« Back to Blog December 17, 2015 | Logo Design

Designing a Custom Wordmark in Illustrator

Designing a custom wordmark means that you can capture exactly what qualities you want your type to have instead of relying on existing typefaces. Drawing letterforms and getting your new wordmark just right on paper is fun, but eventually comes the most strenuous part of the process, moving in to the digital realm and converting your sketch into a useable vector wordmark.

Preparing your sketch

Preparing your sketch for Illustrator can be as easy or intense as you feel is necessary. For a lot of the wordmarks I design, I simply take a photo with my phone, upload it, crop it, and place it in my Illustrator file. Depending on how accurate the sketch needs to be it could be beneficial to use the Distort or Perspective tools in photoshop to make sure your vertical and horizontal lines are all at right angles.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 3.44.43 PM

Setting up guides

Guides are the key to consistency. Using guides takes a lot of guesswork out of the design process, so you can just focus on getting your wordmark outlined quickly and efficiently. I use guides for the top and bottom, x-height, angled lines (if needed), and vertical lines for spacing. If a guide is useful and will make my life easier, I add it in. (Pro tip: keep your guides layer locked so you aren’t moving them around on accident.)

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 3.45.14 PM

Starting rough

Don’t worry about getting things right in your first pass. Get your letterforms close, and figure out the finer details later. Focus on the overall shapes of the letterforms and just get all of your vector points set. It’s not going to look very pretty at this stage. I have to constantly fight the urge to work on the small details that aren’t right yet. But that’s ok, that’s what the next few steps are for.

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 10.30.04 AM

Refining the details

Most of the work involved in finalizing a wordmark is making sure all of the details between all of the letters are the same. Appreciating the details is what separates the novices from the masters.

Do different elements line up consistently? Are widths consistent throughout?

Natural patterns start to appear as I start working on the details more. I’ll start setting “rules” for each of the letterforms to follow. Stylistic choices aside, each letter in a wordmark should fit with all of the others.


Follow your instincts

Rules are meant to be broken! I will never hesitate to break a few typographic rules if it means that the wordmark will have more character or be more interesting as a result. After all, at the end of the day the only thing that really matters is if your mark is memorable.


I tried to keep this article concise, but if you’d like to see more about the digital process of designing a custom wordmark be sure to follow Airship Design Co on instagram! I went through the entire process of designing the Gumption Brewing logo from beginning to end and each step includes a suggestion or tip for you to use in your own projects.

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