So I start off with an image, typically found off the internet. I use Illustrator to convert a 2d image to vector, and it does the job fairly well. There are several things to look for when picking your image to get this to work well:
• Choose the highest resolution image you can find
• Images with strong contrasts in color work better
Simply open the image in Illustrator. With the image selected go to Object->Live Trace->Tracing Options. I always check "Preview" to see what my image will look like when it's converted. I also check "Ignore White" to remove white as an object and simply use the lines. The advantage to this is that you can get true holes in your logo, which is an effect impossible to create with opacity and bump alone. Text can be a bit tricky with the conversion and often doesn't look quite right, but you can adjust some of the Trace Settings to tweak them. Then hit Trace.
After it converts the image to vector, don't forget to hit the "Expand" button to bake the shapes in. Now I simply save the file as an .ai file. I use version 8, so Max will import it correctly, but newer versions of Max may handle newer .ai files.
|.ai imported into Max|
Why .ai files? Your initial thought may be to export from Illustrator as a .dwg. The problem with doing this is you get thousands of vertices in your spline, and it makes 3ds Max angry. Importing .ai files reduces the number of vertices and makes Max happier.
|.dwg imported into Max|
Now that I have a spline in 3dsmax, I simply add an Extrude modifier to the spline and watch the magic happen. You will notice that the result isn't perfect, but modeling something with this detail could simply take hours, and using this technique gets the job done in minutes!