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Behind The Graphic Design Scenes: The Billy Bucket Logo

A Step-By-Step Description of How the "Billy Bucket" Logo Came To Life

As some of you may already know, we here at Creative Juices Bo. Co. do a lot more than just web design. We happen to be a full-fledge graphic design company to boot. And to our delight, one of our clients, The Library Annex, in St. Louis, Missouri, was in need of a new logo for a novelty drink they were about to introduce. You may have taken a gander at one of our recent post where we posted all the different mock-ups we did for the Flannery's logo. Sometimes logo inspiration comes easy, sometimes not. Fortunately, the design for the "Billy Bucket" wasn't to difficult and didn't have the need to make a gazillion logo mock-ups. The following write-up, breaks down the steps that were taken to come up with the final concept and design.

Step 1: The Concept

Billiken ExampleThe client came up with the idea to create a novelty drink for one of their establishments. It was a drink, served in a bucket. I'm not 100% sure how they came up with their idea, but they did provide an example from a place called Silky O'Sullivan's. These guys have a drink that they call the "Diver". Apparently, it's guaranteed to make you go down. Anyhow, my client's place is located in St. Louis, next to Saint Louis University. SLU's mascot happens to be something called a "Billiken". Hence the name "Billy Bucket". The client never actually said what they wanted on the bucket. It was more or less left up to us to come up with a design that was "cool". My first idea, since it was Billy's bucket, was to come up with a Billy. And to do this we needed to see what the heck a Billiken looked like. Using Google, I found quite a few images, but in a nutshell it kind of looks like a fat little impish Buddha.

Step 2: Creating the First Mock-Ups

Initial Billy Bucket sketch

Knowing what a Billiken looked like I sketched a few quick ideas into my notebook. It wasn't anything fancy, matter of fact, looking at it now I'm not 100% sure what it means. I'm sure Freud would have a field day with it. I think doing this is more for reference that anything. I powered up Adobe Illustrator and began to do a little work. And if you are curious, I do all my designs freehand with a mouse and mainly just using the paint brush tool.

I needed to start working on the Billy character. Looking at the Billiken statues, they all looked kind of mean and had a somewhat devilish look to them. My idea was to keep the design true to the statues and avoid looking overly cartoonish or goofy. I began sketching some ideas and after awhile I came up with what I thought was a pretty good character. At this point, I could use it to start doing a few mock-ups of the logo. The image on the left is the raw Illustrator sketch that I based all of the following designs off of. You may notice he's sitting on a bucket. This was one of my first ideas. But I eventually decided that it wasn't really needed at this point so I removed it once I began to add some line weight and solid shadowing. This is an optical trick to give the design a little more depth.

First generation Billy Bucket character

With the basic character figured out, I needed to add the product name and so I began playing around with ways to do this. The first one, contained more of an "abstract" bucket design. I wasn't really sold on the idea, so I decided to create another version with our little Billy sitting on the edge of a realistic bucket. You might notice that the name is "Billi Bucket". It wasn't really set in stone on how to spell it, so I took the liberty to see what it would look like this way.

Building the first Billy Bucket mock-ups

When designing a logo, I don't usually design things in color at first. Designing things in black and white helps you get a better sense of composition. Color and shading can always be added later. And since the logo will most likely be in black and white at some point, it's better to start from there and then build up the detail as needed. The other reason, is that I don't like to waste my client's money. It takes about twice as long to design something in full color and if your client doesn't like the design for whatever reason, well you just wasted a lot of time. By doing some quick mock-ups in black and white, I can send them to the client to make sure everyone is on the same page. So off they go and I await some feedback.

Step 3: The Feedback

I'm glad I didn't waste a lot of time doing things in color. Here's the response that was sitting in my mailbox the next morning:

To: Creative Juices, Bo. Co.
From: Your Client

How about this dude floating in the drink all f'd up?
Make him look a little happier too ..You depressed bastard! A little drunk happy!

Haha, you gotta love my clients. Ok, so apparently my idea of not making it cartoonish or goofy wasn't really in line with what my client was thinking. So I called him up and we bounced around a few ideas. It wasn't so much that he didn't like the idea of using the Billiken, but he really didn't like the character. He said it wasn't something that he would want to sit and drink with. He made a good point and I agreed.

Step 4: Character Tweaking

So with the feedback I received from my client, I came to the conclusion that the face was really the issue. It's was pretty frick'n scary. It looks like lil' Billy is about to suck my soul away and place it in that bucket. I need to get rid of his freakish facial expression and come up with something new. Keeping in mind that my client liked the idea of him being "All F'd up" and played around with a few ideas.

Billy Bucket facial expression mock-ups

I nailed the eyes right off the bat. But I struggled with the smile. It's a fine line to make a cartoon character look drunk and not mentally challenged. To help with this, you can always add the "drunk bubbles"! Looking better,but now I was having another problem. Some of the smiles started making the character look too much like a monkey. This was a by-product of giving him to much of an upper lip. (These are the things that keep me up at night). So on one of the versions, I went ahead and added some color. This did away with the monkey problem. The only thing left was a hair style issue. I started thinking that a drunk cartoon character probably wouldn't have nicely combed pointy hair. So I gave him some bar hair. Ahhh... I think I did it, I made the perfect drunk cartoon character. My client can't complain now.

I shot these off via e-mail and waited to hear back if he liked these facial expressions any better. And within the hour, I had my response.

To: Creative Juices, Bo. Co.
From: Your Client

Too Drunk!

What? How dare he... hmmmm... yeah, ok. Maybe my little guy did have one too many. He was looking more like a guy you would want to avoid than a guy you would want to drink with. So I decided to try one more expression and shot it off to me client to see if he liked it.

The perfect drunk cartoon character expression

His response was that he liked it. He also showed it around to some people in his office and they liked it too. Awesome, I had created the perfect drunk cartoon character expression. It almost made me want to go out and have a few myself, but my job wasn't done. Now it was time to come up with the character's body and rest of the logo.

Step 5: Every Body Needs Some Body

So now that we have the facial expression nailed down, I need to come up with his body. The client wasn't to thrilled with the "statuette" version I did earlier, but when pressed on what he did like, he really didn't offer too many suggestions. Again, it was left up to me to come up with something. Personally, I liked the idea of having the character with the bucket. Maybe instead of sitting in or on the bucket, maybe he's drinking from it. I could keep the same basic posture that the statues all showed, but maybe the bucket drink is between his legs. I liked this idea, so again I sketched out the idea.

Billy Bucket body sketches

The first thing I had to do was add the bucket. I placed this in a separate layer so I could scale it and place it where I wanted it over the previous body. In another layer, I began to sketch out the body. Illustrator is great for this, you can always draw an object and if it's used again you can copy and mirror it. This is what I did for the feet and the basic torso shape. The arms were a different story. I thought if might look cool, if he was using the bucket to prop himself up. This had the added benefit of hiding on of his one hand, since it was inside the bucket. I struggled on the other hand holding the straw. I went back to the drawing board (well, my notebook) and did a couple of quick pen and ink sketches. Not sure why, but drawing these types of things this way, as apposed to virtual ink, always helps me flush out what I need to do.

Billy Bucket flusing out the hand holding the straw

As you can see, In just a few sketches I came up with the basic way that out character was going to hold the straw. I tilted his head a little bit and from this point I had the basic character layout. I felt like the bucket needed something. It was too empty, so I added "48oz.". I wasn't sure at this point actually how big these drinks were.

Step 6: Color Time

Now that the basic character layout was complete, I went ahead and started doing some color test. As I was doing this I started adding the "Billi Bucket" name, just so my client would have a good idea of what the final product would look like and to help him decide on some color options. After doing a few of these test, I asked the client what the color of the bucket was, since I didn't know. I think I should have asked this early on, but eventually was told they were white.

Billy Bucket Color Test

Step 7: Final Tweaks

As with all logos, there's always going to be little tiny tweaks to get you to the final sign-off. This job was no different. I'm not saying it's a bad thing, it's not. I'm just saying it always happens. When you design a logo (or anything really), sometimes you need to not look at it for a few hours or few days so you can look at it again with fresh eyes. Showing it to your friends or loved ones also does this as well. In this case, the hand holding the straw was causing an issue. If you look at it closely, it looks like the index finger is actually the middle finger and well... it looks like he's flipping the bird.

Billy Bucket flipping the bird

Yeah, we'll rack that one up as a weird optical illusion. But I fixed it. We also had to go in and fix the name. It was decided upon that no one liked "Billi", so we went ahead and changed it "Billy". Other than adding their tagline and adding a few more style tweaks, the logo is complete. A final logo file is set up to give the client multiple versions of the logo. We have a black and white version, greyscale and full color. We also provided a version on a black background.

Billy Bucket final


All in all, I think it turned out pretty cool and I had a good time working on it. All of the images from above came straight from the Illustrator files, I wish I could have recorded the entire process on video or something for you guys to see. But in reality, you've seen pretty much everything I did. If anyone has any questions, I would be glad to share what I know, but a lot of the design work is from the gut. Sometimes that's hard to explain.

If your ever in St. Louis, Missouri, be sure to head on over to The Library Annex and get yourself a bucket. Tell me how it is, because I've never even tasted this thing. And please do me a favor, don't drink and drive after having one of these bad boys!