50 Logo Design Tips from the UK’s Top Graphic Designers
What makes a great logo design? In search of an answer to this difficult question we got in touch with some of the UK’s top graphic designers. Unsurprisingly, it turns out that a simple answer doesn’t exist and creating a professional logo is an incredibly complex process.
Nevertheless, the designers were kind enough to share the secrets of their own success and offer guidance to all you budding logo designers out there.
Discover what makes the difference between a good design and a bad design and find out how to achieve your own success with our list of the ‘top 50 logo design tips’ taken from their responses.
If you’re just starting out in the world of logo design, you may not have any examples of what you can do to show prospective clients. This makes it difficult early on, so my advice would be to offer a few pro-bono projects, maybe to charities, schools, friends or family.
This means you’ll be able to show ‘real-world’ designs in your portfolio, rather than fictitious logos created for fun. Once you have a handful of designs in your portfolio, get it online on a website or even one of the many gallery sites out there so you can direct people to your work.
Simplicity is best. Less is more. As much as you would want to convey a message, don’t overdo it with overly symbolic logos.
Don’t try to have a single logo interpret your entire organisational goals and objectives. Really creative logos have subliminal meanings. Even if the brand has a ton of messages it wants to broadcast to the world, distill the essence and create a visual metaphor.
Never think about a logomark out of context of a full branding exercise. If you’re designing a logo it’s your responsibility to consider the entire brand – even if it’s “not your role”, or something you’ve been hired to do.
Keep it simple. Focus on one concept per design, and fine tune it so you’re portraying the message to it’s maximum through using the minimum. Take a look at the logo designs of the world’s top brands and you will notice how simple and effective they are.
Simplicity allows the logo to be versatile (so it works at different sizes and in different situations) as well as being easy to remember.
Make sure that you limit your communicative intentions to one or two ideas. Don’t expect your logo design to do all the communicative heavy lifting. A well-informed, memorable and simple icon can be enough. Look to materials, texture, print finish, layout, language and type choice to express, in a more focused, appropriate and engaging manner, other brand values.
This is a great way to quickly find out what designs and ideas work best before you spend too long on a particular design.
Simplicity is timeless
Like any other creative discipline, logo design has it’s fashions. Try to ignore what is ‘in style’ right now (gradients spring to mind) and instead aim to communicate your idea in the simplest way possible. Ask yourself ‘what doesn’t need to be there to communicate my idea?’ then remove any unnecessary noise. This will help ensure that your logo stands the test of time.
Don’t be afraid to be abstract
Why do estate agent logos always seem to feature a ‘house’ or a ‘key? Maybe there is a tendency to believe that a good logo has to be a literal representation of a business. Sometimes this ‘does what it says on the tin’ approach can result in overly forced or predictable designs. Don’t be afraid to be abstract–after all, the highly successful Mercedes logo doesn’t feature a car. Instead aim to give your logo a simple, unique element, even if it has no obvious meaning.
This approach often results in more original designs and still ensures consumers are able to distinguish your brand over time. If you find that your client needs some persuading just remind them that when the world first set eyes on the now unmistakable Nike ‘Swoosh’ in ’71, it was nothing more than an unusual looking tick.
The best piece of advice we would offer a young designer is not to settle for an early concept; at Root Studio our motto is ‘the best design is always your last’.
Even if you’ve just finished off what you think is the best piece of work you’ve ever produced and you’re positive your client will love it, move it to the side and work on another idea, and then another. Eventually by exploring every possible angle you’ll have enough good concepts to make an informed choice on which is actually the best.
Another thing to remember is that, even if you’ve invested hours into an idea that you were sure was going to work – perhaps you’ve even spent longer working on this concept that any other, if you’re not happy with it, don’t send it. If your client chooses to go for a logo that you know deep down isn’t 100% you’ll regret it.
1) The Layout
2) The Fonts
3) The Colours
Using a standard font (or by hand if you are good with a pencil) start sketching out some layouts. It’s paramount you first know what you want your finished product to look like. For example, how big should your company name be? Are you including an icon or illustration? Are you including a tagline? What about a badge or a background? If so, where does everything sit in relation to one another?
Secondly, and for me the most important part of any logo design is getting your fonts correct. This is very much your personal preference. But ensure they are legible, modern, and fit with your audience.
Lastly, once everything is laid out correctly using your chosen fonts, finalise your brand’s colours. Again these need to fit in with your audience, and should complement each other.
My top tip for new logo designers is to keep it simple and memorable. Remember your design needs to be instantly recognisable and memorable and work across lots of different mediums and sizes.
If you don’t already, learn how to design vector based designs so your work is fully scalable! Take lots of time to research the design – the business it is for, its audience and other logo designs that really work.
If there is one tip, and one tip alone, that we can offer our beginner logo designers it is this: typography is key. Typography is the art and technique of arranging font types and sizes to create an appealing design. Many a designer is unable to satisfy clients because they do not pay enough attention to the typography.
The font you use has to match the brand. Consumers will be judging the brand based on your logo. Do not choose a font that does not portray the nature of the brand. For example a serious business, like a law firm, will loathe an airier font for their logo. The lighter weight of the font does not portray the true nature of the business. Avoid using amateur fonts and consider customising your own to make your logo truly stand out.
You want to ensure you avoid using too many font types. One is ideal, two is acceptable and three is too many and may result in the logo looking fragmented. Additionally, it is important to pay attention to scale. If your scripts are illegible when the design is scaled down, your design will not work across all mediums making it unsuccessful.
Sometimes you will pour your heart into something that you LOVE but the client just doesn’t get – try not to take it personally and let it undermine your enthusiasm. Just remember, YOU have the design degree.
Selling your idea is equally as important as your craft and finish – a strong underlying concept is really important – lots of research and paper sketches should come before having fun in illustration.
Lastly, don’t under value yourself! If the client wants a $5 logo, tell them where to go!
My top tip for beginner logo designers is to remember that a great logo captures the ‘personality’ of the brand but it doesn’t always have to be a literal representation of a product or service. That approach can often be quite limiting as a business evolves and grows, and it’s often better to be a little more abstract. A great logo should be more reflective of brand values and the ethos of the organisation, for example: solid and traditional, contemporary and chic, innovative and fun. Typography and colour choice should reflect those values.
Does your signature look like the way you’d write your name? Probably not. Think of a logo as the signature of a business or organisation. It needs to be unique to that organisation, memorable, and most importantly, it needs to work from small sizes to huge billboards, in black and white or in glorious technicolour.
It does depend who you are designing for, but a general rule to follow is that good logos are simple logos, but do bear in mind simple logos are the hardest to design.
It’s easy to design a logo that looks slick on a blank sheet of paper, the kind of thing you often see shared around social media, perhaps something with a clever twist, but a good logo is one that is functional as well as aesthetically pleasing. We want it to look balanced, to look solid, to work on a variety of mediums in a variety of sizes alongside a variety of content and last far longer than any trend; and to do that it’s got to be somewhat simplistic in it’s final design, but not in the approach.
Don’t be afraid to ask obvious questions. The answers will differ depending on who you’re talking to.
Listen more than you talk. Everyone else knows more than you ever can.
You’ll make a lot of mistakes. Don’t worry. We all do. Learn from them, and move on.
Don’t think of your sketches as a piece of art. Use them to record and develop ideas, to put your thoughts on paper in as fast a way as possible. The more ideas you can come up with, the more likely you are to arrive at the strongest outcome. Your sketchpad is a playground — it doesn’t matter how good it looks. Enjoy it.
Designing logos requires a knowledge and foundation in typography, colour, shape and form – and also media (where the logo will be displayed – in print or digital). An understanding of human psychology can help too. My background in calligraphy and heraldry gave me a solid foundation in logo design (the history of displaying your ‘arms’ to identify you in the field is just as true in the modern world). Try not to follow latest logo design trends – use them as research in understanding what other designers are doing. The best logo designs stand the test of time.
Most importantly above all else – take your time at first in understanding what the client wants. Meet face to face if possible (or Skype) and learn to confidently provide direction. They may not be sure of the logo design process so don’t assume they know. Asking clients to fill out a logo design questionnaire before meeting provides the foundations of a brief and weeds out the ‘tyre-kickers’.
Remember the client is hiring you for your expertise in distilling their company ethos into a unique graphical mark.
Don’t be afraid to charge for your time. Nobody else is.
Don’t undercharge for your work. There are a lot of “designers” out there that are charging buttons for their work, in turn undermining the value of design work.
It’s important that beginners come in with a price point that reflects their hard work and craft.
Don’t be afraid to charge for your time. Nobody else is.
50 Logo Design Tips
From the expert advice given above, we’ve extracted a handy checklist of 50 of the most pressing logo design tips. You should keep the list close to hand and go through it every time you start work on a new project. If you have any tips of your own you’d like to add, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page.
1. Keep it Simple
2. Be prepared to complete work for free at the beginning of your career
3. Work towards building a meaningful portfolio of logo design work
4. Put your portfolio online
5. Market your work online
6. Set aside time in your week to work on promotion
7. Take inspiration from the success of your peers
8. Take inspiration from the world’s top brands
9. Don’t blindly follow fashionable logo design trends
10. Get yourself out there and approach potential clients
11. Spend a long time getting every design brief clear in your mind
12. Research your target audience
13. Research the company and their values
14. Sketch multiple ideas for every project
15. Select the best ideas and play around with them
16. Spend time early on finding a layout you are comfortable with
17. Never settle for an early concept
18. Try a number of different approaches to each individual design
19. Constantly revise and reduce your idea, removing extraneous details
20. Choose a font that is legible, modern, and in-fitting with the target audience
21. Make sure your font matches the brand values
22. Don’t be afraid to be brutal with editing
23. Avoid literal interpretations – be creative
24. Don’t be afraid to be abstract
25. Keep the design balanced and solid
26. Make your logo unique
27. Choose meaningful, complementary colours
28. Test to make sure the design works across a range of sizes
29. Test to make sure your design works both in colour and black and white
30. Use vector-based design to ensure scalability from postage stamp to billboard
31. Ask you peers, friends, and family what they honestly think of your idea
32. Constantly question the functionality of your logo design
33. Constantly compare your solution to the initial brief
34. Take pride in your work
35. Never submit a design until your 100% happy with it
36. Be prepared to defend your logo from criticism
37. Practise presenting your solution so you appear confident on the day
38. Have faith in your ability as a designer
39. Always listen to the client and respect their decision
40. Use your knowledge of design to guide the client to make good decisions
41. Don’t be afraid to ask questions at all stages of the design process
42. Learn from your mistakes and don’t let them discourage you
43. Be professional – remember that you represent the graphic design industry on every job
44. Do your best work on every project
45. Don’t undersell yourself
46. Stay on top of trends in the graphic design industry
47. Carry a sketchbook around with you in case you get a flash of inspiration on the bus
48. Look for patterns and shapes around you that you can use in future designs
49. Never stop learning
50. Enjoy your work!