How to design a great logo

Designing a logo

Starting your own business is exciting but enthusiasm and energy is only the start of the journey. You need the know-how to properly market your brand and get the word out. Having a great logo to represent what your company is about is an important first step to take.

To create a logo you need to know what a logo is. A logo is not simply a pretty picture. It reflects what your commercial brand is. It has the potential to inspire trust and loyalty, and is what makes your brand recognisable to customers.

Logos can be purely graphic or include a company’s name and its slogan. It may not be advisable to add a slogan or tagline to your logo since it often requires the text to be small enough to fit alongside the logo and therefore makes it difficult to read. There are many logos out there today (think Coca-Cola) that immediately tell people what company it is they are looking at. In order to achieve this, these companies use symbols, icons and emblems that are can be translated into any language without the use of words.

There are five principles that every logo design should follow. First of all, it should be simple. The saying, “keep it simple, stupid”, always applies. A logo needs to provide something unexpected and unique without being overdrawn or overcomplicated. Next, you need something memorable which is achieved by being recognisable, appropriate and simple (thus tying in with point one).

Timelessness is the third principle of good logo design. Don’t give into trends and rather ask yourself, “Will my logo stand the test of time?”. Will it still be relevant 10, 20, 50 years from now? The fourth principle to consider is versatility. A good logo needs to be able to work across multiple mediums and applications. It must also be able to work in one colour. Ensure that your logo is designed in vector format so that it can be scaled to any size and it is legible when resized.

The last principle, but equally as important as the others, is that of appropriateness. It should be designed to fit the intended purpose. If you’re designing for a children’s toy store, use childlike colour schemes and graphics but do not use the same approach for, say, a law firm.

A good logo doesn’t need to be too specific. Many of the best logos are not graphically detailed so as to make it easier to adapt it in future when the company perhaps takes on a different direction.

There a few general tips that you can follow when designing your actual logo (or when instructing a designer on what you want for your logo). When it comes to the typeface of your logo, you can either create a custom typeface or adapt an existing one. The more common the words you use are, the more creative you can be with your typeface. This is because common words are much easier to recognise, even when slightly disguised. When adapting an existing typeface, you can remove, extend or join parts of letters. You often don’t need to see large parts of a letter in order to know what it is, so think outside of the box.

Avoid gimmicky fonts – they can be distracting and too weak to convey a message properly. Just keep it simple and classic as has been said before. One can also use the type-only approach. In other words, you use no graphics apart from the name of your company via a particularly creative typeface. Remember, though, to have your typeface match your brand. Match bold typefaces with a company that represents strength. Have slanting typeface to represent a forward-thinking company.

When it comes to colour, try to use tones as well as colours (a previous article explained the differences in these terms). Also, your logo needs to be able to work whether it is in black-and-white or in colour. In other words, it needs to be able to convey meaning and convey the same meaning even when devoid of any colour. A logo also needs to be able to work on both light and dark backgrounds.

Avoid logos that are static and rather try to represent movement and motion. For example, it is better to have a fish jumping out of the water than a passive fish mounted on a wall. Designers can achieve this type of motion through cartoon-like strokes added to the graphics (but keep it low-key and still professional). When conveying movement, consider the direction of the movement. Westerners might think something moving to the left conveys backwards motion but that is because we write from left to right while those in the Middle-East thinks the opposite because they write from right to left. In other words, know your audience and understand cultural differences.

When you have a logo design chosen, you shouldn’t automatically assume that it is perfect as is. Send it around to colleagues, friends and family for feedback. They might see something that is not right, doesn’t fit your brand or could be done better. Look at it every which way you can. Reverse it, turn it upside down to ensure that it looks good from every angle. Also, if you are planning to go international with your logo, test it internationally. You never know if something might be offensive in another country without you even being aware of it.

Lastly, get your designer to create a logo style guide. This guide enables people to know how your logo can and cannot be used. Include within this guide the colour options, size restraints, positioning, typefaces and spacing. When dictating colour options, always include both Pantone colours as well as CMYK and RGB. Also, specify how the logo should look on different backgrounds (including on a background with an image).

There are many factors to consider, as you can clearly see, and include these above and many more. But a company’s logo is often the first thing a potential customer will see (think of the handing out of business cards) so you need it to convey the correct message about your company or business. Take your time when designing a logo because you might be stuck with it for a very long time and you don’t want to regret the design and then not be able to change it.