Logos are everywhere.
You see them every day, whether on your phone or on your way to work. They’re on every screen, storefront, billboard, print ad, and even at your own place of business. Logo design can be a saturated place for a designer; sometimes it feels like everything has already been done. Because we live in such a technologically advanced world, it’s become increasingly important to create something impactful for your business.
So, what is a logo? Though seemingly an easy question since you see them all the time, it’s actually hard to pin down what exactly a logo is. Your logo is the centerpiece of your brand and messaging. It’s the face of your company or organization. It’s how people see you at first glance and—if your logo is impactful— it’s something people will remember. Your ultimate goal should be for people to associate everything you do, offer, or sell with just your logo.
There are a lot of things to consider if you’re thinking about creating a new logo or updating an existing one. Here are some basic tips to get you started:
1. Do your research
The last thing you want to do is create a logo similar to another company’s, especially one that’s local to you (or worse, in the same industry). If you want to stand out, your initial focus should be seeing if your ideas are original or not. While it’s great to get inspired by (or borrow elements from) others, you have to create something that can stand on its own.
As a side note, if trademarking is something you want to do with your logo, you will have to be able to differentiate yourself visually in order to achieve that kind of status.
2. Your logo isn’t just a font choice
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this sense, a graphic of any kind will be more effective at communicating your brand than simply spelling out your name. It’s probably not fair to compare your logo to something famous like McDonalds or Nike, but the truth is that you probably don’t remember the font choice that either brand uses. What you will likely remember is the Golden Arches, or the yellow ‘M’ on red. Imagery is powerful and you should use it to your advantage.
There are, however, exceptions to this rule: Coca-Cola, for example, has a perfectly recognizable font as their logo. Besides being around for a long time, it’s also something that is custom and unique—it’s basically text as art. Fonts you download from the internet will not give you that kind of uniqueness because anyone can use those fonts. If you ultimately decide to have a text-only logo, the only real way to achieve success is to create something custom, or in other words, to not use a font at all unless you heavily modify it.
Another reason I don’t recommend using text as a logo is if the name of the company/organization is more than 6 or 7 letters. If you do go down the road of text-only, your name needs to be short or it becomes cumbersome to use functionally for different kinds of mediums.
3. Don’t create something too busy: think minimalistic!
Don’t try to squeeze too many ideas into your logo design. Keep things simple to get your point across. You also don’t want too many colours. It’s okay to be clever or to have hidden ideas in your logo, but it should be straightforward, without too many elements.
Take the Amazon logo for example. It’s mostly text, but there’s an added arrow element to it that points from ‘a’ to ‘z’, which represents that they sell everything from ‘a’ to ‘z’. It’s a subtle message within the logo. The only thing they added to their chosen font is a carefully placed arrow. It’s simple and creates additional meaning to the logo.
4. Think about where your logo will live
When you create a logo, think about how you’re going to use it. Will it be used for print? How will it be used digitally? How will you use it on each social media platform? For example, Instagram has an icon section where your logo will sit. In this case, you’ll need to make your logo’s dimensions work for a circle.
If your logo is vertical or horizontal in nature, it will not show up well on Instagram. Take into account that people will view your logo on their phones and tablets and that there are very real functional size limitations. If your logo is too busy or too wide or tall, no one will be able to tell what it is because it will be too small. Think about what your logo will look like if it were the size of a dime.
5. Create more than just one color variation
Your logo needs to have multiple versions in case it has to sit on something light or dark in color. While it’s ideal to have one preferred version, it’s good to give any design team some alternatives in order to maximize design efforts. In conjunction with keeping logos minimalistic and simple, it’s good to have a logo that can also be just black and white if you need it.
6. Your logo is not a photograph
Thinking of using a photo for your logo? Just like…don’t. Please, let me make you something.
Functionally, using a photograph will be a disaster. If you want to make your logo large (if you’re printing a banner, for example) it will end up looking pixelated, and will ultimately be too busy. Again, think minimalistic.
7. How people see your logo is more important than how you see it
I see this a lot with small businesses and entrepreneurs. Some folks like a logo that ‘speaks to them’ as a person. Certainly, you have to like your logo, however, you can’t worry about all of your personal preferences. Don’t pick a script font just because you like script fonts. Same goes for color choices—don’t pick red just because you love red. Every single choice you make is important when creating a logo. Remember that your goal is to have it resonate with others, not just you.
8. Don’t be too on-the-nose
Just because you have a banana company doesn’t mean you should have a banana in your logo. Chances are you’re competing with other banana companies in your industry (many of whom will likely have bananas in their logos). If you want to create something clever and fresh, don’t rely on low-hanging fruit—that won’t resonate with people at all. I’m not saying you can’t have a banana, but if you do, consider how you can be subtle, or used it in a clever way. Be creative.
9. If you get somebody to design a logo for you, don’t cheap out
Creating something iconic that will be the face of your company for years to come should not be an afterthought. Your company is going to spend tons of money creating a website, business cards, brochures, and advertisements (print or digital). Every penny spent will be a waste if your logo is flat or doesn’t resonate with people. Having a bad logo creates financial risk for everything that you put it on. Keep this in mind, and be willing to spend on-scale for your investment with a good professional logo.