Creating Brand Systems: An Overview of Combining Logos and Type | Mike Ski + Jessie Jay | Skillshare

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Creating Brand Systems: An Overview of Combining Logos and Type

teacher avatar Mike Ski + Jessie Jay, True Hand

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.



    • 3.



    • 4.

      Generating Assets (Part 1)


    • 5.

      Generating Assets (Part 2)


    • 6.

      Combining Assets


    • 7.

      Send Off


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About This Class

How does a great logo or brand system come to be?

This inspiring short class is perfect for designers, illustrators, creatives, and enthusiasts eager for a high-level walk-through of what goes into creating a dynamic logo for use across many applications and channels.

Designers Mike Ski and Jessie Jay of True Hand discuss and describe their collaborative process for creating the logo for Philadelphia eatery Kensington Quarters.

Along the way, they offer prompts so that you leave inspired to create an amazing, adaptable logo for a project of your own — one that communicates your brand and conveys your values.


This short class is presented in partnership with Hightail, a creative collaboration service that helps you share files, collect feedback, and take projects from concept to completion.

Meet Your Teacher

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Mike Ski + Jessie Jay

True Hand




True Hand is a design and tattoo studio in Fishtown, Philadelphia, PA. Mike Ski & Jessie Jay work in tandem to create branding systems.

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1. Introduction: I'm Mike ski. I'm a tattooer and designer. Back in 2013, I took the endeavor to start True Hand here in my neighborhood Fishtown in Philadelphia. Early on, I had opportunity to sit down with my friend Jessie who I just knew from around the area and from tattooing. I was still working at my last job doing graphic design, and one day I decided my perspective could be better executed maybe somewhere else working for myself or as I found out with a good friend of mine Mike Ski. I was really inspired by it and decided that we really needed to team up and figure out a way to move forward with it. Today we're going to show you ways to start thinking in terms of approaching a project as a logo system. We're going to show you some of the steps along the way that we use as a team to create a narrative, to generate assets. That is illustrations and custom typography, figuring out a way to combine them in a rad way and not just think of it in terms of one single logo. So, we're going to adapt it to a number of shapes from the beginning so you can anticipate that. The thing that I work on mostly here at True Hand is branding. We have restaurants, we have makers, coffee shops. Really anybody who reaches out to us we try to work with, as long as we're passionate about what they're doing. It's put us in a mindset where we're trying to foresee an entire visual world of a brand ahead of time, and give a client something dynamic up front that fits all their needs, but also inspires them to think of cool new ways to adapt it. Here at True Hand we're absorbed in super talented people doing amazing stuff every day. So, that's awesome because we're constantly propelling each other forward, because everyone really cares a lot about what they're doing. 2. Overview: So, when we talk about a logo system, we're talking about a new way of approaching logo design which is of more extended, fully encompassing, visual well built around a brand. Which to be plainly put is, a family of marks that can work over a range of spaces; More abstract spaces, physical spaces, digital spaces but we don't want to leave the client with any part of their brand where they get to and they think, "Oh! I don't have what I need." For our lesson we're going to use three, it could be more than that, it could be 6,8,10, you know it really does depend on the size of the client. Three to us would be probably around the minimum amount of logos that you would want to have. The first example is going to be a business card and we're going to think of that as a horizontal rectangle. We're also going to do a sign which can also be adapted to a T-Shirt and that's going to be a square and then we're going to use a social icon as an example of a circular logo that can be read and readable at a really small scale. So, for today's project, we're going to use as an example a project that Jesse and I did called, Kensington quarters and that is a restaurant and retail butcher shop under the same roof. It really required a super expensive look. The branding system that we came up with I think is a great example of a really encompassing Logo System and brand. Another aspect of the project that's important is the ability to collaborate with other people. It's really easy for me and Mike because that's what we do on a daily basis. There're tools out there that you can choose from to make it easier to do these kinds of things. One thing that we've found recently is Hightail which is a service that allows you to do all kinds of neat stuff. You upload your assets in a panel where everybody can see them and they can comment on them and once all the revisions are done and everybody's happy with it, the most important part is that they can approve it. If you end up working by yourself, it's really important just to keep that perspective of the outside. A good designer will be able to do this. It would be awesome if as you're watching this you have a client in mind to apply this thing to but if you don't, it will be a really awesome opportunity to work on a personal branding system for yourself. Number one because you're super cool and you're going to know all the things that are cool about you and what you're into and what you like and also because it's an obvious opportunity to spend a couple of bucks and make yourself something with the stuff that you've designed because that's another thing we're going to talk about is implementing your design. 3. Narrative: So, the first step that we're going to talk about is a little bit different than maybe you've seen it in the past. We're going to start referring to that as creating a narrative. What we do at [inaudible] that I think helps us along the way is to really communicate with the client about what they're expecting to get and then give them our perspective on how to get that across to people, or maybe add something that they didn't notice about their business that we think is interesting as potential clients for them. The first thing you're going to want to do is do some research into what is the actual content of the brand. In the case of Kensington Quarters, it incorporated a lot of really technical things that we knew about but didn't know in depth. We went as far as to see the empty shell of the building the restaurant was going in, talking to the purveyors who are building the furniture from the inside of it, speaking with the butcher, the chef, the bartenders, and then even going to the farm where the animals were coming from. The way that we came up with the narrative for Kensington Quarters was literally in an unguarded conversation with the client, where they explained to us how the process of the farm relationship with the butcher and restaurant and then extending that to the customer is all based on a concept of an agreement that's an unwritten contract, that's basically a handshake between them. So, right away, we picked up on that and that became the story that we're telling. Any amount of understanding where they're coming from is going to make your designs better design. We like to use that as an opportunity to actually write something about it. Whether it's a bulleted list or a detailed explanation of just writing out in words, what your interpretation of their brand is, so that you're on the same page and that's where you can add in your perspective that they might not have picked up on. To go along with that would be a full second page grid of a bunch of visual references to support that, and that's the first thing we would send to the client. Once the client gets it, we ask that they comment on the written narrative and the visual aspects of it and come back to us with their feedback. That's how we determine where we're going from there. It's that idea of 80 percent thinking and 20 percent doing, like you don't just sit down and force yourself to come up with an awesome idea. You have to think about it in the shower or wake up at 05:00 AM and just think of it. The whole point to do an efficient design project is to make sure you're always moving towards an end goal, that you're not moving backwards, that you, as a designer, who has the knowledge you have are directing the client with your knowledge to a culmination that they'll be happy with. From there, we'll move forward to the next step which is expanding the narrative into options for the client. 4. Generating Assets (Part 1): The next part of the lesson after you've decided where you're going is going to be generating the assets to use while you're designing. The things we're going to concentrate on are a group of illustrations and some typefaces to put together to make an effective logo system. At this point in time, you're going to explore different aspects and styles for each of those things, and then you're going to simultaneously see how they interact with each other about them inform each other, and then make a unified decision across the brand about how you're going to move forward from there. So, this is where you would do a couple of different looks and then you would hone it in from there. For kinsmen quarters, we determined that trust was huge part of it. So, we both thought that it would be an awesome idea to use a handshake because everybody can relate to a handshake and it looks really cool when it's illustrated, especially when Mike does it. The inspiration from that was a lot of these old engraving wood-cut designs. But while we thought that was a cool inspiration for it, we thought that it was really predictable. Be unique but don't be wacky. You can be literate but don't be typical. How I typically move forward is we'll doodle and do rough sketches. I draw on layers. I'll rough something out and just keep slapping a piece of parchment over it, tape it down and just keep drawing until the drawing becomes really clear, and then from there do a final line drawing. You want to get the sketch to a high quality illustration using a marker or paint or whatever it is, but you just want to make sure that it's crisp and it's not sketchy. From that point on, you're going to take that sketch and you're going to get onto a computer the easiest way that you find possible. The ideal way obviously would be a really high-risk scanner but not everybody has one of those. A lot of times I'll just take a quick photo of it with my phone and send it to myself. Once you have it on the computer, you're going open your document in Illustrator using the high-quality illustrations that you've done and you're going to take the past tool and you're going to path find yourself an illustration of the quality that you can do it. Don't be afraid to let a little bit of yourself show in it when you're doing it because you can go back and clean up later but those things might be things that add something to it as well. An important part also when you're doing this is to make sure that every time you change the way that you're doing this thing, that you make another version of it. You never want to go over version of what you did already and you want to keep an art board that has everything that you've ever done on it. You can worry about having to clean our board, later don't get anxiety from how much stuff is on their. Next round won't have any of that stuff outside the art board because you're going to choose the thing that you respond to the best throughout all the steps and you're going to move on with that to the step that comes next which is integrating the topography. 5. Generating Assets (Part 2): The next step that exists simultaneously with building assets of illustrations is the typography. There's a lot of ways to do typography. There's tons of typefaces out there. This is also the same as you decided on the style for the illustration. You're going to have determined a lot of where you're going to go with this from the reference that the client gave you feedback on. Typically, Jesse and I would be working simultaneously and when the illustrations ready, he's going to start figuring out ways that the type is going to relate to the image. You want to make sure that in the end you don't end up with an illustration that's seems like it's 200 years old in a typeface that came out yesterday. Try to pare it down to to even maybe three typefaces. And because we're talking specifically about logos systems, we're not just thinking about the best way to do it, because the truth of the matter is as there's going to be multiple ways to do it, that are all awesome, and look great, and work for different things. Once you decide on a typeface, the next step in generating the type assets is customizing specific components. Sometimes, I for instance, most likely will take a typeface that I like and start from scratch, doing the same typeface in my own way. I won't use any of the same letter forms, I'll trace them much like an illustration. I'll want to make sure that every single little aspect of each letter is the way that I want it to be because if it's for a logo and it's one or two words and they're really big you want all the details of those letters to speak. Then, the next step would be to apply any distinct uniqueness to the typeface. Then, when you're finished with that, you're going to outline your type and you're going to move it to your illustration and that's when you're gonna marry them together. If you do end abusing a typeface that's not custom, fully custom, do save frequently and keep a live versions of the type, in case, God forbid, you got any spellings wrong, the verbage wasn't correct, the client comes back and says, "This slogan is cool but we want to use this slogin." If you already outlined that type or didn't save a live version of it, you're going to be really bummed out when you have to go back and generate it from scratch. 6. Combining Assets: Moving forward, we're going to be combining the typeface and the illustrations. You will have a whole bunch of assets, and that'll make this step more fun than if you didn't know what you were using to do it. Here, you're also going to be referencing the original visuals that you pulled for the project, because there's a million ways to lay out type and illustration. So, when you pull the original reference, if that's something that you can go back to and see in those things, which you will, maybe if you didn't even notice to begin with, that's where you're going to start with about how you want to determine how things interact with each other. Another way is to do walk-up sketches, to take the shape of the illustration that you have in front of you, and see where it wants the type to be. This is something that is a talent that a graphic designer either has or is going to gain that's going to make them really strong. Sometimes it's really great to contour the shape of the illustration with the typography. Sometimes it doesn't make any sense. Again, that's stuff that you're going to have to look at the reference to decide. If you're using a universal typeface, and illustrations that are the same at this point, regardless of what you can come up with, there's a good chance that most of it it's going to be cohesive. At this point, we're going to have two sets of assets for Kensington Quarters. The handshake is going to have a specific shape. It's definitely going to be unusual because a handshake isn't a circle, it's not a square, it's nothing that you might have encountered before. Make sure you set the typography along the base of the top of the hands, however it works, try the contours of the hands to see what happens. Another way is to constrain a shape within a more rigid shape, so that you have an organic shape like the handshake, putting the typeface on a curve or an arc that contrasts the organic shape that is the handshake. Once you've done all this, you're going to have a huge family of logos in front of you, and if you've done enough of them, you're going to easily see which ones are going to work for the part we're talking about. There's going to be ones in there that are going to be way too complex, with way too much typography to work this small icon. There is going to be ones that aren't the right shape, sometimes you end up with something that's really long, it works, you keep it because it could work somewhere else eventually. When you're done with all your lockups, that's when you're going to apply effects, filters, details that you go in and you customize, that allow the illustration and the typography to be characterized in the same way. It might be, at this point, that it finally comes together for you because before you do that, you might have a hard time envisioning it as an application. Once you've treated all your logos, and you output them, you collect them in a way that you can send them to your client, you'll move forward with determining what applications those logos are going to be used for, and creating production files based off of those lockups for the respective things that they're going to be used for. 7. Send Off: For Kensington quarters, we've done a business card signage for them and we did T-shirt designs. We also did social icons for them, graphics for their website, patches for hats, check presenters, labels for their butcher shop, multiple murals on the inside of the building continuing using the branding that we made that is dynamic, so we don't get restricted in the certain personality for the brand. A style of illustration that we can elaborate on in the future. Using this project that you're doing and our projects specifically push it to another level maybe on the next project do more logos. Maybe come up with your own version of what we did, which is not to look at a brand traditionally. Maybe it's not a logo. Our idea was a branding system. Maybe there's something that nobody's thought of yet that can lend itself to a brand to help it accomplish its goals beyond a branding system. Don't stop thinking about different ways to do graphic design. Don't get pigeonholed. Don't let anybody tell you that there's a way to do it because there's so much to be learned. Well, thanks everybody for listening to us and hope that you had a great time. Would be awesome if everyone wants to share their project with us. We'd love to see what you did and we hope that inspires you to continue to make awesome designs and most of all have fun. Take what we do as examples, but feel free to come up with awesome ways to personalize them and continue to make awesome design in your own way.