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Working with abstract imagery

From: Designing a Logo

Video: Working with abstract imagery

When you are trying to come up with some imagery to go with your logo, maybe your choice is going to be defined for you by the kind of business that you are in, and maybe you want to use as your source of inspiration animals, nature or buildings. Three very common sources, and we will be seeing examples of all of those. But maybe the range of services that you offer is a little more broad, little less easy to define and perhaps you want to go with some kind of abstraction in your logo, as we have in all of these examples on the screen.

Working with abstract imagery

When you are trying to come up with some imagery to go with your logo, maybe your choice is going to be defined for you by the kind of business that you are in, and maybe you want to use as your source of inspiration animals, nature or buildings. Three very common sources, and we will be seeing examples of all of those. But maybe the range of services that you offer is a little more broad, little less easy to define and perhaps you want to go with some kind of abstraction in your logo, as we have in all of these examples on the screen.

Let us take a look at how easy it is to create shapes and symbols like this, especially using Illustrator's Pathfinder tools. So, here in Illustrator, all the results of my explorations of combining simple shapes; overlapping triangles and rectangles, circles and rectangles, multiple squares, etcetera. Repeating transformations to create these interesting kind of flower like shapes and combining the different resulting shapes using different Pathfinder shape modes.

I'm going to be doing most of these from scratch and we will get similar results, although not exactly the same. I'm going to start a new document. So, here I'm with a blank page and I'm going to start by tearing off my Shape tools, locking that panel up there and I also want to make sure I have my Pathfinder panel open, and I'll put that up there. Let us begin with my Rectangle tool. I have got my smart guides on, you can see that those messages popping up, telling me what I'm aligning to. That is going to make it slightly easier when aligning one object with another. Let us zoom-in on that and now I'll switch to my Ellipse tool and I'll draw myself an ellipse over the top of that rectangle, select both objects and then come to the second of my shape modes; Subtract from shape area, that is my result.

Using the Polygon tool, I'll draw myself a triangle, which I'll then re-shape. Press E key to go to the Free Transform and just narrow that. I then just want to intersect that shape with a guide. I'm going to turn on my rulers, Apple+R or Ctrl+R. I'm going to put myself a guide right there and using that guide as visual reference, I'm going to draw a circle over the top of that. Select both, subtract from shape area, and I get that result. Now, how about I'll copy that over to there. And these are all compound shapes, I can release them using the panel menu on the Pathfinder panel and this time, I'm going to get rid of that, switch now to my Rectangle tool and I'm going to draw a rectangle over the top of that triangle, like so. I'll then send it to the back; Object, Arrange, Send to Back. Select both and again, subtract from shape area.

Now, let us experiment with some circles. One circle, duplicate it, select both, subtract from shape area. Now, how many times do we see that kind of shape in a logo? Very frequently and of course, I could if I want to just rotate that through any kind of rotation to get different interpretations of that shape. Zooming out slightly, I'll select both, copy them across, release, delete the front most circle, and this time, I'm going to pair it up with a Spiral. Hold down the Alt key, so I'll draw my spiral outwards from the center and if necessary, pressing my Up arrow to get more winds on it and the Apple or Ctrl key to determine how tightly wound it is, it's a little bit hard to control this. There we go, that is a little bit better, something like that, and then I'm going to give that a stroke weight, maybe just hold that around a little bit, position it slightly differently on top of the circle.

Now, let us see what kind of result I get by combining the two and subtracting the spiral from the circle, and I get that kind of shape. This is the land of happy accidents sometimes. Now, let us try combining some squares together. So, I'm going to hold down the Shift key, zoom-in a bit, then holding down the Alt key, drag away from that. I'm also going to hold down the Shift key again to constrain my copy to 45-degree angle. Now, I'm going to repeat that transformation, Apple+D or Ctrl+D a couple of times, select all four and this time, I'm going to exclude the overlapping shape areas to get that result.

How about I'll now try a square and, of course, if we rotate a square, it becomes a diamond. So, I'm going to double click on my Rotation tool and rotate a copy through 45 degrees. Select both, exclude over lapping shape area. Now, let us take a look at working with repeat transforms. I'll use my Ellipse tool, create myself a tall skinny ellipse like so. Double click on my Rotation tool and again, rotate a copy through 45 degrees. Repeat that transformation, select all of the objects, exclude overlapping shape area. Now, that is a compound shape and I can combine that compound shape with another compound shape. I'm going to duplicate that and I'm going to draw a rectangle, actually a square, position it to something like so. Select both and actually, I need to make sure that this flower like shape is on top. So, I'm going to select that, Apple+Shift+Eight bracket, to bring it to the front, select both. Subtract from shape area or I'll duplicate it, Release the Compound Shape and instead of subtracting, exclude.

I now realize I'm running out of space on my outboard. So, I'm going to zoom out; let us select everything and just scale it down a bit to give me a bit more room. The final point I want to make is using blends and how useful they can be, and we have seen an example that's kind of similar to this before, but it is a very, very easy thing to do and in fact, a very commonly used technique. I'm just going to draw myself a square, which I'll then -- so, I'm going to draw myself a line and I'm going to make that line a thick line; I'm going to make it a weight of ten points. Let us give it a color, I'll make it green and I'm going to duplicate it or then Alt+ Shift and dragging away from it. I'll now make the stroke of the copy a lot lighter, I'll select both, go to my Blend tool and click on the top point of one, and then go and click on the equivalent point of the other and that is going me a blend of specified steps. If you are not getting exactly what you want then double click on the Blend tool and you can specify the number of steps that you want, and I'm now going to just make that a white stroke, so that it sits on top of the colored rectangle like so.

So, there we see just a few of the many, many options you have when using shapes and combining them using the Pathfinder shape modes as well as doing a simple blend or repeating your transformations to create multiples of a specific shape.

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Designing a Logo

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Nigel French
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