Top logo design tips from the experts Designers
Great logo design requires a complex mixture of design skills, creative theory and skilful application. Any designer worth their salt can create a fit-for-purpose logo, but truly mastering all aspects of the craft takes time.
Of course, logo design is just one small sub-set of branding – which these days can incorporate a dizzying number of activation points, from interior design right through to tone of voice on social media – but the logo, or brand mark, remains the centrepiece of most branding schemes.
As editor of Computer Arts and chair of judges for the Brand Impact Awards, I have spoken to more than my fair share of branding professionals about the intricacies of good logo creation. So here are 25 pro logo design tips to help you improve your branding work – from the research phase, through the different stages of logo design craft, and finally the application of the mark.
Logo design research and strategy
Before pen hits paper on any new logo design project, thorough research is essential. Here are five logo design tips for nailing this crucial first stage of the process.
01. Understand your competition
Before you even start working up a logo design concept, ensure you research your target market thoroughly. Your client should be able to provide some information about their competitors to get you started.
Compare all the logos in their competitive set. This research may well reveal some entrenched branding conventions in that market sector, and that can sometimes help your process by playing on familiar visual associations.
But bear in mind that many of the world’s most recognisable logo designs stand out specifically because they eschew trends and think differently.
02. Ask the right questions
Strategy is becoming an increasingly important part of the branding process. What this means in practice will often depend on the scale of the project, but it all starts with asking the right questions.
Michael Johnson’s recent book Branding: In Five and a Half Steps is dedicated to johnson banks’ creative process, and covers complex challenges such as formulating brand strategy in far more detail than we could ever hope to here.
In it, Johnson advocates asking the following six things of the brand you’re working on as a starting point: Why are we here?; What do we do, and how do we do it?; What makes us different?; Who are we here for?; What do we value the most?; and finally, What’s our personality?
03. Stay flexible during the process
Once you’ve formulated a strategy, you don’t have to set it in stone. There’s a reason that johnson banks’ creative process has that extra half step: number 2.5 represents the grey area between strategy and design.
According to Johnson, it can be a two-way street. Some conceptual, strategic ideas that work in theory may fall apart in practice when visualised; conversely, a compelling visual solution that emerges from left-field during the design stage can feed back into stage two and help evolve the strategy retrospectively.
04. Respect a brand’s heritage
Widely heralded as a trend in 2016, the so-called ’retro branding’ movement was kicked off by North’s much-lauded rebrand of Co-op, which reinvigorated its original 1960s mark and won one of CA’s coveted Brand Impact Awards in the process.
NatWest and Kodak followed within a few months, but we argued here on CB that we should be wary of the retro design trend. However, where genuine heritage and untapped potential exists in a mark, avoid throwing the baby out with the bath water and consider bringing it to the fore.
“It’s vital to put your ego to one side and not dismiss designs created by others – and in doing so consider evolution as well as revolution,” argued North co-founder Stephen Gilmore in an essay in Computer Arts issue 259.
05. Remember: a logo is just one ingredient
As Brand Impact Awards judges Bruce Duckworth and Mark Bonner discuss in this video filmed during 2016’s judging day, logo design is just one small part of the modern branding process.
As Bonner puts it, the pyramid has inverted: people now engage with a brand through a huge variety of different touchpoints, and the logo is not always their first point of contact with a brand.
Keep this in mind as you develop your logo design: stay versatile and flexible, and consider how the logo interacts with the rest of the brand experience, from packaging to tone of voice.
Choosing the right typeface is a critical part of the logo design process – indeed, many of the world’s most recognisable brands are wordmarks, relying entirely on typography to convey their message. Here are five logo design tips to get more from your typography.
06. Choose your typeface carefully
Sans serifs have dominated logo design in recent years, often going hand-in-hand with the minimalist movement – examples include Pentagram’s high-profile rebrands for Windows, MasterCard and the University of the Arts London.
In 2015, Google famously exchanged its longstanding serif logotype for a much friendlier, more contemporary sans serif. But don’t let trends cloud your own judgement: a serif could still be the right choice for your latest project, particularly if you need a stylish and luxurious or traditional and professional feel, so take the time to research your options.
07. Tweak and refine to add personality
If you use an existing typeface in a logotype, particularly a near-ubiquitous one such as Helvetica, there is often more pressure on other touchpoints, such as imagery, colour palette, tone of voice and so on, to develop and enhance the brand’s personality.
Skillful tracking and kerning is essential when setting a simple logotype in an existing typeface. Wide-tracked type can feel sophisticated and authoritative, while tight, meticulous kerning can help lock individual letterforms together as self-contained unit.
8. Keep it Simple Stupid
Let’s face it, not everyone can bust out beautiful, hand-drawn script on a whim. Just because you’re a designer doesn’t mean you’re an awesome illustrator or typographer (though it helps). If you fit this description, fear not, there’s nothing preventing you from making awesome logos.
In this situation, remember these four powerful words: keep it simple stupid! Simple but powerful logos permeate the business world and always prove to be the best icons for standing the test of time.
In considering how to construct one of these types of logos, let’s discuss the Apple logo. The silhouette of an apple is nothing special or memorable:
It’s that missing bite that takes it to the next level. It gives the logo character, makes it unique, and drives the meaning deeper (computers and bytes, get it?). Without the bite, the apple is boring, with it, the apple is suddenly iconic.
Always think about how you can go that extra mile and turn your boring logos into unmistakable brand marks.
9. Think About Negative Space
Along the same vein as a double entendre is the age old trick of utilizing the negative space in a logo in some clever way. The industry standard example for this technique is the FedEx logo and its hidden arrow.
Don’t see it yet? Keep looking, it’s there. That’s what I love about this logo, the use of negative space is so subtle. Most people in the U.S. see the FedEx logo daily or weekly for years as it drives by on the side of countless trucks and they never even notice the arrow.
Logopond is chock full of great logo designs that utilize negative space in a cool way. Check out the example below, which blends together the idea of bull horns and a wine glass.
So I ask should every logo have a meaning?
Let see what you have in mind…..