Logo Design Basics to Get You Started

  Image via Unspal

Image via Unspal

Key Principles for a Successful Project

If you've decided to create your own logo, or even if you've desired to hire a logo designer, you should know a few basic logo design principles before you embark on this project. 

I don't have formal training in logo design, but rather I've spent the better part of a decade working for and marketing both small and large organizations. Through this work, I now know the way a strong logo shapes your message and, ultimately, your business outcomes. Let's talk first about what a logo is and is not.

A LOGO SHOULD BE:

  • A visual brand identifier
  • Simple in form
  • Flexible to a variety of spaces and uses
  • Unique to your brand
  • Cognizant of your marketplace

A LOGO SHOULD NOT BE:

  • Fully representative of your brand
  • Inclusive to all potential audiences
  • Hard to read/decipher
  • Extra long or extra tall
  • Entirely abstract

BASIC RULES TO FOLLOW IN LOGO DESIGN

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In professional contexts I have heard people say, "know the rules so you know when and how to break them." What follows are simple guidelines for your first (or one of your first) logo projects, whether you are the designer or whether you're commissioning the work. Your logo does not have to meet every rule, but if you choose to deviate you should do so for a strong brand-based reason.

Your logo should use only one or two fonts. And those fonts should not be widely recognized fonts such as Times New Roman, Arial, or Comic Sans. For font ideas we recommend Googling, on Pinteresting, "logo font inspiration." Be sure to look at all of the letters you will be using in a particular font. Your logo font will likely not be used elsewhere in your brand so you can be more bold than you would normally. Canva has an excellent rundown of modern fonts to consider for your logo. 

Limit your logo to one or two colors. Do not use a gradient in your colors. Also be sure that your design can appear on both light and dark backgrounds, or have an alt logo available for each circumstance. If you use colors (other than white, gray, or black) in your logo these should be primary colors in your brand and appear elsewhere. 

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Graphic elements should be simple with basic shapes as the anchor. Think circles, triangles, rectangles, etc. The Shorewood Studio logo uses three simple wavy lines. Nike has a single check-like shape. Target has the simple red bullet. 

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If you want to do something less elemental, still focus on simplicity. For example, pet companies might have a dog paw or a dog outline. Illustrated logos are popular right now. I heard a rule of thumb once that said you should be able to sketch an illustrated logo in 10 seconds or less. Otherwise, it's too complex. 

And, note, you don't need a graphic element in your logo. Think of Disney, FedEx, ebay, and Google. These are all companies with instantly recognizable text-only logos. 

Balance abstract or complex pieces with easy-to-read pieces. For example, Starbucks offsets the more complex siren with simple, easy-to-read block text. Squarespace pairs its squiggly lines with a simple san serif font. 

Design for your market. Within each market genre there are certain standards or expectations for vendor brands. If you're doing wedding photography, for instance, your mark should likely be more feminine and whimsical. If you're catering, you might want to infuse your logo with bold color. I recommend spending time reviewing competitor and peer logos to get a sense for trends in your market. However, don't fall into the trap of designing a logo similar to everyone else's logo. Once you know the logo trends of your market, you can find creative, brand-based ways to break from the mold.

As we said up front, these are just a few very basic rules to get you started on your logo project. But if you want to go down the rabbit hole of brand identity and logo design, we are happy to oblige. 

FURTHER READING:

I'd love to see your logo in the comments! Tell me about the rules you followed—and more importantly—which ones you broke!