Logo Design Blog

Ten Steps to a Better Logo Design

1. Know Your Customer

In order to design a good logo, you need to know your customer and your customer’s customer, as well. Many customers may come to you and request a particular style of logo, or the use of a particular symbol. Dig deeper ? find out what is unique about your customer, how they solve their customer’s problems, who their target market is.

Is the target market over sixty? You may want to use larger type than normal to alleviate failing eyesight. Is the target market twenty-something? Vibrant colors such as those used in popular computer games may be the answer.

2. No Idea is Too Stupid

Brainstorming is often the key to a good logo. After you’ve fully explored your customer and their market, begin writing down words that apply to your customer. In fact, this is a step you should do with your customer. If your customer won’t spend time in a “formal” brainstorming session, at least get them to give you a list of words that describe their company.

Don’t discard anything as too “stupid”; sometimes the more “out there” the idea is, the more unique the resulting logo will be.

Another method similar to brain storming is mind mapping, which is uniquely suited to brainstorming graphics. Write a word in the center of a sheet of paper held horizontally; I normally use the customer’s name. Then begin writing the main images/words this brings to mind, and connect these words to the central thought. Continue branching out from each word, using either words or images as appropriate.

Mind mapping is essentially a visual way to brainstorm. Just as with brainstorming, nothing is too stupid. Just let your ideas flow.

3. Consider the competition

We hotly debated on the forum recently whether or not a company’s logo should stand out. I believe that it should; that that is the whole purpose of a logo ? to stand out from the crowd. Others argued that while a logo should be unique, it should still be similar to other logos of similar companies.

Whatever your opinion on the subject, it’s a good idea to take a look at the competition. The Yellow Pages can be a good starting point. Magazines devoted to your customer’s industry may also be helpful. A search on the Web will doubtless turn up a variety of logos for the competition. If you find that every medical company uses a cross, for instance, you may want to avoid using a cross.

4. Start without the Computer

The computer can be a wonderful tool for designing. You can work up ten variations of a design in a matter of minutes, often designs that might not have even occurred to you without the flexibility of a computer. Whether or not you can draw, I encourage you to start designing without your computer.

Designing without the computer really forces you to focus on the job at hand. Instead of just grabbing the rectangle or ellipse tool, you begin to really think about what that rectangle or circle says about the company.

It doesn’t matter that you’re not Da Vinci. You don’t have to show anyone your initial sketches. It only matters that they have meaning to you. Sketches, or thumbnails, are the visual equivalent of brainstorming. Be sure to make some notes on your scribbles so you remember where you were going with that idea. Make as many sketches as you like, then look them over and pick the best to develop further on the computer.

The thumbnail process serves another function: it saturates your brain with the logo you’re working on, and visual images are often more powerful than words. Your brain will continue to work on the logo subconsciously, and you may very well have one of those “aha!” moments when you sit down at your computer: suddenly the logo just comes together. That’s because your brain has been working on it subconsciously from the time you started making sketches to the time you sat in front of your computer.

If you’ve never made sketches before designing a logo, I encourage you to try. You may be surprised at the results.

5. Consider the applications

How will the logo be used? In print and on the Web? If yes, you want to make sure that whatever print color you use, you can match it closely on the Web. Keep in mind that that beautiful colorful logo will be very expensive to print in four color process. Will the customer need it in a variety of sizes? Even if the customer claims that they’re only going to be using the logo on the Web, you should make sure that you design with print in mind, too. Someday they may need a print version. If nothing else, make sure that you design at a resolution suitable for print (normally 300 dpi).

An EPS will be easier to work with, since it can be increased and decreased in size without loss of quality. If you design the logo completely in Photoshop, using all those cool filters, you’ll be stuck with having to give the customer the logo in a variety of sizes, since they won’t be able to increase or reduce size without loss of quality.

Will the logo be used for signage? Different sorts of signs bring their own limitations. Vinyl signs need to be relatively simple, with few very thin areas (hard to “pick up” off the vinyl).

6. Start Designing in Black and White

It’s easy to make a black and white logo color, but the reverse is not necessarily true. In addition, most companies need a black and white version of their logo for fax or copying purposes. Do yourself a favor, begin designing in black and white.

Black and white means exactly that: black, white; no shades of gray, no gradients. Gray and gradients do not fax or copy well. That doesn’t mean that you can’t use shades or gradients in the final version ? a drop shadow, for instance, can often add a little “pop” to a logo. Just stick to black and white for the first design. If it works in black and white, it will work with gradients. But a logo with gradients won’t always work in black and white.

7. Design at Business Card Size

This is similar to step number six: it’s relatively easy to size a logo up, but a large logo sometimes becomes too busy when it’s reduced in size. A business card is normally the company’s first priority. Design the logo to fit on a business card, and you and your customer should be in business.

8. KISS

KISS stands for keep it simple, stupid. The best logos tend to be simple logos. Think IBM, AT&T, Apple. If you’ve used two graphics in the logo, can you get the same impact with one graphic? Do you need graphics at all, or will a simple text treatment be eye-catching? Will one typeface be better than two?

9. Use appropriate colors, fonts and shapes

Serif fonts tend to be traditional: you’d use a serif font for a lawyer or a doctor, for instance. Sans serif fonts tend to be modern: computer and tech companies often use sans serif fonts. Handwriting fonts tend to be used for companies that cater to kids, such as daycare or children’s software. Script fonts can be viewed as feminine, and sometimes traditional, too. The important point to remember is that the font you choose should convey the image of the company you’re designing for.

Color can play an important role in logo design. Your customer doesn’t want to hear that you chose that blue because it looks cool; they want to know what psychological connotations it has. Below are some common color associations:

Blue: trust, loyalty, water, relaxing, power, dignity
Yellow: energy, joy, light, hope
Pink: calming, feminine
Green: life, growth, money, jealousy, nature, fertility
Purple: richness, power, love, sophistication
Brown: credibility, stability
White: purity, cleanliness, innocence
Red: heat, passion, danger, power

The shape of the logo can also effect the company’s image. Below are some of the associations we make with common shapes:

Circle: connection, community, movement, safety
Rectangle: solid, security
Triangle: exciting, powerful, aggression

10 . Consider the customer’s budget

When you interview a prospective client, it’s important to ask about their budget; not only for the design of the logo, but also for printing. Maybe they’re a large company and can afford four color process printing, or have a need for four color advertising. Then it’s okay to design a four color logo ? after you’ve designed the black and white version, of course.

Maybe they’re a medium sized business, and can afford two color printing with bleeds and metal plates. Then it’s okay to use shades of a color, and touching colors ? this sort of logo will require metal plates to be printed, which drives up the cost of printing.

What if it’s a small start-up company with a limited budget? You might consider a one color design, with shades of that one color. You’ll still need metal plates, but you’ll only need one, which will cut costs considerably. Or you might design a two color logo, but one that doesn’t use shades of those colors and whose colors don’t touch. Then you can get away with laser copy for camera ready or veloxes; metal plates won’t be required, and costs will be significantly reduced.

Another option is to design several versions of the logo, and make sure your customer is aware which versions will be more expensive to print. Sometimes when the customer sees a good logo that will be more expensive to print, they’re willing to spend the extra money.

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