Cultural Logo Design

By Jennifer Szeto, December 31, 2008

Grade Level

  • High School


  • Architecture

Subject Area

  • Arts

Lesson Time

seven eighty-minute classes


In this lesson, students will ask themselves questions about identity, culture and symbols. These questions are especially important to high schoolers because it is during these impressionable teenage years that they do a lot of ‘identity’ or ‘soul’ searching. In addition, the topics of culture and symbols have high relevance in this age of globalization, multiculturalism, and visual culture. American students are literally bombarded, on a daily basis, with a variety of visual and cultural imagery. Whether it be in the form of graphic print images, film or video, internet websites, advertisement jingles and fashion statements, it is important for students to recognize visual and cultural symbols and know the effect these images have on their lives, to their consumer impulses, and to their perceptions. The final goal of this lesson is to create a unique logo design complete with image and text that successfully represents the unique student who made it. 

National Standards

Visual Arts Standard 1. Understanding and applying media, techniques, and processes Standard 2.  Using knowledge of structures and functions Standard 3.  Choosing and evaluating a range of subject matter, symbols, and ideas Standard 4.  Understanding the visual arts in relation to history and cultures Standard 5.  Reflecting upon and assessing the characteristics and merits of their work and the work of others

Common Core Standards

Anchors for Reading:

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.R.7 Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Anchor standards for Speaking and Listening:

Comprehension and Collaboration:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.5 Make strategic use of digital media and visual displays of data to express information and enhance understanding of presentations.

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.6 Adapt speech to a variety of contexts and communicative tasks, demonstrating command of formal English when indicated or appropriate.

Anchor standards for Language:

Conventions of Standard English:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.


Students will:
  • recognize that images or pictures may represent and symbolize an idea or word
  • identify popular symbols in American Culture and distinguish between an original idea and a cliché
  • understand the importance of simplification or abstraction in Logo Design
  • assess the success of student Logo Designs in communicating identities




  • pencils
  • erasers
  • white sketch paper
  • 9 x 9 white drawing paper
  • black Sharpie markers (thin and ultra thin)


  • Client: The person or company for which designers may work
  • Logo: a graphical element created to identify organizations or companies
  • Graphic Design: the area of artistic which focus on visual communication and presentation.
  • Logotype: a uniquely set and arranged typeface
  • Typeface: set of one or more letters, in one or more font sizes, designed with stylistic unity
  • Typography: the art and techniques of arranging Type
  • Culture:  a way of life of a group of people- the behaviors, beliefs, values and symbols that they generally accept, generally without thinking about them, and that are passed along by communication and imitation from one generation to the next
  • Visual Culture: an area of study concerned with everything we see, have seen, or may visualize-maps, websites, television, photographs, furniture, utensils, gardens, dance, buildings, etc.  (Studying visual culture involves investigating, analyzing and understanding the history and meanings of what we see.)
  • Symbol: something such as an object, picture, written word, sound, or particular mark that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention.
  • Abstract: (in art) means when the subject is represented by shapes and patterns rather than by a realistic likeness
  • Mood Board:  a collection of images, colors, textures, and words which inspire a designer and help to create the mood or feel for a design project usually pinned to a wall or board


Initial prompt: Ask students to list ten words that describe who they are.  They may include nouns (roles which they play in society- student, son, brother, etc.) and adjectives that describe their personality.  Remind students that they may include words that describe their culture or way of living (examples: Puerto Rican, urban, middle-class). (*Note: ‘Culture’ does not need to be limited to the culture of their ethnicity.)  Explain that they will need to select at least two words to focus on for their next project and that they will need to be able to come up with an image that symbolizes or represents that word or idea clearly to their audience.  Begin a discussion about common symbols and clichés so that students can move beyond simple or overused ideas. (A very helpful way to come up with a unique image is to combine two separate images into one.) Teacher presentation and motivation: Before embarking on this project, it would be advantageous to create a quick PowerPoint slideshow presentation on cultural or recognizable symbols or visuals (examples: flags, hearts, stars, etc.) and famous (and clever) logo designs (examples:  NBA logo, FedEx logo, Burger King logo, etc.).  This would be a great way of introducing students to the idea of symbols and of abstracting images and to the importance that typeface and color have on overall logo design. Step-by-step process of the activity: 1.  After the initial prompt (see above), explain to students that they will need to select the two words they would like to communicate with their logo designs 2.  Have students conduct research to help them think of images or use as photographic reference to help them draw.  (Hint:  Google Images is a fast and easy resource to use for such research.  I had students create a simple ‘mood board’ or collection of images on a Microsoft Word document which they were able to print and use for photographic reference.) 3.  Discuss the advantages of ‘abstracting’ or simplifying an image for logo designs.  Emphasize the goals of immediate recognition and clarity in communication that logo design aims for. 4.  Give students a piece of 9 x 12 white paper.  Ask students to divide their paper into 4 boxes by folding their paper in half twice.  To help them abstract their chosen image, have students draw their image in four distinct ways (Realistic and detailed, with an outline only, as a black silhouette and in a combination of outline, silhouette, and detail). 5.  Have students select the name for their identity. 6.  Give students a piece of 9 x 12 white paper.  Ask students to divide their paper into eight boxes by folding their paper in half three times.  To help them experiment with arranging type or typography, ask students to design their logotype in six distinct ways (using thin letterforms, thick letterforms, touching letterforms, overlapping letterforms, rotating letterforms, and letterforms with different sizes).  The extra boxes can be used for extra ideas. 7.  Once they have chosen their best image and logotype, students will combine their logo image and logotype and create a final logo design on the 9 x 9 piece of white paper.  Final designs should be gone over with black Sharpie Markers. Wrap-Up: 1.  Students will assess themselves by filling out a Self-Evaluation Form 2.  Students will hang up final logo designs on the wall for critique 3.  Students will discuss why they made their design decisions and how the logo serves the client (themselves).  Does the design reflect the words they chose to depict?  Students will also discuss what make some designs more successful than others and why.



1. What is the most successful aspect of your DESIGN project?                                                                               

2.  If given more time, how might you change or work to improve your DESIGN?                                                                                   

3.  Please score your efforts using the guidebelow for each topic: 20-Extraordinary 17-Good 15-Average 13-Below Average 10-Poor

  • Completion of Requirements by the Deadline
  • Knowledge and Awareness of New Understandings (Key Concepts, Techniques, Vocabulary
  • Effort & Hard Work:  Student took his/her time & worked diligently, exhibits Personal Growth
  • Craftsmanship:  Careful and Skillful Work, all Materials were handled correctly and responsibly
  • Creativity and Originality:  Student worked through Ideas using the Design Process
Total ___/100  

Enrichment Extension Activities

1.  Develop the logo designs further by doing color versions using tempera paints.  (Exact copies can be made with tracing and transferring process using ebony pencils and tracing paper).  Assign Color schemes (example: monochromatic and complementary) for students to experiment with.  Discuss the effect of color on their designs.

2. Develop the logo designs further by scanning them into the computer and creating a variety of tags or stickers to be put on fake products.  Discuss the effect of size and placement of logos for effectiveness and impact. 3.  Have students collect Logos from their daily life (cereal band logos, recording company logos, clothing brand logos etc.)   Discuss what makes some logo designs more successful or memorable or unique.    

Teacher Reflection

I am currently teaching this lesson with my ninth graders.  I think many students have a hard time coming up with ideas which are not clichés are ideas that are completely unique.  This may be a result of how much visual stimulation they have been ‘assaulted’ with at such an early age and in an age of unlimited visuals (video games, television, internet, etc.)  I also had students collect found logos from their daily life and post them up on an ‘Inspiration Wall’.  This wall has become a great visual to inspire us and draw upon and talk about as well as serve as physical proof that students were and are thinking about issues of symbols, culture, and identity outside of class.

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