Exploring Brand Identity: Design a Brand Icon | Benny Gold | Skillshare

Playback Speed

  • 0.5x
  • 1x (Normal)
  • 1.25x
  • 1.5x
  • 2x

Exploring Brand Identity: Design a Brand Icon

teacher avatar Benny Gold, Graphic Designer & Founder at Benny Gold

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

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.

      Word Association


    • 3.



    • 4.



    • 5.

      Digitizing and Finalizing


    • 6.

      Final Thoughts


    • 7.

      Explore More Classes on Skillshare


  • --
  • Beginner level
  • Intermediate level
  • Advanced level
  • All levels

Community Generated

The level is determined by a majority opinion of students who have reviewed this class. The teacher's recommendation is shown until at least 5 student responses are collected.





About This Class

Want to design simple yet powerful logos? It all starts with the icon!

This 35-minute class is perfect for designers, illustrators, creatives, and enthusiasts eager for a behind-the-scenes look at how to create an icon with the versatility to stand alone, power a logo, and work in harmony with a larger brand identity.

You’ll join creative director and streetwear designer Benny Gold on location in San Francisco as he walks through his process for designing original, high-impact icons that communicate an idea in an instant –– the goal of all great design. 

From initial kick-off to final polish, step-by-step lessons include:

  • Brainstorming with word association exercises
  • Developing a visual concept informed by research
  • Sketching and refining an idea by hand
  • Polishing your design with simple tools in Adobe Illustrator

Whether you’re designing for practice, your portfolio, or a real client, this quick class will help you hone your brand design process, sketch with intention, and take your icons to the next level!

Click the "Your Project" tab to share your sketches and final design!

Meet Your Teacher

Teacher Profile Image

Benny Gold

Graphic Designer & Founder at Benny Gold


Benny Gold is a graphic designer and the founder of Benny Gold, a San Fransisco based streetwear brand. Gold launched his career at design firms and agencies, and has worked in-house at The Body Shop and Target. He has worked with and created brand elements for clients including Nike, Adidas, Teva, the NFL, JanSport, and Miller High Life.

Outside of his corporate jobs, Benny worked on his own design passion projects. After creating several one-off products (including stickers with the moniker "Stay Gold" and t-shirts that got picked up by stores including Zumiez and PacSun), Benny launched the Benny Gold label in late 2007. The brand, which has always emphasized the importance of staying true to your passion and growing up without growing old, gained a mass following over the pas... See full profile

Level: Beginner

Class Ratings

Expectations Met?
  • 0%
  • Yes
  • 0%
  • Somewhat
  • 0%
  • Not really
  • 0%

Why Join Skillshare?

Take award-winning Skillshare Original Classes

Each class has short lessons, hands-on projects

Your membership supports Skillshare teachers

Learn From Anywhere

Take classes on the go with the Skillshare app. Stream or download to watch on the plane, the subway, or wherever you learn best.


1. Introduction: My name is Benny Gold. I'm a Creative Director, Graphic Designer, Business Owner at Stay Gold brand. That's from designing the t-shirts to lookbooks to the social media, the way our store looks. That's been a great projects to learn everything from the ground up, from something that I started in my bedroom in my apartment to now a world wide distributed brand and a flash of San Francisco. I really love branding work, because it is taking the essence of a company, and simplifying that down to a mark that's so easily recognizable, and it's something that speaks to what the company is about in one small little piece. This class is focused on just creating the icon of the [inaudible] bell. Because that's the first thing that you're putting forward into this universe, it's the first thing that people are going to see, it's the first mark and it's going to live independently from you. It's not about the whole identity package, it's just the iconic that can stand alone on its own and represent your project or the clients projects. The project that I'm going to be using as an example today is the highsnobiety logo, it's definitely one of my favorites I've ever done. I love how it's an H and a crown, and it just talks through how to better the authority and the street-wear. A lot of people will just start and go right to the computer and start designing, but my process is, word association, concepting, a lot of sketching, and the computers are very, very last step of the whole process. For me the process is most important part. People always ask about how do you get through creative roadblocks or I'm stuck in whatever, and I think it's because you're trying to skip these steps and get to the end result. If you take the time, go through the steps, enjoy the process of it. The end results comes naturally. I'm really excited to join this class. Let's get started and see what we come up with. 2. Word Association: But what makes a great icon is something that is memorable, iconic, and meets the client's needs. Because really you're designing for other people most of the time. Sometimes you're fortunate like me and you design for yourself. For the most part, you're designing for other people, so you got to make sure that it's solving the problem creatively with the client. You want to think of being memorable. If you want people to look at it and know what it is and remember it, and while you designed this icon remember to keep it simple. That's the best advice I could give you and simplicy is better. If its purpose, if you do something purposefully make sure it's done on purpose. Like you want people to know it and not make it look like it's an accident. So the main goal and objective with the word association is to create an idea in a concrete form. So your concept is coming together before you even think of what it's going to look like visually, and that's due stringing words together, stringing ideas together, and a lot of people do that in their head but I find out by writing it down and actually start seeing a pattern. So before agaim to word associates an exercise I want you to decide on a project. Make yourself the client, pick a client as existing, pick a brand new life and make yourself a brand. Take notes and figure out what you're trying to achieve. The first step to any project is a client meeting. Pay attention to those client meetings, take notes, and really try to pay attention to what they're saying and what they're trying to achieve. Ask questions about themselves, about the project, about the brand. What did they think this company means to them and what they mean to consumer. Over the years, I found out that you just start getting them talking about themselves. Because usually they're really excited about the project, this is the beginning stages for them. So they're excited and all you have to do is really listen. The more you listen, it's an easier this project's going to be for you. When I'm ready for the word association part of it, I've already embodied what the client or what I'm trying to say and so I know in my head. So say for like Iceland Beidi project, I know they want to be the premier, the first, the main source of news and with their name alone has to buy, they're already talking about royalty. So I have these ideas in my head and now its just figuring it out what it really looks like. All right. So now let's get a blank piece of paper out, get some pens, a highlighter, and let's get started. So I always start with writing the name of the brand on top. So we'll start with Highsnobiety, and you guys got to excuse my spelling because I went to art school. So I start with Highsnobiety and then I write. Then I switched to a normal pen and I start writing with Premier. Because that's the way that they kept talking about in the meeting and then Authority. What is premier mean? Premier is the first, they're a leader. Then Authority. What's an authority at some? Authority is influenced, an expert. So from these words you get leader. So a chief, king, boss, influence. So it gets a little messy but so I always draw arrows or and then I circle things that I like, like the word King obviously, influence, knowledge, wisdom. I kind of skip around everywhere. This process, you just want your mind to start flowing and thinking about things. There's no right or wrong words to write. It just stuff that kind of makes sense. Once you look at the page, you'll see patterns and everything. So the same words will keep coming up. I'll start the things sometimes, I like it, circle it. Start highlighting things. Kings, prince, notoriety, influence, I like influence too, lets bring influence down here. Because with having a website like Highsnobiety, we're a talking about news, we're talking about influenced. So influence is really interesting word and that's becomes a taste maker and authority. There's that word again; Authority, Expert, a Leader, because only leaders can influence. So I like to word leader again. What are leaders? Leaders are icons, classy, luxury. There's word King here. Because I like that. So because the king talks and notoriety, supreme, and a leader. So a king is actually pretty interesting thing. Because a king speaks to all of that. So a king has influence, has notoriety, it's a supreme, and its a leader. From there I go, what represents a king? Kings or what does crowns, crest, monarch, staffs, courts. A crown is definitely a symbol of authority, and then influence and notoriety. That's an interesting thing. So from this you get to see a pattern. I started with just two words at the client said which is, they want to be the premier and the authority on news and then I started moving it to what it is and then you start seeing a pattern of kings, influence, notoriety, supremes and leaders. Then from there what represents all that? A crown represents all of that together, which I really really liked the idea, and crowns are fun thing to design with. It could be a cool icon for Highsnobiety. I usually get stuck a lot before I started the word association exercise and I don't know where I picked it up but I think it was just me trying to like work through the idea and really making the idea as concrete as possible. For me it takes a good amount of time, for you might be shorter or longer and each project is different. Like this one started taking shape pretty quickly. So don't worry about how much time it takes, how long or how fast, it's really more about the idea. Sometimes I think a word and does even connect to it anymore and then you're like you go on a tangent but sometimes you look back and like that tangent actually meant something and you looked back like I write. With a king they do have influencing, notoriety and the supreme, leaders, impact, which is a nice word too actually. But you never know it's just really creating a concrete idea and formula in your brain. When you design it for a client usually like to see multiple concepts, and that you want to avoid showing too little or too less to a client. One is definitely not enough, and if you show more than three is usually analysis paralysis, where they don't know what to do and they kind of start frankenstein the product or will to pick pieces of this and pieces of that and try to put it all together and that never works. I find that fact showing three is the ideal number. For this class, we're just going to focus on this one idea and trying to get as best as we possibly can, and on your own you can redo this whole process and get the other two options. So now that I have my idea down it's a concepting stage. So I take the idea of a crown and a king and influence and I start looking at what that looks like visually. Then I go to hit the books, I hit the internet and I start pulling reference materials, because every good design starts with a good reference. 3. Research: The first thing that I do is, I go to my question and I pull a few books. The books are all based around the concept that I have from my word association. So we're pulling books of heraldry, icons, crowns, kings, stuff that looks a little regal. So I pulled reference pieces from my library books that associate and go with the idea of what I'm going for. So, the first obvious choice is heraldry. Heraldry is basically stuff of monarchs and kings, and it was the symbols that they used to represent themselves. I picked these because I really like how, there's a lot of crowns in there, there's lot of crest, there's even presidential seals, lots of cool different crowns and icons. Now, in books like this, I've dog-eared, put posted notes for the pieces I like. So this one I like the crest and the lion here, crowns, and there's tons and tons of stuff in here. These are the images that I pulled from an online. When I pull these mostly because how simplify the crowns are. Because with an icon, you look into simplified down to the simplest, most recognizable thing possible. So something like this, it would be much too complicated for our logo. But something like this is definitely more palatable and easy to recognize. Because your icon is could go from a business card size to a billboard, and you want to work on both. When I start doing, this I'm looking for style mostly. This I'm looking at styles of the crowns, styling of the kings, styling of the crust, and how it all relates together. Then, that directs the direction I'm going for what the logo. What I'd like about this, this is simple because it's an icon, it's not a tissue graphic. So if was a tissue graph, it would be a much more an a crown. Since it's for an icon and a logo, it's supposed to be small and recognizable, and work on the smallest thing to the biggest. Pulling styles references like heraldry and crowns, and kings, and all stuffs thats works to but there's nothing that beats how classic trademarks work. So you always want to see how they take an idea and simplify it down as low as simple as possible. So this one I use, basically just to see how simple things can become. There's lot of crowns, there's lot of icons, and banners, and stuff. This is just to keep me on track on how simple a logo and a icon can be. Because you always want to pull a reference on why you're actually designing for. Like if designing for a t-shirt, of course going to be much more [inaudible] if you're designing for an icon or a logo, it's going to be a simplified version of it. For this particular project, I liked the icons here, like how they did the simple crowns and the crests, and the lions. I also really liked to how they started taking these letter forms and they started turning into things. After seeing this icon, I really like the idea of combining an H and a crown together. Because then that's something I can live. Artist own independently from the word mark. So an H crown is the direction that we're going to go for this project. So now that I have an idea what I'm going to do, what an H I start researching, the type of H it is. In that time, the nobility and kings, and queens, like what are their letters look like, what did the typefaces look like that time. So I've pulled a Gothic book reference. Then, this thing has tons of great, great, great letter forms, all within that in that era and the genre. So I'm looking for a symmetrical H like turn into a crown, and I really like this one. I like how the crossbar, the age could be the bottom of the crown. Then, the sides of the age can definitely be the points and it's really little pointy. This is actually a pretty good reference for a crown. So one of the common mistakes with pulling references is pulling to a little references. Because if you're only pulling one type of reference and if basically, if you fall in the trap what copying it, so you want to pull a whole bunch of different type of styles, styles that you all like. So it's either from simple line work to more detailed illustrations, to silhouettes. Because then it becomes, I let your mind grow and let the idea form instead of copying just what's already out there. So we all know that books are disappearing now, and that's totally fine. The beauty of the internet is that you could pull as many references as you want. It's easy to find stuff. It's easy to pull things. There's really no excuse anymore. I always print things out. Because as I mentioned before that the computer is your last, last step for designed. So you want to stay away from the computer and really start sketching, and letting your mind be as free as possible because you never know what that's going to take. I think if you leave it on the computer and you're too inclined to jumping and start using the pen tool, start vectorizing stuff way too early. The reference part for me is usually the quickest. Because as a designer, I have a taste level or you know what you like, you know you don't like. See important references and you think work, and they you're attracted to. So don't pull stuff that you think is ugly, but pull things that you think is beautiful and that'll form the direction of the project. So now, they have your notes, you did the word association exercise, you pulled references, and now it's time to sketch. Let's keep it off the computer, let start sketching, and see where the mind goes. 4. Sketching: So now we're going to move into the sketching phase. I've taken all my references and, I arrange them around me, and I used tracing paper, a translucent tracing paper. I got this from a tattoo artist when I was getting tattooed as a younger kid. I noticed that they would drawn on it, overlay it, made it easy for them to make changes, and I took that idea from them and incorporated into my own work. I really love it since it's disposable it's easy. You can put it over your references. It's quick to make changes without erasing and starting over all the time. Ideally, I like to stay away from the computer as much as possible until the very end because I feel like when you get to the computer without the sketching phase, without the research, without the word association that you're just spinning your wheels. You're really trying to fit something together as quickly as possible. We all know if you're skipping steps, rushing towards the end, then the end result is way less meaningful than taking the time to really work out all the pieces of it and getting the ideas solid and concrete as you possibly can. For me, I've found taking my sketches as close to final as I possibly can has really, really helped cut down on the amount of time that I waste. Because some people work really loose and then the computer they figure it out, but for me if I could see it in my head and when I bring it to the computer, I know exactly what I'm going to do and what I'm trying to accomplish. It's funny because I'm a loose sketcher so I sketch really loose and then I refine. That's why I use multiple pieces of tracing paper because I overlay them on top of each other to refine the piece. I keep the references I refer to, I trace over them, I look at them, I pull pieces I like from them and I get them to a point I'm happy with. So let's get started with the sketching part. So what I always do at first is I write what I'm doing on top, so crown H and then I just start sketching. After a while when you get to where you feel like you're in a good spot with all the sketching you've been doing, you spread it out on a table. I've starred, highlighted and wrote notes on it. I like this one because it looked like an H, but I felt like it was too hard. I didn't want the icon to be unapproachable, so I wrote softer on it. So I started softening it up with circles and more softer shapes. I think it landed on this one which I really like. I'm just going to work on the symmetry of it a little bit. I think when you start doing these hard lines, it looks too evil, so the softer the better. I liked where this one was going with a really abstract crown, but after I explored for a while, I felt like it looked too much like Herman Miller. So you always want to avoid that too. This one, I circled originally. I felt it was close to final, but now I look at it and it's too wide, so I'm going back to some of the other ones. I like this one right here as it's more of a condensed mark, and it feels more like an H and not as stretched. So now I'm just going through it and darkening it up so when I scan it, I can see it easier. Just cleaning it up a little bit because the cleaner the scan, the easier it is. I really like this cross piece, so let's add that. It should be around the same height. I feel like cross piece really starts defining the cross part of the H with the same arch. It really drives home that it's a crown and not just an H. Because you want the icon to be recognizable as soon as you look at it. You want to know that it's a crown. You want to know that it's an H because you're not going to be there to explain it to everybody. I'll round everything in the computer and get this thing perfect. This one's feeling good. So from here we're going to scan this to the computer, and we can digitize it and really bring this thing to life. 5. Digitizing and Finalizing: So at this part of the process, I scan this sketch that I am feeling good about, and I'm bringing this to computer to really bring it to life and give it some depth. I like to have everything done by the time I sit down on a computer to work on it. Then the rest is just tweaking and making sure it's perfect because definitely all the magic happens on a computer. It comes to life. It starts to have depths. You can play with the how thick and thin everything is. So I scanned it. So what I do is I create another layer. I bring it to it, bring it on there, and then I lock it. So now, you can't touch this thing, and I start outlining it. Since this is a symmetrical piece and I built it it in pieces. So we'll give it actually a color, so we can see it and make it a little smaller, since this symmetrical piece will create the center line. Then we'll go from there. The beauty of this one is going to be easy because it's a pretty basic mark. The strong part is the concept of this, and that is an H and a crown together, and talks to [inaudible] and what they're trying to accomplish. So what I'm doing now is I'm just creating various shapes. It's symmetrical, so it's easiest to only have to do it once. So with this, so like how these shapes look. See, you go to your path finder, and then you hold down the option key, and then it become one full piece. Then what always works to make everything look a little better is rounded corners because you don't want the thing to look like a computer made it. You just cut around the corners out and it really, really helps because nobody can make it a sharper line as a computer can. So my goal is always make it look like it's hand-done. Then I get that from following the sketch. So I can just keep tweaking it until I'm happy with it. Then here, you hit x and it changes stroke to your fill. I just fill in, take the stroke off, and then I can hide the bottom layer. It starts looking thinner. Things are a little on higher, so I'll circle them. You just want a little bit of around a corner just to give it that natural feel because you don't want it too much because you may lose its shape. You just want a little bit. Then you bring back this. Then you go to this tool and you reflect it so as the exact same piece on the other side and since I created my center line already, he reflected on that. Then this is easy too. I used the same center line again, and I use an oval tool. I create the arc., that one. You create an outline on it, and you get rid of all the points you don't want. So I don't need that. Then you duplicate it by holding shift and option, bring it down, and you can select the two points, and Apple j will join it, and you do the same thing with Apple j. Then you fill it again. It start to look pretty good. There's a bunch of ways to do it. You use the eraser tool and get rid of the ends. It's a sloppy way to do it, but it lets you see what you're doing real quick. Then I go back to my layers. You really want the same width of everything. What I usually do is I create a circle. I give it a color. So you can see if it's the same width there and there, and see how it's a little too tall. So you bring in, use the open arrow, and select the top part of it. You shrink it down. So now, it has all the same width and starting to feel like one full piece. I had a little too high, so it's losing some of the interestingness of this curve. So I brought it back down. Then you select all three of them. Here's a pathfinder again, it's command and see how it makes one full piece. Then I select these corners now. I just want to round them out a little bit, just a tad to make it feel like very natural. Then as I look at it, now that it's cut off, you lose some of the arch. You want to give it a little more of an arching and to create that bottom part of the crown. So you can only tell that once it's all together. This is where the beauty of bringing it to computers, just the tweaking part of it all. So now I'm going to get rid of this part, and as I fix only the last side of it and bring up my center line and reflect it again. So they're both identical, then you slight on both and expand them. So they're all one piece now. That sign look like really nice. Then we're almost done. So what we do next is we bring back the scan layer. We're going to create the middle piece. So I liked this line. I want this line to be exactly the same. So I'll bring it, duplicated up by holding option key, and then I get rid of all the other things I don't want. I don't need this. The best way to do it this because I only really want. I'm only looking for that one cross-bar. Now, I have a base there, then these are pretty basic so we can create these with circles. Now, we have to create one side again because it's symmetric on this end. Filling up my point. So that I want to do that. You realize that this was basically [inaudible]. You create that piece and then you go into your pencil and you cycles top anchor point and you give it a higher angle, so it creates that sharp point. So I'm making the centerpiece of this, so I create a couple of rough shapes and then you combine them all, expand it. Then I realize it's a little high, so I'm going to bring it down. Then take outline stroke and you've got an object path and you outline the strokes and now it's one for piece in your channel. You want to delete this from, then you got to minus, or divide, sorry. You divide it, and then you can pick off the piece you don't want, and then pull up your center-point again, and put it in the middle. It looks like I forgot a little piece. Then combine them to get rid of this thing tail account looks. I fell like my thing wasn't perfect which is totally fine. You just have to delete some of the points, it looks so little. So this needs to be a little wider. So I'm going to go back to before. I'm going to work on this piece. Now, sometimes when you're doing it, you realize the best way to create consistency is to mimic the shapes are only accessible design. So I'll just pick this side of the of the crown because I like that shape. Then you take the rotate tool and you bring it down to flatten out like that. Then reflect it, so makes one full piece again. Had always remember to hold option Shift key down. Now that's pretty good. We're missing pieces. Shrink it down to size. Let's get rid of this top thing just in case it's confusing. The option 2 is, so things if you don't want to go back and do that again. So I'll try to delete, clean up the top on this blur but I don't want to touch this one. So I love to work with Apple two locks, so I can't touch, I can only touch on one piece. Then I'll use eraser and I'll delete and then unlock it. I have an option tail and then I could touch it again, I could touch both and combine them. We've pretty clustered find enough. I create a consistency by using similar shapes already existing in the piece. So this top of this flare is the same as the top of these crowns. I'm going to make sure they align. This is same Arch too from the bottom. We'll see what it looks like in black because everything looks better in black. Looks pretty good. Then you always want to give your client options on how they see us. So they have a mark here. Then I'll do it. What it looks like, a circle knocked out too. You turn that way, bring it to the front, Apple chef, open blacket, group it, Apple g to make sure. So now I want to move it as one piece. When I wasn't grouping it and I can move only [inaudible]. It's like everything, I've actually align tool, center it. Then you really want to visually center things because here looks little higher, so bring it down, here you are. I went through and tweak the design too. I was really happy with it and I found it's perfect and that process is really fun, but really really tedious because every little tweak changes everything. So thicken things made it feel like it had more weight, because the other one I was doing it was a little too thin. So now that I look at it the icon can stand on its own. It's a great icon and it works swelled and reverse the negative wire Maxwell and self and black, big, faraway, shrink down to nothing you can still see it, it's going to look great. A great icon is somebody that you could definitely tell uniquely that it's an H right away. It's a crown and a so it has everything in one point together, and it tells you exactly what the customer and the client is looking way. So if an icon is too thin, sometimes the details I get lost when it gets shrunk down business card size, so I always like to bump things, especially if you're thinking of it to be on a black background. So I bumped it up, gave it a little more chunkier heavier field, take carry a little more weight, because you want your piece to be impactful and have that way to us, so you notice that when you see it. There is a fine balance between having too much detail and not enough detail, because you want the thing to be fun, unique on a sitting on its own, but you don't want to be over the top and have too much detail also because these icons and marks are going to be super tiny on a business card or a T-shirt label or whatever the application's going to be, so you want to make sure that it can hold its uniqueness on any size. The best rule of thumb is if you're questioning it out, print it, look at it, print it to the size you think out a business card will be, shows application if it's for a can or soda can or a T-shirt label like printed, put it on their shirt, put it on the can, make sure it works before you send it to the client, because you don't want them to go into production and realize it doesn't work. So this is where it landed for the icon for heist dividing. I'm really happy with it. From now you've build out a presentation for the client and that's showing it as big as it is and how it looks small, maybe apply it to their website if it's for the web like this, maybe apply it to a business card. Just because if you're presenting to a client, sometimes they need the vision to see how it works for them to really sign off and buy it, so I suggest putting it on the piece of they're trying to produce. For them it's a website, so I'll take a website background, put the icon on their website. If it's for T-shirt, put it on T-shirt, so you going to have presentation as key. So design is only the first stage to selling a logo and a mark. Now you have to present it and have the client sign off on it. 6. Final Thoughts: So that's the class. I took you through my steps, my process. We started with the client meeting, and then we took notes. We did a word association exercise. We sketched for a long time, then we sketched a little more. Then we scanned it and brought into the computer and digitize and really brought the icon to life. Now I want to see what you do with that. I want to see your process. I want to see the icons that you create. I want to see hopefully that you got something out of this class. Keep doing it. It gets easier. I really appreciate all the support and love. Design is a great thing to do especially if you put your heart and soul into it. 7. Explore More Classes on Skillshare: