In This Article You’ll Learn: The five components of an effective logo, a reliable process for creating a logo, and the six things to avoid when developing your logo.
Even though they’re often just small images, logos carry a whole lot of meaning–and designing one comes with a whole lot of responsibility, too. Logos are usually the most recognizable representation of a company or organization. Think of it as the face of the company’s body. And with more information available to the average consumer today, logos also have to quickly and effectively communicate on behalf of their brand.
To tackle such a complex challenge, many brands choose to hire outside help. But for those of us who are brand new to the logo design process, working with freelancers to design a logo or doing it on your can be a challenge in itself.
I thought it would be interesting to provide what I know about logo design in hopes of educating you before walking down the wrong pixel path. From the concept stage to the final product, what goes into designing a logo? How are designers able to capture an organization’s mission and personality into a single, simple image, especially when they aren’t a part of the organization themselves? Read on to find out. But first, here are some of my favorite logos.
5 Steps To An Effective Logo?
When trying to develop your startup’s logo, spend much of your time focusing on the mission, personality and most importantly, your audience. We’ll get to the process of developing a logo later, but first, let’s talk about what traits make an effective logo in the first place.
- Simplicity: Is the design simple and clean enough to be flexible and easily recognizable? Is it not too busy, distracting, or confusing?
- Memorability: Is it quickly recognizable? Is it clever? Will people only have to spend a second or two thinking about it to get it?
- Timelessness: Will it still be a great logo in 10, 20, or even 50 years?
- Versatility: Does it scale to different sizes without losing quality or clarity? Will it work across various media and within different contexts?
- Appropriateness: Does it resonate with the desired audience and industry of the business?
I have been a designer for over 12 years, and the most important wisdom I’ve learned about logo design is this:
A logo should be distinctive, not descriptive.
Take a look at the logo below. This is Adair Homes. It’s the company who is building my new house here in Oregon. Their logo has WAY too much going on. They have attempted to overly describe their company within their logo by including three rulers wrapping around an “A” which I believe is also meant to symbolize a mountain due to their Northwestern roots.
Remember this: Your logo is not advertising. You have plenty of other avenues to explain who you are and what your business does.
What Process Occurs When Designing A Logo?
Every designer has his or her process, and it is rarely linear, but in general this is how the logo design process is completed, which can be used as a guide to establish your own.
- Design Brief. Gather as much information about the vision for your logo. How do you imagine it feeling? Are there any important colors to consider? When would you like to have the logo complete? Most importantly, who is the customer, what motivates them, and what are they looking for in a logo?
- Research. Conduct research focused on the industry itself, its history, and its competitors. What’s the primary sales motivator in the industry? What brands are winning and why?
- Reference. Conduct research into logo designs that have been successful and current styles and trends that are related to your industry or business. In my experience, I gather between 25-40 logos and narrow them down to five. You can do this on Dribbble, Logo Moose, or Logo Pond.
- Sketching and Conceptualizing. This is a critical step. You can either hire this portion out and provide the designer with the information from steps 1-3 or proceed by designing the logo yourself. Developing the logo design concept(s) is where creativity comes into play, this is where the designer must create the logo by using the design brief and the research conducted. Some designers use a napkin to sketch, some use a sketchbook, and some use the computer as paper, this is all a matter of personal choice, however using a computer first up is not recommended.
- Reflection. In my experience, taking breaks throughout the design process can be very fruitful. This allows your ideas to mature and lets you get renewed enthusiasm. This is also a time to get feedback from the right people. People who are either designers or potential customers of the brand. I typically spend 2-3 days in reflection.
- Revisions. Even the best designers don’t knock out a logo on the first shot. This phase is meant to narrow down your ideas to 2-3 concepts (all should be capable of working as final logos).
- Mockup. A logo by itself on a plain sheet of paper or in a photoshop file is in its least native space. Nobody will ever see it there. Instead, it will be seen on business cards, your website, or even in an animated version in a video. Take your final revisions and mock them up in a usage where they will likely be seen. It’s this perspective that will help you make your final decision.
- Finalize. Choose your final logo. Make final file versions with proper colors, sizes, and fonts for ease of use in the future. For me, I create an Adobe Illustrator vector file, a high-resolution PSD, JPG and PNG, and smaller versions for web use in places like social media or for your website.
6 Things To Avoid When Developing Your Logo
1. Fight The Temptation To Imitate
We all have logos we love, and sometimes we love them so much we want to imitate their styles. Well, they do say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. However, in the real world, it’s just a lazy way to solve a creative problem.
2. Avoid Gimmicky Fonts
Don’t be tempted to make your logo design stand out by using gimmicky fonts. They’re the equivalent of typographic chintz, and there’s a reason why most of them are free. For sheer professionalism’s sake, you should avoid them at all costs.
Most gimmicky fonts are too fancy, too weak, and are most likely being used (badly) on a few hundred different cheap business cards right now. When it comes to logo design, keep your font choices classic and simple and avoid over-garnishing. I buy most of my fonts at fonts.com or Lost Type.
3. Don’t Use More Than Two Fonts
Obviously, there are always going to be exceptions to this rule. But as a general principle, restricting yourself to just one or two typefaces is a good idea if you want your logo design to be clear and uncluttered.
4. Subtract As Much As Possible
Subtraction is a great technique for removing redundancy in any creative endeavor. It means continually asking yourself questions that begin with, “Does this logo need…”, “Does this make sense?”, “Does this match the brief” and “Is this self-indulgent?”. One of my favorite quotes is this:
A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add but when there is nothing left to take away.
5. Get The Tone Right
Imagine you were looking online for a consultant and came across a firm called Friar Tuck’s which had a logo design made up of a weedy serif font and an image of a cartoon Friar. You’d doubt whether this firm was worth taking seriously. This company could well have multiple awards and reams of happy customers, but such a logo design wouldn’t inspire any trust or admiration for the type of services they offer.
A logo design represents a business’s professionalism, and weak visual play doesn’t work. Use fonts and illustrations which sum up the ‘brand mood’ of your startup and it’s industry.
6. Check For Hidden Words
Often when a logo is stylized in a certain way – such as all the letters being the same case – it can spell out words that were not intended to be read. When Weight Watchers switched to an all-lowercase logo a few years ago, they quickly made a change back because of the accidental rude word found in the center of their logo.
Designing a logo from scratch is a difficult creative process that takes a lot of research, knowledge of a business and its audience, and deep consideration for the principles of logo design. But if you partner with the right designers and have a solid process in place, you should end up with something your startup loves (and people can understand).
Here is a little bonus tool I have used in the past to help think through your next logo design project.
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