This is an article about designing a bespoke monogram, using a commissioned design as an example to explain the process.
Monograms are one of my favourite forms of lettering because they can often produce unexpected challenges and no two monograms are ever the same. Sometimes the letters provide a natural solution, but often it can take a few attempts to coax the curves and shapes into a nicely balanced design.
Fig 1 shows a couple of monograms where the letter shapes made the design process easy and fig 2 an example of a design that went through several revisions before the design worked.
Definition of a monogram
My personal definition of a monogram is simply two or more letters that link to form a device. Wikipedia has a more in-depth article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monogram
Before I start, I glean as much information from the client as possible about their preferred style (roman, script, flourished, etc). They may already have very fixed ideas about what they want or open to suggestions, and occasionally it's difficult to get any feedback. Sometimes they have seen a monogram on my monogram design page and want a similar design.
Sketching the monogram
I begin, as I always do, with a series of rough ideas; quick pencil sketches to get the ball rolling – see fig 3. I normally try to get down at least three to four different ideas for the first round. I don't worry too much about quality at this stage; there's no point in trying to make the drawings too polished until the client has approved the basic design.
I scan the sketches into the computer and email them to the client to peruse over and give their feedback. If they don't like any of the ideas, I try to pin down the problem and start the sketching process over again.
However, if one or two of the ideas resonate, there are two ways to move forward. The first route is to sketch a few more variations on the chosen theme and re-send them to the client. Or I may feel that the design is close enough to start the artwork stage.
Artworking the monogram
For the next stage, I use a computer drawing program and my preference is Adobe Illustrator (I use this for a lot of my digital type/lettering work) as it is vector based. Without going into technical details, this means I can manipulate the curves with precision and enlarge or reduce the design without loss of quality.
I place the sketch into Adobe Illustrator, make a new layer and start tracing the outlines using the pen tool. Sometimes I'll add a few guidelines to help but on the whole I try to judge by eye. I trace round the outlines fairly quickly, building up the shapes in chunks. To speed up the process, I copy and paste any shapes that are the same or similar. I switch the sketch layer off and I bend and coax the outlines, using the bezier handles to manipulate the curves.
Fig 4 shows the bezier curves in Illustrator.
The monogram is now looking more like a finished piece. For this project, I had to produce several variations. My initial idea was to design the A and P in such a way that when I placed the letters together, the ampersand is formed from the swashes of the two letters. The client liked the idea but was unsure about the shapes of the individual letters, especially the ‘P', so I drew several variations, as seen in Fig 5.
The final monogram
The client finally chose from one of the designs shown above. I made a final edit, tidying up any loose ends; I made sure the curves were smooth, the stroke thicknesses were even, and balanced the design. Finally, I saved the monogram in various file formats: eps, svg, pdf, png and jpg. Fig 6 shows the finished monogram with the individual letters.
Commission your own monogram
A bespoke monogram design is unique to the client; use it as a personal mark, as a company logotype or a tattoo design, or for a special event such as a wedding or to mark an anniversary.
Check out my monogram design page or email me: email@example.com for more information and pricing.