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Designing a Logo: How Hard Can It Be?

If you have ever wanted to setup a business of any kind, even a social-enterprise like Flowering Elbow, you will no doubt be familiar with the stock advice to ‘create a brand for your enterprise’. You have to create a brand, so you can add value! You need a brand so people will remember you. Brand this, brand that, Brand, brand Brand… Could there be a more cringe-worthy way of advising people to be cool and memorable? In a perfect world people would judge you on what you do/make/teach/provide, but there must be something in this ‘branding’ business. Why else, for example, would people pay nearly 10 times more money for items or identical quality, that come from the same factory, who’s only difference is a small embroidered logo [1]?


So anyway, good logos are simple, memorable and embody the spirit of the associated enterprise – easy right? Well maybe, but when you care personally for what you are trying to do, it can actually be a bit of a hurdle. After some brainstorming and a bunch of pencil and paper sketches, we started coming up with possible logo designs, but none seemed right. A load of rejects later and we came up with the one above, which we weren’t exactly happy with with, but it was good and colourful.

Our initial idea – to have a robot hand and forearm, with some thriving green plant blossoming from the elbow – was a bit too literal a take on our name. It just ended up looking a bit complicated and a touch morbid (it seems hard to make disembodied body parts seem innocent!).

This logo design from Nicky was kinda cool and the bittyness was supposed to signify the reality of the workshop - but we quite like a clean workshop ;)

After a while we got talking to a friend and professional graphics designer, Nicky (check out She was kind enough to talk things over and do some free sketches for us. The design above, from Nicky, was nice and ‘hard hitting’. The bittyness was supposed to signify the gritty reality of the workshop – but we quite like a clean workshop ;)

This one (below) from Nicky was cool, it was “more ‘grown-up’ and clean, with a more serious serif font, and was meant to signify creativity, the design process, and of course the relationship Flowering Elbow has to nature / the environment.”

This is a logo Nicky did for us based on themes of recycling, preciseness and technical design without looking 'square and boring'!!

This was nice, and it did take us a few days to decide it wasn’t ‘the one‘. We ended up deeming it a bit too fussy for our tastes. Here is another one (below), which was ruled out due to Bongo’s strange prejudice against wrenches.

All these designs, and back and forth with Nicky was helping us figure out what we were looking for, if only by a process of elimination ;) After mulling it over a bit more, we had something of a breakthrough…

Bongo was working on a project that took drive from an electric motor with a transmission setup derived from reclaimed bike parts. At Flowering Elbow we would be dealing with technology and making machines, so cogs and gears seemed to symbolise that all right (and are quite possible to draw in paint packages like Inkscape [2]). Then we thought if we could make cogs of the ‘o’s in both words, and have them meshing together…


But we wanted colour! The logo wants to make a vibrant kind of impression, and for those that experience ‘synesthesia’ (where colours are heavily associated with other senses and emotions), which is pretty much all of us to some degree, having vibrant colours is going to be much more memorable.


Now to reinforce the ‘floweringness’ and our environmental ethic, the elbow cog has been sunflowerized. It is nice and easy to go back and modify previous versions when are saved as .svg files, which is the native Inkscape format. These can then be exported as .png files for use on the net.

The logo with a bit more blue and a sunflower'esque cog

Not bad, but we are now thinking that the font is now looking a bit too childlike – can’t shake the subconscious ‘play-school’ suggestions it’s giving us. So lets try with a different font for the ‘Flowering’  …


The font changed to try and get away from the childishness


That’s more like it, a lot more tech. To get an ‘L’ with this font-set that didn’t look like a 1 (which made it look like some kind of F1, as in Formula 1 Racing, logo) we had to import a symbol, rotate and flip it. Before the flip it actually struck us as kinda cool.


This is the F E Logo before we flipped the L round - I think we prefer it.

Now if the background colour the logo is displayed on clashes, we can add a box and fill it with whatever colour we like, in this case white, like so…


In some circumstances it might be a bit awkward with a box round it, because it looks a little empty in the bottom right. But having a border does give the option of having a background colour and we figure the empty space might be useful for those extra titbits when we want to put on a special event, work in partnerships, or do a course or whatever.


Arduino workshop advertising logo



In the end I think we are going to go with the gears and backwards L. Now to integrate this into the website…


This is the F E Logo before we flipped the L round - I think we prefer it.

  1. [1]Tangential rant:-  Fact is, people work off their emotional instincts a lot of the time. What we remember, the mental associations we build, are often primarily based on the immediate affect things have on us, before we get a chance to consciously think about their merits, or lack there of. The slightly sinister marketers have known this for a long time, and seek to utilise all our senses to get us buying. It’s why supermarkets spend millions meticulously planning every aspect of there store’s design, from the positioning of vents that pump out commercially formulated ‘bread’ smells, to the lighting level and temperature settings in specific zones of the store. Marketers play off our desires, and work with our smell, taste, and kinesthetic senses, which are not well equipped for logical reasoning. Even visual adversing is almost always designed to work this way, to make us imagine what it would be like to feel as good as their models look when they are wearing x, or driving y.
  2. [2]Inkscape is a fantastic Open Source vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw, and the like. The ‘gears’ facility allows you to create precisely sized cogs, controlling the pitch, number of teeth and pressure angle – super useful for making actual cogs from wood, particularly if you have a good laser cutter.

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