Step One: Do Your Homework
This step is where you should spend most of your time but it will save you a lot of time later. Like any type of design work, you are much more likely to satisfy the customer’s desires by understanding them. This will help you define your style parameters from the start and save you a lot of time later on revisions. A few of the questions we like to have answered in this stage are the following.
- What design styles best suit the company?
- What design styles will best suit their targeted customers?
- Are they looking for simple and conservative or splashy and cutting edge?
Step Two: Consider Scale
Good logo designs are well balanced and look good no matter where or how they’re used. This means your logo design must be very flexible. Since you don’t want the size, shape or weight of the logo to limit you in using it, we use the following guidelines in these areas.
- Size: Since most logos will be used in both large (e.g. billboards, posters) and small applications (e.g. letterhead and business cards), you want to make sure you design accordingly. Since small applications are generally more challenging, we start there and then apply on a larger scale.
- Weight: It’s important to balance the positive and negative weight in a logo design so that it works equally well on both light and dark backgrounds. During design it’s a good idea to take your logo on a white background and reverse it out against black. If it looks too heavy or too light you should make the necessary adjustments.
- Layout: Since you don’t want a different logo for vertical and horizontal use, it’s a good idea to balance the design so it is suited for either application. Don’t make your logo too tall or too wide and it will be much more versatile.
Step Three: Application of Color
Color is often the first thing you’ll notice in a logo and this can be a good thing or a bad thing. Color can become the single most defining aspect of the logo but poorly chosen or poorly matched colors can make the best logo design hard on the eyes. It’s important to play around with a number of different colors and combinations to find those which best fit the brand without overpowering the viewer. Here are a few things we consider as part of the color selection process.
- Colors near each other on the color wheel generally make more soothing combinations.
- The logo has to look good in black and white and grayscale because it will be necessary to use it in situations that require it.
- Don’t use colors so bright they’re hard to look at. Shock is generally not a desired effect.
- If it fits the brand, a single color logo can be very distinctive. The fewer colors the better.
Step Four: Typography Matters
Choosing the right font type and size is one of the most difficult aspects of designing logos. Since almost all logos include text, it can be very difficult to use typography as a differentiating factor. If that’s not difficult enough, many logos include more than one line of text which may call for a different font or size. To try and manage the complexity of font selection, we usually recommend the following.
- Spend some time on this. You may need to look at dozens of options to get a good result.
- Limit yourself to one font if possible and definitely no more than two.
- Look at serif and sans-serif fonts as well as script, italics and bold options.
- Avoid fonts that are commonly used as they lack differentiation.
- Make sure the font looks crisp and is legible regardless of how large or small you print it.
- Consider a custom font. The more original the font, the better it differentiates the logo.
Step 5: Keep It Simple
We’ll close with step #5 and we cannot stress it enough. Keep your logo designs as simple as possible. The most distinctive logos are generally not very complex. They manage to boil down the brand essence into its most simple form. The points below either overlap with or repeat some of the ones listed about but serve as a nice closing summary.
- Use effects very sparingly.
- Limit the number of fonts and colors.
- Make sure it works in black and white or grayscale.
- Make sure it looks good in any size.
- Make sure it can be screen printed and embroidered and still look crisp.
This becomes much easier to do if you pursue simplicity from the beginning of brainstorming to the final recommendations. In short, if the design can do without any element, you should leave it out. Stick with only those that are essential and get the brand message across in the most distinct manner.