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How to Make a Lettermark

Create a stylish, compact logo by combining a picture with your company’s initial.

In the Middle Ages, craftsmen began stamping their products with a personal seal as a guarantee of quality. Their seals became known as trademarks and have been popular ever since.

Early trademarks were highly decorative, with elaborate drawings and busy lettering. Although their purpose remains the same, their appearance has evolved. Modern trademarks are streamlined—the illustration is reduced to a silhouette, and the company name is set in simple type.

The illustrated letter, or lettermark, is an especially effective type of trademark—it’s stylish, compact, and easy to complete.

Here’s how to make an effective lettermark.

1 What to Draw: Look for Pictures That Tell a Story

Start with a real object

If your client has a tangible product, draw it first. If it has many products, try several; each will say something different. If the product is actually a service (like a motel), try objects from the environment, such as this cactus or teapot.

If a literal image doesn’t work, try symbolism

A symbolic image brings to mind a desirable but intangible characteristic of a company—strength, for example. We’re not looking for abstraction or hidden mystical revelation here; the best symbols are pictograms (like restroom signs) or everyday objects.

2 How to Draw: Make it Bold, Keep it Simple

Draw the profile

Logo graphics are meant for quick identification. Illustrate the object in its most recognizable view.

Use as little detail as possible

Elaborate pictures are pretty but out of place on a lettermark. Use only what’s needed to make your graphic identifiable.

Using lines? Limit yourself to one line weight

Lines are racy but can quickly appear detailed and overworked. The solution: Use a single line weight throughout.

Keep the outline simple

The teddy bear shown below is easy to “read” when it’s big, but it looks like an ink blot at letterhead size: Its silhouette is too busy. A solution was to render only teddy’s head. Watch for similar conditions in your design.

3 Where to Put It: Replace the White Space

Remove the counter and place your graphic in the largest open area of the letter. Usually, you’ll want to make your illustration larger than the counter it replaced.

Place for legibility

Your letter will be clearest if you position your graphic to follow its natural contours.

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