What makes a great logo design? In search of an answer to this difficult question we got in touch with some of the UK’s top graphic designers. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that a simple answer doesn’t exist and creating a professional logo is an incredibly complex process.
Nevertheless, the designers were kind enough to share the secrets of their own success and offer guidance to all you budding logo designers out there.
Discover what makes the difference between a good design and a bad design and find out how to achieve your own success with our list of the ‘top 50 logo design tips’ taken from their responses.
If you’re just starting out in the world of logo design, you may not have any examples of what you can do to show prospective clients. This makes it difficult early on, so my advice would be to offer a few pro-bono projects, maybe to charities, schools, friends or family.
This means you’ll be able to show ‘real-world’ designs in your portfolio, rather than fictitious logos created for fun. Once you have a handful of designs in your portfolio, get it online on a website or even one of the many gallery sites out there so you can direct people to your work.
Simplicity is best. Less is more. As much as you would want to convey a message, don’t overdo it with overly symbolic logos.
Don’t try to have a single logo interpret your entire organisational goals and objectives. Really creative logos have subliminal meanings. Even if the brand has a ton of messages it wants to broadcast to the world, distill the essence and create a visual metaphor.
Never think about a logomark out of context of a full branding exercise. If you’re designing a logo it’s your responsibility to consider the entire brand – even if it’s “not your role”, or something you’ve been hired to do.
Keep it simple. Focus on one concept per design, and fine tune it so you’re portraying the message to it’s maximum through using the minimum. Take a look at the logo designs of the world’s top brands and you will notice how simple and effective they are.
Simplicity allows the logo to be versatile (so it works at different sizes and in different situations) as well as being easy to remember.
Make sure that you limit your communicative intentions to one or two ideas. Don’t expect your logo design to do all the communicative heavy lifting. A well-informed, memorable and simple icon can be enough. Look to materials, texture, print finish, layout, language and type choice to express, in a more focused, appropriate and engaging manner, other brand values.
This is a great way to quickly find out what designs and ideas work best before you spend too long on a particular design.
Simplicity is timeless
Like any other creative discipline, logo design has it’s fashions. Try to ignore what is ‘in style’ right now (gradients spring to mind) and instead aim to communicate your idea in the simplest way possible. Ask yourself ‘what doesn’t need to be there to communicate my idea?’ then remove any unnecessary noise. This will help ensure that your logo stands the test of time.
Don’t be afraid to be abstract
Why do estate agent logos always seem to feature a ‘house’ or a ‘key? Maybe there is a tendency to believe that a good logo has to be a literal representation of a business. Sometimes this ‘does what it says on the tin’ approach can result in overly forced or predictable designs. Don’t be afraid to be abstract–after all, the highly successful Mercedes logo doesn’t feature a car. Instead aim to give your logo a simple, unique element, even if it has no obvious meaning.
This approach often results in more original designs and still ensures consumers are able to distinguish your brand over time. If you find that your client needs some persuading just remind them that when the world first set eyes on the now unmistakable Nike ‘Swoosh’ in ’71, it was nothing more than an unusual looking tick.
The best piece of advice we would offer a young designer is not to settle for an early concept; at Root Studio our motto is ‘the best design is always your last’.
Even if you’ve just finished off what you think is the best piece of work you’ve ever produced and you’re positive your client will love it, move it to the side and work on another idea, and then another. Eventually by exploring every possible angle you’ll have enough good concepts to make an informed choice on which is actually the best.
Another thing to remember is that, even if you’ve invested hours into an idea that you were sure was going to work – perhaps you’ve even spent longer working on this concept that any other, if you’re not happy with it, don’t send it. If your client chooses to go for a logo that you know deep down isn’t 100% you’ll regret it.
1) The Layout
2) The Fonts
3) The Colours
Using a standard font (or by hand if you are good with a pencil) start sketching out some layouts. It’s paramount you first know what you want your finished product to look like. For example, how big should your company name be? Are you including an icon or illustration? Are you including a tagline? What about a badge or a background? If so, where does everything sit in relation to one another?
Secondly, and for me the most important part of any logo design is getting your fonts correct. This is very much your personal preference. But ensure they are legible, modern, and fit with your audience.
Lastly, once everything is laid out correctly using your chosen fonts, finalise your brand’s colours. Again these need to fit in with your audience, and should complement each other.
My top tip for new logo designers is to keep it simple and memorable. Remember your design needs to be instantly recognisable and memorable and work across lots of different mediums and sizes.
If you don’t already, learn how to design vector based designs so your work is fully scalable! Take lots of time to research the design – the business it is for, its audience and other logo designs that really work.
If there is one tip, and one tip alone, that we can offer our beginner logo designers it is this: typography is key. Typography is the art and technique of arranging font types and sizes to create an appealing design. Many a designer is unable to satisfy clients because they do not pay enough attention to the typography.
The font you use has to match the brand. Consumers will be judging the brand based on your logo. Do not choose a font that does not portray the nature of the brand. For example a serious business, like a law firm, will loathe an airier font for their logo. The lighter weight of the font does not portray the true nature of the business. Avoid using amateur fonts and consider customising your own to make your logo truly stand out.
You want to ensure you avoid using too many font types. One is ideal, two is acceptable and three is too many and may result in the logo looking fragmented. Additionally, it is important to pay attention to scale. If your scripts are illegible when the design is scaled down, your design will not work across all mediums making it unsuccessful.
Sometimes you will pour your heart into something that you LOVE but the client just doesn’t get – try not to take it personally and let it undermine your enthusiasm. Just remember, YOU have the design degree.
Selling your idea is equally as important as your craft and finish – a strong underlying concept is really important – lots of research and paper sketches should come before having fun in illustration.
Lastly, don’t under value yourself! If the client wants a $5 logo, tell them where to go!
My top tip for beginner logo designers is to remember that a great logo captures the ‘personality’ of the brand but it doesn’t always have to be a literal representation of a product or service. That approach can often be quite limiting as a business evolves and grows, and it’s often better to be a little more abstract. A great logo should be more reflective of brand values and the ethos of the organisation, for example: solid and traditional, contemporary and chic, innovative and fun. Typography and colour choice should reflect those values.
Does your signature look like the way you’d write your name? Probably not. Think of a logo as the signature of a business or organisation. It needs to be unique to that organisation, memorable, and most importantly, it needs to work from small sizes to huge billboards, in black and white or in glorious technicolour.
It does depend who you are designing for, but a general rule to follow is that good logos are simple logos, but do bear in mind simple logos are the hardest to design.
It’s easy to design a logo that looks slick on a blank sheet of paper, the kind of thing you often see shared around social media, perhaps something with a clever twist, but a good logo is one that is functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. We want it to look balanced, to look solid, to work on a variety of mediums in a variety of sizes alongside a variety of content and last far longer than any trend; and to do that it’s got to be somewhat simplistic in it’s final design, but not in the approach.
Don’t be afraid to ask obvious questions. The answers will differ depending on who you’re talking to.
Listen more than you talk. Everyone else knows more than you ever can.
You’ll make a lot of mistakes. Don’t worry. We all do. Learn from them, and move on.
Don’t think of your sketches as a piece of art. Use them to record and develop ideas, to put your thoughts on paper in as fast a way as possible. The more ideas you can come up with, the more likely you are to arrive at the strongest outcome. Your sketchpad is a playground — it doesn’t matter how good it looks. Enjoy it.
Designing logos requires a knowledge and foundation in typography, colour, shape and form – and also media (where the logo will be displayed – in print or digital). An understanding of human psychology can help too. My background in calligraphy and heraldry gave me a solid foundation in logo design (the history of displaying your ‘arms’ to identify you in the field is just as true in the modern world). Try not to follow latest logo design trends – use them as research in understanding what other designers are doing. The best logo designs stand the test of time.
Most importantly above all else – take your time at first in understanding what the client wants. Meet face to face if possible (or Skype) and learn to confidently provide direction. They may not be sure of the logo design process so don’t assume they know. Asking clients to fill out a logo design questionnaire before meeting provides the foundations of a brief and weeds out the ‘tyre-kickers’.
Remember the client is hiring you for your expertise in distilling their company ethos into a unique graphical mark.
It’s important that beginners come in with a price point that reflects their hard work and craft.
Don’t be afraid to charge for your time. Nobody else is.
50 LOGO DESIGN TIPS
From the expert advice given above, we’ve extracted a handy checklist of 50 of the most pressing logo design tips. You should keep the list close to hand and go through it every time you start work on a new project. If you have any tips of your own you’d like to add, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page.