Interview with designer & illustrator James Allan


Sometimes, going back to the roots…is worth it! Like this next interview is…

It is refreshing to know that among all the technology, above all programs & apps there are designers who don’t mind getting their fingers dirty (with charcoal).

James Allan is a designer from Australia, finds joy in the creative process, a sunny place and is a strong believer of finding inspiration in everything around you!

Odins Beard is an accurate symbol of tradition, from sketch to polished version.

Maybe that’s just what you needed to make your next logo great…

Just read about it!


Question: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?

Answer: I am 26 years old, Australian born and currently reside in Perth (Western Australia).

I studied animation and graduated in multimedia design, it was at some point during my studies that i gained a profound love for logos and visual identities.There is something about the process of refining an idea or message into a single coherent mark that i find very appealing and pure.

I spent the next couple of years self teaching and sharpening my skills, then eventually went freelance.

My next goal is to find a job and move somewhere with a whole lot less sun, I’m thinking Canada.


Q: Where do you get your daily inspiration?

A: All over the place really, though I tend to avoid too much “logo” inspiration. With the internet there really is no shortage of it and sometimes it can be overwhelming.

I frequent feeds like ffffound and behance, but most often its as simple as the menu at a restaurant or the song I am listening to that day.


Q: How do you come up with a concept for a logo?

A: A sketchbook and a whole lot of coffee… I research and then I put pencil to paper. The hardest part is getting something solid down and trying avoid those cliche ideas.

I learnt to draw all the bad ideas (no matter how bad) out and expunge them from the thought process. I find it helps to clear out the generic design and find something a little more unique.


Q: Do you sketch first or work on a computer?

A: My ideas often come at the most inopportune moments, not while I am in front of a computer. As such I have always been a big believer in the pencil before the mouse.

There is a particular flow of ideas that come with using the traditional tools, that i still cannot replicate with with any electronic device.


Q: What are the steps you pursue in designing a new logo?


It comes down to the job i think, but in a typical case…


  • Brief – I like to ask the client a few questions, sometimes a one on one is best but other times a questionnaire allows the client to give you a thought out and considered response.
  • Research – I cant stress this step enough and I think its one that many designers starting out dont do enough of.
  • Sketches – pencil, paper and coffee. All those crappy generic concepts (likely your first ten or so), draw them out and put them aside. Then get down to the real stuff
  • Vector – Always a vector, no arguments. As a general rule i like to work in black and white first. there are of course exceptions but typically you should be focused on shape before colour.
  • Feedback – its a little unconventional but i like to send the black and white logos first. I find that clients tend to develop a bias towards certain concepts based on colour and not the overall design.
  • Colour & Type – unless its a wordmark or the type is somehow embedded in the logo this is where ill begin typeface selections and add the colour. Keep in mind that both often need to be selected with a larger identity in mind
  • More Feedback – by now your direction should be confirmed and its really just about the details.
  • Polish – Leave it for a day or so and let that logo marinate a little, then come back and fix anything you were blind to before.


Q: What’s the story behind your Odins Beard logo?

A: It was really just a proof of concept, a chance to create something unique for myself and my friends.

Anyone who has watched “anchorman” knows the the odins beard quote and with all the craft brew and beer labels around i thought it would be a fun little project.



Q: How long did it take for you to create the Odins Beard logo and what tool did you use?

A: It took be the better part of a weekend using the pen tool and a grid



Q: How did you choose the right color and font for Odins Beard logo?

A: Type to this day, is still the bane of my existence, some designers are just naturals but its generally a lot of work for me. In this case i actually created a custom typeface.

I wanted it to reflect both the simple angles of the mark and the nordic runes of the viking age. I was pleased with the end result and plan to release it as a free font in the near future.

The colour choice like the mark, had to be minimal and it doesn’t get simpler than black and white.



Q: What was the most challenging part about Odins Beard logo and how did you deal with it?

A: Other than the type….? i think just nailing down the general style of the logo was a challenge.

I knew i wanted something simple and modern to contrast the traditional images of mead and vikings. I ended up looking at a lot of viking knots, these intricate weaves of lines and shape.

Using that as a starting point i refined it until i achieved the result i wanted (nothing at all like a viking knot, haha….). But i think it retains some of that line work vibe that originally caught my eye.



Q: Lastly, do you have any advice for a beginner logo designer?

A: A friend once told me “use your f******** brain, do something that makes sense, not what looks nice”.

And now the cliche from one novice to another… I’d say design ( both logos and in general) is as much a science as it is an art, there is a methodology and logic behind it.

Practice it… experiment… and be ready to fail, because ultimately you will. What is important is that we learn and maybe next time we get it right.

Also… if you are still using photoshop, you are doing something wrong


Thank you for the interview, James Allan!


See more of James’s work on:


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