Logo design is easy, right?
After all, we can look at logos for Nike, Apple or McDonald’s and say, “Well, those certainly aren’t very complicated.”
As a matter of fact, “simple” designs tend to be deceptively complex.
So how can you make sure that you end up with a winning logo that stands out in a crowded marketplace? How can you make sure that your logo effectively communicates and supports your brand’s message?
Here’s an in-depth look at the things to keep in mind when designing or approving your company logo.
How Not to Do Logo Design
As you wade into your visual design project, you’re going to inevitably encounter an unending sea of opinions. How do you sort through all this noise?
Design is not completely subjective. It’s not just about what “looks good”. There are basic principles that need to guide the creation of a successful logo design, and when these principles are ignored, your logo can fail to fulfill its purpose.
I want to make it very clear that this is not and never has been our logo.
The rise of crowdsourcing has led to websites that offer quick and cheap designs. A web search for “cheap logo” confirms that there are quite a few businesses more than happy to offer you this service:
But here’s the important point to remember in all this: “You get what you pay for.”
Every successful logo is the result of exploring the business’s objectives and challenges, brainstorming how to properly deliver the business’s message to their precise target audience and, when everything is in place, the actual concept creation. The focus from beginning to end is on how to best visually communicate the business’s identity.
After all, your logo represents your business. It represents you. That’s a pretty big deal.
Cheap logo design comes at the compromise of little to no time spent on understanding the purpose and goals of a business and their target audience. Bypassing these critical steps means the end result is a directionless logo. The cheap logo industry is exceptional at churning out “disposable logos” – bright and shiny but lacking in meaning.
So before agreeing to an online contract for a disposable logo, or before logging into Microsoft Paint to make your own, consider the following…
5 Questions to Consider when Designing your Logo (with one Bonus Question!):
1. Is it scalable and versatile?
Your logo will be used across a wide variety of formats – and it should look incredible every time.
For example, a super complex logo won’t look so sharp the first time you have to scale it down for a web icon or business card. And how well does your colourful masterpiece of a logo convert to black and white when it needs to be displayed in monochrome?
Understanding all the different ways that your logo will be displayed is critical for creating a visual identity that will last.
Consider all the ways that your logo will be displayed and design accordingly, so that you don’t back yourself into a corner and find yourself looking for a new logo a year or two down the road.
2. Is it simple and memorable?
Less is more. Complex details and textures might help your logo to appear life-like, but designs that stand the test of time tend to be very simple.
What are the first brand logos that come to mind? The vast majority have a clean and straightforward design, and don’t use more than one or two colours.
Many companies have made the mistake of getting caught up in a short-term trend. It takes only a few years, or maybe even a few months, before their visual design looks laughably old fashioned.
Simplicity is memorable. To get there, you’ll need to strip out all the extras and distractions so that the focus is entirely on the essential elements that make your identity unique. Put what makes you “you” front and centre. We humans have a lot going on and our attention spans are short enough as it is – don’t ask us to remember a complicated logo.
3. Does it reinforce your brand?
What does your company do? Well, your logo should support and speak to that. Whether through a certain choice of style for your typography or with specific visuals, you want your logo to communicate who you are.
4. Is it appropriate for your industry?
The feeling and tone of visual design necessarily change from industry to industry. Kids stores, for example, tend to have playful and colourful logos. Offer a playful and colourful design onto a bank, however, and you’re not likely to have a satisfied customer.
Be innovative, but make sure you are being innovative within the context of your industry. There’s a difference between thinking outside of the box and searching in the wrong box altogether.
5. Is it timeless?
Styles change. Dramatically.
Will that super funky, retro logo still be cool in 5 years? Or will it age poorly and awkwardly?
Many brands evolve their visual identity from time to time. That said, investing lots of money and resources into a logo that relies on stylistic choices and colour palettes with a limited shelf life isn’t a wise strategy.
Generally speaking, the less “frills,” the better. Effects like drop shadows and gradients might seem like a good idea in the spur of the moment – but they also will quickly make your design look out-of-date.
Bonus: Does it have any hidden messages, playful double meanings or symbolism?
When applicable, a bit of intrigue can help make your design memorable.
This design checks all of our boxes, and also playfully uses a symbol that could either be a film reel, a terrified movie-goer, or a homage to the mask from Scream.
Including a bit of mystery and intrigue won’t make or break your logo, but it does add an extra level of interest. There’s a fine line here as well; a symbol hidden so well that it can’t be found doesn’t serve much of a purpose – and on the other hand, a message that is blatantly obvious will just make the design look cheesy.
Still undecided? Get a second opinion!
Still feeling uncertain about your new logo design? There are many ways to get some valuable feedback. Consider asking a trusted friend or colleague for their opinion, or arrange a focus group or survey for a more diverse collection of ideas and critiques.
As long as your logo design has satisfied the criteria mentioned in the previous section, all that’s left is to decide if this logo fulfills the goals of your organization. Use the goals you set forth at the beginning of your logo design project as a guide from start to finish. If your design doesn’t satisfy the initial project goals, it will be a failure – regardless of how visually pleasing it is.
Whatever you decide, I wish you the best of luck and I hope this guide helps you in your search for the logo that is right for you!