Introducing The Happy Hagfish (aka Logo Rough Draft)

I found the illustrator tutorials to be exceptionally challenging, so when I decided to create my logo, I thought it might be helpful to practice by creating something fun. Inspiration struck in a strange place – I wanted to see if I could make a hagfish in adobe illustrator. Specifically, I wanted to design a happy hagfish: sweet, joyful, and a little goofy.  

First, I had to gather a few reference photos. To put it generously, hagfish are not cute. In fact, a hagfish might best be described as an eel’s grotesque cousin. Aside from their unique defense mechanism, hagfish are slippery and spineless, like cooked spaghetti. Their skin is loose, like a sack, making them alarmingly flexible. Most alarmingly, they do not have eyes the way humans do. Instead, they have “eye spots,” which are incapable of resolving images. They do, however, have a mouth full of teeth, perfect for ripping and chewing up food. 

My mission: use adobe illustrator to make this creature a cute mascot. I couldn’t give it big eyes or cuddly features because that would be inaccurate, and worse, inauthentic. I chose the hagfish for my website because I liked what it stood for: an understudied biological organism full of untapped potential, maligned for its physically repulsive characteristics. It desperately needed rebranding. As beauty is in the eye of the beholder, I took it upon myself to see the beauty in this creature. 

As the fish itself is an integral part of this website’s creation, I knew I needed to feature the fish in the logo, preferably as part of the lettering. I decided that the hagfish’s flexibility would perfectly serve in creating the “S.” To do this, I used a combination of the spiral, curvature, and shape-builder tools to construct the hagfish’s body. I also used those same tools and the arc to create the “head” or, more accurately, the mouth and tendrils. The hagfish’s colors were chosen to resemble the actual animal, as were the colors of the letters. I also used a subtle gradient to give the hagfish image more dimension.

To insert my logo firmly within the website’s title, I used the “create outlines” feature on the text, removed the “s,” and replaced it with my hagfish. With the text ready, it was time to create my background. I made a rectangle, colored it, added a gradient, and used the “ocean ripple” distort effect to give the image some texture. It took several tries for me to get the right balance between the text and background imagery. I’m happy with the contrast, which was improved once I added a drop shadow and stroke combination to the text.

For the last part of my logo, I decided to add a few fun little bubbles. To create a bubble, I built the shape using the ellipse tool. I then employed a series of blurring, gradient-shifting, and opacity changes to get the right look. Once I was happy with the design, I copied and pasted it and then sprinkled it throughout the image.   

Below I’ve posted two of my rougher-rough drafts, so you can see a few other versions of the design.

If you’d like to learn more about the noble Hagfish, here are a few resources:

https://youtu.be/F8aVgSIDJjM

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagfish

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2229070-hagfish-tie-their-bodies-into-complicated-knots-to-escape-tight-spots/

6 thoughts on “Introducing The Happy Hagfish (aka Logo Rough Draft)

  1. Hey Alexandra,

    I love your logo! After looking up an image of a Hagfish, I can say you absolutely succeeded in translating the animal into a cuter version of itself. Your idea to replace a letter in the website’s name with the fish is really clever. I appreciate how you completely transformed the letter S without making it unrecognizable. Because of how you shaped the Hagfish’s body, the image still registers enough as an S in my mind as to not affect my ability to read the name.

    One thing I ask you to consider is how this logo would translate in black and white. Your graphic seems to rely heavily on color to tell a story, and I am concerned that you will lose some detail and effectiveness if the image were converted to B&W. In particular, the bubbles in the background may appear less like bubbles and more just as circles. Perhaps experimenting with a different background or adding a bit more detail to the bubbles would help prevent loss of recognizability if the colors of the logo were changed.

    I also wonder if the Hagfish in your logo is scalable downward. Imagine the graphic shrunken to a much smaller size: would the S still register as a Hagfish, or would it just appear as a spiral? I personally think your logo would look great at any size, but your main component of the graphic, the Hagfish, may lose its effect at a smaller scale. To remedy this I suggest first shrinking your current logo to test its scalability. If the Hagfish becomes difficult to decipher, I would suggest experimenting with making the Hagfish a more prominent part of the logo or adding a few more distinguishable features to the image.

    Your logo is so creative and effective! Plus you’ve exhibited some awesome Illustrator savvy through your design. I can’t wait to see your final product!

    Best,

    Lily Engel

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lily,

      You are too kind! Thank you so much for your advice and perspective! I loved creating the hagfish, so I’m glad you liked looking at him! 🙂

      I agree – I think that my design relies far too much on color, and I’ll try experimenting with the bubbles and other shapes in the design to make sure that they stay visible and noticeable. I’ll also workshop the hagfish’s design to make sure he’s scalable. It’ll be a challenge, but I’m looking forward to it!

      Best,

      Alexandra

      Like

  2. Lily –

    I am so thoroughly impressed by your logo design, especially the “S” that represents a small caricature of your beloved “hagfish.” I must say, I had never heard of this creature until reading about it in your blog and on the links you provided. I had never even heard of a hagfish before now.

    After reading a bit more about this creature, I understand your desire to paint a more desirable picture and present it in a positive, playful way. In nature, this is an animal that could easily be dismissed and rejected because it is not visually appealing, cute, colorful etc. But I think you are on to something here. In the communications/marketing realm, there will be many times when an idea or concept needs to be presented that is not at all popular or welcome. It is up to us, as communicators to find the good in everything we present and to paint it in the most positive light possible. I think you have accomplished this with your logo design.

    I am most impressed by the caricature you created using the “S” as a symbol for the hagfish. In addition, the bubbles, and the playful colors lend a light, fun impression of your overall design and your goal of representing this “sweet, joyful, goofy” creature works.

    To improve upon the design, I would suggest tightening it up a bit. Perhaps making the H’s (in Happy and Hagfish) a bit larger…or perhaps using one large “H” to tie in both words? Somehow I think the two words need to be unified a bit more. Perhaps focusing on the two H’s and the S for the “Hagfish” for a logo, then underneath, writing “Happy Hagfish” might work. That way you could separate the logo from the “words” where needed. For example, if using the logo on a business card, or a t-shirt…maybe you don’t need all the words, but more of a symbol to represent the Happy Hagfish. I have a vision of the two H’s, with the big hagfish (S) in between as a logo, rather than the full name itself.

    Hope this is helpful! Can’t wait to see the final version!
    Kim

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am not surprised that the beautifully imperfect hagfish requires some revisions. My teammates provided me with excellent, thoughtful suggestions for improvement that I intend to implement. For example, one suggested that I experiment with the text and make the “H” in “Happy” and “Hagfish” big enough for both words. I’m going to give that suggestion a try!

    Another teammate suggested I may be relying too much on color to carry my design. I agree with her. I want the logo’s strength to show regardless of color, so I intend to render my logo in black and white to study its strengths and weaknesses before reverting back to color.

    I was inspired by my teammates’ logos and the process of writing constructive feedback for them. Focusing on their designs helped me realize what I needed to improve on my own. The first thing I plan on doing to my logo is changing the shape of the background. I want to shorten it and change the shape to remove some of the blank space at the top and bottom of the image.

    I want my logo to be both fun and informative, which is why I chose the hagfish to be the center of my design. The hagfish will stay, but I intend to do more to the text, background, and bubbles surrounding the hagfish to give the final logo the right amount of flair.

    I would like to extend a special thank-you to my teammates for their kind words and insightful critiques!

    Like

  4. Alexandra –

    Your description of a hagfish was so illustrative that I didn’t really need to Google it to see what it looked like. I did anyway and may I say ewwww… and COOL!

    And I like your adorable version so much better. Thanks for helping me change my perception of the real thing.

    You mentioned that one of your goals was to impart some “happy” and you succeeded. You brought the happy playful through color and font, and together they make me think of bubbles underwater and bubbles overhead in a cartoon strip.

    I think your placement of bubbles works well: the highest concentration in lower right helps anchor your viewer in this “ocean,” while providing a base for the hagfish itself. And I greatly appreciate learning how you created them; thank you for sharing those details.

    Some thought bubbles for making this a stronger logo…

    How fun this would be as a sphere or circle rather than a square, especially if you saw it amid a sea of other icons on social media. A circle would reinforce both your inflated fonts and bubbles, and let you play further with gradient of light shining through the water.

    For that same reason, I do like the background on your third rougher-draft, which might also work well as a sphere or circle.

    In the primary draft, the gradient feels a little tippy, with the right side feeling much darker than warranted. Left-to-right may have been your intent because you have text, but have you considered playing with light from top to bottom, as though it came from the water’s surface? It might feel a bit more balanced and natural.

    In greyscale, a few of your bubbles are less defined but the design is still visible for the colorblind (https://www.toptal.com/designers/colorfilter).

    Thanks for taking me on this under-the-sea jaunt and for making me smile even before I read your blog!

    Elaine

    Like

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