From Zero to Logo in 6 or 60 Days

Iteration and collaboration stand behind the shisharki logo. Being a very visual person, it was paramount to me that my new creative endeavor has a meaningful logo. Conveniently, a logo was included in the development package offered by this site’s talented designer, Andrew Morgan (who was also the world’s most patient person dealing with this ever-so-specific client). I was eager to get started.

How does one turn a pinecone into a simple, memorable, timeless, appropriate, versatile symbol of a yet-to-be created entity? For starters, I outlined what shisharki means to me. I pored over hundreds of pages of stock images under the keyword “pinecone” to extract a small handful that pointed towards look-and-feel of a potential logo. From the thousands of pinecone images I scrolled through, none incorporated the core principles that applied to logo design. Andrew had his work cut out for him… Since at each stage of the shisharki logo design, I received the distilled result of his creative process, below I only detail my own musings in providing feedback and guidance towards the final product.

In version one, to gauge direction, Andrew presented several outlines of conventional, immediately-identifiable pinecones. Most had fused scales, and only one was open, giving it a familiar, woodsy allure. Immediately, it stood out, as it correctly represented the maturity of the cone, and ripeness of seeds (ideas) ready to emerge. A key design direction was now in place.

Version two took a stab at simplifying the quite complex pinecone into a logo-like image. Several different styles, some of which are below, aimed to further pinpoint what I liked and disliked in the representation of pinecones. Two stood out visually, for different reasons, but I clung to one particular approach, as while the most complex of the bunch, it held potential for extracting simplicity.

I took the image and started playing with it, pulling the scales apart, deconstructing… The scales were great, I thought, we just needed fewer of them. I sent back clumsily cut-up feedback.

Version three held the magical design that was to evolve into the shisharki logo. I squealed with delight when I opened that particular file, as I could see *it*, without knowing what the *it* was just yet. It was simple, it was versatile, it was modern, it was timeless. But it was somewhat static, grounded, a tad conventional… and… it didn’t resemble a pinecone, it was far removed from the original object of inspiration. It was still *it*, I knew it in my heart and in my mind. There were multiple alternatives for the individual scales as well, and the options seemed endless – in a good way. Time to play again!

Experimenting in 15-degree increments, I started rotating the image in pursuit of imbalance. Touching the ground on the left, an arrow pointing forward to the right seemed like a meaningful direction… I fiddled with the pile of various pinecones collected during our hikes that now lay expectantly on my desk, wondering how to make the image whole… Instead of the predictable “How was school?”, I pulled my 13-year old over for feedback on all recent logo options, with my *it*-in-progress for dessert, as soon as he stepped in the house. “It needs more of those things to look like a pinecone, why don’t you put one behind it,” is exactly what my son authoritatively pronounced. Wait. That was genius. I quickly duplicated it, and rotated the layer negative 30-degrees. As he was about to bee-line to the fridge, with the typical teenagers’ smirk of superiority, my fingers raced my mind to expand the back layer to 150 percent. “That’s not what I meant,” he said, “but it looks cool.” We were gazing at a stylized pinecone, viewed from the top. I spent the next few hours replacing scales and vacillating between smooth and sharp edges as the *it* had now taken its shape. I sent a triumphant “shisharki has a logo” e-mail to Andrew for his professional finish.

I had mentioned before that the historically-religious connotation of pinecones throughout the world was unknown to me before I started this project. I just liked pinecones, I enjoyed their Bulgarian name, and they were meaningful to me as metaphors for ideas. In the logo brief, I had specified that when it comes to the enlightened aspect of pinecones “we’re not gonna go there”; instead, we’d firmly focus on nature, forests and the conifer cone itself. Staring at the freshly minted logo for shisharki, I realized that by duplicating the layers and doubling their size, the logo can expand to infinity! Moderately disturbed by this development, I had now found appropriate symbolism and spiritual attributes to the shisharki logo. I’d seen some of Escher’s tessellations (I ordered the book that very minute) before, but now I was experiencing how inspiring and creative they are. I really got into it, layering, expanding, rotating, tiling – based on a badly cropped section of a gray-scale image, since I didn’t yet have the source file. An unrestricted avenue for digital art creation had just materialized – I can’t wait to plunge into that project, soon.

The curvy scales were clean, corporate, mature, distilled, Apple-esque. The sharp ones were artsy, provoking, dynamic. The choice was clear. Next step was logo color. From several color schemes for the website that Andrew had provided earlier, I already embraced a bold, bright trio. A completely opposite, muted, tame alternative was a close second – just in case I got cold feet, this approach was a backdoor for easy overhaul. Even with color schemes selected, it appeared unexpectedly difficult to color the logo in either the bold or the muted version. One rendered it a radioactive sign, another would have had a car brand ban it, yet another fit a sports team, fourth was frilly-flowery, fifth was flowery in a carnivorous plant kind of way, and yet another belonged to an old lady (no offence)… Outlines proved paramount, inward/outward light/dark balance was essential to keep the meaning on track… The logo colors needed to work on light and dark backgrounds alike… And last, but not least, *I* had to like it!

The final logo coloring materialized organically by adding a single color from a previously discarded scheme to the bold trio. (Coincidentally, it happened at the hospital, while my 8-year old had fallen asleep awaiting appendectomy, and I, having been through the drill twice before with his brothers, found myself unworried, with a large chunk of time, mediocre coffee, and my laptop). In all fairness, Andrew had already used the fourth color in an early mockup of the website’s home page, but we’d been attempting to curb the colors at three. Adding the fourth color instantaneously screamed *elements* to me, and I saw the pinecone’s scales reflect earth, fire, water, air in a dynamic forward, upward motion. That also meant the website’s home page was on, in four bold colors!

The above logo progression occurred rapidly, as we were headed to Bulgaria for the boys’ summer break. I saw (and later utilized) the trip as a development opportunity, and sensed a business card would be essential. Days before our flight, with colors finalized, Andrew sent me the source file. In comparison to color, selecting the font for the word “shisharki” on the card was fairly straightforward. I had browsed hundreds of fonts online, and zeroed down on two that seemed to match the logo. However, in an ideal world, the logo font would be supported by the website, Andrew advised, and sent me a link to the web-compatible fonts.  With no hesitation, I jumped on Ceviche One. It offered bold, substantial weight and artistic stroke that matched what I was hoping to express. Note to self: use this font sparingly. A business card promptly featuring the logo and its infinity was timely printed and immediately used in establishing those very first relationships with artists and makers in Bulgaria.

But wait, there is more! On our trip I photographed different pinecones, and multiple flowers that had striking resemblance to the shisharki logo. One thing in common appeared to be a central stem, from which the scales (or leaves, or petals) radiated. Every time I gave out a business card (and got compliments on the logo and its colors – thank you, Andrew) that central piece seemed missing from the image. It also occurred to me that if there were a central piece, it could be used to dot the i’s in the logo font. Back to AI I went. Following the shape of the outer reuleaux triangle of the logo, a small one comfortably nestled in the middle, gently altering its symmetry. It no longer looked like a stem. It was a seed!

Iteration and collaboration stand behind the shisharki logo. By actively participating in the professional design process, the final design was able to capture and reflect the essence of shisharki. I enjoyed this inaugural journey and I’m thrilled with the result. What do you think? Now, time to materialize ideas into products…

TL;DR: Shisharki represent ideas. The shisharki logo stylizes the top view of a pinecone. The colors signify the four elements – earth, fire, water, air – in a dynamic alliance. The logo’s ability to expand to infinity by duplication reflects the potential held within the pinecone seeds; it delivers a serendipitous dash of spirituality, and renders the logo ideal for arty tessellations.

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