Tips for effective logo design

15th Feb 2020 | Design, Tips & Tutorials

If you are hiring a designer / design agency to design a logo for your brand — or if you are designing a logo yourself — then there are a few things to keep in mind in order to get the best result.

Designing a logo can be a challenging task as there is very little room to work with compared to when designing, for example, a brochure or website. As well as that, a logo is intended to outlast any other piece of design that represents your brand, hopefully lasting for decades… so getting it right first time will save you some headaches and expenses further down the line!

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Purpose of a logo

Here are a couple use useful quotes when it comes to discussing the purpose of a logo:

  • ‘A logo is not communication. A logo is identification’ — Sagi Haviv
  • ‘A logo is a flag, a signature, an escutcheon, a street sign. A logo does not sell (directly), it identifies’ — Paul Rand

A good logo should convey a brand’s personality and match up where a brand positions itself in the marketplace — whilst being recognisable, memorable and giving a sense of trust. A lot of the time, logos will have some form of concept / idea behind them… whereas other times it may be more of a case of going with something that just feels right — provided that it aligns with the brief’s objectives — such as a logo that is more minimal or typographic.

A good way to make sure the logo fits the brief is to come up with a series of descriptive keywords for the brand — e.g. ‘friendly’, ‘premium’, ‘handmade’ etc — and then aim to portray them visually.

Keep in mind that a logo is just one part of a visual identity, and that you can also incorporate brand imagery and graphic devices to use throughout any marketing material… instead of trying to cram everything into just the logo.

So now that we’ve covered the purpose of a logo, let’s get onto the tips themselves!

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A clear brief

Before your designer gets to work on the logo itself, they should firstly find out more about your brand such as:

  1. Your business goals
  2. Where you position your brand in the marketplace
  3. Competitor research
  4. Target audience
  5. Any other designs that may inspire yourself

There is a lot more to the above than what I’ve listed, but I generally find those to be the most important.

Once your designer has a clear idea of the above, they may want to run some moodboards past you. These could consist of other logos, icons, or samples of typography that can be used as inspiration.

I find moodboards especially important when designing logos as it helps me to get on the same page as my clients in terms of what they’re looking for. I ask them to feed back on what examples in the moodboards they particularly like and dislike. This can save a lot of time and effort further down the line when it comes to revising my ideas to my client’s liking! See here an example that I put together for a previous client:

tips-for-effective-logo-design-v01-logo-moodboard

When it comes to giving feedback to your designer (whether this be feedback on moodboards or draft ideas for the logo) try to give them honest, constructive feedback for them to work with. This will mean less guesswork for your designer and allow them to work more efficiently, while revising their ideas to your liking more quickly.

Simple

When it comes to logo design, it can be easy to get carried away and make it really detailed. You might think ‘this looks cool, let’s add some more of that’… and before you know it, you’ve got a fully-fledged illustration on your hands, one that always needs to be shown at a large scale in order to be legible.

In order to stick to the rest of the tips in this post, your logo should be as simple as possible, although that’s not to say it has to look really plain or minimal. Your logo can still be identifiable, memorable and matching your brand’s personality without needing to include any complex graphics or illustrations.

The way I like to think about it, is that your logo should be simple enough to be able to be drawn by hand from memory… e.g. everyone can doodle the Nike swoosh or the McDonald’s logo no matter how bad they are at drawing.

Over time, even the simplest logos should gain familiarity and recognition with their audience.

Memorable

So if your logo is kept simple as per the above, this will help to make it easier to remember.

Another tool to help make your logo memorable is to give it some form of clever, interesting touch, such as these examples below:

Notice how each of the examples above are fairly simple, but their clever touches make them quite memorable and help them to stand out.

Below is a logo I once designed for an opticians. Although a pair of glasses might be one of the first things that spring to mind when you think of an opticians, the way I went about it was more interesting than simply adding a glasses icon next to the company name.

Instead, I made a subtle modification to the letterforms by joining two of them together to make them look like a pair of glasses. This gave a quirky little nod to their industry:

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Flexible

Size

A good logo will be easy to apply to various types of marketing material and in a range of different sizes. It may need to work on something small such as a business card… or it may need to be blown up on a billboard or the side of a lorry.

This is another reason why a logo should be kept simple, so that it is still recognisable when scaled down. As an extreme example, see the original Apple logo below (no joke, that was the original Apple logo) and how it is impossible to make out when scaled down:

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Compare that with, for example, the Mercedez-Benz logo and how that is still legible at a smaller size:

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You should also make sure that your designer provides you with a copy of your logo in a vector format, this way you can scale it to any size without losing any quality. This is especially important when displaying your logo at a large scale.

Colour

The most flexible logos are those which work in just a single colour. Sometimes this can be a challenge, in which case it’s fine to have an alternative ‘single-colour’ version of the logo that can be used where necessary. See the example below of one of my previous clients, producing that in one colour wouldn’t have worked (yet we were keen to keep the green window as it was) so, for the single colour version, I simply went with a striped line to help differentiate the window from the paint character.

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RGB vs CMYK

When designing onscreen, it can be tempting to make the most of those pretty RGB colours and design a really bright looking logo… This might look great onscreen, but what about in print? You’ll need to sacrifice a lot of that brightness for a much less vibrant CMYK equivalent.

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See the example above on how this bright aqua colour on the left turns dull when converted to CMYK for print… just something to keep in mind!

Another option is to make use of fluorescent Pantone inks, but this can get expensive.

If your brand is primarily digital then this is less of an issue however!

Fit for purpose

A good logo should be relevant to its audience. Keep in mind that it doesn’t need to be literal or depict exactly what the business does. E.g. If it’s a logo for a housing company, then it doesn’t need to show a house. The logo could represent the business in a more abstract way, to the point where it wouldn’t necessarily need to be understood on a literal level.

See below a logo that I designed previously for an MA fashion design student, her work was often described as being quite ‘unexpected’ and the identity needed to look really premium — and so I based this on the abstract idea of a maze with her initials set inside it:

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If I’d have based her logo around an icon of a handbag for example, then it wouldn’t have fit the brief or appealed to her audience at all.

Having said that, I feel there are occasions where it is perfectly fine to take a more literal approach provided it fits the brief and target audience (funnily enough, I hardly ever seem to come across any other designers saying this). See this pattern I created as part of a small identity I designed for my dad who’s a painter and decorator:

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To me, a more obvious approach of showing paint / brush icons seemed an effective way to portray a friendly and reliable painter and decorator. I thought it would appeal more to his target audience, who most likely wouldn’t have taken too well to something really sleek, abstract or conceptual.

Sometimes it is fine to have a logo that isn’t particularly conceptual or with some kind of abstract meaning behind it, provided that it simply ‘works’. You can see lots of examples of this approach in the fashion industry where lots of big brands will have just a simple wordmark — which can often be a good way to give a premium / luxury look:

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The end!

I hope you enjoyed my article on effective logo design tips, do keep them in mind when hiring anyone to design a logo for your brand. Do you have any tips or past experiences that you’d like to share in terms of logo design? Let me know in the comments!

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