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  • Writer's pictureLoraine

Case Study: Creating a Substack Logo and Banner

James was launching a new Substack soon, and he wanted me to illustrate a custom logo and banner for it.

James is a Partner at Level One Fund, a growth-stage VC fund, and I had previously illustrated several blog posts for his fund's website.

His new one would be called

Cultured Meat News. Its subject would be the emerging cultured meat industry, a market that his fund is starting to focus more on.

James had some great ideas for me to use as starting points.

Best of all, he sent me this sketch of his idea for the banner. I love it when clients provide these- a picture really is worth a thousand words sometimes.


The Color Palette

There was only one thing that I felt was missing from James’ very well-thought-out plan, and that was a color palette.

I wanted the palette and art style to be established first, to give the newsletter a strong visual identity from the outset.

I made a quick sketch of the banner design so I could lay down some sample color themes and see how they looked. I started with the two broad categories: warm or cool tones.

color palette thumbnails for a substack banner
Warm vs cool tones

I presented the options to James, with some notes about how the warm palette working better if his posts would feature a lot of imagery of food while cool colors would fit better with content that's more technical and scientific.

The cool tones option was the winner!

I then proceeded to tweak the colors/saturation a bit more, until we had something James was really happy with.


The Banner

James asked me to add to his design if I had any ideas, and I was able to offer a few contributions.

My favorite was two drumsticks pointing at each other, as a parody of the "same Spiderman" meme. I thought it might be a funny way to indicate the similarity between animal vs lab-grown meat. I'm glad James thought so too!

The draft sketch

The draft sketch is intentionally rough, to allow for quick edits as there can be several iterations in order to get the design right.

Only when the draft is approved do I go on to create the final version. This is where the real work is done, as all the lines need to be drawn with a steady hand and the color fills carefully placed.

The final version

But despite being called the “final,” there’s still room for edits at this stage! Sometimes issues/new ideas only come to light after seeing it in this final form and if it doesn't require massive restructuring, then I’m happy to keep tweaking it.

In this instance, James had the idea of adding a few muscle cells to the syringe:

A custom illustrated banner for a Substack
The final version, after adding a few last details


The Logo

For his logo, James knew he wanted it to consist of the letters “CMN,” but wasn't sure what sort of font he wanted so I mocked up a few thumbnails that he could choose from.

Font style thumbnails

James liked the first one! From there, it was a quick path to finalization.

The final logo

Now we were all set! James has a logo and banner ready to go for this Substack launch, and he also has a color palette and art style established. His newsletter will have a strong visual identity and cohesiveness from the very start, setting it apart from those using the same generic stock photos.

Having worked with Loraine on a number of projects, I was excited to see what she would create for the Substack newsletter I’ve been working on. I often have specific ideas or thematic guidelines for each cartoon, and each time Loraine crafts these into something that works both artistically and contextually in my writing. For my Substack I needed cartoons that would capture the spirit of a new and exciting industry that I’ll be writing about, and the result exceeded my expectations! - James Stewart, Level One Fund

If you’re interested in getting a similar kit created for your own newsletter, email me at or fill out my easy New Project Questionnaire to get started!

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