10 Things You Need to Do to Design a Good Logo
Before we jump right into these principles and guidelines, let’s explore what a logo actually is, the purpose of a logo, and the importance of having a good logo.
A logo, in simple terms, is a visual design that is used to represent a brand – think of the famous golden McDonald’s arches, the Nike ‘swoosh’, or Apple’s, well, apple. The primary purpose of use of a logo is that of brand identification. Arguably, logos are one of the most important aspects of a company or organisation’s brand identity. This is because it is used in almost all, if not all, marketing materials. As a result of this, a logo needs to be able to set apart the company or organisation it represents from competitors in the market or similar organisations. Beyond this, another purpose of a logo is to inspire trust and loyalty in consumers and imply superiority to competitors (mostly in the case of for-profit companies).
Now that we’ve done a crash course on logos as part of branding, let’s have a look at what you need to do in order to make a good logo.
1) Make sure the logo works on social media platforms
If you’re planning on using social media as a marketing tool for your company or organisation – and you really should be – you need to ensure that the logo is going to be instantly visible to visitors looking at your social media pages, whether that be Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. In order to have your logo look right on each social media platform, you need to tweak its size to the relevant social media platform’s specifications regarding pixels, so it’s important that your logo look good in a variety of sizes. And, because we mostly use smartphones to browse and scroll through social media, your logo needs to look good at a really small size, like less than 1cm x 1cm. This is true for using logos for mobile applications, too, meaning it should be able to sit as a square icon.
2) Ensure the logo is able to be scaled well
Beyond working on incredibly small scales for social media and mobile applications, your logo needs to work on a variety of scales. Basically, it needs to look good in a wide variety of sizes, from tiny to huge (if you’re planning to use large advertising mediums like highway billboards, posters spanning a building’s façade and the like). If you’re planning to use print media like this (or in newspapers, magazines, flyers etc.), it needs to be able to be printed on any size of paper, from A5 to A0 (we cover printing a little bit later).
3) Keep it minimalistic and easy to recognise
This is arguably the most important component of designing a good and effective logo. At its core, a good logo needs to be simple. By keeping the design simple, you ensure your logo will be both more versatile and more memorable. So how do you do this? Firstly, keep special effects to a minimum – or don’t use them at all. Glows and shadows look nice in, say, PowerPoint presentations, but don’t work well on logos, as a general rule. Here, less is more. It’s also useful to make appropriate use of empty space (also known as white or negative space). This helps with the design’s balance and prevents overcrowding. Think of the WWF’s panda bear, or IBM’s use of negative space stripes.
4) Design your logo in a vector format
You might be scratching your head at what on earth ‘vector format’ means. Well, in layman’s terms, it’s a type of file that is flexible and versatile. According to LogoGenie, it uses ‘mathematical equations to generate files upon rescaling in order to allow a flawless image quality’. Vector files can also be easily converted into JPG and PNG formats (known as raster formats) for online use. So, it’s essential that you use a vector format (like SVG) first when designing your logo.
5) Aim for a timeless design
A good rule of thumb for creating a good logo is to make sure its design is independent of design trends or designs and styles that are in vogue at the time of design. This includes popular patterns, colours and type faces. For example, ‘millennial pink’ was very in fashion in 2017 to 2018 – not so much anymore. You want your logo to be able to stand the test of time – the last thing you want is for a potential customer or supporter to look at your logo and think your company or organisation is outdated and out of touch a year or so after putting in hours of effort into designing your logo.
6) Make certain the logo is brand identity appropriate
This principle appears so intuitive that it should go without saying, but quite a lot goes into ensuring that your logo is aligned with your company or organisation’s brand identity. Obviously, it is essential to keep your company’s offering or your organisation’s purpose in mind, because that’s what need’s to be visually represented by your logo. So how do you do this? Essentially, you need to ensure that all your logo’s visual elements (shapes, colours, lines, fonts etc) convey a meaning that is in line with your brand. For example, Comic Sans is appropriate for a child’s toy, but not an accounting firm; bright colours are great for a stationery company, but not so much for a funeral home. Which brings us to our next point…
7) Make use of appropriate and effective colours
The first step here is to identify a primary colour palette if you’re going to be using one or more colours. It’s important not to use too many colours – unless the rainbow is in line with your brand identity – because this helps keep the logo simple and memorable: think of McDonald’s red and yellow combination, or FedEx’s purple and orange. On that note, the contrast between complementary colours is very striking in a logo. A further consideration is colours’ associations – colours convey wildly different messages. Neon green is suitable for a vibrant and high-energy business such as events management, but a florist’s logo should make use of softer colours like pastel pink. Lastly, an important consideration is whether your logo works without colour. Good logos are recognisable in full colour and black and white (this is where good use of shapes, lines and typography comes in).
8) Try to make your logo unique as possible
Before conceptualising and designing your logo, do your research! Find out what your competitors’ logos look like and avoid copying these at all costs. Not only will this prevent potential lawsuits and legal battles (international giant Disney took on Canadian DJ Deadmau5 in a bizarre and interesting case), but it will ensure that your company or organisation isn’t confused with that of another. This will also help make your logo (and therefore brand_ more memorable – two birds with one stone!
9) Check that the logo works across different mediums
We briefly touched on this earlier – basically, your logo needs to work both in digital and print form. Many people think print advertising/marketing is dead, but this couldn’t be further from the truth – physical marketing materials like billboards/posters, flyers and business cards certainly still have their place in advertising. Therefore, you need to make sure that your logo looks good on a screen and on a piece of paper. And bear in mind that print advertising isn’t limited to, well, printing – it includes things like branded clothing and stationery which are great for advertising and marketing, so make sure your logo will look good on t-shirts, pens, mugs and the like.
10) Turn the logo on its head
Physically turn the logo on its head – rotate it and look at it from every conceivable angle. Why? Well, your logo may look absolutely fantastic from its intended orientation, but if someone were to rotate it by 90 degrees it might look… questionable. Various brands’ logos have been the victim of this faux pas, most famously the logo of London’s Office of Government Commerce. So, in conclusion, avoid any potential embarrassment by making sure that your logo looks appropriate at all angles and orientations.
Now that you’ve read all these principles and guidelines, you should be well-equipped to design a good logo that will be memorable, useful, striking and stand the test of time. Happy designing!