5 Songwriting Tips I’ve Learned from Logo Design

When I was twenty-five, I went to school for Graphic Design. One thing I learned there was the basics of Logo Design. I have, of course, moved on to embrace the musical side of art and began to write, record and perform songs. But a lot of what I learned about logo design can be applied to songwriting. The following 5 tips for logo design, can also work when writing songs. Although, there are many different ways to go about it, this is my interpretation.

  1. Researching and Sketches
    It’s important to research your design before attempting it. You need to know what the company you’re designing for does. It is also a good idea to know what other logos for similar companies look like. It’s common as a logo designer, to sketch 10-20 sketches before deciding on the final design. As a songwriter, before I start writing, I usually brainstorm as many ideas as I can on topics, phrases, feelings… whatever I can, that may benefit my song. Then I make, what I call “song rough drafts”. I hit record, pick up my guitar and just let melodies and chords flow out without editing. I don’t decide on the final “sketch” until I’ve done a few. Then I choose the one that stands out the most to me. That one will become my song.
  2. Simplicity
    Logos are simple. Showing only what is necessary to get the point across. Too much can ruin a good design. In songwriting, saying only what the listener needs to hear can open up the song to vast interpretation. It’s good to write a song about one subject, but it’s great to write a song that can mean many things to many people. One way to achieve that is by being simple.
  3. A Logo Should Look Good in Black and White
    A logo shouldn’t depend on color and gradients to make it look good and stand out. It should be able to display the same message in black and white as it does in color. The color only enhances what is already a great design. A song should be able to stand alone in its most basic form: vocals and piano or guitar. If the song doesn’t sound right in that form, the song itself probably needs more work and not the “production” side of the song.
  4. Color
    Colors evoke feelings and emotions. A logo can have simply one color or it can have many, but the point of color is to make you think or feel a certain way. The “colors” of your song can be anything from the tempo, the instruments you choose, or even the vocalist. For example, a sad song (in my opinion) would most likely have different instruments than a happy song. Slow guitar picking, simple piano chords, a string section. I would not want the vocalist to yell the lyrics of a song I wrote for my newborn baby girl.
  5. Uniqueness
    A great design can always be pictured in your head because they’re so different than any other that came before them. McDonald’s, Nike, Google… when you read those names, the logos probably popped up in your head. They are the kinds of designs that are so simple, they’re not obvious until you see them. Nothing can be more frustrating than coming up with a line in a song that hasn’t been said before. Things can be said in so many different ways too, but the best ways are usually the least obvious ones. Ones that make you facepalm yourself and say, “How did I not think of that?”. One of my favorite lines from a song is “I never wanted anything so much than to drown in your love and not feel you reign.” Talking about drowning and using the word rein instead of rain makes all the difference. But, the key is to write always and write down ALL of your ideas. Pretty soon those non-obvious lines will reveal themselves to you.

Yes, this is a short article, but each of these tips can be expanded upon to set you off in various directions. These are only my opinions, but sometimes, as songwriters, we just need a little shove. Some inspiration from somewhere. The universe is huge place. I’m sure you can come up with something great by working at it. So, get writing!

I’d love to hear your approaches to songwriting. Please comment below.

  3 comments for “5 Songwriting Tips I’ve Learned from Logo Design

  1. John morris
    January 9, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Great points Charlie … I enjoyed your article.

  2. Barry Creek
    January 9, 2016 at 10:14 am

    Hey Charlie!
    I couldn’t agree more. Good comparison. All art is subject to interpretation of the viewer or listener. Many logo’s have been a part of branding for bands, such as the VH logo for Van Halen or the lips & tongue logo for the Rolling Stones. In all the arts I think the greatest challenge is finding your market. I recently toured an art gallery in downtown Atlanta in which a friend of mine is the curator. It was very specific art and represented a certain culture of people. Not all who viewed it would appreciate it or find value in it but it would certainly be most appealing to those who’s culture and history it represents. Likewise in music, not all people follow all genres of music, but I believe that true music loving songwriters will write across ALL genres of music. I also know that the interpretation of all songs is left to the listeners and each person will derive from it according to their desire, be it a screaming lead riff, a softly whispered love poem, a funky R & B groove or a rap talking crap! Sometimes the music is so appealing that who even knows what the words say? In other cases the story is so awesome it wouldn’t matter what the music did. But in GREAT songs, the music enhances the emotions of the message. IMHO! 🙂

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