Create a clip art logo

BY CHUCK GREEN Don’t have the time or budget for a custom logo? Try creating a logo using clip art. Heresy? I think not. Don't get me wrong, if I was designing a identity program for a large organization, I obviously wouldn't use clip art.

ib_clipart_logo_01.gifNot because the quality isn't up to par—there is lots of good imagery available these days—but because a large organization needs a logo that can be protected and it is questionable whether even a drastically altered clip art image can be trademarked.

Think of the clip art solution for businesses that don't have the need for exclusivity. A local plumbing and heating contractor, a small accounting firm, and a citywide real estate operation probably don't need a mark no one, anywhere is using—they need a more creative solution.

The logo above, for example, was created using clip art—a globe and a beaker. Why does it look custom made? Because the combined images create a unique concept the globe or beaker alone would not. Can you guess what the logo represents? (See the bottom of the page for the answer.)

Creating your design is a process of experimentation—deciding on an idea, finding the right illustrations and finding a compatible type style. It couldn't be easier.

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Combine two or more images

ib_clipart_logo_02.gifOne way to make a logo your own is to add two or more images together. The townhouse with a price tag used for this logo is actually a combination of two illustrations. The building is one image and the price tag is from a different clip art collection altogether. I opened the images in a drawing program, combined them and applied the same color. Because the illustrations are similar in style, the resulting image looks as if it was drawn that way. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Resources: House: Dynamic Graphics,; Tag: Task Force Clip Art, New Vision Technologies,; Fonts: “Real Deal:” Racer, “REALTY:” Franklin Gothic Book Condensed

Here's another example of combining images—in this case for a construction company. These images are from the same clip art collection in an identical style. While you might logically think of using images such as blueprints, heavy equipment, and building materials to symbolize construction, I wanted to do something unexpected. I decided to play, instead, on the organizations desire to minimize the impact of its work on its surroundings by creating a scene from nature.


I took the creek from the image on the left and the deer from the image on the right and combined them to form the final logo. Easy huh?

Resources: Deer and swimmer: Dynamic Graphics,; Fonts: “Deer Creek” Raleigh Gothic Condensed “CONSTRUCTION” Franklin Gothic Condensed

Turn type into a design element

Making the name part of the design makes the logo that much more unique. By positioning the type within a shape and overlaying the art you can turn disparate parts into a single cohesive unit. In this case, even in the unlikely event a competitor used the same illustration, you would still look worlds apart.

ib_clipart_logo_04.gifAnd by the way, though many logos rely on subtle meaning, there’s nothing wrong with being literal. Using a hammer and nails to represent a drywall expert, to my way of thinking, is perfectly acceptable.

Resources: Hammer: Task Force Clip Art, New Vision Technologies,; Fonts: “Hampton” Raleigh Gothic Condensed “DRYWALL” Franklin Gothic Heavy

ib_clipart_logo_05.gifYou can also try adding text within the image itself. Use a drawing program to remove the existing text and replace it with your own—in this case, to include the initials “CPA” for Deborah Garrett’s Certified Public Accountant designation. In her request for a make-over, Deborah asked for “a design that shows some flair, something different than the typical CPA.” OK Deborah—how about bold, bright, and colorful?

Resources: Calculator: Clipto Art; Font: Frutiger 95 Ultra Black

ib_clipart_logo_06.gifYou can even make the type the most prominent element. In this case a clean, bold font and an simple icon of a house to make a memorable mark. Using all caps, all lower case, or, in this case, an unusual mix of caps and lower case, makes the logo unique.

Resources: House: Dick & Jane Picture font by MvB; Font: Frutiger 95 Ultra Black

If you do go the clip art route, be sure to make it clear that the illustration used is from a clip art collection and that it is possible someone will see the same basic image used elsewhere. A clip art logo isn't the ideal solution for every organization, but for a concern that does not need exclusivity, it is a frugal, fruitful strategy.

Final point, please take all of this with one important proviso: a growing number of clip art license agreements do not permit the use of their artwork for logos. I assume their thinking is that if someone used the image and claimed it as a trademark, a conflict of interests could arise. So, if you plan to use clip art for a logo be certain to read the small type of the license agreement or consult the publisher.

Answer: What does the logo at the top of the screen represent? Environmental Design—an engineering firm that cleans up contaminated land.

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