Logo Design: RED ROBIN

All images © DC Comics

This was an easy assignment because I had a very strong foundation to build on: the Robin logo above, introduced in 1991, which I’ll be writing about in a Robin logo study soon. In brief, the R comes from the costume redesigned by Neal Adams, and the rest was a group effort by several designers. It was very successful, lasting nearly two decades at a time when many logos came and went quickly.

But the character was being revamped with a longer name: Red Robin. I was contacted early in 2009 by DC and asked to submit some design sketches. The direction given was to build on the previous Robin logo, perhaps modernize it a bit, but keep the feel. I was sent some art for reference, the cover art for the first issue:


I like the look, and was intrigued by the chest symbol, but it was hard to be sure of the correct shape of it, so I asked DC for a more head-on shot. They provided this one from interior art:


Now I had something to work with. A stylized version of the character’s hood in a circle…or is it meant to be the head of a bird of prey (which a real robin is not)? Could be either, I guess. I thought I’d try using it in place of the letter O in Robin, at least in some sketches I’d submit. It would provide a good visual tie-in to the character.


When I was ready start, I sat at my drawing table with the previous Robin logo and made some very rough idea sketches, more like doodles really, trying to see where I might go with it. I liked the idea of revising the large R by making the top loop more pointed, and I worked forward from that.


Once I had that direction I did a larger and more measured sketch of the Robin letterforms as well as a drawing of the chest symbol. This seemed a good direction, but I need more variations.


This version went back to the original initial R from the Adams logo and reimagined the rest of the letters in a similar style. One handy thing about this character name is that the R is repeated, so I only had to design the ones shown here to have them all, assuming I didn’t need the O.


This third version made more extensive changes to the first R, giving the right descender a clawlike curve. The rest of the letterforms were similar to version 1, with minor variations.


Here’s the first sketch rendered on the computer in Adobe Illustrator, then expanded further in straight and curved variations, with and without the chest symbol, and with that symbol in a circle or angled. I did a more complete rendering on the first and last versions, as I thought they were the most promising. Red and black seemed a good choice for colors. Always handy to have a color in a character name!


Here’s sketch 2 rendered the same way. One nice thing about working with logos on the computer in Adobe Illustrator is that, once you have the outlines traced, making variations is fairly simple. I kept the chest symbol in all these, but could have replaced it with a regular O if asked.


Here’s the third sketch rendered. I liked this one the least; frankly it seemed too much like some other logos I’ve designed, so I kept the versions to a minimum, without the chest symbol. Again, I could have added it if asked.

RedRobinLogo Final

After some deliberation by DC, version 2E was chosen as the final with no further changes. I love it when that happens! Here’s the final logo file. I’ve given them version 2D also, in case they needed a solid-letter version at some point. They chose the one that had stayed closest to the chest symbol from the Adams logo, but also incorporated the new chest symbol. Wise choice, I think, as it would please old and new fans of each.


Here it is on the first cover. They’ve changed the color on the logo’s chest symbol to match the actual costume, compressed the entire logo a bit horizontally, and given the black drop shadow a gray tone to make it work, but I think it’s otherwise as I sent it in. I can’t claim this as entirely my design, since the R is almost the same the the Adams one, but I’m happy with the way the collaboration turned out. Be interesting to see what happens if they go back to calling the character just Robin again at some point!

10 thoughts on “Logo Design: RED ROBIN

  1. Marcel

    Hi Todd,

    Just out of curiosity, and feel free not to answer if you don’t like to. When a company such as DC or Marvel asks you to do a new logo design as this Red Robin one, how do you get paid? Is there a particular “price” that you ask depending on the design, as if you work as a “free lancer” or you are under some kind of contract with DC or Marvel and they can ask you new designs as long as the contract is valid?

    Also, after you gave them the design I imagine you don’t keep any kind of copyrights to it, they are all for DC or Marvel, is that right?

    Thanks for another great post!

  2. KentL

    Really, really, really enjoying this pieces, Todd. I’m not at all a designer, so the thought process behind design work fascinates me.

    Couple of questions: As you pointed out, DC chose 2E and you sent them 2D as well since it was basically a solid-letter version of 2E. However, not all of the designs have the two options (ie my personal favorite, 2A, doesn’t have a solid-letter version shown). Is that because too many options tend to be overload? Is there a certain number of options that you give your clients to choose from?

    Also, you state that DC asked you to submit some designs. Is is customary for comic companies to pay an upfront fee for design work regardless of whether they choose your design or not? If so, what if they had come back and said they didn’t like any of the designs submitted? Would there then be an extra fee for further design? If they don’t pay an upfront fee, how much back and forth do you do before throwing in the towel?

  3. Todd Post author

    All my work for DC is freelance, and I don’t have a contract with them. DC has standard rates for logos, and they hold all the rights, as does Marvel.

  4. Todd Post author

    I usually submit less options than this in the first round, but in this case wanted to show a couple variables on each design. There is no upfront fee, but DC has standard logo rates. The highest rate is for a continuing series, rates for a mini-series or a one-shot are lower. Sometimes rates are negotiated up front for a group of logos all done together. If They didn’t like any of the first round designs, I would do more. If I couldn’t come up with anything they liked (and this does happen), and they wanted to give the assignment to someone else, I would be offered a kill fee, which is usually from one third to one half the full rate, depending on how much work I’d done.

  5. Your Obedient Serpent

    Heh. I was just looking at Red Robin #1 on the shelf at work t’other day, and, having been following your logo design series for a few months now, thought, “I wonder what Todd will have to say about that?”

    I hadn’t realized you’d designed it.

    I like the direction you took. That bulletproof Robin logo isn’t just “Robin’s” logo — it’s very specifically TIM DRAKE’S Robin logo. Now that Tim’s moved on to a new role, preserving those distinct TIM DRAKE elements maintains a sense of continuity.

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