Tips and Advice

How to design an iconic logo

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a logo must be priceless. Designing them can be more than a little tricky, so we asked Anthony Zart, the Ohio-based graphic designer responsible for the logo behind the Bueno Productions Ghostbusters documentary, to give us the tricks of the trade. He tells us how he got the job, how he tackled the project and shares a few pearls of wisdom on how to design an iconic logo of your own.

how to design an iconic logo Anthony Zart photo with all his logos designs

Hello, Anthony! Tell us a little bit about yourself
Well, after dancing with the devil in the pale moon light, I realized there was likely an easier way to make a living. Creative interests led me to art school where I acquired a substantial and invaluable amount of debt. Baptized by fire in the real world, I found myself making hay as a graphic designer and have been functioning as one for over a decade now. In my non-existent free time, I walk my big dumb dog, play big drums in a dumb band, screen print big dumb posters, and draw kids’ books that are just dumb.

How did you become involved with the CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN: Remembering Ghostbusters project?
Years ago, before I weened myself off Facebook, I followed a number of Ghostbusters outfits in the hope of getting any scrap of new movie news (this was of course before the big GB deluge this past year). On one of those pages, someone was promoting an upcoming documentary. I saw the initial graphic work and was immediately overrun with ideas on how to add to it. I wrote to Anthony (Bueno) and merely asked if he “wanted a hand with anything?” I think I offered to do a poster for them. As luck would have it—he did. We started reworking the main graphic brand within a couple of days.

how to design an iconic logo tips for getting ghostbusters logo success

What’s the creative process you usually go through when designing a logo for a client?
Typically when designing a logo it’s best to first ask as many questions as possible; to really get a feel for what direction/style the client wants to go. The biggest question being what elements will best help convey this project’s story and voice? With Cleanin’ Up the Town, there was already a general direction, as it was about Ghostbusters.

Being part of the fanatics, I/we knew there were nuances of the movie’s visuals that offered a variety of avenues to take the tone of CUTT’s “branding”. It was really about selecting the best direction that would not just say “Ghostbusters” but also hit that nostalgic note. It was decided that the look needed to zero-in on what it meant to young and in love with these movies. What struck that chord? Really it all came down to the logo.

You were handling some pretty iconic, well-loved imagery while working on CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN: Remembering Ghostbusters. Were you wary of how people would react to any creative license you took with it? Trying to transform something that’s so culturally ingrained, so instantly recognizable, is a gamble. When it came to repurposing the logos, I definitely had reservations about tampering with marks that were already incredibly sound—especially the first one. Too often you see something reworked or personally tailored and it offends rather than attracts. But there was something usable in the fact that the logo was that recognizable.

I used to teach design at one point, and as an exercise, I would show shapes and marks on screen to see what they called to mind for the students. Being the GB nut that I am, I put in a sequence of images that went as follows: red “O” on a white background; red “O” on black background; red “ø” on black; red “ø” with white center on black. Typically by the third slide, even before the white suggestion in the center, students identified the red “ø” on black as Ghostbusters. This is what got me thinking. I couldn’t over simplify or omit the red “no” symbol and reducing the detail on the “ghosts” had already been done. Plus, we needed a mark that spoke equally to both films. Could they be combined though? I realized quickly enough I could use the “no” symbol to crop and highlight the best pieces of recognizable information without sacrificing too much.

In the end it worked out rather nicely because the final symbol had the same balance of white, red and black, the same recognition factor—yet for both films—all the while conveying this was something different than the movies themselves. Anthony was certainly happy with the new mark and to my knowledge no one’s complained.

As a creative person, did you find it frustrating or helpful to have so many of the design elements (like font, colour palette etc.) already in place?
Pre-existing elements can definitely be as limiting as they are liberating. And I say that very sincerely. In some instances a project will surface with endless possibilities and ideas—not a bad thing—but it can be dangerous when you have no restrictions…and a deadline. You can find yourself sitting there with a 1,000 great, vastly different ideas and no direction. Indecision and divided interest can really hamper the process.

In some cases, limitation gets some of the pesky small details out of the way and forces you to address the bigger problem. I prefer to set boundaries on color, text, format; it clears the “working area” and you make do with what you have. I liken it to a huge box of crayons. Dump them all out, you might spend a while picking which color to work with first. Whereas if you want to draw and find one crayon lying around, you immediately start drawing; you’re not thinking about what color it is.

In the case of CUTT, I had some pre-set elements. For example; I didn’t have to worry about which Pantone Red was the most 80’s nostalgic—it existed already. With some of those decisions already made, it allowed me to focus on refining them to truly convey the nature of the doc, which ultimately was the real challenge. Aside from the color, marks and typography, I culled greatly from the original VHS box. To me, that red border and bold type went straight to my 80’s nerve. It called to mind that excitement of holding a copy of your favorite film in your hand. It was yours like you felt it was. This translated directly to the documentary. We remember it so fondly and get to learn so much more about it. This is also why I chose to “age” the look of the graphics. They are whole and intact, but certainly worn—not from abuse, but reverie. In a sense, this is a something we have “picked up” fondly a 1,000 times. But it’s not. It’s something else. People will be “opening” a hundred persons’ account of what they remember.

Your design needed to work across a range of mediums, from print through to online graphic design and also DVD cases. How do you create something that translates fluidly through all those mediums?
Having graphics that translate across different media is primarily about knowing they will need to from the start. I knew as we developed these visuals that the mark needed to stand alone, work with its title and subtitle, and have flexible arrangements/pairings for various needs. Each element remained separate so it could be arranged as need.

How to design an iconic logo: Anthony Zart and Ghostbusters Logo

The Bueno Productions team rely on social media to help spread the word on their project. What’s the secret to a successful piece of social sharing design?
Once again, it all boiled down to the recognition factor. Social media content is rapidly digested. You have the click of a mouse or swipe of a finger to get someone’s attention. Having the mark, I feel, really allowed us to catch people’s eye as it was at first an instantly recognizable shape but also just different enough that would make them consider it for longer. Within that timeframe of asking “why’s this different” they would then see the post and realize this is GB related but not direct. It’s about something they know but haven’t seen yet. This is perhaps even secondary to the fact that the sheer wealth of material the Bueno Team has assembled is staggering. Some of the visuals they’ve released to tease supporters have never been seen before. The promise of such a wealth of material for a Ghostbusters almost doesn’t need a logo to go with it. You tweet test footage of Dan Aykroyd in a jumpsuit? Most diehards are going.

Regrettably, I think it’s all worth mentioning the context of which the campaign is being released. I believe it it’s both a blessing and a curse to have the documentary get its due at this time. With the advent of the 2016 movie, we are amidst a PKE surge (Ghostbuster jargon) akin to the fervor of the 80s, perhaps more so given the boost of social media. In that, we are incredibly lucky to “Ghostbusters” on the tip of everyone’s tongue/hashtag. The curse is of course due to the negative reactions the new film is garnering. The Ghostbusters name which was once a gold standard, is starting to tarnish in the hands of internet trolls, outraged with the new instead of being mollified with the familiar. The blessing in disguise of that is the CUTT documentary is in a way providing fans with what they are clamoring for—more of the Ghostbusters they know. I only say “regrettably” because I don’t think anyone working on this documentary would like to leg up on any negativity, nor was that the intent of its development. The doc was created from a place of passion and vested interest in those films; during a time when we were all looking for more Ghostbusters in our lives. Again, that’s how I found this project in the first place!

Say hi to Anthony on Twitter, check out his portfolio on Tumblr or stop by the CLEANIN’ UP THE TOWN: Remembering Ghostbusters homepage for more details on the project. Also, check out our Quiz Guess the Logo for more fun!

About the author

Emma-Lee’s the resident wordsmith and Content Editor, well versed in all things grammar. If she’s not clattering away at her keyboard, you’ll find her hitting the asphalt – or putting her extensive Eurovision knowledge to the test at the local pub quiz.

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5 comments on “How to design an iconic logo

  1. John on

    If you’re looking for a logo, consider crowd sourcing it using a service like Design Crowd – they did a fantastic job for our logo!

    Reply
  2. Andrew on

    Questionnaire before a logo project is essential. Gets the designer and the client on the same page from day one.

    Reply

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