Mar 2, 2011

New Logo

Don't laugh, but I finally made a logo for my blog and profile. I have no artistic talent to speak of, so I stole two existing graphics. However, since both were licensed under Creative Commons, anybody is free to remix and reuse them, legally. In case you're artistically challenged like myself, and want to know how I created it, here are the steps I took:

I had an idea of using a map of Minnesota, with a tree superimposed on top of it. My state has an irregular border–instantly recognizable if you know anything about American geography. Also tree shapes can be pretty complex, and I wanted some roots on the tree. That ruled out using raster graphics, since the logo would probably get pixelated and look even worse. To find the graphics I wanted, I searched Google for Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG), an open standard for vector graphics files.

Google image search has the option, under Advanced Search, to filter results by Usage Rights. I set it to only return images under Creative Commons licenses or in the public domain. (You can do a similar search on Flickr.) I found a suitable SVG file with the Minnesota shape on Wikipedia, although it had lots of extra graphics I didn't want. I also found a good tree graphic, with roots even, except it had some grass I didn't like.

To edit SVG files, there are myriad choices of software from commercial vendors, like Adobe Illustrator. But that would set you back a few hundred dollars! Instead, I used a free application, called Inkscape, that works just as well. You can download Inkscape for Windows, MacOS X, or Linux.

I isolated the shape of Minnesota from the surrounding map, changed the color, and added a thin border. If you've used any other vector graphics software, Inkscape works about the same way.

Next, I got rid of the grass in the tree drawing, and pasted it on top of the Minnesota map. Then it was just a matter of resizing and aligning them until I was satisfied with the result. I know it's still ugly, but lots of people with actual talent use the same tools, and create great looking graphics. Your mileage may vary.

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