Molly Adair


Draw or Die: Designing a Logo in 30 Minutes

Earlier today, a friend passed along a link to a logo competition. With the kind (and motivating) encouragement of "You'd kick ass at this", I checked it out only to discover that the logo was due at midnight UTC. One quick Google search later -- I'm hopelessly terrible at time zones -- I realized I had about four hours. And the clock was ticking. 

Usually, my logo design process is dragged out over a few days or weeks - I spend some time researching the brand, sketching out ideas, creating digital sketches of the best ideas, iterate, etc. All along I get feedback from clients. But with a last-minute work project and time restrictions for other evening commitments, I would have approximately 30 minutes. 

I decided: why not? (I also knew I would have to do my 100 Day Project drawing at some point and may as well take a shot at winning $500.)

So at 6:40 pm, I pulled out the pen and paper.

Step One: Read the Brief. Skim Everything Else.

I learned a few key things, but not much: Creative Commons would be hosting a Global Summit in Seoul, South Korea in October 2015. CC boasts iconic branding and that they're okay with artists varying it for specific purposes. I learned that the summit would bring many people together in one place for discussions. I didn't read much more than that (and, admittedly, I didn't fully read the articles.) 

At this point, I also took a peek at some of the other submissions. A quick glance led me to believe that a lot of people were incorporating the South Korean flag, a lot of typography, and full text. I knew that flat design would stand out among this crowd and that designing with all the possible uses in mind would bode well with the CC judges - many of the submissions were not optimized for web, t-shirt AND print.

Biggest takeaway: I was only 80% sure I knew what Creative Commons does and I should go with relatively flat design. Now on to sketching!

Step Two: Sketching & Bad Ideas


An odd habit of mine is to always start by writing down key words from a brief or related to the case. So down went "Creative Commons, Global Summit 2015, Seoul, S Korea, Oct 2015" (with a terrible S for Seoul.) Next, I started with what I knew - the CC logo. This immediately set me in motion with a circle. I experimented with making the circle into a "G" for "Global Summit," then thought about making that into a world. Aware of my time limit and lack of pre-made world vector, I knew I would have to steer away from a world icon - to the point that I didn't even draw it out.

Next came the attempt at a focal point, or a coming-together of ideas. This ended up looking like a pizza, so I abandoned that for a ( GS ) similar to the ( CC ), but concluded it was too derivative. My last-ditch sketch were two circles within the larger icon, mimicking two C's. Without really thinking how this could relate to the Global Summit, I jumped to Illustrator.

Step Three: Digital Iterating and Color

Color scheme came quickly and with little iteration - blue for water, green for land. I started with a hand-made G (outlined circle + rectangle + cutout.) Next, I added a green circle to mimic land on water, while echoing the C's of Creative Commons. 

Step Four: Hate It All

I stepped back, thought "I like it." Got up to grab a glass of water, came back and thought "nope, it makes no sense." Cue the green circle with blue outline.

Step Five: Listen to Your Subconscious & Copy a Podcast

After a few variations on the G, it occurred to me that I had just created the Gimlet logo. (Thanks a lot, subconscious Alex Blumberg. Apparently I really want to come to the Audio Hackathon.) Circle G, consider yourself abandoned.

Step Six: Revisit Your Sketches

Finally back to the original sketch that set me in Illustrator motion - I tried two circle cutouts within a larger. This came across as a bizarre caterpillar, so I tried putting a rectangle through the circles to mimic a G. Noooope. 

Step Seven: Try Something Random

I took the two circles, created outlines instead of filled shapes and overlapped them in a Venn Diagram. Finally, I was on to something.

A few experiments with coloring the overlap, then rotating the shape 45° and finally I was about out of time (and had a batch of nearly-burning brownies.) I quickly added some Helvetica lettering and...


Reflecting, there are of course about 500 things I could change or work on. But for a 30 minute design sprint, I couldn't be much happier! I've since submitted the design to Creative Commons and am in a weeklong voting competition. (If you're feeling generous and like the design, go vote for it here by July 15th!)

A chance to win $500 is great, getting in some drawing for my 93rd day is better, but the best part of this sprint was becoming acutely aware of my design process. I realized that I'm great at deep dives into understanding a brand, but can get caught up in previous style uses or existing logos (i.e. the CC in a circle, channeling my inner Gimlet.) I spent a lot of time building shapes in the iteration phase, when I could have just found a "G" I liked. And I spent about 4 seconds on the related typography, which was an instant regret. But, I can pick colors rapidly and when I choose a deadline, I deliver.

Thanks for reading and thanks to Darya for passing along! (And if you're still feeling generous, share the voting page with friends!)

Molly AdairComment