Hand-drawn Branding VS Digital Design

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What is on your heart?

What exactly is the difference between hand-drawn branding, and purely digital brand work. Let’s dive in.

What is hand-drawn branding?

Before pitting hand-drawn branding against digital design, we need to understand what is going on here. Designing a brand by hand doesn’t mean it won’t get digitalized.

The process usually looks like this: 1) Hand-drawing, 2) scanning or photographing the work, 3) vectorizing and polishing up the work digitally.

Now if your final goal is for the brand to look hand-drawn, you will make sure the digitization process doesn’t perfect it too much. But you want a final digital asset in vector so you can use it wherever.

Hand-drawn branding being made
Hand-drawn branding at its best.

Now you could have gone the other way around: 1) Use a rough typeface, 2) build your logo digitally from it, 3) roughen it up using digital tools.

The result might be similar (in some cases), but here’s the real difference. The hand-drawn logo would be 100% original art, making your logo stand out forever and ever. But the digital one will always bear the remnants of the original typeface. Making it a derivative.

None of these are wrong approaches, but most people will agree that it’s kind of cool to have your logo mark be completely original.

What is digital design

As mentioned, hand-drawn branding will also go through some digitization in almost all cases. But digital design, in the context I’m using it, would be the process of designing something purely on the computer.

I always start by hand. No matter what the final product is going to look like. It is the best way for me to play around with ideas. And if I scan it, I can build a logotype with precise shapes on top of my “scaffold” hand-drawing.

The plus side with purely digital design is that you can play with precise geometry and math, and make immensely satisfying shapes. The lines are perfect, and this conveys a message. If you sell a digital product, your logo will probably be precise and perfectly aligned — to create the sense of trust and order that a SaaS company needs.

It all comes down to intent, and what message you want to convey.

Digital branding as opposed to hand-drawn

The difference hand-drawn branding makes

Let’s break hand-drawn branding down into a few levels of personality.

Level 1: Using “hand-drawn” typefaces

You design your logo using a logo maker, and pick a hand-drawn typeface. It looks sort of hand made, but everyone understands that it is a typeface. One of the telltale signs is the often perfection of spacing between letters, and uniformity of height. And the big one — repeated letters look exactly the same.

Level 2: Digitally treated typefaces

You pull your typeface into Illustrator and get to work. You can address every issue mentioned above, you can alter repeating letters to look two different ways — you can shuffle the heights and spacings slightly to make it look flawed.

You can basically do everything that you can with actual hand-drawn design, but with one caveat. It will always be based on that original typeface — not in your own creation.

Level 3: Truly hand-drawn branding

In my opinion, the highest level of branding. The created piece is yours through and through. It doesn’t derive from anything, and it can be a complete piece of art if you get the right artist at the job.

Hand-drawn logos
Here is some of my own hand-drawn brand work.

Choose your esthetic — choose your level of uniqueness

Choosing your path of branding first of all comes down to the feeling you want your brand to convey. Do you want an old rugged cowboy style — maybe you should go with a rough hand-drawn style. If you’re going for a modern digital product, maybe you want more straight calculated lines.

The old and rugged calls back to a time of hand-drawn branding.

Or maybe you want to mix the two, to be artistic — I mean everything’s legal. Maybe you wan’t to convey disruption and breaking tradition.

The second thing it comes down to is “how unique do you want your brand assets.”

With Red Hat Factory, I have drawn every single graphic element you see around the page. It comes with an extra cost to the brand, but there is not a single brand online that shares any of those assets.

And that to me, is kinda cool.

It is immensely satisfying to know you created a hand-drawn brand from a blank piece of paper, and now it’s out there in the world.

This one was written by Benjamin Antoni

I am a Brand Strategist with 10+ years of broad design experience, where UX, web and logo design have been my main focuses. My most comprehensive experience is having built the Red Hat Factory brand from scratch, but I also work part time with helping other brands find their identity and grow from there.

Mail him


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