Evaluating Your Logotype

When I’m not drafting letterforms, manipulating beziers, writing kids books, or letterpressing on my Vandercook, I’m doing my best to help others find the same happiness and fulfillment that I’ve found in my work.
— Jessica Hische

While this post does contain affiliate links, all opinions and thoughts are my own!

One of my resolutions this year was to reinvest in my own design education. As I approach the five year mark of my freelance career, I’ve often considered the possibility of going back to grad school to get my masters in design. It’s common to get stuck producing the same kind of work, and I always felt that I was able to push myself better when I was a student. But then I started thinking about dealing with student loans, not being able to go at my own pace, the overwhelming time commitment, and the risk of not seeing a return on investment - it was enough to really discourage me from going back to school (still a long-term dream of mine, but maybe not a short-term reality.)

But then came Skillshare.

Initially, I had dismissed Skillshare as a platform that only provided entry-level courses on art and design. I figured that my undergraduate degree in graphic design and illustration was going to place me outside of their target demographic. But over the holidays, I went back to the platform, reopened my account, and started poking around to see what they had to offer. What I once considered a basic introduction has evolved into a powerhouse of information. From business and finance to entrepreneurship and freelancing, Skillshare offers more than just your average Illustrator tutorials.

And as a typography enthusiast, seeing courses taught by design icons Jessica Hische, Louise Fili, and Paula Scher is a major bonus. When I compared the cost of my ideal graduate programs ($40,000/year) with a Skillshare membership ($15/mo), and the ability to customize my “course load” to include information on personal finances, business analytics, marketing strategies, and entrepreneurship, it just seemed like the smartest choice for my current season in life.

So, in the spirit of transparency and accountability, I’m going to be sharing some of the lessons I learn throughout the year as I become a Skillshare student. And as a special offer for Drop Cap readers, Skillshare is offering two free months to test out all of their classes! So, if you want to follow along, click the link below and become a Skillshare student and follow along on my journey this year as I become a better designer, illustrator, and business owner.

Become a Skillshare Student

Lesson One

How to Evaluate Your Logotype

Obviously, I wanted to start off my Skillshare journey by taking the classes taught by my favorite designers and typography icons. This morning, I poured myself a cup of coffee, sat down with a fresh notebook, and started playing Jessica Hische’s course “Logotype Masterclass.” Most of our new inquiries for branding this year have included an element of custom typography, and I wanted to learn from the logotype queen herself about refining my process and becoming a better logotype designer.

A logotype is just the typographic part of your logo. Which means, you may have a monogram or illustrative icon above your logotype, but this course was specifically designed to focus on the type itself. Whether you’re considering a rebrand, or just want to evaluate how your logo is performing, here’s how to critique your logotype and make sure it’s working hard for your brand.

  1. Print out your logo.

    It’s really important to get off the screen, print out your logo as large as possible, and evaluate how it looks as a whole. Get out a ruler and pencil and start making notes as you go through the steps below.

  2. Pull up your website and social media.

    Not only does your logo need to work large-scale, you also should consider how it works in its smallest application, whether that’s in the footer of your website or your social media profile icon. Making sure that your logo is legible is imperative in having a recognizable brand logotype.

  3. Clarify your ideal audience.

    Not all logos are created equal. Before getting too far down the rabbit hole of evaluating your logotype, you should do a deep dive into your ideal client and what they would expect from your brand. Does your current logo match the overall experience of the rest of your business? Or is it creating a contradiction or split personality?

  4. Write out your brand goals.

    You may consider taking a large step back from the design of your brand to identify your overall brand goals. Has your business evolved over time? Has your audience, products, or offerings changed? Does your brand need to reflect the newest evolution of your business?

  5. Identify ten descriptive brand adjectives.

    I think it’s really helpful to write down ten strong and descriptive brand adjectives to use as a foundation when you critique your assets. Words like elegant, sophisticated, and refined will call for a much different logotype than words like playful, whimsical, and energized. Knowing the overall personality of your brand (beyond the design) will make for a more cohesive experience as a whole.

  6. Critique the overall look and feel.

    Now it’s time to take a closer look at your logotype. Does it match the overall look and feel of your brand? Does it represent your brand adjectives? Does it speak to your ideal audience? What does it remind you of? Are there any subtle themes or symbols?

  7. Is the hierarchy emphasizing the correct words.

    Next, check the hierarchy of your logo. By hierarchy, we’re mainly referring to scale and weight. If one word is larger or bolder than the others, it’s going to add emphasis. Make sure the correct words are being emphasizes to make your overall logotype easier to read.

  8. Is the shape balanced, flexible, and “locked in”

    Draw a box around your logo and take a look at the white space. Does it seem balanced and centered in the box? Are there any weird loops or spaces between letters that could be tightened up? Do the letters sit well together? How much space is required around your logo, and is that becoming a problem in your web layout or on social media?

  9. Check both extremes of the scale

    Now look at your logo again filling up all the space on an 8.5 x 11” sheet of printer paper. Also print it contained in a 1” square. Are you able to read the logo at both sizes? Do you need a monogram or mark for the smaller size? Do the letters look funky when printed large-scale?

  10. Look for Consistency

    Make note of anything that feels “off” even if you’re not sure why. Maybe it’s the spacing or size of the letters. Maybe there are some swashes or serifs that don’t match each other. If this part of your logo needs work, I definitely recommend watching Jessica’s videos while she goes through each design element to watch out for and explains what it looks like when it’s off.

If you’ve gone through this checklist and feel that your logo falls short, I’d strongly recommend watching Jessica Hische’s Logotype Masterclass on Skillshare. It took me about 2 hours to complete and I wrote three full pages of notes that I plan to use when designing, editing, and evaluating our client’s typography to make sure it meets all the requirements of a great logo.

Jessica explains design fundamentals like…

  • Letter Style Consistency

  • Baseline Alignment

  • Spacing

  • Letter Width, Height, and Weight

  • Stroke Angle & Pen Influence

  • Ascenders & Descenders

  • Ligatures, Swashes, and Ornamentation

Whether you’re planning on working with a designer to refine your brand, or want to give it a stab yourself, understanding what needs to change is a great way to begin the conversation with a designer and make sure it’s a productive experience. When you’re better able to understand the needs of your brand, you’re more likely to be satisfied with the end result of a branding project.

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If you are thinking about redesigning your logo, or joining me on the Skillshare journey this year, I’d love to hear your thoughts and opinions in the comments below!