One of the most important and time-consuming jobs a graphic designer can do is designing a logo. There’s a lot more involved in the process than most people know, because there’s a lot riding on it: just one little logo can be one of the most important supports for the entire business.
- It has to identify and represent the company and what it does, conveying ideas about the services it provides, the products it makes, and even how it does business.
- It’s a split-second snapshot of all the complex processes it follows to serve its customer base—a first impression that can make or break the business.
So how do you get logos right? While there’s no exact formula, keeping a few simple principles in mind can help to create a concept that’s visually appealing, functional, and enduring.
1. Keep it simple
You might already be familiar with the KISS principle—and it’s never more poignant than when it’s applied to logos. You will have seen it yourself: the most enduring and impactful logos you can recall (the golden arches, the shiny apple on your phone) all share this one element. Superfluous elements detract from logos, rather than add to them.
One of the most important ways to keep a logo simple is to design it first in black and white. A monochrome colour palette will reveal whether your logo is too complex or it’s elegant and strong. If it works in monochrome, there’s a good chance it’s a strong concept, and it’ll save you a world of pain when it comes time to roll it out across a range of media.
2. Make it versatile
Logos don’t live in isolation. They need to be used across many different applications in both the digital and print spheres. A good logo will look appropriate in your email signature, on your website, on your business card, on a glass door, and embroidered onto your shirts.
Designing a logo isn’t just designing a logo—it’s designing a brand. It’s the first and most important element of your business identity, so when you’re in the design process it’s important to keep the applications in the forefront of your mind. The design should be versatile enough to fit the purposes of the business, whether that’s looking good on paper packaging, clothing, cars, billboards, or social media sites.
3. Fit the purpose
The purpose of the logo isn’t just to fit the practical applications of your business. It’s to convey your business’s identity in one glance, including its values and unique service offering. A good logo will convey the message the business owner wants to convey, whether it’s feelings of trustworthiness, supportiveness and reliability, or an elite product or superior service to aspire to.
The purpose of a logo is to tell the story of what the business does. Good logos match the style, processes, and even the tone of the business. Through the use of different elements, they convey not only what the business does, but what their service is like—friendly and approachable, sophisticated and high-end, or quirky and creative.
A good logo will also convey where the business fits in its own industry. It will provide both a visual idea of the sector the business operates in, and a point of difference or distinctiveness that sets the business apart from its competitors.
4. Be distinctive
The hallmark of a good logo is that it’s Immediately recognisable. In the conceptual stages of logo design, it can be useful to analyse the branding identities of other businesses in the industry, especially the ones you’re competing with. This helps not only to develop a style that’s congruent with the service you’re providing, but to identify some points of difference where you could push your business to stand out from the rest.
Distinctiveness is more easily achieved with simplicity than with fancy add-ons. It might sound counterintuitive, but the fewer elements the better—shapes that are simple and have high contrast are more memorable than complex ones, because they’re easier for our brains to process.
5. Aim for timeless
On-trend styles and elements often age fast. While it can be tempting to jump on current trends in typefaces, colours and shapes, there’s a good chance your business will be marginalised or pre-judged as ‘one of those’ when everyone has tired of the phase and they’re looking for something new.
When it comes to something as important as your business’s livelihood, timeless is the way to go. Opt for strong, sophisticated 2-colour palettes and typefaces that have stood the test of time. Consider typographic logos—think Tiffany, FedEx and Google—simple geometry, and solid colours rather than gradients that can be difficult to update later.
Speaking of time, logo design often takes a lot of hours of both thinking and design time. It’s one of the most important tasks a designer can undertake, and it can take many revisions to reach the right design for the business. But spending the time to work through the process thoroughly will result in a logo design that both looks great and does your business’s heavy lifting for you.