Madhouse Tattoo Logo

A Madhatter Tattoo Party

Madhouse Tattoo. A highly-detailed and technically complex illustrative brand for a German tattoo parlor.

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Simple is better you say?

We’ve never been shy about our love for illustrative logos (something for which we’ve often been criticized) and embrace the style quite enthusiastically. Personally speaking, I always love the craftsmanship that goes into these types of logos, and while I agree that simplistic is usually preferable to complicated, there’s also times when a full-blown illustrative treatment is what the design doctor put on his RX pad. This is one of them.

The creative brief.

There’s an entire subculture to the tattoo scene (I don’t have one so don’t know, my daughter who has a few, tells me this.) There are certain expectations in the graphic art that’s aimed at it – it has to be rebellious and a little edgy. That’s also what the creative brief for Mad Hatter Tattoo told us. They wanted “crazy,” “zany,” “over the top,” and “wild.” Something that “really stood out.”

The design process.

Some of the original client-requested concepts involved an octopus. Yep, an octopus (ink, right?.) The problem with the octopus motif is that it implies someone/something that isn’t focused on one task – tattooing in this instance – but more flailing about, haphazardly inking everywhere. Thankfully, this avenue of exploration was discarded pretty well off the hop. There was a monkey. The other direction worth exploring – and an obvious tie-in – was the Mad Hatter himself. That would require developing a character. With these beginning concepts in mind, we took a stab at some preliminary (and very rough) sketches.

Preliminary concept sketches

The octopus was out. So too was the monkey. This Mad Hatter fellah though. This required a Tim Burtonesque approach, unlike our earlier ideas (which, truth to tell, looked more like a kid’s birthday magician than a Mad Hatter anyway.) Here’s what we came up with:

Mad Hatter Character Concept Sketch

Now that’s a little more like it. A Mad Hatter that was full of character, over the top and zany. One by one, we were checking off the creative brief text boxes. Once we had him established as a starting point, we began looking at how to incorporate typography into the design. There are certain expectations of what a tattoo parlor font is supposed to look like I suppose (it’s actually kinda cliche) so we started by roughing things in first:

Madhatter Concept As Logo

The positioning worked, but the font wasn’t gothic, “tattooish” enough if you will. We rummaged through our font folder to see if there was something we could work with:

Proposed Fonts

We ended up selecting this style. It worked for a variety of reasons, the most important was that it offset the illustration beautifully.

Out of the box, the font wasn’t quite right, so it needed to be tweaked and played around with a bit, but once added to the design, everything seemed to gel quite nicely. Here’s how the final art looks:

Here’s how the final logo came together. If there’s one quibble I have is that the tattoo needle device (no idea what they’re called) is far too realistic and thematically at odds with the rest of the design. Trouble is, that’s what the client wanted – his thing was tattoos, using (then) state-of-the-art equipment and wanted that emphasized. A small concession to be sure, considering the free reign we otherwise had, but one that bothers me to this day. In any case, this is an exceptionally complex illustrative logo, probably the second or third most complex that we’ve ever done.

Madhouse Tattoo Logo Final Version

The technical stuff.

How complex is it? Let’s take a look at the initial and unedited wireframe view of the vectors involved:

Madhouse Tattoo Vectors In Logo
And how it relates to the “filled” version:
Madhouse Tattoo Vector Overlay

Wow. That’s a lot of vectors. One of the downsides to a logo like this, from a technical perspective anyway, is that if it ever came to prepping this for output, vinyl plotter for example, it would require massive file editing that might cost as much as the original job itself. It would also require someone who is extremely proficient in logo file setups (not to toot our own horn, but yeah, we’re pretty good at this sort of thing.) We also broke the logo into a text only version, something that can be used in a pinch when space and/or aspect ratio wouldn’t permit use of the full blown design:

While it’s becoming less and less a deal-breaker these days, it’s always advantageous to have black and white versions of a logo. With a logo like this, it isn’t a matter of simply converting the logo to greyscale by using the conversion feature in Illustrator. Sometimes tonal rangers don’t translate well into black and white, things that should be dark becomes light and vice versa, so art of this nature always requires at least a minimum of hand-editing.

Greyscale logo version

A linear logo is also recommended – these can be output into as stickers or printed as one color T-shirts, in this instance dark ink on light shirts (printing light ink on dark shirts requires entirely different artwork. By simply changing the ink to white, you end up with an X-ray image, so the artwork has to be rebuilt with screen-printing in mind. That’s a difficult concept for many designers to wrap their heads around and probably worth a blog post of its own at some point.) Anyway – here’s the final linear version:

Black & White lInear logo

A couple of slight variants to wrap things up:

Variant logos

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