Creating Killer DJ Promotional Materials, Part 2: Your Logo

Read time: 6 mins
Last updated 28 March, 2018

A logo isn’t an afterthought; it is an integral part of your personal (or business) ‘brand’, and once chose you won’t want to alter it too much – so take the time to get it right.

Last week, we kicked off this series with a tutorial on how to write your DJ/artist bio. The next step in creating your promotional materials is to design a logo for yourself and/or your company. Thankfully, regardless of whether you’re making a logo for a company or yourself, the process is similar. The task itself can be daunting or even difficult, but rewarding when you finish.

Do you need a logo? I will say it’s not a necessity to being a DJ or artist, but more and more we see how much marketing is a deep part of this industry, and having a set brand for you or your company can do much more than just having your name floating around with nothing attached to it. A logo isn’t just your name in some fancy text with a possible bell or whistle added on. It’s supposed to be a longstanding symbol of your “brand”. The most successful companies rarely ever change their logos because their brands are in a solid place. Look at Apple, Nike, or Coca-Cola. Even those who do small tweaks/updates to a brand still maintain much of what you knew. Look at Microsoft when they redid their logo. So here’s how to do it right:

1. Brainstorm and research first

If you’re starting off this process sitting right now in front of a graphic design program, turn it off. Seriously, the biggest mistake most make in designing a logo is to just open up a program and go at it without any real research or brainstorming. Take a sheet of paper, or a notebook, or open a text editor if you like to type it all out. Start writing down adjectives, genre names, and any other words you can think of that you want to use to describe yourself as a DJ or artist. Don’t worry if it all looks like it won’t make sense. These are what will help you then do your research.

When you have a list to start with, then do your research. Look at the logos of DJs you admire and even emulate. Take notice to how they design their logos. Look at flyers and ads for the music and scenes you like and want to play for. Believe it or not, the branding of a rave differs from that of a mainstream club and that of a rap music event. I usually like to save logos of where I get my inspiration from. Sometimes it’ll be a treatment I like, or a font, or some unexplainable thing. Many designers will even sketch out rough ideas and shapes they find on the same page as their adjective list.

2. Move on to rough design

This is the point of the process where we hit a fork in the road. Do you want to try designing it yourself? Or go to an actual graphic designer to do the work? If you have the money to invest, then it can be better to get someone to design your logo. Again, I’d hold off on using any computer-based design programs at this point of the process. Right now this is more like writing the rough draft of your bio. You’re better off taking a pencil and a piece of paper. Just sketch your ideas, or what you like.

The main reason for using pencil and paper is so you can just think design and not get too enveloped into choosing fonts, colours, and making things 'perfect'.
The main reason for using pencil and paper is so you can just think design and not get too enveloped into choosing fonts, colours, and making things ‘perfect’.

The main reason for using pencil and paper is so you can just think design and not get too enveloped into choosing fonts, colours, and making things “perfect”. You don’t have to make a fully-refined “polished” logo. You’re just more doodling and toying until you come up with the solid idea that you’ll want to polish.

The kind of logo you make is really up to you. Many logos will have some kind of symbol or item with the name all nicely laid out. Many others do not. I personally like simple text-based logos, but you might be different. One good tip if you want to incorporate symbolism is to look at your list of adjectives, your name, and thus pull symbolism out of it. Feel free to make a few ideas if you have them. You don’t have to just pick one sketch. If you’re torn between a few ideas, then keep them all as ideas you’re going to pursue on the computer.

3. Now you can use the computer

With your sketched ideas all in order, it’s time to move on to the computer and polish them up into what could be your final versions. You will need a vector-based design program. Adobe Illustrator is the most well-known program, but you can easily get all of what you need in the freeware program InkScape. Unless you have a deep need, I’d advise you not to use bitmap-based programs such as Photoshop, GIMP, or the web-based Pixlr. The main reason is a logo should be a vector file that can be easily resized for any purpose. It could be a tiny logo on the corner of a flyer, or a big billboard on the side of the road. With a bitmap image you cannot go larger than its original size without having blurring occur.

With your sketched ideas all in order, it’s time to move on to the computer and polish them up into what could be your final versions.

From this point, take your ideas and lay them out now in the program. Take your time, as rushing will only give you a mediocre deliverable. Explore not only your idea as a whole, but the font you’ll use, how the lettering will lay out, and the balance you create between your text and any symbols you might create. Don’t be afraid to “play around”. That means feel free to toy with or distort the font and shapes if you need to, or just sit there tweaking and trying variations until you are happy. Also explore colours if it is something that is important to you. I personally like to stay away from picking specific colours, but many others feel the opposite.

4. Review and revise

When you have one or multiple pieces ready, take a moment to review. If you’re going about this all on your own, then perhaps make some kind of rough design of a flyer or an album art with your logo. See how it looks to you. Many logos might look wonderful by themselves, but when you put them into context, you might find one standing out while the rest won’t. If you want to make it collaborative, then show your friends and ask their opinions, or even just check that your final designs fit the list of adjectives you wrote up in the beginning of this process. It’s not the rule you must make it fit that list, but more a good guideline to start from. If you need to collaborate and have, try using our forum.

Make any changes you wish, and keep going back and forth until you feel solid on your final logo.

5. Export the final versions and make your guideline

When you’re finished with your design, you’ll need to save it out as graphics you would send out to designers or whoever might need your logo. The most popular file format for logos are EPS. I’ll usually have my logo ready as EPS files as well as PDF and transparent PNG. Since PNG files are bitmap (ie a “set size”), I’ll make the final file around 1000 pixels wide. It keeps things large in case someone has issues with EPS or PDF files (which are “vector”, as described earlier).

The difference between bitmap and vector illustrated.

While making these files in every file type, I’ll also save versions in black, white, and any other colour scheme used. So if the final logo is let’s say, red and green, I’ll have EPS, PDF, and PNG files of that, but I’ll also have a white version and a black version in those file types.

The main point is so you’re covered on all bases. If a designer is making a flyer with a darker image of a big crowd at a festival, he/she might end up using the white logo instead of the coloured one. That, or it could be an inexpensive flyer made on a copy machine, thus the designer will use the black logo.

A logo guideline isn’t a requirement, but you should make one if you have very specific “rules” on how you want your logo used. I personally hate them, because too many logo guidelines are super-strict and thus do not give designers much room to breathe. Regardless, if you want to make a guideline, then speak of your logo in the following factors:

  • Colours / versions that can be used
  • Sizing
  • What colours can you put the logo on top of?
  • Can you put the logo on top of gradients, photos, or textures?
  • Space around the logo in design


Next week…

We’re going to have a little fun now and talk about promotional photos. I’m pretty sure you’ve seen many bad DJ promo photos all over the internet (especially on sites that point out said photos!). I’m going to give you some good guidelines to think about as well as some tips to get the most out of your photography… even with a cheap camera.

Here are the links to the other parts in this series:

Have you considered getting a DJ logo designed, or have you designed your own? Now’s your chance to link to your good work and show us what you’ve done. Or do you resist the idea of having a “logo” for your DJing? Please share your thoughts (and logos) in the comments.

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