Cold Bore Technology, a drilling technology business
In 2013, a past client asked me to design a logo for a new company, called Cold Bore Technology.
What’s a “cold bore”? Was my client starting a business about my personality? Turns out it’s a firearms term: a cold bore is the first shot fired from a clean gun barrel, and is more accurate than subsequent shots skewed by accumulating residue. My client was starting a company specializing in innovative drilling technology, which, like firearms, depends heavily on precision.
As always, I started with a design brief, which is an easy series of about ten questions, such as:
- What is your target market?
- What is your business mission and vision?
- What do you offer your target market that others do not?
- What do you want the personality of your brand to be? / What do you want people to feel when they see your logo?
I ask these questions because design is not arbitrary. It’s a language of its own and has to align with their strategy, identity, and goals. It also lowers the odds of me producing a misguided logo that doesn’t please the client.
So, in addition to the company’s basic attributes (the firearms-inspired name and its location in the drilling industry), the design brief produced the following key concepts:
- They wanted a logo that felt powerful, aggressive, and confident
- They wanted the logo to convey the ideas of accuracy, speed, and primacy, AKA “first on the scene”
To design a logo is to find a way to synthesize and translate these elements into a simple, effective graphic. I began by simply trying to sketch out visual representations of “drilling”, “precision”, “first on the scene”, “cold bore”, “powerful”…….
Naturally, targets, crosshairs, sharp points, arrows, objects passing “through” abstracted barrels, etc., appeared. This stage is not about about making pretty graphics. It’s conceptual, more about defining and exploring relationships, shapes, structures, symbols. As you can see, it’s repetitive, but sometimes you have to draw something many times before a concept clicks.
I didn’t like crosshairs because they seemed too violent, too easy, and imprecise: it’s a drilling company, not a gun range. So I began to explore the idea of being inside a gun barrel or a drilling shaft, and seeing something firing through it, as if just overhead:
This produced some interesting results. I liked the energy of a circular form being pierced/penetrated by a sharp arrow. This appeared to be a concept, or a path to a concept. It also brought to mind the great logo of Vale, well-known mining company. This logo really works: it depicts mining in a rather beautiful, positive, earthy way — and it’s a nice gift that this shape also works as a “V.” I kept this logo in mind as inspiration, but was careful not to rip it off.
I looked at the brief again, and began thinking more the concept of precision, and how to represent that visually. I began to play with the idea of a shaft or tube lined with circular rings, meant to suggest a surrounding, constricting control of something passing through — as a filter or funnel does. A shot passing through a shaft says speed and power, but not necessarily precision. The rings helped address that.
And here are some pages where I continued to just bang away at the various concepts and elements in hand:
At this stage, as usual, a couple of concepts began to solidify. I had the “rings”, and the inside-the-tube concept, which was revealing the potential to become a letter “C”.
I decided it was time to move to the computer, and see how such explorations would look in vectors. (What are vectors?) Here is what I came up with while exploring the “inside-the-tube” idea:
It’s not 100% a linear evolution, but the bottom row is where I began to clarify and lock down the idea I wanted.
As for the “rings”:
I didn’t like these as much, but they felt strong enough to keep, at least to give the client some choice. So, all of my nutty sketching had led to these two concepts:
By the way, you may be wondering why these are in black and white. I avoid adding color too early because a logo is fundamentally about shape and form, not color. If I design a logo that includes two or more colors that touch/overlap, what happens if/when my client runs into a situation where they can only present the logo in one color? Then the colors blend together and the form is lost. It’s easier to add color (as you will see I did, below) than to reverse-engineer a logo out of multiple touching colors. Logos have to be flexible enough to work across different sizes, formats, and surfaces, so a rich logo with fine linework and kaleidoscopic gradients and subtle shading, though glorious in high resolution on a big, bright, computer screen, will utterly implode when converted into one color and crammed onto a business card. Look at any famous, iconic logo, and you will see how well it simplifies and shrinks, as needed.
Anyway, I then put together rationales, which are short written explanations of the logos. It’s risky to show a client a logo without some kind of breakdown of what and why it is what it is. Often, the moment when a client “clicks in” to a concept is the moment when I make the sale. A popular recent buzzword in marketing is “storytelling”, and that applies here: clients like to have a story behind their logo that they can share with others. So here are the stories I gave them about these concepts:
I sent these to the client, expecting and hoping that they would select logo #1, the “C”. (Making logos isn’t like having kids: you can have favorites.) But they actually picked…
…the “rings”! At first I felt disappointed, but I kept an open mind and then proceeded with further development on this concept, refining its shapes and adding color:
To give the logo more dimension, depth, perspective, I redrew all of the lines so that their thickness tapered as they receded into three-dimensions. This is an illustration technique. I then added colors — they told me that they wanted red and black, which reflects their desire for an aggressive logo — and also created a color version with some gradient style shading. They loved this direction. I added a wordmark and we finally had our logo.
I actually love this logo now. I learned that it’s good to keep an open mind. If the client had not picked this one, I would not have seen where this logo could’ve gone with just a few more tweaks. As a designer you have to have opinions, and be confident about them, but it’s important to avoid being a diva, and really collaborate with your clients.
The logo is now live on their website. They also made a cool promotional video, featuring a 3D version of the logo at the end!
If you need help with a logo project like this, please contact me.