Adventures in designing things that aren’t technically logos

Our Scotland Creates volunteers are working with curators and other staff from National Museums Scotland to create an exhibition on the theme of Scotland Creates: A Sense of Place.


So we’re trying to fashion ourselves some sort of logo so that when you come and visit our exhibits you’ll know what’s ours.

Logo. Ok. I’m good at drawing. This’ll be easy. It’ll take five minutes. Yes. Scribble scribble.

I came up with Dolly the Sheep’s face placed over the National Museum crossed punctuation marks, looking like a skull and crossbones. We called it the Dolly Roger. I was a proud little potato.

The Dolly Roger
The Dolly Roger.

Then… Oh. Turns out there are guidelines and things we have to follow.

Lots of them. About fonts and colours and use of museum marks and whatnot.


So instead of the Dolly Roger, someone with far more sense than me brought in a clever lady called Eilidh, who also had far more sense than me, from an advertising firm called Frame in Glasgow to have a session with us volunteers about logo design and branding.

Turns out that logos are HARD.

We talked about famous brands and how their logos pop out at us, how simplicity is what we should aim for, and making sure that the logo we come up with really conveys what the heart of the project is all about. So, we grabbed a small forest’s worth of Post-It notes and wrote down words we felt summed up the project and its values, coated a wall with them and gradually whittled them down to a handful of key words.

We then split ourselves up into smaller groups, each group taking a word and trying to come up with some simple, clear images to represent them. The whole group then voted on which images we liked best, which turned out to be:

  • A classic house shape with a heart inside it (representing “Home”, as in, home-is-where-the-heart-is… do you see what we did there? Do you? Do you see?)
  •  A magnifying glass in various guises (representing “Discovery” which we thought was an important part of identity in Edinburgh)
  • Keys, a key, or a keyhole, sometimes dressed up as a thistle (representing a mix of those last two key words. Hah. Key words. Keys. Hah.)

Happy with our ideas for potential motifs, we then had to find a volunteer to put it all together into a logo (Technically, we’re to call it a “visual identity” because the National Museum only has one logo).

Cue some shuffling of feet, and me eventually being stupid and saying “I could give it a go?” or something like that, because I apparently haven’t learned my lesson from my attempt with the Dolly Roger and my brain clearly enjoys torturing me by making me offer to do things I can’t do very well. Huzzah!

So I am working on a handful designs for everyone else to vote on based on the motifs we came up with at the brainstorming session. (I say working; every time I saw my sketchbook and the museum CD called “Identity Guidelines” over the past fortnight I ran away and watched an entire season of Xena:Warrior Princess in the hope that magical little elves will have broken into my flat and done it for me.)

I am so very nearly done though, and will hopefully be done in… ten minutes including procrastinating by writing this blog post. Mostly because I finished Xena. And Game of Thrones. And The X-Files. And somehow haven’t eaten my laptop in a fit of rage at MS Paint and my touchpad, which are as much Adobe Photoshop and a graphics tablet as I am a fairy princess.

And here they are…

Home motifs
‘Home is where the heart is’ motifs.
Key and magnifying glass motifs.
Key and magnifying glass motifs.
A selection of thistle and keyhole motifs
A selection of thistle and keyhole motifs.

Anyway, I hope you like what eventually gets chosen!

Bye for now,

Sarah Barr

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