Designing History: A Closer Look at Chad Michael’s Logos

[Natasha Jen: designer, thinker, maker, educator, partner at Pentagram—
and your HOW Logo Design Awards judge this year.]

Dig into the process behind LogoLounge judge Chad Michael’s logo designs for St. Laurent Distillery and Birmingham Pen Co.

chad michael

Logos designed by Chad Michael often exude a sense of history, as if the companies they represent have been around for hundreds of years, when in fact most are start-ups. Crests and custom lettering can create this sense of heritage. “The crest or seal structure dates back to ancient Greece, China and the Roman Empire. It appears on the world’s first coin currency, metalsmith markings, pottery, etc. It has evolved over time to carry immense power and memorability with everyone,” Michael explains. “The crest structure has the freedom to carry a lot of brand messaging. It can encompass illustration and typography in a demanding way that typically works well in a variety of conditions. Humans also love symmetry and a crest structure usually possesses that.”

logo design by Chad MichaelDesigner Chad Michael, Austin, TX
St. Laurent Distillery

St. Laurent Distillery is a brand built on mystery and nautical references—like something lost at sea. “The research and strategy brought up many older references of nautical charts, which typically possess a very illustrative crest image that contains the map name. This visual research set the foundation for the design,” he says.

The package design development also pushed the need for a crest. He notes, “As with 99% of the brands I design, the logo and package design are developed simultaneously. You can’t have one without the other. The crest pushed the branding to the forefront and gave it an iconic look.”

The teal elements greatly contributed to the success of the design because it’s so unexpected in this category. The vibrant color enhances the nautical references while adding a sense of modernity to a design that is otherwise steeped in vintage influence. “The success of this product has gone beyond expectations, and I am now working with the client to develop a complete range of products: a barrel-aged gin, whiskeys and rums,” Michael says. “Each new product will keep the same design foundation but the crest and vibrant color will change with each offering. This will give the entire brand a kinetic system of family crests.”

HOW Logo Design Awards

Michael is also known for his custom lettering for clients, and often those solutions have an Old-World aesthetic. Birmingham Pen Co. crafts and sells quality writing instruments. “The goal behind the primary logo was to create a design that had a sense of provenance, establishment and luxury,” he explains. “The overall inspiration came from the concept of ironwork, which is abundant throughout Pittsburgh, related to one of the city’s nicknames [the Iron City], and evokes a strong sense of handcraft, which is a strong characteristic of their products.”

custom lettering by chad michaelDesigner Chad Michael, Austin, TX
Birmingham Pen Co.

In his type explorations, he toyed with this idea of ironwork in many ways while also exploring older London-inspired typography, “so the logo had the feeling that it had been around for a while. It gave it a sense of establishment.”

Now, check out 15 emerging logo design trends that Bill Gardner and the LogoLounge judges identified among the winning designs this year. Then, find out what Michael and the other LogoLounge judges say you should avoid when designing a logo and finally, their best advice for creating award-winning logos

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