How To Design A Logo

What Is A Logo?

A logo’s purpose is to give immediate brand recognition, inspire trust, gain customer loyalty and imply superiority. A logo is a symbol that uses shapes, colors, fonts and images to represent a commercial brand. It’s visual qualities should help it stand out from other logos in similar markets and a logo helps convey a company’s personality, character and attitude. A successful logo, should communicate a feeling of familiarity and credibility.

Now, doesn’t that seem like a big job for a few shapes and a couple words? A well designed logo is an instrumental piece of a successful brand. Let’s look at some principles of effective logo design.

Well designed logos should be simple, memorable, timeless, scalable, appropriate and successful in black and white. Let’s break this down a bit.




A simple logo design allows for easy recognition and memorability. Simplicity is an important principle to practice in many aspects of design, not just when designing logos. Bad design is often cluttered and confusing.



An effective logo should be memorable. This is achieved by having a simple logo. Memorable ­­logos will stand apart from other logos within their market and they will often feature something unexpected or unique within their industry.



When designing a logo, try to stay away from current design trends. Trendy design is fun but should be used for short-term projects like promotional pieces like event posters. The point of a logo is to help a company stand out within its market. Do you really want your logo to look like everyone else’s? The swoosh logo trend is a good example of this. When designing, think to yourself, will the logo still be effective in 10, 25, 50 years?



An effective logo should be able to work across a variety of mediums and applications. For this reason a logo should be designed in vector format, so that it can be scaled to any size. More complex logos may need to be simplified or modified when used really small. For example, text size may need to be increased if the logo becomes difficult to read once it is scaled down. In some cases, it may be necessary to create both a horizontal and vertical lock-up (layout) for the logo. Designing with the logos final application in mind, will ensure that your logo looks good no matter where it is used.



A logo should be positioned for its intended purpose. For example, your design decisions should be appropriate for the industry you are designing for. Would you use a bubble font for a law firm? No. Why? Because it’s not appropriate, the law firm wouldn’t be taken seriously. A law firm needs to communicate that they are strong, professional, authoritative and reliable. Therefore, an architectural looking sans serif font is a better choice. A classy serif font could work too, but bubble letters will not give the firm a sense of credibility.


Successful in Black and White:

A logo needs to work without color. Small business letterhead logos often end up in Microsoft Word templates and are often printed in Black and White. Lower budget print jobs are often black and white. A successful logo will look good and be readable with or without color.


Now that we have covered the basics, lets compare the logos below to the principles we have discussed earlier in this blog post.


Bad Logos

All of these logos have too much going on. They are crowded and tacky looking. Generally it is a good idea to avoid gradients because gradients will make your logo look cheap. Like any rule, there are exceptions to this, for most cases gradients are a bad idea. Take note that many, if not all of these logos use free standard fonts. Stay away from overused fonts like Comic Sans or Papyrus. Also, don’t use more than one font in your logo, there is no need to over complicate things. If you want some variety with your typefaces, try using different weighted fonts within the same font family.


Screen Shot 2014-07-17 at 3.25.17 PM


Well Designed Logos

As you can see, the logos below are simple, iconic and clean. They are easily read at a distance and they are unique. Notice how I didn’t just select a bunch of Fortune 500 companies. Not all “famous” logos are well designed.

I wanted to include an example of a logo with both a horizontal and a vertical lock up, so that you could see what I was talking about earlier in the post. Vero, is a company that sells eco friendly bottled water. The logo is most frequently used on the bottle so the tall and skinny format reads really nicely on the packaging. This tall and thin design, however, does not work so great in places that require a horizontal layout, like a FB banner.

good-logos-01Some Thoughts To Wrap Up

It’s also important to mention that a logo doesn’t need to show what a business sells or offers as a service. For example, car logos don’t need to show cars and furniture companies don’t need to show couches. The Harley Davidson logo isn’t a motorcycle, nor is the T-mobile logo a mobile phone. A logo is purely for brand identification.

Paul Rand also chimes in on this topic:

Should a logo be self-explanatory? It is only by association with a product, a service, a business, or a corporation that a logo takes on any real meaning. A logo derives its meaning and usefulness from the quality of that which it symbolizes. If a company is second rate, the logo will eventually be perceived as second rate. It is foolhardy to believe that a logo will do its job immediately, before an audience has been properly conditioned.

~ Paul Rand

What do you think makes a great logo?

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