Elisabeth Irgens

Behind the scenes of a quick logo

I’ve helped out with a logo for Stasis; a Clojure library of tools for developing static web sites. I always enjoy reading other people’s process posts, so I wanted to share how I went about designing this logo. Here is my warm-up exercise, all the ugly early versions – and my superlazy colour finding technique.

My goal was to:

  • complete something within 4–6 hours
  • design two versions: a full name and a simplified square

Disclaimer: this is not a tutorial on how to design a logo – proper branding requires a more thorough approach. I’m showing how I made this particular logo with some tips for similar projects.

Make execution a priority

I often find I spend too much time on generating an abundance of ideas, not leaving enough time for execution. I wanted to pick a direction early on, and spend time on polishing details.

Quick concept sketch

I made a quick sketch with two concepts. Character mascot with legs to stand on? Or a letter S that was fastened and stationary? I sent this to Magnar who created Stasis, and within 10 minutes we had decided on a direction.

Prepare to not procrastinate

Starting a new design for anything can be daunting. I can ease in to almost any project like this: open a new file in Illustrator and write a word I’m working with, in various fonts I have installed. (“What?! Straight to digital without sketching on paper first?” I can almost hear my graphic design teachers’ collective dismay.)


I wouldn’t make any decisions about typeface at this point. And for any another project, I would want to look at fonts other than those I already have licensed. But this is a way for me to show up and get started: my go-to warm up exercise.

Get to know the letter shapes

I wanted to make a typographic logo, so it does make sense to study the letter shapes early, before working on other elements. And instead of depending on my own squishy hand lettering, I am getting guidance from expert type designers.

What does the word actually look like? Any letters or ligatures that have the potential for extra character? No descenders in “Stasis”, but possibly the lovely double-story letter a. The combination of ST in uppercase can be iffy (professional typographic term, there). “Stasis” also contains three letters S, and I liked how these were softened by not going all uppercase.

Letter shapes

Sketch on paper

When I went to school to study graphic design, it was because I wanted to work with computers. Unlike many of my classmates, I had no desire to draw. And I didn’t. Sketching on paper was not something that felt natural for me until years later, when I started taking sketchnotes at conferences.

Logo sketches Logo sketches

Find something that works

At this stage, I made endless repetitions on a huge artboard in Illustrator. I don’t know what will work, I need to search for it. Copy, tweek, copy, tweek. Make a mess. The document doesn’t look anyway near as tidy as what I am showing here.

I find something that looks sort of ok, but it just doesn’t work as a logo in a smaller scale.

Sketching in Illustrator

I don’t know exactly what I am looking for. I wander off, get lost, look back, remind myself that I did have a plan. (And wasn’t there some advice about keeping things simple…?)

Sketching in Illustrator

Colour me clojurian

I thought I’d somehow use colours from the Clojure logo. This was not some deep strategy – more like me being lazy. But I didn’t want to use the exact same hues of blue and green. I have lots of different ways of finding colours, but Illustrator’s blend tool can be your friend in quickly showing different hues.

Illustrator blend tool Logo design for Stasis

After some detours and derailments, it’s pretty funny how the result ended up so close to my initial 1 minute concept sketch.

Contribute design

And there we go! My very first tiny contribution to an open source project. Hopefully just a start for more to come. Now go check out this lovely post Jina Bolton wrote for 24ways: Why You Should Design for Open Source.