Logo design is a balancing act. You need to identify what is lacking, what there’s too much of, and bring the whole composition closer to the client’s desired outcome.
Everything needs to be intentional. Not made to look pretty, which is one of the biggest misconceptions that come with logo design. Your logo might look great, but what purpose does it serve? Think about that.
Today, I share a few tips to keep in mind when creating that perfect solution. Things that every logo designer should keep in mind when creating a purposeful design.
The knowledge that I wish I had when I first started my path as a logo designer. Because, yes, I made several mistakes along the way that, if I knew about, would have helped my process massively!
When designing a logo, it can be too easy to forget that everything needs to be legible. Adding all of these fancy elements (that look great initially), only to realise at smaller scales, doesn’t work.
In most cases, logos need to be viewable in small sizes. Which is why legibility is a factor to keep in mind, right from the get-go.
Ask yourself, if I was to reduce this logo in size by 50% or even 70%, would I still be able to recognise the details? If the answer is no, there needs to be something reworked. Or a brand new concept made.
Here are a few pointers to use when considering legibility:
- Try using a smaller canvas, not exaggerating elements that could prove to be problematic. If your design looks great on a small scale, the likelihood is, it’ll be fine when scaled up!
- When creating concepts, create artboards that show your design in several sizes. Try a 20-50% reduction, and see how things look.
- If your design uses negative space, exaggerate the spacing SLIGHTLY to accommodate small sizes.
- Try to cut down on intricacies if you can help it. Your logo needs to be unique but not over the top. Remember, it’s a balancing act.
- Are the brand colours you’re using conflicting or reinforcing elements?
- How does the logo look in black, white, and full colour?
Usage and legibility go hand in hand. When considering legibility, you need to be conscious of what the end goal for the logo is. How and where will it be displayed? What are the usage possibilities and plans for the business? Is it usable in various instances?
Your job as a designer should be to create a logo with versatility because that’s what it needs to be. The usage possibilities are endless, which is why it’s a good idea to discuss with your client what plans they have for the logo before the start of a project.
I always ask the right questions before I start designing anything. Once I have the information on where my clients intend to use their logos, I can make informed decisions on the best creative solution to meet those goals.
But, don’t just rely on that information. Use your insight as a designer as well to influence your design choices. I say this all the time because I want you to be confident in what you are doing. You’re the expert, so think like an expert.
Your logo should look great, no matter where it’s displayed.
Here are some ‘business norms’ that you should be considering:
- Business Cards
- Websites (headers & favicons)
- Employee Clothing
- Social Media assets (avatar, banner, branded imagery)
- Email Signatures
- Advertisements (social media & physical – big/small scale)
When designing, you should subconsciously be thinking about these usage possibilities. If you aren’t, try incorporating some mockups into the concepts you send across to clients, opening your mind and your clients to the options that are out there through visualisations.
Staying relevant is all about educating yourself as much as feasibly possible. If you take the time to get to know your client and their business (which you should), you’ll set yourself up for success.
Let’s use an example to paint the picture of how relevance plays a role:
A local solicitor contacts you, needing a new logo. They want a corporate look and need their branding to exude professionalism and reputability. Their customers expect a high level of service, a personable approach, and the proper care and attention to every case that reaches their desk.
You offer a solution that uses:
- Bright and playful colour schemes
- A handwritten style typeface
- A Griffin Logomark
Have you missed the mark? Yes. But not on all fronts.
The Griffin would still be usable in this instance. It creates a strong presence, purposeful, and coupled with the right elements, provides a sense of professionalism.
Here’s what would be more relevant given the client:
- Muted and mature colour palette. Maybe two colours, an accent, and a foreground colour.
- A combination of Sans Serif typefaces to create contrast between mark > business name > tagline
- OR a simple Serif typeface, most frequently used in the industry, staying relevant to what’s commonplace. Serif always exudes professionalism.
The key: to understand the type of business you’re working with inside and out and how they’d like to be perceived. Do market research into what others in the industry do well and what can be improved. Combine what you learn to stay relevant!
To make a good logo, you might think that you need something elaborate to be unique, and that is the complete opposite of what a logo should be.
A great logo uses simplicity to convey a message. Think about what you could remove from your logo design while still maintaining some of the things I’ve spoken about previously.
Look at some of the most successful businesses to date and their branding. What’s consistent amongst most, if not all? Simplicity.
Take Apple as a prime example. You have seen their logo thousands of times, a simple Apple shape, with what looks like a bite taken out of it. Why did they create it this way?
Well, if you take a look at their original logo, it’s obvious why they chose to move to something simple. What they had was albeit a very cool-looking illustration, but a messy one at that. There was too much going on – it painted the picture of Isaac Newton sitting under a tree, with an apple falling on his head, discovering the law of gravity.
This logo had a short life. First appearing in 1976 and soon changing in 1977 to the logo we see today. It kept its character and original inspiration but in a simplified format. All of which achieves the factors mentioned previously to perfection.
Now, they didn’t just land on this design. The development of which was rigorous, testing its functionality. Originally the apple was used in its entirety, without the bite, but realised when scaled down, it wasn’t apparent that the shape was an Apple at all and easily misconstrued for another fruit.
The bite was taken out of the Apple, simplifying their original concept while maintaining functionality. Rather than adding to, they thought about what they could take away from their original design to give the impression needed.
Apple is brilliant. Be like Apple.
5) Memorable / Recognisable
Creating a memorable/recognisable logo by any means is not an easy feat. It’s something that may take years to acquire, and for most of the big names we know today, it did for them too.
It’s not coincidental how these big brands kept their image the same over the years, with some minor changes from time to time. They created timeless logos. Through their success and exposure, we have familiarised ourselves with the same visual patterns. Which is why you can identify a business just by seeing a specific colour/symbol.
That should be your end goal, creating a logo with the bigger picture in mind. Will it have longevity? Can it last the test of time? Will you be able to see this logo in 20, 30, 40 years and still recognise who they are?
Connor Fowler, a very knowledgeable and extremely talented designer, speaks a lot about the exposure of logos and how businesses should be using their logo wherever they can, as often as they can.
Why? Because for your brand to become recognisable, you need to enforce your imagery everywhere you can. There’s no point in having a logo accompanied by great branding if your audience never sees it.
You know Coca-Cola, right? Of course, you do. You’ve seen their advertisements online, on TV, on billboards, on trucks traveling across the nation. You know their logo, you know their branding, you’ve seen it so many times, you could point out their logo in a crowded space.
Would you have got the same impression if Coca-Cola used massively varying branding? Probably not – it would confuse you. There would be no consistency.
Think about these factors I’ve mentioned when looking at logo design. They are very straight-forward in concept, but in practice, they are much harder to achieve.
- Make sure your logo is viewable at various sizes, test the functionality to see if it works. If elements start to blur the lines, it’s time to rework.
- Think simple over complex, have big ideas, but try to compact them into something that works in the most basic form.
- Create designs with relevance and purpose. If an idea doesn’t give you the intended impression, it doesn’t work. Put thought into who you’re designing for and what message they aim to convey.
- Understand and show the usability that great logos offer
- Think about the long game, not the here and now. Does your logo have longevity?