Daniel Meadows is a freelance retoucher based in Lancashire, England, with eight years of experience in digital retouching and photo manipulation and has worked with award winning photographers in the UK and internationally. Daniel uses high end retouching techniques to achieve a subtle perfection without relying on common ‘blurring’ skin retouching methods which destroy pore-detail and clarity; strictly using non-destructive retouching techniques that look perfect at any resolution.
Daniel approached me with a conundrum: since originally starting his own business as a graphic designer, he had since moved more towards the field of specialised and high-quality photo retouching and manipulation. As a result, his logo and visual identity no longer reflected the quality and manner of work that he was nowadays producing.
This is a common situation logo and identity designers face— when a business finds that they have evolved to the point where their current identity no longer reflects the service they now provide.
Thus, I was tasked with developing a completely new visual identity system for Daniel, one that reflected his high-end quality and world-class skills in photo retouching and manipulation.
Let’s Get Some Context
In order to grasp an idea of what Daniel was looking for in his new identity, as well as to delve deep into his work philosophy, aspirations and ethics, we conducted an extensive Q&A session. This is a process that I go through with most clients and is invaluable in getting right down to the heart, soul and centre of what the client’s service is truly all about; hitting that deep, emotional connection.
Emerging from this Q&A session, several key points arose:
- It was cited as extremely important that the name “Daniel Meadows” was to become a globally-recognised name, a powerful brand in the image retouching world;
- As Daniel aspires to produce work on a par with the beautiful photos found in the likes of Harper’s Bazaar, Vogue and W Magazine, we recognised the need to fashion a new identity for Daniel that would be “familiar” with renowned photographers and models already accustomed to the style and image of the magazines aforementioned;
- We both acknowledged how important it was for modern-day self-employed designers to maintain a good and regularly updated blog as a powerful means of generating traffic to the site and, consequently, to Daniel’s work. When I researched the top photo retouchers in the world, whose quality Daniel aspires to, we found a distinct lack of an incorporated blog; these sites primarily functioned as online portfolios and points of contact. This signified a significant opportunity for Daniel to generate lots of traffic to his site by dedicating a large portion of it to a blog full of quality resources, tips, advice, tutorials and inspiration for fellow photo retouchers.
- The cornerstone of the new identity, the logo, needed to be typographical in order to aid this familiarity to those used to content and style of upper-class fashion and beauty magazines.
With all of this glorious information in mind, it was time to do some heavy research.
Daniel gave me a list of globally-recognised upper-class fashion and beauty magazines, the kind of magazines that he hopes one day to be regularly doing work for. I looked into their logo styles as well as their image and graphic styles, to really understand how these publications presented themselves and their content. I also took the opportunity to research Daniel’s nearest competitors in the photo retouching world. It was immensely desirable that Daniel’s new identity stood head and shoulders above the rest.
Things I Learnt In Studying These Publications:
- Typography is important. Well, as a designer, I know that anyway, but these magazines truly understand the power of typography and employ it extremely well;
- The models in the cover photos typically take up about ¾ of the available space—the sheer beauty and quality of these photos are immediately apparent and are the primary focus of the magazine from the start;
- The logos of each magazine are occasionally “toyed” with graphically, sometimes they are partially obscured by the model and in other times they are blended in using various transparency techniques. All these magazines place the focus on the quality of their content first, followed by excellent typography then their own branding. In a sense, by moving the high-quality content and graphic design into the foreground, people come to associate these desirable qualities with the brand itself.
After becoming intimately familiar with the image and style of these publications, as well as what Daniel’s competitors were and were not doing, it was time to start developing the logo, the cornerstone of the identity.
A Typographical Beauty
I wanted to keep Daniel’s new logo very simple and with minimalistic tendencies, we needed to develop something that spoke of quality, precision and yet with an understated air about; it didn’t need to be bold and brash. It was merely an identifier of Daniel’s world-class skills and high-end work. Consequently, I opted for only utilising Daniel’s initials for the logo: ‘DM’.
I started with a typeface familiar to the upper-class fashion magazine world: Didot LT Std. Didot is classed as a “Didone” or a modern serif typeface, which are usually characterised with a high-contrast between the thick and thin strokes and a purely vertical stress throughout the letterforms. Didot was originally designed with hot-metal typesetting in mind, and so many digital reinventions of the typeface suffer when printed (in smaller point sizes, the “hairlines” of the letterforms almost disappear). However, Adrian Frutiger’s rendition of Didot for Linotype compensates for this eventually by lowering the contrast of the typeface at smaller point sizes.
The logo itself is not just a plain ‘D’ and ‘M’ set against each other. I wanted to do something just a little unusual, to aid the memory and make the logo stick in the mind a little more. So I utilised an uppercase ‘W’ that was flipped upside down and then reversed. Paired together, the ‘D’ and modified ‘W’ balanced very nicely but I noticed some inconsistencies: namely the thick strokes of the ‘D’ outweighed the ones in the ‘W’. So I went about matching the two letters are lot more. I also neatened all the little serifs and thinned out some of the thinner strokes.
Furthermore, I wanted to interpolate Daniel’s skills in image compositing as well in the logo. This was achieved by merging the two characters together into a single, elegant composite. I also gave the ‘leg’ of the modified ‘W’ some breathing space by incising a little ‘river’ in the ‘D’ for it to pass through. This was mainly for sake of clarity at smaller sizes. Plus, all of these customisations and tweaks help the logo to feel “ownable”, something totally unique.
The Symbolism Behind The New Logo:
- The logo has been refined to a high degree of pixel perfection, signifying Daniel’s high quality of work and desire to produce pixel-perfect retouching results;
- The modified uppercase ‘M’, crafted from an italicised ‘W’, interpolates Daniel’s ability to take the normal and produce something supernormal;
- Daniel’s skills in image compositing are reflected by the modified uppercase ‘M’ overlapping and merging with the ‘D’.
With the cornerstone of the identity developed, it was time to start considering all of the other elements that would make up the complete identity system.
The Blocks That Form The Whole
Usually, after developing the logo design, the next element I tend to consider is typography.
After examining several typefaces that I felt complemented the logo design and communicated the feel that we were after, we settled on Linotype’s Avenir. Avenir, again designed by Adrian Frutiger, is a geometric sans-serif typeface that exhibits more humanistic tendencies than conventional geometric typefaces, such as Futura. Its pure forms, cleanliness and precision complemented and enhanced the visual identity.
Three weights are in use for the identity system: light (in uppercase) for taglines with the Daniel Meadows logo, regular for body copy and bold (in uppercase) for any headers. In particular, the lightweight in uppercase is tracked quite loosely to enable that more elegant style to the identity.
We didn’t feel the need to set a colour system for this identity system; for the logo, Daniel was keen to mimic the coloursystem found in the previously mentioned publications, which tend to be monochromatic. I felt that a more complex coloursystem would overwhelm any presentation of Daniel’s work; and remember, we wanted to keep this simple, clean, minimal and understated.
With the typeface in place, we could think about the logo as a system.
When considering any branded stationery for Daniel, we quickly realised that most of his work, and communication, occurs online with clients internationally. As a result, a complex package of branded stationery wasn’t really required, so we opted for the basics, consisting of business cards, letterheads and envelopes.
A Strong Online Presence
As mentioned previously, most of Daniel’s contacts and work occurs online so it was important to establish this new refined and classy identity consistently across all of his active social media platforms.
Daniel’s website was also totally redesigned, to accommodate a quality blog and is specially laid out in a more “magazine-friendly” format.
What Does Daniel Think?
After rebranding my business according to Ian’s design and direction, Google Analytics is recording increased time on my website per user, more page views and more sharing over social network sites. In real terms this has led to more enquiries and a higher conversion rate, the benefits of Ian’s expertise have been visible and immediate. The level of research into the market and the understanding of my client base impressed me greatly, I can’t recommend Ian’s services enough to anyone considering a professional design and branding package.
More To Come
Also currently in development is an online print-ready brochure, designed and laid out like an upper-class fashion and beauty magazine, that clients and prospects will be free to download and peruse at their own leisure. It would detail Daniel’s skills, showcase his work in hi-res glory and list his prices and more.
Ian Cylkowski aka Izo
Logo & Identity Design
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