While it’s fresh I thought I’d write up the process behind the Firespotter Labs logo I designed. This was an incredibly fun logo to design and probably one of the quickest, at least when contrast to some of the luxurious multiple month (!) design explorations I’ve done in the past for school or other companies. That said, it was exceptionally challenging; it’s hard to take a step back and think objectively about the company you’re a part of.
Before this, I had already designed a couple logos for some of the products we’re working on now. I had to break out of the “consumer application” design mindset I had been entrenched in for a few months. For the mothership, we needed something that conveyed that we were a lab full of crazy people brewing up cool things, while simultaneously appearing to be trustworthy gentlefolk worthy of venture support.
When I started working on the logo I went back to some of the color explorations I had been experimenting with during an earlier branding exercise for one of our products. I thought I might be able to get some inspiration since I had remembered liking some of what I had been playing around with. I do these every once in a while: square designs, really quick just to get a vibe. Usually looking for a color palette, but sometimes the implications can be farther reaching. In this case, I was attracted to the orange/red/black palette. Not a surprising choice given the fiery nature of our company’s name.
Initial ConceptsGiven that the name is Firespotter, I knew it would be difficult to avoid using flames or some kind of spark-like imagery. Of course I never want to do anything that’s “expected”, but I felt like this was a case where it was OK to leverage the implied visuals of the name. Fire, after all, is pretty damn cool looking on its own. I started thinking about the various ways I might be able to depict fire in a cool way.
The first thing that came to mind was an oven. People were always (rightly or wrongly) describing us as an incubator, and the idea of us baking some tasty idea-treats sounded pretty fun to me. I thought it would be a somewhat clever way to use fire without being too overt. Above you see my first pass with the oven idea. Conceptually I liked it, but as a logo it really fell short. It felt clumsy and really lost its power at small sizes. The fire was lost inside an oddly colored box, was the way I eventually perceived it.
Ugh yeah, just looking at it I have the uncontrollable urge to re-render the oven.
A Fun Deviation
Before moving onto more serious seeming logos, I deviated a bit and drew the logo above. This one was a favorite of mine just because it makes me laugh every time I see it. RAWR! Fire in my mouth! I don’t know, it gets me every time. What I liked about it was it felt very irreverent. Imagine if this was the logo for a venture-funded startup…this guy doesn’t look like he would know what to do with millions of dollars, but he certainly looks like he would have a good time with it. As fun as he was, needed to rein in the crazy a little bit.
I added the little ember bubbles in the meantime, which I really liked. I felt like they gave it a scientific feel, kind of the way lab beakers are often depicted. I was really into making it feel like the fire was the result of some scientific experimentation. Additionally, they provided a nice visual counterweight to the really heavy flames. I spent more hours than necessary positioning them above the flames just right and moved on.
Fire in the Hole
I started thinking about a phrase Craig had reminded me of one day: “Fire in the hole”. A prefect phrase for our startup actually, defined as, “an expression used to indicate that an explosive detonation in a confined space is imminent”. I suppose we like to think of our disruptive apps as said “explosions”, and the slow moving and antiquated markets we move on are the “confined spaces”. This was an evocative concept to me and I drew up some sketches involving fire in an actual hole. I drew three and these are shown above, on a fancy piece of Jury Duty paper of course.
I drew those three sketches and then moved to Illustrator again. I’ve never really been into the infinite sketching phase thing. When I lock onto a concept I like, I jump on the computer. When I started with this idea, I wasn’t happy with any of my attempts to render a “hole”, so I put the fire on a disc. The idea was that it would float around and light exciting idea-fires every which way. Unfortunately, it looked a lot like a floating island with mountains on it. Perhaps a good logo for a summertime ski lodge, but it wasn’t quite right for the concept I was after.
You’ll notice that the flames themselves haven’t really changed from the very first logo I concepted. I was happy with the color and shape, it was just a matter of where they were going to live — whether inside of a characters mouth, on a disc, or in a hole.
The final logo finds the fire coming out of a hole, the final and rather literal execution of the “fire in the hole” concept. The flames as mentioned remained largely the same at this point. Really, the final isn’t all that different from the disc version, but it’s a crucial difference in my opinion. Putting the fire in the hole made the whole thing a lot more interesting. I start to wonder odd conceptual wonders like “what is this hole?”, “who started this fire?”, and “what’s actually burning?” It’s exciting for me to think about.
Overall too I felt like the mark was the right fit for our company. It felt fresh, cool, and was able to use fire imagery without seeming lame. I think this has to do with how simply the fire is drawn. A really glossy, shiny and curvy-wurvy flame set would feel way wrong to me. This one looks vibrant to me and indicates that exciting things might be happening around the people that started this little triangle fire.
It has its limitations of course: for example it’s actually quite difficult to use against dark backgrounds. The hole gets lost and then the curve of the flames looks off. You can change the color of the hole, but that is a strange necessity. Similarly, the logo is made up of three different colors, which for me is unusual considering I almost always start a logo in black and white to ensure its potency in any paper situation. But overall these are small problems and the fire logo endures onward.
Eventually I have some ideas about animating it with stop-motion. I could cut out this logo from construction paper in minutes and I can visualize a pretty cool diorama animation. Just need to find a free weekend somewhere in the next 10 years…