How to Design a Logo: The Ultimate Guide
Think about any big brand, and there is a big chance that you know what their logo looks like. Apple Inc. with the bitten apple. Nike with the swoosh. McDonalds with the golden arches. Mercedes Benz with the three pointed star.
A logo plays a very huge role in shaping the perception of a brand, which is why some companies spend millions, and sometimes billions of dollars on logo design.
If you want your brand to stand out from the competition and effectively communicate your brand values, you need a properly designed logo. There’s one question, however. What makes a well-designed logo?
In this guide, we set out to answer this question for you. We’ll teach you everything you need to know about logo design, including how to find inspiration for your logo, choosing the right design style and typography, choosing the right colors, and mistakes to avoid when designing a logo.
But first, designing a great logo starts with a good understanding of why you need a logo.
1. Understand Why You Need A Logo
The term logo refers to an image, text, or a combination of the two that acts as the visual symbol of your brand and what it stands for. Your logo forms a huge part of your company’s brand identity. For instance, you can’t think of Nike without thinking of the swoosh.
A good logo identifies your company and explains what you do and the value you add to your customers’ lives.
For instance, the Amazon logo has a yellow arrow starting at the letter ‘a’ and pointing at the letter “z”, which is a subtle way of telling customers that they sell everything, from a to z.
Apart from communicating your brand values, your logo also helps to boost brand recognition. According to Renderforest, the most recognizable brand identifiers are logos, with 75% of people saying that they use logos to identify brands.
For instance, anyone who sees a three pointed star with a circle around it automatically thinks of Mercedes Benz, even if the company name is not mentioned anywhere. Similarly, anyone who sees the swoosh automatically thinks of Nike.
Just like the Mercedes Benz and Nike logos, a good, well-designed logo reminds potential customers about your brand every time they see the logo, leading to better brand recognition and brand recall, something that can be difficult to achieve with just the brand name.
2. Define Your Brand Identity
Since your logo shapes your brand identity, the first step to designing a great logo is to figure out what your brand identity is, which then allows you to come up with a logo design that embodies this identity.
Your brand identity is shaped by your brand personality, which in turn consists of:
- Your company vision and mission (why do you do what you do?)
- Company values (what are the beliefs that your company stands for?)
- The promise your brand makes to its customers
- How your brand positions itself in the market (how does your company differentiate itself from the competition?)
- What your company does better than everyone else
- Brand voice (What tone does your company use to communicate with its customers?)
- The emotions you want to evoke in people when they interact with your brand
- The audience you are trying to reach
For instance, Apple positions itself as a brand that delivers elegance through its simplicity, which is well represented in their simple but elegant logo.
Similarly, a company like Red Bull represents energy, fun, excitement, and courage. Their logo, which consists of two fighting bulls and bright colors, is an embodiment of this.
Just like the above brands, you have to start by identifying what your brand represents before creating a logo to symbolize that.
When defining your brand identity, you have to think not only about your brand, but your target market as well. Why do customers buy from you? What are they trying to achieve? This can help you create a brand persona that is well aligned with your customers’ aspirations.
For instance, the brand identity of a company like Red Bull is based largely not on the company itself, but on its target market. The company targets athletes and people who live on the edge, fueled by adrenaline.
By understanding its target market, Red Bull then positions itself as the brand that will help these people achieve their aspirations. Their logo, as well as all their marketing efforts are a perfect representation of this.
Once you’ve determined the kind of brand identity you want to build, you can now move to the next step, which is finding inspiration.
3. Find Inspiration For Your Logo Design
Before you start designing your logo, it’s always a good idea to gain some inspiration by looking at some already existing logos. Doing this helps you get a feel for what you like and what wouldn’t work for your brand.
Finding inspiration from logo designs that are already out there also gives you ideas about what you can or cannot do, helps you discover trends in logo design, and gives you a feel for what makes a logo relatable.
So, where do you find inspiration for logo design? Here are some websites that you can go to for some inspiration.
Created by Adobe, Behance is a website with curated galleries of design projects. Simply select “Logo Design” in the Creative Fields section and scroll through hundreds of amazing logo designs for inspiration.
This is an online-community where artists, graphic designers, photographers, and web designers come to showcase their work. To find logo inspiration on Dribble, simply enter “logos” into the search bar and you’ll get hundreds of results from the designers who use the platform.
Pinterest is a social media platform whose sole focus is sharing images that others can draw inspiration from. Simply search for something like “logo” or “logo design” and you’ll get hundreds of pin boards with logo designs that you can draw inspiration from.
Another great thing about using Pinterest is that you can create your own mood board of logos that you like, which makes it easier to come back to the inspirational logos once you start designing, or even share them with a graphic designer.
4. Brand New
Brand New is a division of Under Consideration that covers all matters to do with brand identity. To get some logo inspiration, simply visit the website, type “logo” and hit search.
You can also find logo inspiration by searching for a word like “logo” or “cool logo designs” on Google image search. This will give you lots of logo ideas, as shown in the image above.
4. Check Out Your Competition
Many people don’t think that checking out your competitors’ logos is a part of the logo design process, but doing this can actually be very helpful.
First, looking at the kind of logos your competitors have can give you ideas about what works for that particular industry.
For instance, if you look at the automotive industry, you’ll notice that there is a huge preference for circular or rounded logos.
In the above image, you can see that several companies, including Ford, Mazda, Holden, Nissan, Hyundai, Toyota, Volkswagen, BMW, Audi, Mercedes Benz, Lexus, Volvo, Subaru, Fiat, Land Rover, KIA, Maserati, and Alfa Romeo all incorporate a circular or oval shape.
However, just because some type of logo is popular doesn’t mean you have to conform to a similar design. Studying the competition’s logos can also help you figure out how to differentiate your brand from the competition.
In the above example, for instance, you can see how Mitsubishi sets itself apart by using a logo style that doesn’t conform to those of other automotive brands.
When checking out your competition’s logos, some of the things you need to look out for include…
The shape of a logo can be a source of inspiration, without having to directly copy the logo. For instance, from the shapes of these three logos of three automotive brands, you can easily tell that they borrowed inspiration from each other.
2. Color Scheme
Which color schemes are popular within your industry? Do you want to adopt similar color schemes, or do you want something different?
Sometimes, color schemes between two logos can inadvertently end up being similar. For instance, while the shapes are different, Pepsi and Auto Trader have identical color schemes.
When looking at competitors’ logos, you also need to look at the kind of typography they are using, and whether such typography will work for your brand or not. For instance, the logos of FDA and CNN use the exact same typography.
Ideally, you should avoid using the same typography as your competitors, since it will make your brand seem like it’s trying to ride on the wave of the competitor – which is never a good perception for a brand.
4. Logo Style
Finally, you also need to check the logo styles employed by your competitors. Here is an example of direct competitors – Gucci and Chanel – who use similar styles on their logos
Just like typography, it is not a good idea to use the same logo style as a company that is in competition with your brand.
5. Choose Your Design Style
At this point, you already have some ideas of what you want on your logo, and what you don’t want. With these ideas acting as guides, it’s now time to choose a suitable design style for your logo.
Logo style refers to the design aesthetic that you want your logo to represent. Some popular logo design styles include…
These are timeless logos that don’t push the boundaries too much. Classic logos keep everything simple, from the typography to the colors and graphics. A good example of a classic logo is Coca Cola.
2. Vintage Or Retro
Also referred to as vintage, retro logos have an aesthetic that makes people think of a time long gone, usually with nostalgic feelings. Retro and vintage logos try to show heritage and tradition. Whiskey maker Jack Daniels’ logo is a great example of a vintage logo.
This design aesthetic creates logos that give the appearance of something that was drawn by hand. This aesthetic works best for brands that make handcrafted products. This design aesthetic signifies attention to detail and great quality. The Phaw’s Boutique logo is a good example of a handcrafted logo.
4. Modern And Minimalist
These are logos with simple design and minimal detail, which results in a sleek, modern look. Apple’s current logo is a perfect example of a modern and minimalist logo design style.
5. Fun And Quirky
This is a logo aesthetic that takes advantage of bold color combinations, creative illustrations and elements like mascots to create a logo that communicates playfulness, friendliness, and youth. This is a great aesthetic for brands targeting young customers.
SellShark’s logo is a good example of a fun and quirky, yet memorable logo.
6. Find The Right Type Of Logo
Once you’ve decided on a design style that suits your brand, the next step is to decide the type of logo you want.
Unlike design style, which refers to the logo aesthetic, logo type refers to the format used on a logo. There are 7 major types of logo to choose from.
1. Monogram Logos
Also referred to as lettermark logos, these logos are made up of letters. In most cases, these logos are used by brands that are referred to by their initials, rather than their full name.
Monogram logos do not typically use any graphics or images to symbolize the business. However, monogram logos can still be made to look aesthetically pleasing by creatively playing around with how the letters are written or positioned relative to each other.
Here is a great example of a monogram logo from fashion brand Louis Vuitton.
2. Wordmark Logos
Also referred to as logotypes, this type of logo is based on a brand’s name. A wordmark is similar to a lettermark logo, but it uses a word – usually the brand name – rather than initials.
Wordmark logos do not leave any doubt about the company or brand a person is looking at. They are good for brands that have unique, brandable names.
Examples of brands that use wordmark logos include Google, Coca Cola, Vans, Canon, and Subway.
3. Pictorial Mark
This is the most recognized type of logo. A pictorial mark uses an icon or a graphic to represent a company.
For a logo to be considered a pictorial mark, the image or icon used needs to be capable of representing the brand by itself, even without the brand name. Pictorial marks are best suited for brands that are well established.
Examples of pictorial mark logos include Apple’s bitten apple, Twitter’s bird, Instagram’s camera icon, Snapchat’s ghost, and so on.
4. Abstract Logo Marks
An abstract logo mark can be considered to be a type of pictorial mark logo. The key difference, however, is that the image or graphic used in the logo is an abstract geometric, rather than something recognizable.
For instance, Twitter’s logo is something recognizable – a bird. Ditto for Instagram’s, which is a camera. However, you cannot tell what the designer had in mind when they designed the Chase logo.
5. Mascot Logos
Mascot logos incorporate an illustrated character as part of the logo. Mascot logos give brands a fun, friendly, and approachable personality.
A great example of a company with a mascot logo is KFC.
6. Combination Mark
This type of logo is a combination of the pictorial mark, abstract mark or mascot logo with a wordmark or letter mark logo.
The beauty of combination mark logos is that they make it easier for people to associate your brand with your mascot, pictorial, or abstract mark. Mailchimp’s logo is a great example of a combination mark logo.
According to Website Planet, the combination mark is the most commonly used type of logo by Fortune 500 companies.
7. Emblem Logo
This type of logo usually consists of some text placed within an icon or symbol, such as a crest, a seal, or a badge.
These types of logos usually communicate authority and reliability, and are commonly used by academic institutions, health institutions, government agencies, and the automotive industry.
Harley Davidson’s famous crest is a good example of an emblem logo.
7. Pick The Right Color
Your logo color affects how people perceive your brand. This is because different colors evoke different emotions in people. For instance, green is calming, while yellow signifies cheerfulness.
This means that, when choosing your logo color, you have to think about your brand personality, and the kind of feelings you want your brand to evoke. Here, you need to ask yourself questions like…
- Do I want to present my brand as masculine or feminine?
- What tone does my brand use? Is it serious or playful?
- Do I want my brand to come off as affordable or luxurious?
- Is my brand classic or modern?
- Do I want my brand to come off as mature or youthful?
- What kind of energy do I want people to associate with my brand? Loud and energetic or cool and subdued?
Once you know the kind of emotions you want your brand to project, you can then choose a color that communicates those emotions. Below, let’s check out the meaning of different colors…
- Red: Red communicates strong emotions such as passion and excitement. It also works well for brands that want to come across as youthful, modern, playful, or loud. It’s also good for brands that want to stand out.
- Orange: Orange is a little bit more subdued than red, but it still communicates vibrancy and playfulness. Avoid this color if you want your brand to appear serious, feminine, or luxurious.
- Yellow: A yellow color exudes cheer and friendliness, affordability and youthfulness. Yellow does not work well for brands that want to be seen as mature or luxurious.
- Green: Green communicates a connection with nature and works well for brands involved in agriculture or conservation. However, green can be used for almost all kinds of brands.
- Blue: This color communicates calmness, trust, and reliability, and as a result, it is very widely used, especially by brands in the tech industry.
- Purple: Purple is a great choice when you want your brand to come off as luxurious, with a hint of feminine energy.
- Pink: Pink logos work really well for brands that want to be seen as feminine. Pink can also be used to communicate youth and luxury.
- Brown: Brown is an earthy color that works well for brands that want to be seen as traditional, masculine, or rugged. It is also a good choice for brands that make handcrafted products.
- Black: Black communicates modernity and luxury. If you want your brand to come off as affordable, stay away from black.
While different colors communicate different feelings, you should also keep in mind that there is no harm in combining two, or even three colors that highlight what you want to communicate.
8. Choose The Right Typography
Like other elements of your logo, fonts have their own personality, and therefore, considerable care needs to be taken when choosing a font for your logo.
A good font can help enhance your logo and brand identity, while an inappropriate font can easily drive away people from your brand.
There are four main kinds of typography that you can use on your logo…
- Serif fonts: These are fonts that end each stroke with a tiny vertical or horizontal. Serif fonts are great when you want to create a classic and high-end logo. Serif fonts communicate reliability, comfort, and tradition. Examples of serif fonts include Georgia, Baskerville, and Times New Roman.
- Sans serif fonts: These fonts do not have a serif (the line at the end of the stroke). They are great for creating a logo with a modern and clean look, and communicate qualities like neatness, novelty, and aspiration. Some examples of sans serif fonts include Myriad Pro, Helvetica, Calibri, and Franklin Gothic.
- Script fonts: These are fonts that have the appearance of something written by hand. Script fonts communicate creativity, elegance, and affection. Examples of script fonts include Lavenderia, Mistral, Edwardian Script, and Pristina.
- Display fonts: These are highly stylized and decorative fonts that are meant to be used on things like headings, rather than extended body text. Display fonts communicate friendliness, uniqueness, emotional richness, and expressiveness. Examples of display fonts include Ansley Display, Cooper, and Valencia.
When choosing a font for your logo, some of the things you need to keep in mind include…
- Keep it simple: Always use a simple logo font that is clean and can be easily reproduced on different surfaces and products.
- Think about your brand identity: Choose a font that reflects the kind of personality and energy you want people to associate with your brand.
- Limit the number of fonts: Use one font on your logo, and at most, two. Beyond that, the fonts become distracting and can make your brand look unprofessional and untrustworthy.
- Avoid trendy fonts: The problem with trendy fonts is that they quickly lose their popularity, leaving you with a logo that looks outdated, or forcing you to rebrand. Go for timeless or evergreen fonts that won’t be affected by the passage of time.
9. Communicate With Your Logo Designer
By this point, having taken all the logo design elements into consideration, it’s now time to move to the actual logo design work.
If you have some graphic design skills and you are conversant with design software, you can design the logo by yourself.
For most people, however, you’ll need to find someone to do the actual design work for you. Here, you have three options; hiring a freelance designer or a design agency, holding a logo design content, or using an automated logo maker.
If you decide to hire someone to design the logo for you or hold a logo design contest, you need to clearly communicate your needs if you want them to come up with perfect designs. Poor communication will only result in a logo that is not aligned with your vision or your brand values.
The best way to communicate with your logo designer is to use a logo design brief. This is a document that captures all the requirements that you want the designer to follow when designing your logo. A good logo design brief should cover the following…
- Information about your business, including your company name, your brand values, your industry, your products and services, your target audience, and your company slogan.
- Your desired logo elements, including the type of logo, design style, desired colors, typography, and so on. You can also share a mood board (examples of logos that you like) for inspiration.
- Information about timelines and your budget.
While the logo design brief gives the designer all the information about your requirements, it is also a great idea to remain open minded and willing to hear suggestions from the designer. Remember, they are the professional when it comes to this, and can give you some pointers about what goes into creating an awesome logo.
Good communication between you and your designer needs to be a two way street, with both of you sharing opinions and feedback, rather than a one way street where you only state your demands.
10. Use A Logo Design Software To Speed Up The Process
Even if you have some design skills and plan on designing your logo by yourself, the logo design process can be quite lengthy. You have to come up with initial sketches, refine the sketches, and then digitize the logo so that it can be used in print and digital media.
If you are short on time, you can speed up the design process by taking advantage of free logo design software for your PC or Mac. These are specialized software programs that allow you to draw custom shapes, insert images, and play around with different fonts to help you create your desired logo.
Below are some good logo design software that you can use to speed up your logo creation process…
- Adobe Illustrator: This is the world’s best vector editing program. It gives you total control over every aspect of logo design. From shapes and gradients to fonts and perspective grids, there is nothing you can’t do with Adobe Illustrator. The best part is that, being a vector-based program, your logo can be scaled to any size without pixelating.
- Logo Design Studio Pro: This is another great graphic design program that is perfect for creating logos. While not as powerful as Adobe Illustrator, it is very easy to use, and comes with over 2,000 logo templates that you can use to get the ball rolling.
- Designhill: This is an AI powered logo design tool that makes it possible for just about anyone to design a professional logo, even if you have zero technical or graphic design skills. All you need to do is provide your business name and choose your desired logo style and colors, and the program will come up with hundreds of logo designs for you to choose from. You also have the option of tweaking and customizing the logos to ensure they perfectly suit your brand.
- Canva: Canva is a web-based app that comes with an easy-to-use drag and drop interface. While not as powerful as programs like Illustrator, it comes with lots of templates, shapes, and other graphic elements that you can use on your logo, and allows you to do all this at very affordable prices. Canva is also great when you want to collaborate with your team when designing your logo.
- Tailor Brands: This is another AI powered logo design software that is very suitable for beginners, or anyone who needs to come up with a logo quickly. Like Designhill, Tailor Brands asks you questions about your brand and logo preferences, and then uses its AI algorithm to come up with suitable logo designs for you to choose from.
11. Evaluate Your Logo Design Options
Once you have received some logo options from your designer, or come up with some options of your own, you’ll need to evaluate the logo design options to help you find one that works best for your brand.
So, what should you look at when evaluating your logo design options? Here are some factors that make a great logo.
1. Alignment With Brand Identity
First and foremost, a good logo needs to reflect your brand identity and personality. By looking at your logo, people should be able to immediately tell what your business does. A good logo also needs to communicate the emotions you want people to associate with your brand.
2. Easily Recognizable
A good logo also needs to be memorable and easily recognizable. This means that the logo needs to use simple shapes that one doesn’t have to struggle to decipher.
For instance, anyone looking at the Nike logo can tell that it’s a swoosh – they don’t have to struggle trying to understand what is on the logo. The same applies for the Apple logo.
Aside from being memorable and recognizable, a great logo also needs to be unique. This means avoiding elements that are cliché within your industry.
For instance, most logos in the construction industry have the shape of a building. Logos that avoid such cliché elements are more memorable and recognizable, and will help your brand stand out from the crowd.
A logo will be used in many different situations; on your website, on business cards, on social media, on flyers, on billboards, on your physical products, on promotional products such as pens and caps, and so on.
Therefore, it is important that you go for a functional logo – one that will work in multiple situations and at different sizes without losing its meaning or appearance.
When evaluating a logo design, you also need to think about the timelessness of the design. Is this something that you see your brand using 10 or 20 years from now, or is it something you’ll have to change 5 years down the line?
Avoid design options that make use of trendy fonts and trendy graphics. Such logos will quickly become dated once the fonts and graphics lose their popularity.
5. Appeal To Your Target Audience
Finally, a great logo is one that appeals to the audience you are targeting. For instance, if you sell kid’s toys, a fun and quirky logo with a cartoonish mascot and a stylized display font would work perfectly. However, such a logo wouldn’t work if you are targeting a mature audience looking for luxury products.
12. Things You Should Not Do When Designing A Logo
Whether you are designing your logo yourself or hiring someone to do it for you, there are some common logo design mistakes that you should be aware of. Watching out for these mistakes will ensure you don’t end up with an amateurish logo that does more harm than good to your brand.
With that in mind, here are six things you should never do when designing a logo…
1. Trying To Fit Everything Into Your Logo
Most businesses deal in multiple products or target multiple customers. For instance, a fashion store could be selling multiple fashion items, such as clothes, shoes, belts, and hats for both men and ladies.
Even if your business has multiple products, never try to communicate everything you do within your logo. This will only make your logo look cluttered. Imagine a logo that has shoes, pants, a jacket, and a hat? While it tells customers that you deal in all these items, the logo will have too many distractions.
Rather than doing that, you need to find one simple element that best represents your business. For instance, rather than showing all those fashion items, you might use something simple like a clothes hanger to communicate what your business does.
2. Designing The Logo For Yourself
A lot of times, business owners design their logos based on what is appealing to them. Here’s the problem; you are not designing the logo to communicate to yourself. You are designing the logo to communicate your brand values to your customers.
Therefore, instead of choosing what looks good to you, think about who your customers are and design a logo that is appealing to them.
3. Relying Too Much On Color
While it is important to have color on your logo, don’t be too reliant on color to give your logo meaning. A good logo works even when displayed in grayscale. For instance, regardless of the color, the Apple or Coca Cola logos will always be recognizable.
4. Making Your Logo Too Abstract
Simplicity is a good thing when designing a good logo. However, this is only true up to a certain point. If you make your logo too simplistic or too abstract, your logo will become confusing, leaving people trying to understand what it stands for.
A good logo is one that achieves simplicity while still maintaining its meaning. If you feel that your logo has become too abstract, don’t be afraid to add some detail to portray some element of your business.
5. Using Raster Images
When designing your logo, always use a vector-based design program, such as Adobe Illustrator, rather than a raster-based program, such as Adobe Photoshop.
Vector images are made up of precise points mathematically placed on a Cartesian plane, with lines and curves connecting them to form shapes. Because of this, vector images can be scaled to any size without losing their quality.
Raster images, on the other hand, are composed of pixels. When enlarged, raster images become pixelated and lose their quality. Because of this, they are not very good for designing logos, especially if you intend to use the logo in large format print, such as banners and billboards.
6. Using Clip Arts And Stock Vector Graphics
Using clip arts and stock vector graphics is a great way to quickly design a good looking logo – after all, you don’t have to create these graphics from scratch.
There are two problems with this approach, however. First, these clip arts and stock vector graphics are not available to you exclusively. This means that there could be someone else using the same graphic or clip art to design their own logo. This throws your hopes of building a unique brand identity out of the window.
Second, since these graphics are available to the public, using them in your logo means you cannot trademark the logo, since you don’t own the copyright to these clip arts and stock vector graphics. To avoid such scenarios, it is always better to create all the elements of your logo from scratch.
13. Integrate Your Logo Design Into Your Brand
Now that you have gone through the entire design process and have managed to come up with an amazing logo, it’s now time to start integrating the logo into your brand and start showing the new face of your business.
Some of the places where you can use your new logo include…
If you don’t have one yet, build a website for your business and make sure that the logo is displayed prominently on all pages of your website. Make sure that the website is optimized for SEO – this way, more people will find your website organically, and when they open it, the first thing they’ll see is your new logo.
2. Social Media
Create social media pages for your business and use your new logo as the profile photo on these profiles. Remember, you want anyone interacting with your brand online to associate your brand with the logo.
3. Business Cards
Business cards are a great way to make connections at networking events, but they are also a good way of establishing your brand identity. Make sure that your logo is prominently positioned within your business cards, in such a way that makes your brand easily identifiable.
4. Product Packaging
If your business deals in physical products, include your logo either on the products themselves, or on the product packaging.
Using high quality packaging for your products and emblazoning your logo on the packaging is a good way of not only showcasing your logo, but also get people to associate your logo and brand with high quality products.
5. Marketing Material
Whenever you produce any marketing material, such as flyers, brochures, banners, billboards, stickers, and so on, make sure that your logo is clearly visible. Remember, your logo is the most prominent part of your brand identity, and you want people to start relating this new logo to your brand.
6. Email Signature
Using your logo on your email signature is another way of integrating your logo design into your brand and getting more people to recognize the logo and associate it with your brand. You can easily do this with any of these email signature generator tools.
Using your new logo in these different places will get more people to recognize the logo and associate it with your brand, and ultimately, recognize it as the visual representation of what your brand stands for.