GraphicDesign: Thanks for joining us. Talk about the process of developing a logo. Where do you start and what goes into it?
Jeff Fisher: It’s about distilling the essence of any organization or event down to the simplest graphic symbol you can create. You need to display as much information as you can in a simple design that’s very recognizable and memorable.
The most important information I get from a client always seems to be what they don’t like rather than what they do like. People are very definite about what shapes, colors, and design elements they don’t like. It’s much harder to get a client to figure out what they do like.
I have a survey of questions I give to any client, which includes a lot of feedback of what they don’t like. I think about their responses for a couple of days. What I find myself doing more than sitting down to sketch is doodle on notepads or something I’m reading. I have these doodle drawings I’ve collected over the years, some of which were created in meetings that weren’t even about the logo I was doodling about.
I have never really been someone who sits down and spends a lot of time sketching. Instead, a lot of the process is thinking about it conceptually in my head.
GraphicDesign: What makes a successful and memorable logo? What attributes do many of them have?
Jeff Fisher: It’s about having a good mixture of a graphic element and a typeface that best represents the name of the business. One of the things I try to do is incorporate the two. It’s really creating a unique and personal design for a business, event, or organization.
GraphicDesign: When we think memorable logos, one that immediately comes to mind is the Nike swoosh. What makes the swoosh one of the top logos out there?
Jeff Fisher: Simplicity. It really is one of the simplest logos you’ll ever find. The great thing about it is it’s recognizable anywhere in the world without any text. Starbucks has kind of done the same thing with their logo. They’ve eliminated the text in many places. You immediately have a much better opportunity for international appeal when you can eliminate text. There’s no specific language and it’s something that’s easy to adopt.
GraphicDesign: Can you tell us about your past and current clients?
Jeff Fisher: I’ve had major corporate clients. I used to do logo design for the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trailblazers. I’ve done a lot of work with colleges. I’ve done hotel identity designs. The clients I enjoy the most seem to be smaller businesses. I just did an identity redesign for a remodeling and construction company.
Part of the reason I like smaller businesses is that you eliminate the multiple levels of approval that exist in major corporations and government agencies. The people you’re working with have much more of a vested interest in the outcome and it’s much more personal. It’s more of a collaborative effort with small businesses. It’s a closer relationship. I’m usually much happier with the end result.
GraphicDesign: It seems like logo design is very applicable and adaptive from industry to industry. Do you agree?
Jeff Fisher: It really is. Different industries may have different things they want to convey with their logos like trust or that they’re a solid company or they have longevity, but the process is pretty much the same. You may have more conservative views in some industries like health care than a performing arts organization or a retail location. With each industry, there is usually a different image to follow.
GraphicDesign: On your website, we noticed a few articles referencing plagiarism and copycat design. How prevalent of a problem is that?
Jeff Fisher: It has become a bigger issue in the last two years than it has ever been before. Plagiarism of people’s design work is nothing new; I’ve had my work stolen by other people. One of the things that’s happened with design and the internet is that plagiarism has been rampant in the last four or five years. In the last 2.5 years, I have found over 300 rip-offs of my logo designs. It’s kind of crazy. It’s very easy to find rip-offs too.
It’s amazing what you can find when you start putting logos into reverse search engines. I had a situation one day where a designer in South Africa and a designer in Sweden e-mailed me and saw the same example of one of my designs being ripped off.
A designer in Romania was walking through a department store and saw a ripped off logo of mine on a pack of women’s panties. I found more examples this week of wholesalers and retailers in Ukraine. Most of the time, you can contact them and let them know your work has been ripped off and it’s removed pretty quickly.
GraphicDesign: We’ve also noticed articles on your website voicing opposition to crowd-sourced efforts. Can you tell us about your thoughts?
Jeff Fisher: Part of the problem with crowd-sourcing is you set up an opportunity for people who aren’t truly skilled in design to rip off the work of others and submit them as their entries. There has been a ridiculous amount of that going on in the last few months. You can go to Fiverr.com to the logo design category and, in people’s online portfolios, you’ll see logos that are recognizable from other designers.
On Twitter, I’ll point these out and notify other designers. I find a lot of my work submitted to sites like that. People think they can grab a design off Google Images and submit it as their own work. You have many cases where a client has purchased what they thought was an original design and found out later that the work was misrepresented.
GraphicDesign: You mentioned you admired the logos of Nike and Starbucks. What are other logos that you think best represent what a logo should be?
Jeff Fisher: FedEx has a really great image, especially with an arrow in it showing direction. I think one thing about logos is that there’s a subtle hidden message in the design. The CBS eye has been around forever, for example. The NBC peacock has been around forever. Those logos have evolved over time, but there is some hint of the history and evolution there.
You’ve seen a lot of the gas and oil companies like Shell evolve over time. Target probably has one of the most recognizable logos around and has simplified it so much over the years. You see the company’s red color and, most of the time, you’ll see the Target graphic without any text, just like what you see with Nike.
GraphicDesign: How did you get into logo design?
Jeff Fisher: I’ve been designing logos since 1978. I knew that I wanted to do something in an art-related industry by the time I was six. When you’re a kid, you don’t get a lot of encouragement about that, but I always had people supporting me. When I got into college, graphic design was in the Fine Arts department. I was ready to quit school, but I talked to a person in the Journalism department. He had written a book on advertising and publication design and said I needed to get out of the Fine Arts department and into the Journalism department.
I ended up getting a work-study job doing advertising design for the University of Oregon college newspaper. When I got out of school, I had experience and a journalism and advertising design background, so was immediately able to start doing design work. I moved to Portland in 1980, which is where I currently live.
You may have some questions about how to deal with plagiarism and copycat design. Feel free to leave any comments or questions for Jeff below.