Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Graphic Design for Oni Kai Aikido

Oni Kai Aikido logo and trademark!
Not long ago I signed on to teach an Aikido class for San Francisco Rec and Parks. Just a happy little class for 3-6 year old students but something I likely should have done ages ago. In the offing, I decided as long as I was teaching the class I might as well take my personal approach to Aikido to the next level.

The best way to accomplish this seemed to be by creating a micro-brand and just building it out like any other "business". Every organizational identity package needs a logo, some way of branding and identifying it. Even non-profits benefit from this and while graphic designers are most often talented folks with hard won skills, basic graphic design doesn't have to be hard or require expensive software.
Initial photograph of the ink drawing.

For this project I wanted something that would have a Japanese feel, be somewhat nostalgic and remain viable as an eye catching logo. To illustrate how simple this can be I'll go through the rough steps I used to make the logo.

The design centered on a mythical oni demon crossed with a ronin samurai. The inspiration came from a number of things including photographs of Samurai, Zen monks, blocks prints, paintings as well as modern imagery from anime and films. So, somewhat traditional with a bit of modern appeal. I made several simple ink drawings with a traditional brush pen until I had one that seemed to capture the feel of the mental image. Once that was set I needed to move it to the digital realm. This could have been accomplished with a scanner or in many cases these days with a pen interface such as a Wacom or Bamboo tablet.

Modifying and cleaning up the image.
I was on the go and didn't have access to any of those and realistically didn't actually need them. It's worth noting that as a photographer I do have formal graphics training but it's not in my first order skill set. I also didn't happen to have the laptop where my copy of Photoshop lives but not to worry, this really isn't complex stuff.

I first used my phone to photograph the ink drawing. Since I wouldn't be printing the photo but rather converting it to a digital logo that I'd work over with graphics software, resolution wasn't much of an issue. This allowed me to import my ink drawing as a JPG into GIMP, a free graphics and photo manipulation tool. It's probably closest to Photoshop but can serve a number of functions and as I'm not printing anything to large, will work even for creating promo materials business cards, t-shirts and stickers. I'll vectorize it later.

Cleaned up image ready for text.
Once in GIMP it was a simple matter of using the magic wand to select the parts of the image I wanted to work on and clean up to get the look I was after. I think most anyone could learn this in anywhere from a couple hours to a weekend if they wanted to.

Once I got the basic logo, and several versions carefully saved along the way, I was able to add text with the native fonts in GIMP and put the whole thing together. Pretty easy and with a brush pen, cell phone and free software as my only tools, I've got custom business cards on the way to promote my Rec and Parks Aikido class.

So, if you don't think you can do graphic design, you might just be right about the more complex things but the small stuff, most anyone can do that and there's no reason you shouldn't at least give it a try.

All images copyright Jason Barnhart 2011. "Oni Kai Aikido" copyright and trademark Jason Barnhart 2011 all rights reserved.