12 Things to Keep in Mind When Designing a Logo

September 12, 2012
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But of course the art of it lays in the fact that ‘anyone’ didn’t did they? We did. That’s why we’re Graphic Designers.

Designing a logo is the dark art of the Graphic Designer, they can take months of work, have the potential to cost a fortune and in the end, the product is often something that ‘anyone could have come up with’. But of course the art of it lays in the fact that ‘anyone’ didn’t did they? We did. That’s why we’re Graphic Designers. With that said though, everyone needs to start somewhere so here are twelve things that you need to keep in mind when you’re designing that next killer logo.

1. Don’t Leech

Be inspired yes, but never leech. The first step in logo design is looking at what other people are doing in that industry, what’s the general ‘look’ that customers expect to see when trying to find this company? It’s well known that people look more at shapes and images than words, which is why you’ll have no problem reading stuff like this.

“Arocdnicg to rsceearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pcale. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit pobelrm. Tihs is buseace the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.”

So it’s really important that you’re logo looks like it belongs to that industry (unless you’re going for that whole bleeding edge of graphic design look where looking different is what you want). But with that said you shouldn’t just copy other peoples designs. Sure it can be tempting when you see a logo so amazing it’s hard to get your mind off it, but think of it like this- that logo has set the bar that you need to beat. So don’t be a Leech, be a designer and go beat it.

2. Sketch It

Get as many ideas down onto paper as you possibly can. The more I draw the more ideas I find I have

Get scribbling! Get as many ideas down onto paper as you possibly can. The more I draw the more ideas I find I have and the more little tweaks and variations I end up doing to the designs I like. One bit of advice though- don’t show your scribbles to the client, you may know that this is just a first step but to them it can seem a bit unprofessional, and when I first started out I lost a potential client this way. Instead, pick your favourites and do a much neater sketch to show them off (also this way, you’re assuring the client doesn’t pick one of the rubbish ones!).

3. Think About Your Audience

Like I said in step one, your target market needs to have a good idea what industry your logo is for before you even open your mouth, so do your research. But it can go a bit deeper than that- you have to think about your audience niches. Take the music industry for examples and band logos. Metalicas logo is very different from Daft Punks. Now you can tell they’re both band logos, but it’s very clear that they’re not only from separate genres, but from what genres they belong to.

4. Work Small

Logo’s need to be easily reproducible. I always use the analogy of the Ikea pencil: if you’re logo can fit on the side of an Ikea pencil then it’s ok. You never know how big or how small your logo will need to be at some point in the future, that’s why we deliver them as resizeable vectors. So if you’re designing your logo in Photoshop or any other pixel based program work small. It’ll ensure that you don’t get carried away with all those fancy embellishments.

5. Design in Two-Tone

It doesn’t really matter what colours you choose but always work with just two tones (a design colour and a background colour). Now I’m not saying that your logo has to just be one colour, but if you make sure that it looks good, and it works in just one colour then it means that it can be used in ANY capacity. Whether it’s stamped, embossed, stitched or laser engraved, you need to make sure that it’ll work.

6. Don’t Get Bogged Down by Fonts

When I first started as a Graphic Designer, this is where I started my logo design, with fonts. What I should have been doing was getting sketching like in step two and worked the fonts around my design. Starting with the fonts is a bad idea if you don’t know where you’re going with your design, all you’re basically doing is seeing which font your chosen business name looks good in, which really isn’t what logo design is about.

7. Math’s Book Cover Test

When I design a logo, someday, somewhere a kid may just end up doodling it on his maths book.

This is one of my personal logo tests and it harks all the way back to my school days. When I was in maths class, there was a guy sat across from me that would always be scribbling and doodling on the cover of his maths book, I mean this thing was covered. When the day came for me to collect all the books in, I finally got to see that what he had been doodling all over his cover were logos! Nike, Addidas, Cartoon Network, you name it. But looking back at it now it’s made me realise that when I design a logo, someday, somewhere a kid may just end up doodling it on his maths book. So I always do my best to not make it too complicated for him.

8. Design In a Square

This one comes from the world of social media we live in. However you design your logo, whatever format you use, it will always end up in a square. Why? Because it will be a Facebook profile pic, or a Twitter icon, or a YouTube icon. If your logo doesn’t fit well in that box then it’ll just look nasty.

9. Stay Away from FX

I design up my logos in Photoshop (before vectorising in Illustrator) and I know form experience that it’s very easy to start clicking those FX check-boxes to give you’re logo some zazzel, but don’t! They don’t shrink well, and they just look a bit generic and naff. Anyway, you can’t vectorise a drop shadow or an emboss, so be smart and keep it clean.

10. Remember Typography

Now I know what I said in step 6 about not getting bogged down by fonts, but you do have to pay attention to them at some point and when you do it’s important that everything matches up well and keeps the message you’re aiming for. If it’s really the case that you want your logo ‘JUST be the business name’ then I recommend you give Font: Classic Typefaces for Contemporary Graphic Design a read as this does a really good job of showing where each font type is typically used and can give you a good indicator of what your audience will assume about you when they see your logo.

11. Kerning Kerning Kerning

Kerning could be a tutorial all on it’s own, so I won’t go into too much depth about it here. All I will say is DON’T FORGET IT!

12. Flip it

Ctrl+I baby, do it and do it often. Inverting the colours on your design will let you know if it works on a dark background as well as it does on a light one. I’ll say it again, you never know where this logo will end up, your client may well have a thing for ivory business cards and black polo shirts, and guess what? Your logo needs to work on both of them!

Hopefully this article has given you some food for thought, and a good footing for getting started with your next logo project. If you want to ask me anything about any of the twelve steps or you think there’s anything I’ve missed out, then let me know in the comments below.

Photo credit to Hunting Town & My Fair Cupcake

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is owner of Hunting Town Design, a small design house based in Manchester UK specialising in Graphic Design and Illustration. Alex is also the founder and editor of The Design Range. Find out more about Alex on his website or follow him on twitter.
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