The Story of our Studio

How The Logo Factory came to be..

What makes The Logo Factory different from a lot of other online design companies? It’s probably that we’ve always seen ourselves as designers running a business, rather than business people trying to be designers. That’s not terribly surprising really, considering our back story. Company founder Steve Douglas has been a professional graphic designer, illustrator and photographer for over thirty years. Having studied traditional illustration at Sheridan College of Visual Arts (Brampton), as well as traditional art and photography at Ontario College of Art and Three Schools (Toronto) Steve has been a magazine art director (one of Canada’s top selling sports magazine of the time,) as well as an ad agency art director until he founded his own freelance studio in Toronto during the early 1990’s. This freelance project evolved on the Internet into The Logo Factory in 1996, after an online personal portfolio drew request after request for him to design company logos;

Old Logo Factory concept

An early incarnation of The Logo Factory, circa 1993. This design was discarded as being ‘too mechanical.’

“Over the years I tried really hard to utilize my training as a classic illustrator but clients kept coming back and requesting I design company logos. It was something I seemed to have a knack for and was a niche market that pretty well developed itself. Sometime in the early 90s, I began to specialize in logo design, and started to realize the importance of a logo, both as a sign of a company’s goals and a symbol that “hey – I have arrived”.

Having been involved with the arts since a kid – I used to draw Frank Sinatra album covers with my Dad – I had always dreamed of running my own art studio and had originally envisioned a rough version of the TLF concept – a logo design company that worked with small to medium companies to create top-notch corporate logos – around 1993 as I thought of ways to build my freelance practice. Over the years it became apparent to me that many small businesses were settling for home-made icons, clip art logos or other less-than-stellar do-it-yourself solutions. I lived in the outskirts of Toronto, and unless I wanted to set up shop downtown, the potential for a major impact was limited.

The precursor to The Logo Factory - Steve Douglas' personal site from 1996. The house (lower right) would go on to be part of our first logo.

The precursor to The Logo Factory – Steve Douglas’ personal site from 1996. The house (lower right) would go on to be part of our first logo.

There was an upside though – large agencies were too expensive, too intimidating, or both for small businesses and startups to approach. I was working freelance for these very same agencies who turned over my designs to the end client (not before marking up my work a thousand percent) so why couldn’t I fly solo? I imagined a studio that worked one-on-one with clients and by charging reasonable rates, could afford to hire, and nurture, extremely talented designers. I imagined the kind of design shop that I would like to work for. It wasn’t until I discovered the Internet that the idea was realized completely – when an online personal portfolio quickly evolved into a rudimentary version of The Logo Factory. Rather than local clients from Mississauga or Toronto viewing my work, requests for quotes came in from across Canada and all over the world.

Seeing that opportunity unfold, I began to formalize what would that year become The Logo Factory Inc. – a utilitarian ‘working studio’ without the typical agency pretensions and outrageous design charges usually associated with logos and brand development. At the beginning, I ran TLF as a ‘one-man show’, working quite literally off my kitchen table in Brampton and making it up as I went along. There was nobody to emulate, so through trial- and a lot of error – I ended up developing some online design concepts – bragging rights I suppose – that would later became the business model for thousands of companies who would (much later) move online.

Original Loveletter Logo

The original TLF font? ‘Loveletter’ – cribbed from rock band Cheap Trick.

Regardless of where the company goes and even though we hope to celebrate our 20th this fall, I will never forget those humble beginnings. It is those humble Brampton ‘kitchen table’ days that allows us to have a special affinity with the new business owner – the majority of our new clients.”

It is with that in mind, The Logo Factory developed a full range of design services, most of which are available at flat rate pricing. As Douglas puts it –
“The small to medium sized business owner is spending their own money. They need to know how much that logo is going to run them, how much their stationery design costs or how long their brochure design is going to take”.

Once marketed officially as The Logo Factory on the Internet, demand for design skyrocketed, quickly outgrowing the availability and means of a ‘one-man-show’. To counter this, the newly formed TLF began the exhausting process of assembling a team of talented designers who would become experts in logo design and corporate identity, combined with knowledge of the latest technology and techniques. This was teamed up with a customer service department to create a true design ‘factory’, capable of handling and processing client requests and logo design orders from across the globe from home base in Canada.

History of The Logo Factory 'house' (click to open)

The original TLF ‘house.’

Designers at The Logo Factory have created logos for clients all over the world. But what about our original logo – the trademark Logo Factory ‘house’? Does it have a story? Some history? You know it does. As creator Steve Douglas explains;

“The Logo Factory icon is not a factory at all – I designed it based on my old house. I had just started The Factory in its new incarnation (after giving up my day gig as an art director at an ad agency) and was working out of my cramped dining room office (hence the house). Business over the Internet was booming, and I was designing logo after logo (hence the boxes rolling out of the house).

My children – Amy and Matthew (then 4 and 5) were always complaining that I was working too much, so I tended to work in the wee hours of the morning when they were in bed (hence the solitary light when all other windows are dark). The only real problem was that my dining room office was on the first floor, but that was an accuracy that was overlooked for design purposes. TLF text logoThere’s no real rationale or symbolism for the original logo design color combination – it was rather arbitrary. Purple and teal was a popular combination in those days – and purple happened to be my (now) wife’s favorite color.

Original Purple & Teal Logo

The first offical TLF ‘house.’ The choice of purple & teal as corporate colors was arbitrary – they were popular color combinations of the day.

Trouble is, the combination wasn’t even web-safe – something that would haunt me for quite some time. Over the years the color combinations have come and gone – we settled in 2000 on a on color version which we used ever since. With our new rebrand, purple remains The Logo Factory‘s ‘official’ company logo color, but the logo is color agnostic – we can change it depending on how, and where it’s being used (designing our stationery demonstrated that.)

In terms of font selection, computer design was really hitting its stride around ’95, and many fonts were sleek, slick sci-fi treatments. I wanted to emphasize my illustrator background, and was bored to death with techno-fonts. I selected a broken typewriter lettering that was customized into the text portion of our logo. The Logo Factory 3D houseThat font remained unchanged over the years, but the sizing and aspect ratio relationships were altered in order to accommodate various uses, web addresses what have you. It became rare that we used the house icon and text together, other than our core material like letterheads, business cards and use on web and blog headers. While I’ve used variations of The Logo Factory since 1993, we officially registered the trademark – name and art – in 2001.

Purple Cog Logo

In 2009, we lost the ‘house’ entirely, going with this cog version & a new font. In 2015, we lost the cog too, as part of this site redesign.

At times I got bored with the logo and thought constantly about changing it, but there’s a lot of history in the little house icon and it’s served us well over the years. We added some 3D versions a few years back to ‘spruce’ things up, but a few years ago I decided to retire the logo, after an exhaustive attempt to keep it, and finally develop a completely new look for the company. I still have a lot of emotional attachment to our original logo, so I’m sure you’ll see it here-and-there on our marketing materials and website.”

Twenty years later..

Now a web veteran, our shop has been creating corporate identity logos and artwork almost exclusively over the Internet for twenty years, with clients in such remote locations as Guam, Russia, Germany, Australia, Asia, Switzerland, Canada, Sweden to name but a few. Douglas is still very involved in the day-to-day running of TLF, working with clients and running our design blog.

He still lives in Brampton with his wife Sue.

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