When I started Morbid North, it was first supposed to be a new creative studio mainly focusing to offer visual creative services to the music industry, but then things happened and it turned out to become a music merchandising company instead.

Now I've slowly started launching the creative studio again under the name of Samael Creative (which is based on my second name) and posting the same content on two different sites wouldn't be the most SEO friendly. I will be posting new content mostly on to the samaelcreative.com only and as I'm still working at Verkkokauppa.com as well, I'll only post that stuff on my personal portfolio.

Samael Creative is a small creative studio offering range of services including graphic design, photography, videography, art, and illustration. With a spiced-up attitude inspired by the darker music genres Samael Creative shows a big contrast to the common creative studios and ad agencies who like to follow trends. Samael Creative is here to break the trends and keep one step ahead of everyone else by taking risks while keeping the bar high above any mediocrity. Let the monster loose and let the chaos begin, so something new can rise again from the ashes!

Samael Creative Featured Image

Sami Lehto from Imperiumi webzine wrote a festival report on Hellsinki Industrial Festival 2021. Because their own photographer couldn't make it, they used my photos for the article. It's written only in Finnish and can be read HERE.

All my photos from Hellsinki Industrial Festival can be found from Samael Creative website HERE.

My photo from Creinium many years back is getting featured in Lisbon Photo Exhibition. The event will also have a live stream available for those who can't participate locally in Portugal including me.

CREINIUM Band Photography Featured
Creinium album release party

Check out the Facebook event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/581160839924493/

Solo - Single Subject
Virtual - https://bit.ly/3xCZv2G

My Favorite Shot
Virtual - coming soon!

OPENING NIGHT:
Fri 5th Nov 7pm-10pm

OPENING HOURS:
Sat 6th & Sun 7th Nov 12pm-5pm

Please join us at Espaço Espelho D'agua for our next GuruShots photography exhibition in Lisbon! We are so excited to be back in the stunning Portuguese capital for another edition, supported by the fabulous Collage - Soluções de Publicidade.The opening night will also be streamed on Facebook Live - stay tuned for further details!Congratulations to all photographers selected for print and digital. We look forward to seeing you there!

Where it all began

Most of the people who know me also know that I'm the guy behind morbidnorth.com. A passion project I started as a small side thing that accidentally evolved into something bigger. Originally I registered the company name for a creative agency because I thought I'd need to brand my little freelancing hustle better. After all my name alone isn't really "sexy" or marketable sounding for my dark occult and metal music covered target audience.

When I launched morbidnorth.com, it was just a small Squarespace store and I only had one band Sortaja who's vocalist is a friend of mine. They are a small group from Hyvinkää and I thought it would be cool to experiment with an artist I already knew and wasn't a big name that would be ruined if I fucked something up. After all, I was dwelling on completely new grounds with building my own little eCommerce store. My only experience was back from TREDU where I studied some graphic design just to gain the papers for it, but my studies didn't only scratch the surface of web design. All I knew was the basic understanding what is CSS and Html and nothing more.
A good thing was that I was already working at Verkkokauppa.com, so I wasn't a complete noob in eCommerce overall. Altough my experience was from branding and marketing, not much on the web design.

The first iteration seemed to work fine and somehow I started gaining a little band roster just by contacting bands directly and some joined because they had heard of my store from other artists. As the whole project was just a hobby it felt amazing to get few bands joining so fast, but the more I gained bands, the more they had wished for things I didn't know how to provide or even couldn't provide due to my chosen ecommerce platform.

Time to learn some web design

I spend a couple of months searching and comparing different eCommerce platforms and I was very close to choose Magento. Mostly just because it's an Adobe product and I thought I'd be more familiar with it, but I really didn't know where to begin with it.
Then I was considering Drupal because it was the platform we used back in the school and the only platform I had actually build something to, but I had the same problems with that, as I had with Magento and it didn't have any integrations that I really needed.
So then I thought about WordPress because back in the day when I first began my photography hobby, I build my portfolio there and when I created a staging site and logged in the first time, I knew right away where to begin and I immediately knew where to begin.

I used to WpBakery to build my old portfolio, so my instinct went on and of course, I began with the same arsenal as I used to use and actually threw a lot of money into plugins that I end up not even using because I didn't actually know what I was doing.
While searching for the right theme for Morbid North for ages like probably everyone does who's just beginning with WordPress. I finally found an eCommerce theme that I quite liked, Oxygen by Laborator.
I don't even remember how long I tried to build what I wanted and just couldn't make it. Probably some weeks at least and finally when I searched some tutorials for the Oxygen theme, I found the Oxygen Builder and that changed everything.

Easy or the hard way

As a creative I want the freedom to create what I really want. It really wasn't a problem until I started learning web design because if I need to draw what I want, I just drew it. If I want to animate something, I just animated it. Creating has been always more quite natural to me and making more has been more about getting things started than actual skill-based requirements, but with web design, it was completely different. It's way more complex than just visualizing what I wanted because after all everything also had to be responsive and user-friendly.

When I first found Oxygen Builder I watched few tutorials and it just looked so much better than anything I had tried before. It wasn't about the ease of use, but instead of the freedom to do what I wanted. If I wanted to go for the easy path I'd propably have chosen Elementor instead or Webflow if i had the money for it.

After I had practiced using Oxygen Builder for over two weeks I actually decided to get a refund and go for Elementor instead because it felt way too hard to use without any deeper understanding of web design. But I had managed to do some cool layouts with it and when I switched to Elementor and tried to create those same simple things, it wasn't any easier. Instead, it was way harder to actually do anything I really wanted because with Elementor I was again pretty much stuck with the Oxygen theme I had bought earlier.

So then I just thought fuck it and ditched the Elementor and bought the Oxygen Builder again. This time I actually spend even more paying for the agency license because if I was going to learn how to use it, I had to have a license for more than one site to practice, and seriously it was one of the best decisions I've done in years. If I was going to do this right I had to take it the hard way and actually learn something completely new to me. Not that it was anything new to me because for the last decade I've been learning at least one completely new thing each year. This year it was going to be web design.

Cheap hosting almost killed it

So I began learning how the Oxygen Builder works and like everyone else, first I used a lot of different extra plugins and 3rd party elements to build what I wanted. It didn't help that I had chosen probably the worst possible hosting possible for my new eCommerce site. GoDaddy.

Ok, I gotta admit that they did give a nice selection of Woocommerce plugin with their hosting subscription, but one of my main problems with the original Squarespace site was how slow it was for me in Finland as it is (or at least was back then) hosted in the US. GoDaddy wasn't any better at all. Instead, it was probably way slower, but I can't confirm that because I had no idea how to measure it back then. It was so slow that I almost completely gave up.

After some struggles, I got my new eCommerce site launched after all, but it was sooooooo slooooooow.... And it wasn't just the speed, but it was down at least once a day. Some days it had multiple 5-10 minute downtime periods and the company that praises their customer service didn't have any other way to contact them than by phone. As half deaf I do not handle phone call too well and on top of that it would have cost a fortune to call them.

So I decided to ditch them and switched to Bluehost. After the switch it felt "so fast" and I managed to get the loading times from the 30s (yes seriously 30s long seconds) down to 10s. Obviously, 10s loading times are still terrible, but it's also good to remember that I had no idea how to optimize anything or didn't know about caching at all. I was still a complete noob, but Bluehost was a good start and as it provided unlimited websites I could build practice sites and just try things out.

Oxygen Builder taught me everything

My hosting switching wasn't yet over because after switching to Bluehost I started making WordPress websites for others and I noticed that I could make much faster sites for my clients than I could for Morbid North with Bluehost hosting. This period really thought me a lot about optimizing the CSS and other building blocks I required. But all the manual coding and such could only take me so far and I also got the WP Asset Cleanup plugin to help me out getting rid of some scripts loading everywhere. Overall I think Woocommerce itself is the main villain making everything so slow, but I'm still learning and I'm sure I'll find soon new way to optimize the whole site.
Now I've also switched the hosting yet again, but what my skill can't solve, money can. And so I switched the hosting to Kinsta with a Finnish server. It's really expensive, but I still think it's worth it. At least I can fit multiple sites like this portfolio in same billing, so I'm not paying just for the Morbid North alone.

If it wasn't for Oxygen Builder that pushed me to learn web design and some coding, I would have never been able to get this far with my business. Now I'm working on my 20th WordPress website that will be samaelcreative.com.
Samael Creative will become what Morbid North was supposed to be originally. Art, graphic design, web design & motion graphics for big brands to garage bands. #LetTheMonsterLose
After launching Samael Creative, most of my scary stuff will move there and this portfolio will be also getting a fresh new and more neutral look. This also means all my future tutorials and blog posts will be moving there. See you at samaelcreative.com launching July 2021!

I'm more focused on album illustrations art and graphic design, but logos are sometimes also part of my job and I almost always need to also vectorized client logos because most band logos are not made by professional graphic designers.

Whenever you decide that you really need a logo for your band, I do recommend saving up and hiring a professional to do it. It may not feel so important at first, but it might get quite important to have a professional logo really fast.
You may also be an older artist who has rocked your raster logo for years already and haven't noticed any problems while using it.
I wouldn't be surprised because the band rarely is in direct contact with an event promoter's graphic designers who actually need to make use of your band logo.

Brad Neathery - Unsplash
Photo by Brad Neathery on Unsplash

Personally, I'd suggest first asking yourself do you really need a logo and if you do, why? Why can't you simply use the band name with the same or different font on each album or a band shirt?
My answer to that would be the same as for companies. It's the branding. With branding, you will become recognizable and it defines your visual style for everything else as well. Now if you agree with that and decide to order a professionally made logo from a designer, here are few pointers to keep in mind.

1. Why the logo should NOT be made with Photoshop and why you should never accept logos made with it?

I can easily say that almost all band logos I've got from bands to work with have been raster logos made with Adobe Photoshop, Canva, Gimp, or other raster graphics software. The reason for this is most often because they didn't use a professional graphic designer or they sent me the wrong file. We all have artistic friends and some have photoshop, but not everyone is a graphic designer. If you want your friend to design you a logo I still suggest you send it to a graphic designer who can vectorize it and turn it into required formats, so it's always ready to use when needed.

Vectorizing a logo isn't really that expensive, but I'd still suggest making sure you're not hiring the cheapest possible option. Some cheaper designers might just use the quick trace function in Adobe Illustrator and be done with it. Even I did that way back when I was still new to graphic design. I've seen quite many of those and it may end up creating really heavy files and really ugly lines because it doesn't do a perfect job. When doing it by hand, the image will be optimized and every line has some thought put on them.

Photoshop CC 2021 - Loading Screen
Photoshop CC 2021 - Loading Screen

I've seen quite amazing logos made with Photoshop and many that have been way cooler than anything that I could have come up with. I even follow a couple of great logo artists on YouTube because I love their work, but when I see them only making a raster logo, I personally wouldn't hire them due to that.

2. So what file format do you need?

When you get your logo from the designer you should be getting a folder that has the logo in multiple different file formats. Some of them might be in types of formats that you have no way to even open because they require graphic design software like Adobe Illustrator, Acrobat, Affinity Designer, etc. to open.

DO NOT DELETE THOSE FILES!!!

I cannot even count how many times I've been contacted by my clients that someone needs a vector version of their logo that I designed for them and every time I say them to share the whole folder I had sent to them, but then the reply is they deleted some of the files they thought they wouldn't need. There is a reason why your designer sends you your logo in multiple file formats and you will most probably going to need all of them at some point.

Personally, I have all client commissions backed up in the cloud so I can easily share them again even with just my phone available, but not all designers do that. So please keep the files in a safe place and backed up.

So what do you need to expect to be in that folder?

Here is the list that I offer and I always recommend others to request when ordering a logo:

Why multiple color version? These just to save time for the designers who use your logo and sometimes a logo may have minor differences when using light or dark versions. Maybe your logo has some small detail that requires a little play with negative space as an example. But overall the most important it to have it in any flat color on top of having a more complex version if there is one.

What's the difference between SVG and EPS? Why should I have both?

This is something I've noticed that even some designers do not actually know. The main difference between EPS and SVG is that EPS is a legacy vector graphics file format for print workflow while SVG is a vector graphic file format for the web. In brief, EPS is suitable for print and publishing while SVG is suitable to use on a web platform.

So when a designer opens an eps file, he should be expecting it to be in CMYK color space and 300 dpi already when SVG should be in sRGB and 72 dpi.
SVG format should also be optimized in size so it loads faster. A complex SVG logo might require to be taken through some additional SVG optimizing service like SVGOMG from Jake Archibald that I really love to use. It's free and really simple to use. I've run some logos through it that got even up to 70% smaller file size.

If (and when) your designer says that you shouldn't use SVG file size because it's not supported by all browsers just yet, don't be rude to him, but this is fairly old information. Even Internet Explorer among all most common browsers support SVG images now, so there shouldn't be any problems with using it anymore.

Especially small promoters or venues usually only have Microsoft Office for everything and even more now when there is Office 365 available at way cheaper prices than Office used to have. Office software like Word doesn't have the ability to even open PSD, Ai or EPS files and this is why the logo is required to be in a certain file format that can be used with it. Instead, SVG is editable in Office. The only place on the web I do recommend avoiding using it is in email because some email services may tag it as a harmful file. In some cases, SVG can also be larger file format than PNG depending on how complex it is.

3. Listen to your designer

Sometimes you have a really great-looking logo sketch or just an idea, but the designer sees possibles troubles with it. It might be too complex to be used small or the designer might see something else that wouldn't work too well. It might be color, shape, or even the font.

The designer might be wrong, but give him a chance to justify his opinion before arguing against it. If you feel strongly against it, just sleep on it before making any decisions.

There are logos like most black metal logos, that are not even close to readable even on a larger scale. But those logos still need to be technically usable. Sometimes you need to forget a rule or two and everything I write here are just pointers in the right direction and not something to be written in stone.

Sketching ideas
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

After all your logo is your flag. It's like the heraldry of your band that won't and shouldn't be heavily edited after it's done properly.

4. Mood boards

When my clients have ideas for their logo, they always try to describe it to me, but it's sometimes hard to visualize the description. Even a rough sketch helps a lot in these cases and no it doesn't matter if you can't draw. Most of my rough sketches are just stick figures to give some pointers of the basic layout or shape.

Another great tool is to make mood boards. When you do not really have any specific idea, but you do know what type of logos you like. The best tool, in this case, is to make a mood board on Pinterest (or anywhere else where you can collect images). Simply collect images from anywhere to make a mood board of the overall style for what you're after. This makes it really easy to visualize what you like and what I as a designer should go for.

5. Pricing

How much a logo designing costs is something that has a very large variety. It also depends if you are commissioning a hobbyist, a freelance professional, or an agency and the price will also scale on that same order.
As a designer, I need to consider all the time I will be researching ideas, sketching, and then I need to approve my concepts with the client which may require quite a lot of time. Sometimes the band already has an idea and even a rough sketch done for me and I can skip that part completely, but without it, most of the time for the designer will be spent on finding the right idea. Sometimes my clients have great-sounding ideas, but it's really hard to describe sometimes and even with the vocal description I still need to research to make it visually match.

Controlling your time is the highest divident money pays.
Controlling your time is the highest divident money pays.

One of the best ways to approaches any creative work is to first put aside a certain budget and only after that begin searching for the right designer. This way you come prepared because you may just fall in love with some certain designer's work, but if you ain't prepared for the artists' price point, then you might get disappointed and go for someone cheaper who isn't exactly who you wanted. Some designers might be way out of your budget, but I'm fairly certain that unless you're looking for some really renowned artists who are the "rockstars" of graphic design or art industry, they won't be too much over the budget if you are willing to save some of it before commissioning. Professional work is never cheap so the good 'ol "couple of six-packs" won't be enough as payment.

On average hiring a freelance graphic designer in Finland where I live costs around 45-120 € /hour. If you are hiring an agency, it might get even more expensive. Now after hearing that you might think it's a lot because you could find a designer from Fiverr or 99designs who can do it for you for much less. Of course, there's always the cheaper option, but good talent rarely comes cheap.
Sometimes it's hard to give any hard promises for the total price and this is why designers offer a limited amount of revision to their given price. If you spend all revision. Then the project will cost more than originally agreed. Then that extra work will be charged by the given hourly rate. All designers work differently, but this is the method I use and do recommend for everyone. Rate by the hour also variates a lot between countries because living in different countries also costs different. Because I live in Finland I need to charge more than someone who lives in the USA as an example because our taxing and cost of life are totally different here.

Especially with logos, you should always go for the one designer whose work you love the most and does the most professional work because your logo stays with your band forever. Sometimes it costs more, but would you really be ok with anything less than perfect?

Together, We Create - graffiti art
Photo by "My Life Through A Lens" on Unsplash

6. Pay the artist even if you decide not to use his design

This is something I see fought about on many forums and groups where bands hire designers. The designer should always make a commission contract before beginning with any work and it is also in your interest as a commissioner. The contract is there, so both parties know the terms of the deal, so if either party disagrees with something, there is a contract to be used as the final word.

Sometimes there are reasons not to go with the designer you chose because the results are just not working out as expected or you got into an argument and can't find a common ground. If you had already commissioned the designer, he can charge you for the work that was already done. Usually, most of this is time spent on doing research and it is really hard for the designer to justify research time for the billing if there are any hostilities on either end. I've been in that situation once and it really sucks, but like in all professions, we bill for the time spent on the job.
Personally, I always charge 50% upfront. If the contract is terminated before finished, then I will keep the upfront payment and all the rights to all assets I've created for the project. As a client, you may argue that you should get the unfinished work at least because you paid for it, but to get the rights for the creative work requires the payment in full. This is the rule that all creatives should always follow and I know most professionals do.

Paid my dues
Photo by Klim Musalimov on Unsplash

Don't make enemies from the artists and designers. Nothing is better than finding just the right people to work together for the rest of your life, but it might not always be the first one you commission. When you work with an artist who already knows what you like, it will also become way easier to get good stuff from them in the future.

7. Avoid getting copyright claims

I know multiple cases where the band provided the designer some reference images or sketches for what the band wanted. Most of these are related to the cover art, but the same thing may happen with logos as well and I do also ask if the band has some mood boards or sketches for their ideas.

Markus Winkler - Unsplash
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

If you do not tell the designer that you copied your sketch from someone else's logo, then you might get a copyright claim for your logo. You and your designer are both responsible for not breaking any copyright rules when making logos or album art. The designer should always check if their work might be too similar to someone else's, but it's practically impossible to search through the whole internet and something even isn't on the internet at all.

Another thing is related to the last chapter is that if you got some preview files from the designer and you decided not to complete the commission with him. You do NOT have the right to use those preview files in any way or even copy them with another designer. If you want to finish your logo with someone else you also need to make it different enough because the original designer does have the copyright for everything he has created.
Copyright is something the original artist has automatically to everything he or she creates. It does not require any additional trademarking, registering or adding that little "Copyright 2021 © John Doe" text on top of it.

Please always respect the copyrights and give the credit when it's due.


I hope you learned at least something useful. Hiring a logo designer is usually the first time the band requires any creative services, so I thought this would be the perfect theme to begin with. This is just the first of many posts I'm working on helping bands and musicians with their creative requirements.

If you ever need a logo, album art or graphic design done for you or your band. Just send me a quote request and I'll happily look into it if I have some ideas for your project.

signature

I gotta admit that I'm a fairly hardcore Star Wars fan and everyone who knows me knows that. When I grew up I never really admired the good guys, but instead, I always loved the bad guys. There were often good ideas behind their reasoning and the good guys only beat them due to the morality of what the villain was doing no matter if it was for the good or the bad.

Dave Prowse wore the suit of one of those villains I really loved. As Darth Vader, he got me into scifi that later lead me to watch other scifi like Aliens and the Fifth Element. Even though of course him alone wasn't the reason I became a Star Wars fan. Honestly, it was more about the comics than the movies for me, but he was still part of it and part of who I am today.

It's always sad to see a childhood hero to pass on, but he will live forever in our memories. Dave Prowse is Darth vader.

Dave Prowse | 1935-2020
Riku Forsman © 2012 – 2022 All Rights Reserved
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