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6 Shockingly Brutal Realities Of Working on Someone's Logo

Kevin Whipps March 31, 2021 · 6 min read
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As a designer, you’re often called upon to create all sorts of assets for a company, but a request that comes up an awful lot is to design a logo. So you go to the deep well of creativity that of course you have, work up something that you consider to be a masterpiece, then watch as some suit with an acronym for a title tears it apart. Back to the drawing board you go, tweak here, touch here, and finally, you have a complete logo. And it’s a masterpiece. Well, except for that stray anchor point, but that’s not a big deal. Who cares, right? You may not care in your own design, but when it comes time for you to fix up someone else’s logo, all of their mistakes come flying to the forefront. Now you’re playing in somebody else’s well of creativity, and it seems like somebody stored a dead body there for a few weeks because it smells like feet and there are way too many signs that the person designed the logo using Nickelback for inspiration. What do you do? You complain about it, that’s what! Which is what we’re going to do today by breaking down the truth about what you deal with as a designer when you mess about with their logo design. You ready? Good. Because this time, we’re gonna get messy.

Stray Vectors and Anchors

The other day, I’m working on a design for a buddy of mine that someone else designed, and he asks me if I can tweak it so that it can work as a die-cut sticker. OK, no problem, so I open up the file in Illustrator and get to work. But now I’m noticing that there are all of these random Xs all over the place, indicative of where a line used to be but was removed, leaving this sad little anchor off all by itself. And if it was just the one, I could’ve probably dealt with it, but no, it was at least a baker’s dozen of the little jerks, all in a row like the previous designer had done it intentionally to tick me off. I swear, if I had done a connect-the-dots puzzle on all of these vectors, it would’ve spelled out a horrible phrase word that rhymes with duck and ends with you. Take this as a lesson: clean up your work. Just because everything looks OK on the screen does not mean that it’s going to be OK when it’s translated to the medium it needs to go to next. Think about all of the places you see logos — t-shirts, signs, cups — and to get there, somebody needs to work on your design. Don’t make them want to commit ritual Seppuku at their desk because nobody wants to clean that up.

Mismatching Curves

You open up a file, and on the surface, the vector looks fine. But as you peer closer, you notice that one of the curves was pulled just a touch too far, so that if you pulled a line next to the curve, it would extend just past the line, like the pimple on a perfectly good line. And of course you have to fix it, because your OCD compels you to do so, but then you go deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole until the next thing you know, you’re redesigning the entire thing from scratch because you’re in love with the Bézier Curve Tool like some madman. Never happened to you? Just me? Well whichever is the case, being a designer is sometimes about making sure all of the details are just so. The side effect? Whatever designer follows you on the project doesn’t forcefully eject their hair from their heads from rage. It’s not a good look.

Stray Gradients

One time, I get sent this design to work on, and it’s got a cool gradient going through part of the logo, made to look a bit like chrome. Well, my job is to turn this design into a two-color jobber, so I have to remove all of the fancy gradients. I delete the chrome gradient, and discover one underneath. OK, no big deal, probably some kind of base layer deal, so I delete another. Then there’s another. And another. Then one that’s two colors that shouldn’t be anywhere near this design. I found 8 freaking gradients, all stacked on top of each other essentially, all hiding in various dead boxes and panels. And that was the moment that I drove my car over a bridge embankment, and now my ghost is writing this post. Seriously: Clean. Up. Your. Mess. Logo-Fixes-2

Too Many/Too Little Layers

Logos can take a long time to design, and between all of the tweaks, twists and turns that you have to take to get to where you need to be, you may find yourself in a few different spots. Maybe you’re the type who does use their layers in your vector editing program of choice, and you create a new layer for every new object. Or, you had no idea that layers existed, so you’re happily plugging away, blissfully unaware that you could make something easier for the next person, and just working on a single plain. See where I’m going here? I’m absolutely not perfect on this one, and I’ve caught myself making quite a few errors later on that could’ve been fixed with a new layer. But man, when you’re working on somebody else’s stuff, and you see that they either got drunk on layers or forgot they even were a thing, and having the part you need on a layer would solve your problem … well it’s just a massive bummer is all.

The Client Gives You a JPEG and Asks You to “Match It”

Most people build their logos with a vector-based program, because it makes more sense. This way, the logo can be resized to whatever dimensions you want, without having to mess about with pixels. But inevitably the logo ends up as a JPEG or PNG, and that’s fine, but it’s not like you can just convert that back into a vector without a little bit of work, right? So you sit there, slaving away at the design, trying to find a way to turn that pig’s ear into a purse or however the saying goes, and force something to work. It sucks hard, but what’re you gonna do? My vote: complain about it on the internet! Logo-Fixes-1
What’s the takeaway from all this? Someday, you may create a logo, and if you do, then there will inevitably be some designer that follows you, picking apart your every move. So instead of giving them a ton of ammo to work with, instead make sure that you cover your bases, clean up any mistakes or changes that you made along the way, and deliver the best possible log you can. Then you won’t be the jerk designer who passed the buck to the next guy, and instead you’ll be the genius who created the next big thing.

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About the Author
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Kevin Whipps

Hi! My name is Kevin Whipps, and I'm a writer and editor based in Phoenix, Arizona. When I'm not working taking pictures of old cars and trucks, I'm either writing articles for Creative Market or hawking stickers at Whipps Sticker Co.

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7 Comments
  • Absolutely feeling the pain here. Just finish editing existing flyer design for a client. All was planned to be 1-hour work and turn to be 3 hours. It was Photoshop design. You expect to see all in one place, but boy no chance. All of the text was over the place. Separate words are thrown around in separate layers. One on layer one, then you search for next one and find it 10 layers down between some of the shapes supposed to be for promotional stykers. Just wonder how many 'designers' out there never heard of 'Layer Groups'. I guess we all need to deal with this at some point in our lives but come on, simple knowledge is essential. 6 years ago
  • I've been designing logos for over 33 years, and you hit the nail on the increasingly battered head. I prefer to knock out shapes from one another when possible rather than have them overlap in layer upon layer, as I see in many EPS files sent to me. However, most re-designs I've gotten were in your 5th "complaint", and when I'm sent a JPG to "fix" I know to just immediately hunker down and remake the darn thing from scratch. Then make it better. Is that the OCD part you mentioned? And while doing so, I'm a big proponent of using layers in moderation as you so expressively pointed out. Great post. You probably summed up in this short blog entry what thousands of us out here have been wanting to say to "that previous logo designer" for years! Thanks 6 years ago
  • My week simply isn't complete until someone sends me a low res 15kb jpg full of jaggies that i have to magically turn into vinyl die cuts. 6 years ago
  • Nothing like asking if you can print products with their "logo" and send you an Etsy avatar! xD 6 years ago
  • My favourite is when clients send you a JPG and ask you to vectorize it. Like there's a magic button you press! 6 years ago
  • This made me cry a little. Someone understands me!!!!! A recent request from a client was to customise a logo for her that she bought off of Etsy. I saw on the site that it's a customised purchase and all you have to do is tell the designer what you want. Client says that she did talk to the designer but that the wait was going to be too long. "Okay, well do you have a copy of the original file? If the designer will allow, I can work on it." Client says yes to everything and emails the "file" to me... it's a jpeg inserted into a Word document. Sometimes I feel like I work at the loony bin. We're all speaking in English but the client has a different dictionary they're using. 6 years ago
  • A lot of clients thing there's a auto-convert button to make a simple .jpeg logo into vector. Great post! 5 years ago