Critique on personal identity please

kirsten's picture

My freelance identity needs to be updated. For now, I have decided to continue to use my name. But, I've been wondering if I should I create a business name (would it seem more professional/substantial or just gimicky)? I know it's a very personal decision, but I'm curious as to the process others have used to come up with their names, is it ok to use a private joke? Does it have to be something the client "gets"? Also, many of the other posts have debated over whether or not an individual should have a personal logo. I feel that as a graphic designer the answer is yes. Attached are 2 business card designs, please let me know what you think, if you have a preference, and how you think they can be improved upon. Thanks in advance, I value all of your input.

kncard a

kncard b

squeeze's picture

Kirsten:

I think you have a great name to use for your identity. I would have liked to have used my own name in my identity, but it's Scott Keawekane. Keawekane is both difficult to say and hard to remember, for most people.

Your typelogo has good potential. I can see that you are lining up the "N"s (although, optically, the bottom/darker "N" looks larger) at the end of the names, and the leg of the "K" continues down to create the crossbar of the "N". I'm not sure if I like it, as is; but, I'm not sure why either. The large "N" seems too wide, but I can't put my finger on what else is bothering me.

You have kind of a cool "K-N" shape coming out of the "K-i". Have you tried fiddling with anything like this.
KN monogram

I definitely like the landscape bizcard layout better, but I'm not crazy about either. I've read your critiques in this forum, and I know you are capable of better. It's just hard to design for yourself

soren_olsen's picture

Kirsten -- I definitely think that a good personal name is one of the best options when a graphic design is choosing a company name. Your name is great for that purpose, easy to say, easy to remember.

The way you have executed it, I see an arrangement of 'classical typography with some effects'.

The effects:

1
Very crowded arrangement.
(Too crowded: Ki, AV (in particular) and VI)

2
Alignment of whatever can be aligned
(Unless it has Herb Lubalin-like quality I try to avoid alignments like NN and (in particular) the diagonal KN -- they seem a little ackward)

3
Mixture of UC and lc (i, s and t being lc)
(It's ok to mix, I guess)

4
The st-ligature
To the casual spectator the arrangement is basically UC, so the ligature is a little out of place -- I'm just being the devil's advocate here!)

It's a well-balanced logo, but I don't think 'classical feeling' together with 1-4 does the job. The biggest drawback is that you show the world what you regard as good typography, or good design ... and those alignments aren't so modern ...

I think you should consider other ways of writing that name.

--
Soren O

kirsten's picture

Scott and S

sbarlow's picture

i like the simplicity of the lower left layout. with something like this a really cool paper or unique material choice for your business cards would really make them stand out.

I like the changes you have made with your name . . . but i am not a fan of the st ligature . . . it is just very akward. Have you experimented with different ways to incorporate something like this? It just seems so odd as it is, at first glance of your logo, i was trying to find a purpose for it (is it a light bulb? is it supposed to represent something i am just not seeing?) I guess it just looks out of place, IMO.

you are getting there. :-)

soren_olsen's picture

The changes is for the better, but I *still* think that the solution can be characterized as 'classical type, with a lot of effects'. I think it is obvious that there is no Great Idea.

Look at the identity of the top-50 designers round the world. My guess: either they have a Great Idea. Or they have 'nothing' ("We are too busy doing great jobs for our clients, we don't have time to take our own medicine").

My advice is to take a pause, look at what succesful design firms have done, and then redesign.

If you should go with one of the four, I agree with Sally: the bottom left is the least busy/crowded one. And this has to do with the name mark you have made. There is at least 6-8 focus points, points of interest, built in the name mark. It is very 'complicated'. Consequently, I should have amble free space around ... and the rest of the layout should have few typographic variations.

I hope it's o.k. to be the devil's advocate here ... I guess you take the advice you think you need ... and leave the rest ... ;-)

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Soren O

david_g's picture

Designing your personal identity is the hardest thing for a designer to do. I try and think of myself(as a designer) identityless. If you have no identity as a designer than you are flexible and organic to your clients. If you present a very classcal identiy to a potential client then you run the risk of being stereotyped as a classic designer. If you present a ultra-modern identity than you will alienate those clients looking for a classic feel. A designer is not a brand, a designer designs brands.

david_g's picture

That last line is completely opinion based, take it or leave it.

kirsten's picture

Thank you all, and I take your comments in the spirit in which they were given - to help me improve my mark. If I just wanted to hear "it's wonderful" I'd show them to my Mom. Your sensitivity on a very personal project is appreciated. It's definately the hardest kind of work and probably the most vunerable too. You're voicing many of my own concerns that have been nagging at me but I've been squashing. While looking over past projects trying to determine "my style" I was a little discouraged to see no unifying look. Hopefully that is a strength - meeting the client's specific needs rather than imposing an pre-established treatment. I understand the trap David wrote of, having a classically designed mark and putting off cutting edge prospective clients and vice versa. However how does one design an identity that says 'I'm a designer, I can do your project no matter your needs/style'. My identity will be my first impression. I don't want my card to get lost in the shuffle and be mistaken for an accountant's. some more research will help I'm sure. Does anyone have recommendations of good, or even bad (shows you what to avoid) self-identity logos?

david_g's picture

"However how does one design an identity that says 'I'm a designer, I can do your project no matter your needs/style'"

This is the ultimate question, for which there unfortunately is no clear answer for (believe me I've looked). Think of your idenity as the plaque next to the painting that says the painters name, medium, date, location, etc. The paintings througout the painters life might develop and change, but the style of the plaque will probably stay the same.

soren_olsen's picture

Kirsten, take a look at the top-50 design firms' websites. That's a rather quick way of finding out how this design problem has been solved.

And maybe, if you don't end up with the perfect idea ... well, just go for the understatement, the 'non-design' solution (which is, of course, design):

Write 'Kirsten Navin Design Studio' with a font that suits the purpose. Add a colour to the typography. Then add a lot of white space.

This gives you the following advantages:

1
Keeping it simple, there's a good chance that it will be good-looking.

2
Potential customers don't get scared of a specific graphic style.

3
You send the same signal as a great deal of the top-50 firms: I spend the time on my clients.

4
Your identity will not disturb the solutions you make (Because very often your identity will be visible only together with examples of your work, in portfolios, on your website etc ... the only place really, where your logo is on its own is on signage and on your business card, both places benefit from a identity without many effects).

This said, while you're designing your logo, have your mind open for those ideas that suddenly comes to your mind if it *is* open: the Great Idea. You know, that Great Idea For Kirsten Navin Design Studio Logo is *somewhere*, you just have to find it ... and, come to think of it, not only one Great Idea -- there is innumerable, equally relevant, highly creative solutions to that specific problem. (And when you're stuck in front of a blank piece of paper, unable to find just *one* ... that's really discouraring ...


--
Soren O

kirsten's picture

I've been thinking about this a lot and decided to explore some other paths. Below is what I think is working best so far, however I'm not convinced of my type choices. I need a font with a single junction on the cap K. So far I'm using Gill Sans Light (I don't care for the cap R in Univers or Futura). I'm also trying two serif fonts, Perpetua and Trajan. Again I need a single junction K but it needs to be a face with very little contrast. The leg on the Trajan K seems too swash-y. It still needs to be refined and perhaps a different font choice (Suggestions Please!) But overall, I like this direction. What does the forum think? Is it a worthwhile initial concept?

navin_tri

navin_tri2

navin_tri3

sbarlow's picture

the direction you are taking with your logo is interesting, altough it seems underdeveloped. i like the concept, though. I think the font selection of the bottom design works best for your name. I do not like the way it works with "graphic design studio." Perhaps a sans serif for contrast? I'm not sure, i would just experiment with a few more options.

is this an actual business card design? if so, i would consider going back to the drawing board for something that isn't all centered. As a graphic design studio, I think your business card should reflect your creativity.

kirsten's picture

I had been playing with other layouts. But what struck me about the centered version was the creation of the triangle out of the stacked KN mark and the type. The new shape even repeats the K from the mark when the card is held on the vertical. Perhaps it's too subtle. My intention was to find the right font and then refine the layout which will also need to be applied to other formats - it may not work on a letterhead design. Should I continue or go back to the drawing board?

Tom Cannon's picture

I think it is too geometric. I don't think the negative spaces of the 2 letters are that interesting.

soren_olsen's picture

I'm not too happy about the recent variantions.

As I see it, the arrangement on your business card tells the following story.

1
I like Gill Sans. It's a beautiful font with high legibility.

2
I feel something is missing, so I will center the lines.

3
I still fell it lacks something, so I will write my initials with Uppercase and the rest of the names in small caps

4
So ... the design is finished!

Kirsten, it would be a pity to stop at this point. This four-step procedure is what millions of people do every day. You should show that you can take design further!

I know you have included a symbol, but it doesn't seem to be so interesting ... maybe it could be developed, I don't know.

The triangular shape you refer to is not IMHO a thing to try to achieve. With the symbol on top, it makes the arrangement look like a christmas tree.

You become a writer by reading books. You become a designer by seeing design. I think you should force yourself to look at a lot of top-professional identity ... I mean, you should really do it! ... and then go back to the drawing board.

I look forward to discuss this further with you and the rest of the forum ...

--
Soren O

soren_olsen's picture

Sorry for not pointing at a specific way to go. Have been rather busy lately ... (vacation;-)

--
Soren O

kirsten's picture

Here are some new identity designs. What I had liked about my last post was using a simple grahic element along with the name, although the stylized K and N weren't working. They did however remind me of signal flags so I looked up what the signal flags would be for my initals and incorporated them into most of the attached designs. Signal flags are a form of visual communication which is what graphic design is all about. The K flag means I want to communicate with you. But the N flag stands for no or negative - not a great concept to associate with one's id. however, historically it also used to symbolize rendezvous. I don't expect a lot of people to actually decypher the flag symbols. I do hope it will be fairly self evident that they represent K and N, but the flags are simple enough to just be graphic elements. Also, a subtle nautical theme seems appropriate on a personal level. But that goes back to some of my original questions, how reflective/personal should a personal identity be? Any way, your thoughts on this latest round would be greatly appreciated.

middle

box

left

split

noflag

david_g's picture

My Favorite are the bottom three. Especially the very last logo. I would take away the first rule. I also might spell out your first name. Seems like the abreviation is unecessary, unless there is a good conceptual reason for it.

rush's picture

Interesting concept Kirsten, however as you say yourself most people will not understand what these symbols mean. I know i wouldn't if you hadn't explained it before. Looking at the graphics as they are without knowing the story it would leave me wondering. The symbols itself don't feel like they are a mark since they are not connected graphically. Thus, forgetting about the original meaning, if it was just one of the flags i would agree that it is a symbol that could exist simply as looking nice.

From the choices you posted i like the first ones most, with the flags in the middle. This arrangement holds the flags together and makes it feel more solid.

Personally however, i am a little sad you are walking away from your original approach. Your name has a nice sound to it and the slightly classy look seems to fit well. I would have liked to see something like this, with less effects which complicated the type too much.

thelring's picture

Nice work Kirsten.

By the way - you are not AD (Tennis In.) ? anymore?



The Lord of The Ring

Tom Cannon's picture

I too think you should take your original approach and do something with the type. The thing that was missing from the first one was something that would set you apart. It seems you could do more with the first design if you add something unique to it.

david_g's picture

I like the simplistic approach of the last version. It will make you seem more versitile. It will also show potential clients you have restraint, class, and confidence by not overdesigning your identity. Let your portfolio do the talking not your business card.

soren_olsen's picture

Kirsten, this is much more contemporary and much more graphic quality.

I like to comment on it further, but here's something to start with:

1
The postings are so small I can hardly see them.

2
I haven't made up my mind which verson I like best, but I think it's a bad idea to write 'knavin' ... some people would read that as your last name ... or?

3
Why not use your first name? (How common is it in the States? Here in Denmark it is very common)

3
If you're using signal flags, they shouldn't be split.

--
Soren O

andrew_baker's picture

I can only think of prep clothing (Nautica, Hilfiger) with your last post. I am feeling awfully cold looking at them.

I am in agreement with Tom. The design in post 1 has some personality. I think you gave up on it too soon. It needs work but it could be a fine logotype.

I wish it wasn't so squeaky clean. (colors and your sans.) I want some spontaneity, and the flag isn't doing it for me.

Andrew

Tom Cannon's picture

Why don't you do your name and design your own font. Maybe make it calligraphic. Whatever you do just make it unique.

"Let your portfolio do the talking not your business card."

Your business card is your billboard. You have to get them into your door to be able to show them your portfolio. No reason to not show the client your goods- especially when your portfolio is a representation of your work. I have had many clients see only my biz card and hire me without seeing my portfolio.

david_g's picture

Dude, Tom, I disagree 100%. Why do you have to hit people over the head with gaudy design? It takes a real designer to create an dynamic composition with very few elements that is logical and considerate of the content and the viewing audience. Kirsten, if you have some class, which I'm sure you do, then you won't have to bombard your clients and friends with an overly designed identity that is designed for designs sake. LESS IS MORE. Lure them in with sophistication and class. Concentrate on typesetting and simplicity. Make beautiful words at considerate point sizes in a considerate legible clean typeface. When I see great buisness card it is done with extreme class and a very slight but elegant touch of style. IMPO light on the style heavy on the Class.

Tom Cannon's picture

Who says it has to be gaudy and overdesigned? Nobody on this board has suggested that. You are saying either you "do it with class" or it is bombardment? David, after viewing past posts it is obvious your style is clean and simple, which is fine. It does not mean things that are more graphic are gaudy.

Kristen is a graphic designer and her clients want to get a taste of her skills. If she decides that simple & clean type is the way to go then great, but if she goes another direction it doesn't mean it's bombardment. When designers compete for jobs you have to catch the eye.

Tom Cannon's picture

I apologize- I mispelled Kirsten's name in my last post.

squeeze's picture

Kirsten:

I think I'm going to have to lean toward Tom's direction here. If I understand David correctly, I think he may have read a little too much into Tom's "billboard" comment. I agree with David, in that a designer's identity shouldn't alienate clients by overdesigning too much of their own unique style into it (unless the designer wants to specialize and their objective is to target a very specific clientelle); but, I also agree with Tom, in that a business card can play a very powerful role in making or breaking a meaningful marketing or communications opportunity between you and a potential client. Afterall, most of us don't have much of a budget for marketing and signage, and until you get a client into your door, there is a good chance they will never see your portfolio. In my personal experience, only about 10% or less of my clients ever see my portfolio. My visual portfolio has yet to make a difference in whether or not I land a job. What I would call my relationship/experience portfolio is what brings in the work, or rather, results in the referrals that keep me working.

I apologize for taking up so much of your critique space here, Kirsten, but this seems to be a worthwhile discussion.

Below is my logo on my stationary suite (a product of this forum). I am posting this because it supports the points that both David and Tom have made. The logotype is a derivative of Clarendon, which is a timeless typeface with subtle enough alteration that I believe David would approve of it. The stationary suite, however, is a selling tool. I use the two PMS colors, die cutting/punch cutting ("Q" and radius corners), letterpress, and stock selection as an example of how I can customize a piece that all of my clients use, but few of them have capitalized on for differentiation. Of course there are better pieces to illustrate this, but I can't carry them around wherever I go.

Creative Squeeze

Kirsten, I prefered your initial direction better than your last postings. I just think you still have some work to do on the type.

Aloha!
Scott

Tom Cannon's picture

Scott's excellent stationary is an example of not only using type, but also his creativity and strong sense of color to create an attractive presentation. It would not have the same effect if he just used Claredon without customizing it and making it unique.

Also, billboards can be made to look appealing and classy. It all depends on who you are marketing to. My experience with clients has been that they care more for graphics than the kerning (not that you can't do both). Our job as GRAPHIC designers is to show that we can use type as well as graphics (usually) to get a point across. Clients I have had want to see creativity. How else are you going to seperate yourself from their local print shop?

david_g's picture

Tom, I have been cursed and blessed with the idea that everything on a page, including the page itself, needs a reason for existing. Not just any reason, a damn good reason. This is my ultimate problem, and my ultimate solution at the exact same time. I apologize if my extreme minimilist theories are spoken as if I was wearing blinders. I feel like that sometimes.... oh well, there is no turning back.

Ultimately the question is who your marketing to. The more types of people and clients you feel you can reach the more neutral the identity should be.
The more specific the clientel the more specific the identity.

Scott, I like your identity, A bit cute for me, but extemely well considered none the less.

squeeze's picture

The cuteness exists to appeal to a female client, as Clarendon is a masculine typeface

kirsten's picture

Thank you all for your comments. My head is spinning with so much to consider, but that's a good thing, really, and hopefully this thread will help other's with similar questions. Will post again soon.

Tom, no problem mis-spelling my name. happens all the time. hopefully I will come up with a design so memorable people won't only remember my name but how to spell it as well. that is what I was trying to accomplish in my initial designs by mixing up the font so much.

Scott, great inspiration thanks for the posting.

S

david_g's picture

Here Here!!!!

kirsten's picture

Scott, I'm going to work on both. I see aspects of me in each, that may sound a little too anthropomorphic for some though. Idealy what I want to achieve is a design that to a stranger/potential client says "here's the designer for you" and to friends & existing clients there's some unique quality to the identity that makes them think, "yea, that's Kirsten".

dan's picture

Kirsten, consider not just color and shape but process. Your design using a pastel metalic stamp would add more than just putting ink to paper. Other Ideas would be heated emboss, stamping, silk screen. Maybe your design is printed on a transparent vellum or diecut in an interesting shape. I hope I've given you something to think about.

elainep's picture

Are you wanting the Martha Stewart look? That's the first thing I thought of when I saw your card. I do like it though, just didn't know what you were shooting for.

kirsten's picture

Here are some revised designs. I went back to my original concept and simplified the overstyled logotype. I decided to keep the ital "i", visually I like having one character with a twist and hopefully it's contrast to the roman will be a reminder of the correct spelling and pronuncation. The first posting is the logotype itself followed by possible business card applications. I thought about Daniel's comment about process and so, two cards have a die-cut and fold. I haven't decided upon colors yet, so if some of the shades appear different it's not your monitor nor your eves. Finally, I tried to rework the flag concept into something I like but nothing was successful. I kept hearing David's and Andrew's comments ringing in my ears.

knlogotype

knlogotypecard



knlogotypecard3

knlogotypecard2

kirsten's picture

As soon as I posted it seemed as if I had it flopped so to speak - Kirsten N - showing on the folded card. when I'm using k.navin as my email. so here's a quick card to try K Navin showing on the folded card. Not sure if it's an improvement but wanted to get it out there.

knlogotypecard4

david_g's picture

I Think it looks nice. I like the i in italics.
Consider kerning out the logo font. Your name I feel needs substatially more white space in between the letters. The nice italic i is being crushed by the other letters. More space needed!

aluminum's picture

It's nice. I do read N avin instead of Navin, though...not sure what to do about that though (lower case 'a'?)

As for the KNavin thing, I'm not sure if that's a huge deal to reinforce that if the only tie in is to your email address.

As for the fold, just remember functionality issues (rolodexes, day planners, etc.)

dan's picture

Kirsten, nice diecut fold very interactive, nice colors too. The only thing you have to make sure of is that your printer, prints the cards with the grain going the same direction as the fold or you will have a cracked fold, very unsightly.

andrew_baker's picture

I like this new series.

The color choices on #1 are most appealing to me.

Last is best read. I'd like to see the whole K on the die cut.

Open up the IR, close NA, open AV, close VI a bit?

Andrew

david_g's picture

Have you tried one with all small caps. It might be nice to have the dot on the italic i the only thing that breaks the x-height. There is something special about the italic i that works. I feel that the capital large K/N are overpowering the preciousness of the italic i.

kirsten's picture

Thanks for the feed back. I worked on the kerning that was recommended and tried an all small caps version. I think I still prefer lg/small caps, but i did enlarge the small caps (and the ital i) just a touch to try and reduce the contrast. Did I tighten the VI too much? it ended up turning into a ligature of sorts. Does it look like a roman numeral 6?

knlogotypev2


knlogotypev2a

andrew_baker's picture

If you do the small caps, i think you need to reduce the italic I accordingly. But I prefer the original.

Yeah open VI.

ST closer to R, E closer to T, I a bit farther from R?

david_g's picture

You might try and examine some other typefaces. I personally feel that the Roman you have chosen might be a little stiff condsidering the direcition of the cards and color palette. I feel like you could get a little more out of the italic in a typeface known for it's italics.(Old Style Romans: BEMBO GAROMONDS JENSON CASLONS) Right know the i feels a little to up and down. A trick to kerning this baby would be to add a few other letters (Capital "O" and C are good) When you add those letters you might get a better since of the overall letterspacing necessary. Right know the spacing is entirily to tight. Another trick would be to space the letters way out and make them gradually tighter as needed.

In summary "Make the "i" feel special"

kirsten's picture

Here are some additional revisions.
The first grouping contains further refinements to the last posting, decreased the size of the "i" in the all sc version, adjusted kerning to the lc/sc version and on the third I decrease the size of the "i" so it floats between the K and R.

knlogotype_v3

On this next series I tried a few other fonts, from the top is Bembo, Granjon, Miller, and Caslon 540.

knlogotype_v3a

On the final grouping I went back to the first design but used ital "i"s from different fonts.

knlogotype_v3b

david_g's picture

I really like the personality of Miller. All of these logo's are still kerned way to tight. Think about the Negative Space. Right now the negative space is being crammed by the positive spave. I would try Adding one full natural space in between the letters and see how it feels. IMPO an all small caps version is better than an all Caps/Small Caps version. I think you might disagree but when you open up the letterspacing you will see why I feel that in my gut. the K and the N are way too dominant. The italic i should be the subtly dominant feature of your logo. right now the K and N are cramming the i's elegance. Give the i some breathing room!

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