What makes a good VN logo?

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rito
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What makes a good VN logo?

#1 Post by rito » Sun Nov 13, 2016 8:11 pm

So me and a friend have been interested in doing VN logo commissions and researching a lot of things, but we figured it might also be good to ask directly.
We know many of the general logo design principles, but many of those seem to have limited use in the VN sphere, or maybe that's just an impression.

In your opinion, what makes a great VN logo? What are your favorites?
Also, how much does the logo influence you to keep reading a topic or not?

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Re: What makes a good VN logo?

#2 Post by Ark » Sun Nov 13, 2016 8:16 pm

I'd say something that catches the eye but is still well composed. It should tell and convey what your VN is about at a first glance, without being too busy.

Least - that is my opinion at least. You should look at other video game/logos and see the types of symbols they use,

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Re: What makes a good VN logo?

#3 Post by truefaiterman » Sun Nov 13, 2016 11:36 pm

As far as I've seen, most VN logos work in a pretty similar way than comic book and manga titles, you may get a good reference from there.
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Re: What makes a good VN logo?

#4 Post by morinoir » Mon Nov 14, 2016 12:02 am

This is a tricky topic. I usually see the cover image first before moving to title/logo, so it doesn't really influence me. Logo is more of work for graphic designer than illustrator so one have to think of other things beside esthetic, like readability, size, but most important thing imo is how well it is when paired with cover image.

I also agree with Ark : It should tell and convey what your VN is about at a first glance, without being too busy.
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Re: What makes a good VN logo?

#5 Post by rito » Mon Nov 14, 2016 1:02 am

Thanks everyone for the input! Ark and morinoir, could you please ellaborate on how much is too much? Graphic design can get pretty minimalistic, so we're not sure just what is the balance VNs need.

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Re: What makes a good VN logo?

#6 Post by Anne » Mon Nov 14, 2016 3:26 am

Most VN logos are not supposed to establish a recognizable brand or be printed on wares of varying sizes and properties, the most people ususally want from them is to look pretty on a title screen or promo image. And pretty in most cases means as complex as possible (a lot of people would like their logo to be an illustration of sorts, with characters / objects included, an example of this type that I like would be Final Fantasy logos).
I second readability and conveying the VN's atmosphere as other things you'd want to consider.
While not being overly important to me as a player a logo definitely adds to the overall game presentation (I don't have to fall in love with it like say with art but if it's bad I'll expect this lack of professionalism / aesthetic sense to show somewhere else in the VN as well)

From LSF logos I like Reikun's work

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Re: What makes a good VN logo?

#7 Post by morinoir » Mon Nov 14, 2016 9:42 am

Ooohh those are some nice fancy logos! (*O*) Gotta find reikun's personal art thread.

I've been a graphic designer for a year and there's this design principal called KISS which stands for "Keep It Simple Stupid". Now if you think I'm kidding, I'm not, no matter how much I sound like it.

So yeah, graphic design can be very minimalistic because I believe the first thing that matter is function, and graphic designer's job is to make the design alive (in which I mean not stiff and very 'technical') while still very functional. Sure, most VN logo are meant to be one time only, but there are some that are meant for franchise or series. That's when the developer need to think of their game logo carefully.

I'm not against illustration-like logo, because like I say: it depends on how well it is when paired with cover image. If the cover image is stand alone logo, feel free to go crazy (but remember number 1 rule : it has to be readable). But if you add cover image filled with characters and background, you might want to keep the logo simple OR the illustrator/artist must think of good composition to make their artwork and the fancy logo support each other OR the artist give up and draw something simple.

This is the case when cover art > logo title : http://www.perfectly-nintendo.com/wp-co ... 296105.jpg

This is the case when cover art = logo title : http://vignette1.wikia.nocookie.net/voi ... 0404073045
http://img.gamefaqs.net/box/7/4/7/97747_front.jpg
In the first image, the logo looks huge because of those magic circle and in the second image, there are small ornament under the logo. So to make it work, the artist have to make room in their artwork to put the logo or just think a way to make the logo/title readable.

I also really like this example : http://www.cashforgamers.com/wp-content ... ecover.jpg
because both logo and cover are fancy and detailed but they didn't clash (okay and maybe because I'm fan of those title XD).

So by too much I mean when both cover image and logo are detailed, and the artist didn't really pay attention on how to present those two elements without clashing each other.
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Re: What makes a good VN logo?

#8 Post by Tempus » Tue Nov 15, 2016 7:35 pm

A good logo design should:
  • Be easy to read. Even if there's no text the shapes and/or subject should be easy to read.
  • Scale well. Can it still be understood even when it's small?
  • Work in grayscale. Colour shouldn't be the sole method used to differentiate parts of the design.
  • Be relevant to what it represents. Either literally or in the mood/ideas it evokes.
Here's a bit of the process I went through designing the logo for StoryDevs. While it's a website, a lot of the same things are needed.
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Above are the initial concepts. I wanted the focus of the logo to be on the creation of things and to avoid narrowing the expectations of what types of stories can be created. While VNs have become quite diverse, the community iconography has... not. Anime girls appear as mascots (or at least in some capacity) almost ubiquitously: LSF, Ren'Py, /r/visualnovels, Fuwanovel, VNDB, TyranoBuilder, Visual Novel Maker, Novelty, etc. I think that really limits the audience so I wanted to focus on methods of creation. This is a core goal of StoryDevs — don't limit the audience and bring people into the fold who either don't usually make VNs / story-oriented games. So that's a design goal I have in addition to just "make it relevant" and "make it look good".

Anyway, #1 was the first thing that popped into my head. Overall it has nice ideas but it's kinda messy and hard to understand. Sometimes your first ideas are good but usually they're not, at least not without refinement. In this case my first idea was possible to refine, but sometimes it's better to come up with around 2 - 4 really different designs. With this design I especially don't like the divider between the icons because it adds more visual stuff to the logo without adding any meaning or utility.

In #2 I'm thinking about what happens in situations where the text has to appear alone. The text needs to be legible, but I also wanted it to be iconic even if it's by itself. So I made Story Devs into one word and superscripted 'devs' which had the side-effect of making the latter word comparatively small. This means I need to be extra careful about its legibility and is the reason why 'devs' is in a sans serif font — the lack of serifs make the word less busy and helps further distinguish it from the previous word, something a space (which is now absent) usually does.

In #3 we're getting somewhere. The icons representing areas of development are just in a straight line which is much easier to read. Aside from a little bit of verticality with 'devs' sitting atop the first icon you can pretty much read this design from left to right, which is a huge bonus to the speed at which you can understand what you're looking at. In addition to this, the icons have flat colours that are fairly evenly spaced across the spectrum. It's not pictured here, but I originally went with red, yellow, green, and blue. This looked very off-putting and sterile for some reason so I shifted all the icons' colours halfway between the next icon's colour.

In #4 I change two of the icons. The overlapped pages with writing, some of it crossed out, is supposed to represent the process of writing and editing. I still like that idea but it's too visually complicated so I simplified to a single blank page. Since a blank page in this style would literally be a rectangle, I re-use the folded corner iconography that's ubiquitous today so that people understand what they're looking at. I also change the musical lines and staff to just two notes; again, the original was just too visually complicated and would look unpleasant at small sizes.

The last thing I did in #4 is switch the positions of the paint brush and the command prompt icon. Remember how the design reads from left to right? Well, in western writing at least there's an implicit hierarchy in writing. Generally the more important things appear first. While I personally see all elements of VNs as important and without hierarchy, this is not how most developers or the audience sees it. In a VN or story-oriented game there's a perceived hierarchy of writing > art > music > programming (most people don't think of programming at all since it's invisible to them.) I rearranged the icons to reflect this hierarchy (even though I think it's dumb) because it helps increase the readability by reinforcing expectations.
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The above image is a little dumb. The progression of the logos is in reverse order. I don't know why. It's a mystery we'll never solve so just drop it.

Okay, so the bottom logo is where we left off. In the middle logo you can see I've changed the command prompt to a computer monitor. I did this based on feedback from people who kept asking what the hell the fourth icon was. That's bad. Developers ought to be able to recognise the icons on my logo because it's a site for developers! Representing programming in a single icon is pretty difficult so I just gave up. The iconography of the screen at least gives a little more context for the site: seeing the screen lets you know "ah, the stories referred to by 'storydevs' are digital ones." Programming is, therefore, implicitly represented and the preceding design elements are further contextualised.

Next, I make the final design change to the icons in the top logo by changing the page with a folded corner to a speech bubble. There's a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, as you can see the logo as a whole looks okay but it's not suitable for all applications. There's no way it can fit as a browser tab icon (and remember this logo is for a website!), nor will it suit situations where it needs to be square such as in an avatar. I liked this design so I decided to make variations of it for different situations rather than scrap it.

So, how do I make a variation of the logo that works in a browser tab or avatar? Well, I could just use one of the icons as a stand-in for the text and other icons. Remember how I said there's an implicit development hierarchy that goes writing > art > music > programming? If that's true there's only one icon that'd be an appropriate stand-in: the writing icon. But the writing icon is a page with a folded corner. Here's what happens in Chrome when a page fails to load:
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Uh-oh. That's not good. Our most important icon looks the same as a failure. Ultimately I didn't end up using the speech bubble icon in this way (as you'll see below) but it was still a good exercise. It's good to think about how your logo (and name) can be misread or misinterpreted.

The second good thing about the speech bubble is that it represents more things. It represents talking and presumably conversation which obviously happens in a VN or story-oriented game, but it can also be read as representing networking, marketing, team communication. It's more community-oriented in it's multiple meanings and it's visual design is rounded and welcoming than the sharp corners of the page.
Image
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Above you can see the logo is still usable in grayscale and can be inverted. This is important if you're going to overlay it on images.
Image
Here's an example of a Twitter avatar I made that I ended up canning. It's alright... I just don't like it for some reason. It looks like the sort of avatar Yahoo Answers would have or something. One thing this image illustrates however is how choosing separate fonts for "story" and "devs" helped differentiate them even when they're the same size (one being written in all lowercase and the other in all uppercase also helps). This is handy for times when I want stylised text reading "storydevs" but it needs to be small enough that the superscript wouldn't be legible.
Image
Here's how that logo looks in a browser tab... basically unreadable. I need to get around to changing that. You can't even really tell it's a speech bubble. Even if you could, a speech bubble is a fairly common browser tab icon for Q&A sites so that's another strike against it.
Image
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Since the StoryDevs about page, Twitter account, and various other places needed a banner, I ended up adding some new elements to the design: four diagonal stripes with colours matching the icons. These are much, much easier to read at smaller sizes (as you can see from the browser tab icon) and when used with the rest of the logo they can be repositioned easily depending on the width available to the banner. They don't really mean anything but they reuse the established colours in the same order of appearance and usually appear in a context where the icons are present too so that you can associate them.

---

So that's that.

Designing a logo for a community service site is different than designing for a logo for a work of fiction... but not that much different. A lot of the same concerns apply. If you plan on sharing your VN almost anywhere besides here you'll need a small square-ish avatar, whether that be for Twitter, Tumblr, indiedb, Steam, a dedicated website, the launcher icon, etc. Each of those aforementioned sites has different widths and aspect ratios for banners, some of which are dynamic. The press will need graphics from you to use. If you want to watermark images you'll need a logo. If you're doing crowdfunding rewards chances are some of those rewards will bear your works' logo.

I can't even remember what the question was, honestly. Oh, right. I remember why I was saying this now.
rito wrote:In your opinion, what makes a great VN logo?
I think the same thing that makes a great logo in general and that is: it achieves its design goals. That's pretty vague and that's why I laid out my own design process above. There were numerous points where I could've said "okay this is done" but I kept iterating until it was aligned with my goals. And those goals were:
  • Make the logo relevant to VNs and story games, specifically their development.
  • Represent as broad a range of talents as possible with as little complexity as possible.
  • Make the logo quick to read.
  • Avoid iconography that limits the audience (i.e., anime girls).
I don't think logos necessarily need to be memorable in the sense that you can easily remember without prompting (it took me nearly a minute to answer you favourite logo question below) but I do think it's important they're sufficiently identifiable and unique.
rito wrote:What are your favorites?
I like the PolyTron (developer of Fez) logo:
Image
rito wrote:Also, how much does the logo influence you to keep reading a topic or not?
Hard to say. I guess there's different stages. If the logo is really, really, really bad then I probably wouldn't even open a thread/page if I saw the logo first. If it's bad I might keep reading but I judge the entire project based on it, the same way I judge a thread by the grammar, spelling, and content of its title. If the creator could not choose a fitting logo it makes me extremely skeptical of their ability to choose appropriate art in general. And if I do see good work in their project after seeing a bad logo it makes me suspect that it was accidentally good rather than intentional.
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Re: What makes a good VN logo?

#9 Post by Hijiri » Sat Jan 07, 2017 10:27 pm

In your opinion, what makes a great VN logo?
Something easy to read while also giving me a good "feel" of what the work entails. This is where font choice is important, because the kind of font you use can say a lot about your work. I can actually explain this a bit with my favorites.
What are your favorites?
While one of these is not a VN, the idea still applies.
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Hitman's logo is spartan and with no flair. But considering that you're supposed to be playing a professional silent assassin who is in and out without being noticed, the plain text logo is fitting. 47 isn't supposed to be eye catching, just like the logo of his new game.

Image
No, Thank You!!!'s logo is quite energetic, only helped by the exclamation marks. That best describes the protagonist of the game, Haru, who is quite the lively guy.

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Euphoria's logo is dirty, while the font itself appears to have been ruined. The game is dirty and the characters within the story are ruined by the events. The choice of color for the font is also fitting, considering certain scenes...
Also, how much does the logo influence you to keep reading a topic or not?
It can make me read it, but if the other assets are not up to snuff as the logo, then I'll just move on. But don't go ignoring a logo just because of that, treat it as the first impression others have of your game.
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Re: What makes a good VN logo?

#10 Post by Tempus » Sun Jan 29, 2017 1:41 pm

Forgot to say: my talk at Visual;Conference was basically an adaption of the above forum post I made just with more stuff added in. Here's the video if anyone is interested.
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Re: What makes a good VN logo?

#11 Post by 磯七ラスミ » Sat Jul 15, 2017 4:38 am

For me a good VN logo is a concept that is captured in a tiny picture, meaningful like an eclipse and original like... magic socks. If your VN has a meaningful concept, character or object, that doesn't spoil the plot, but maybe create expectations that you could use for making readers to have extra emotions.

I don't like initials logos. However, they are useful as a fast reminder of what VN the logo belong to.

My favorites are abstract silhouettes, mirrored, spiral, or some kind of mindblowing shape that play tricks on my head. My curiosity beats hard.

A logo can grab me a couple of seconds. Topics still has to be my cup of tea so you'd have to link that few seconds with more promising signals and start to fulfilling some of them before, say, 30 minutes.

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Re: What makes a good VN logo?

#12 Post by Katy133 » Sat Jul 15, 2017 1:01 pm

A good VN logo is one that's made by someone who is experienced and knowledgeable in the 12 Elements and Principals of Design, uses other things like font to help "tell the story" of what the game is about (if the game is set in a certain time period, the font should imply that).

For inspiration, take a look at the website Art of the Title. It showcases different titlecards/title designs from many different films.
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