spelling - but if you insist that this is correct, they will question your sanity.  So keep it simple - use letterforms which are not archaic.  If you must use a 5th century alphabet, please feel free to alter it toward legibility!  People are creatures of habit - they have been bombarded with mechanical type all their lives.  They think that good calligraphy is where every letter "a" is exactly like the next.  They have not known variety!  They cannot relate to the sensual curves of an uncial m or experience fully the grandeur of a Roman 'S'.  But they know what they don't like and they are obstinate about it!
As a training exercise, begin to notice what other people have done in terms of logo design.  Collect samples of outstanding logos and keep them in a file.  Then you can refer to them when you need to.  Develop an eye for spacing and notice what has been successful (or unsuccessful) with other logos.
On these pages you will find several examples of logo designs for TSR Hobbies, Inc., a game publishing company (of Dungeons and Dragons Fantasy adventures games fame).  The agreement was that I, along with two other artists, would render eight designs for a base fee.  TSR would have the option to decide which logo best represented their image from these submissions.  It was difficult.  Not only did I have to come up with eight wonderful logos, I had to compete against two other designers.
An illustration of a wizard accompanied their old logo.  It was a perfect example of a beautiful illustration becoming indistinguishable when reduced to a small size.  Along with many other applications, the logo would be used extensively on game box covers.  It would have to hold its own against multicolored backgrounds - it would have to be legible after extreme photographic reduction - it would have to be distinctive.
I began the task by looking.  I studied my logo file - I studied my calligraphic books and publications - I studied newspaper ads and shopping bags.  For two weeks I assimilated all this information in my mind.  Finally, the time came to get my feet wet - I was ready to begin.
When I design any logo, I begin by fastening two pencils together with two rubber bands.  For one thing, this loosens me up and I have to work larger.  It is better to work large, anyway.  The use of double pencils helps me see more clearly my branching strokes and serifs.  But more important, after I arrive at a pleasing calligraphic design, I "clean it up" with the use of a T-square and triangles.  I check to see that all lines that should be parallel are parallel, and I make sure all my angles are true.  It is easy to do in this pencil stage.
Using a straight edge where appropriate, I take a felt marker and outline the letters, and then fill them in.  Sometimes, this method takes the sparkle out of a design.  Then I must go back and decide what was lost. Perhaps the tension of two nearly parallel letters appeals to you.  The decision is yours....
To more adequately relate my thought processes in rendering these designs, I will discuss them in the order in which they were done.  The design of figure 1 is my favorite.  To me, it was distinctive and splashy.  Perhaps I like it because it was my first.  It is, however, definitely calligraphic in nature.  The horizontal design was important.  People relate better to horizontals than they do to verticals.  Horizontals mean solidity - ground - something to build on.  l concentrated mainly on the design of the letters themselves, and for these first few designs, built my logos on the strength of the letter forms.
Also most definitely calligraphic is figure 2.  Utilizing the pen angle. I extended the bottom of the T and the beard of the R into an enclosed form, then placed "The Game Wizards" lettering in a space which completed the box.  As a logo, it works very well.
In a more modern, mono-line approach appears figure 3.  Although this design was more "drawn" than calligraphed, it retains the 'life'' of calligraphy.  Figure 3 is, perhaps, the most successful as a design: the elements relate beautifully to each other.  The 'T' and the 'R' are the same height but the 'R' rides down on the same plane as the 'S'.  The cross of the 'T' echoes the bowl of the 'R', while the 'S' visually connects them.  This is by far the most complex of all the designs but it looks simple.  That is something to aim for.
In an attempt to free myself from the direction I had been taking, figure 4 appeared.  I built this design around the snail 'S' and delightfully played indiscriminately with thicks and thins.  After noticing the wonderful round shapes which were being formed, I outlined them in a border.  At first, I placed "The Game Wizards" wrapping around the 'S' but soon discovered how distracting that was.  I then moved it to the right of the 'R' where it would be noticeable, without calling attention to itself.
I began to become curious as to how my client would react to the Grand Roman Letter.  I utilized formal Roman Capitals with a formalized italic for figure 5.  It occurred to me at this point that I was halfway through my assignment and I had not yet included any illustration work with any of my designs.  Even though I felt strongly that a detailed drawing of a wizard was inappropriate, especially considering size limitations, I began experimenting with the type of drawing that would work.  I discovered that the head of a wizard would satisfy the need for a symbol and I could get quite detailed with it without compromising my feelings.  I spent a day drawing heads.  Finally, after being satisfied with one, I began to reline and simplify the lines of a profile.  Fitting him into a circle motif helped.  And he didn't mind being placed next to the Roman Capitals, so I left him and went on to another design.

Since the wizard worked so well in a circle, I thought I would place TSR in one as well (figure 6).  Again, it was a take-off on the Roman capitals, but I decided to set it off by placing '"The Game Wizards" on a black ground with white lettering.  As a box logo design for packaged games, I felt this was the most flexible in terms of being small.  Like an emblem, I felt the circle carried prestige.
At this point, I felt the need to alter my thinking and move away from the direction I had been working.  Since I felt that one of the six designs I'd already completed would be chosen anyhow (preferably my favorite), I experimented with a style I do not normally use (figure 7).  Here, I put more design effort into "The Game Wizards"' than I did with the lower-case TSR because up to then, I hadn't really designed the phrase.  I was particularly pleased with the connecting stroke of the 'a's and how the 'r' fit with the 'd'.

I returned to the double pencils for the last of the eight designs.  Noting how the second bowl of the 'S' and 'R' fit together, I designed a vertical TSR.  Double-checking my angles, I decided to outline these letters to show how they related to each other.  By placing "The Game Wizards" flush right, the feeling of a box becomes apparent.  This design, I felt, would be perfect for a business card application although perhaps inappropriate for other uses.

Thus, I had completed eight designs.  Next, I had to present them in a meaningful fashion to TSR.  Since the original logos were quite large in nature, I had to go to a printer and photographically reduce them to see if the letters could be legible at a small scale.  I also asked the printer to 'reverse' the designs.  In other words, black lettering on white paper became white lettering on black ground.
I spent a great deal of time and expense on my presentation.  Since I wanted each one of my designs to be considered equally, I mounted them on illustration board individually with the reversed counterpart next to it.  In this way, it is readily seen how the design handles reduction and reverses.  After mounting them, I placed a protective sheet of paper over the design which was fastened to the illustration board.  This was to insure against smudges and dirt.  Remember, consider presentation with anything you do.  If you feel your work is good enough to treat respectfully, chances are that other people will respect it also.
The other two artists did very compelling and complex designs.  Some were gargoyles, some were dragons and bats, while other designs were pentagrams and wizards.  The letters "TSR" twisted around each other in various clever ways.  Although I knew a lot of thought and hard hours were put into these fantastic renditions, I also knew they lacked the clarity and easy recognition which TSR deserved.  Since I had taken a different direction in my logo presentation than the other two artists, I was invited to attend the "choosing of the logo" session.  TSR's Art Director was in sympathy with my feelings about illustration and felt I should participate in the meeting.  After l explained my approach to the assignment, I presented my designs.
I was most impressed with how short it took to discard designs.  Most logos were rejected after 1 to 5 seconds of consideration.  And anything which was vaguely associated with something they had seen before, they rejected almost instantly.  Logos which held their attention after 15 seconds usually were placed in a "let's consider this later" pile.
They discarded immediately my last three designs.  The circle of figure 6 reminded them of a railroad logo. The other two did not draw much comment.  They also rejected figure 4 as too commonplace.  Apparently, they had seen the motif before.  Similar logos have been utilized as radio call letters.  The other half of my "precious" designs were saved... for the time being.
Apparently very aware of their image as a non-occult game publishing company, they rejected any symbols which could be associated with the occult, such as gargoyles and pentagrams.  (Remember, it is good to know the likes and dislikes of your client).  They then discarded all drawings that did not use a wizard.  I remember that a wonderful streamlined TSR with a bat hovering over the lettering reminded someone of "Transylvania Railways"... it was discarded with a chuckle.
Good presentation is a key to success.  One artist had all his designs together on one sheet.  The logos were not really considered separately.  Every design interfered with all the others.  Since the presentation was confusing to the eye, this confusion unconsciously weakened the impact of each logo design.  In a gesture, one artist no longer competed.
The small reverses accompanying my own presentation helped remarkably in the staying power of my logos.  Even so, two more designs were dismissed:  Figure 3 was too modern, and my favorite, figure 1, was not distinctive enough.  After twenty minutes, only two logos survived: my own figure 2 and figure 5. The Roman caps were thought to be too plain, but they liked the wizard in the circle. They also liked the enclosed space figure 2 had to offer and regretted that the wizard could not be utilized next to the box.  Knowing that particular design to be very flexible, I was quick to mention that the boxed form would be extended to accommodate the wizard.  Figure 9 is the selected compromise between the two designs.

The experience of logo design can be frustrating, intimidating, challenging, and very rewarding.  I meant only to share an experience with you, so that you, as calligraphers, can better understand the processes of logo design.  To quickly highlight the important points of this article:

Please note that this happy ending is a result of many not-so-happy endings.  Logo design, like calligraphy, is the result of a lot of hard work, dedication, and mistakes.

Thanks to forum member misterspock for this article and the logo examples.

To see Jim Roslof's submissions for the TSR Face logo, click here.

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