Designing our new logo

Hooray, NerdVerse has a new logo!

It may look simple, but it took two months for this design to come together. To celebrate, I wanted to share some of what went into creating it, including some pictures of the work in progress and the process from concept to design. Hopefully it comes in handy if you ever decide to do something similar. Let’s dive in!

Brainstorming ideas 

When I decided that we needed a logo, I asked a friend of mine for some advice. Roger and I have been colleagues twice; when I met him at our first day at the same company, he had just been hired as a designer. I also knew that he had designed logos before. In fact, I know because I edited his online portfolio (which you can find at http://rogerlandman.co.za/).

As a starting point, he suggested that I come up with 60 or more ideas. “To get the design gremlins out,” whatever that means. So the first thing I did was wrack my brain trying to come up with ideas, thinking: “60 isn’t too bad. It couldn’t possibly take me that long. Right?”

Ugh. Not so much. I don’t think I came up with 45 before I had kind of decided on the basic idea I liked best. In fact it wasn’t long before I noticed a few elements that kept recurring, if only in slight variations and different combinations. I’ll talk about each of those below, but the next step was deciding which of those elements to include in the final design – and how many. Turns out I already had more elements I wanted than could comfortably sit on one design. So a lot of them had to go.

(I did eventually write down 60 ideas. They are safely in a notebook, in case I want to create designs for other things. Hopefully, no work like that is ever wasted.)

Choosing elements

Once I realised that there were concepts I really liked, I started sketching a few of them, to get a feeling for which elements might work. These sketches weren’t amazingly complicated or professional-looking, but they gave me a basic idea of what each might actually look like. (Also, if I absolutely had to do the whole thing myself, I knew which elements I might be able to draw without too much help.)

Black and white pencil sketches. Clockwise: A set of 3 rocket ship diagrams; a rocket ship with the letters NV, next to a monkey wearing a space helmet; a d20.
A monkey, a rocketship, and 1d20.

Soon I had a notebook full of sketches – including sketches of various competencies depicting a monkey, a space- or rocket ship, and a d20. Eventually, once Valkyrion suggested that I add a planetary ring around the d20 to make it look like Saturn, all of them fit together into something resembling a concept.

(Also, I’m obsessed with monkeys. Dunno why. I think I saw a video of a monkey playing with a stick and then using it as a tool to raid an anthill for food. I still think that’s one of the best, smartest things I’ve ever seen an animal do. And I think the spirit of that monkey video encapsulates a lot of what I love about being a nerd: playfulness, ingenuity, and resourcefulness.)

Designing the composite

Once I had an idea of what parts I wanted include in the design, I needed to put them all together into something that had enough cool-looking elements while still making sense as a whole. I also had a theme I wanted to communicate, at least insofar as I wanted the logo to convey the idea of a universe of nerdy things to explore and get excited about.

This basically meant trying out different configurations of the same elements, to see which combination worked best.

The fourth image in that series, with the rocket at the top and no monkey present, was designed by Emma G., another ex-colleague who was working as a designer the first time when I met them. I was so impressed by that drawing that I thought: “Why don’t I just ask Emma to design the final logo for me?”

Edit, edit, edit!

When I I showed Emma my initial design, one of her first bits of feedback was that I needed to simplify it. Or as Tim Gunn would say, “Edit, edit, edit!” Anyway, she was right. I had decided by then that the logo worked better without the monkey, and that I would rather use that for a personal avatar instead. (Okay, I went back and forth on that one, right till the end.

The second big change I made was to move the text from the middle of the planetary ring and to the bottom of the image. That way, I could also add the site’s slogan. Instead, I made the d20 the centre of the design.

The colour palette: inclusion and visibility

Once I was happy with the overall design, I had to decide a basic colour scheme. Or as designers would say, a colour palette. Emma and I both wanted to use the colours of the Pride flag in the design. There is one particular version of the flag known as the Equality Flag that I particularly like. It’s specifically a more inclusive one, with a brown stripe representing people of colour and black stripe to represent the people who died from HIV.

There are many versions of the Pride flag – not just the one that happens to be the best for commercial printing. You can read about the long, illustrious, complicated history of the Pride flag and its many incarnations on Wikipedia.

I knew I wanted the logo to be gay as fuck. I am also aware that most gay spaces are dominated by cis-gendered white dudes who are generally well-off or at least passably affluent. Instead, I want to create a space that is as inclusive as possible, which for me means centering minorities – including minorities in the queer community. So the choice of colours on the d20 was deliberate, a way to remind myself and everyone who comes here to create a place that is welcoming to LGBTQIA gamers, writers, and artists of all kinds.

The design brief or design job description

Once I had those pieces in place, I thought I was ready to ask Emma to design it for me. There was one more step, though. She asked me to send her a document with the following information:

  • The elements you want (“a rainbow versus I want a rainbow with 8 colours and a classic oval arch”)
  • Your colour palette
  • A rough sketch
  • Copy (any text you want to incorporate in any part of the design)
  • Fonts you like
  • What you will be using it for (a proper list)
  • Examples of other logos you like (JPGs or links)

This is basically a design brief, and it took me a whole day to finish – even after I had done all the work thus far. If anyone is interested or asks for it, I’d be happy to share it with you, in case you need a template to work from. Having said that, I did it – I finally had a design brief to send her.

Patience … and then, more edits

Once I sent Emma the document, she worked on different elements of it. She started with the rainbow, then the monkey (if only to appease me, although it didn’t make it to the final version), the rainbow d20, and finally the other grey dice planetoids.

And then, finally, the completed logo. After I checked the copy and requested one or two changes, Emma created several versions of the logo for me, according to the file size and dimensions for different profiles and apps. And finally, voila! Are you ready? Because here’s that final version again:

NerdVerse.co.za logo

As a final note: if you’re looking to ask a designer to create a logo for you, you are looking to pay them about $200 USD, or R3,000 ZAR. Even if you can’t afford to pay that much, you really shouldn’t expect anyone to do it for free.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little bit of insight into the design process for this thing, but I hope to add additional updates about some of the more finicky details.

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