Show all episodes

A Masterclass in Logo Design Theory

An interview with
Michael Shumate


Michael Shumate taught Graphic Design for twenty five years. In his second week of teaching, he told a student that the logo concept he was working on would not make a professional identity design. The student asked, “Why?” But Michael couldn't provide an adequate answer, but was certain some principle was being violated.

He set out on a quest to discover the underlying principles of logo design. It's been a twenty-five year quest that lead Michael to look deeply at identity design and to seek for those constant, unchanging principles. Fads in art and design come and go. But principles don’t. Principles are enduring; they stand the test of time.

In this weeks episode Ian interviews Michael to discover what these principles are. We discover the 7 deadly sins of logo design, an effective approach to brainstorm ideas and more. We also discuss Michaels book 'Logo Design Theory', which is now on its second edition.

Michael Shumate Interview Transcription

Ian Paget: I could imagine that most of the audience will be aware of the answer to this question, but I think in terms of opening up the conversation, can you explain, what is the purpose of corporate identity?

Michael Shumate: The purpose of corporate identity is to clearly and quickly identify whose product, service, or whatever else you're talking about. It is not to be cool. It is not to be different. Although novelty is great. I'm not knocking novelty but if you use that as your prime criteria and forget about the fact that you have to identify somebody's company clearly and people have to be able to recognise it and it has to be able to be reproduced equally well in a myriad of different media and situations, then you've missed the boat.

Ian Paget: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah. That's exactly the way that I see it. Because there's a lot of graphic designers out there that think that ... Or not just logo designers. There's a lot of people that are that think that logo design is just a pretty picture, but there's a whole functional side of it and you want to make sure that you communicate all these different things. I'd love to go into that in more detail. But there was something in your book that I've not previously heard of. But you spoke about the principle of blowout. What is that?