15 Logo Design Tips for the Real World

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While I have experienced both successes and failures as a designer, one thing is for sure, I have certainly learnt a lot along the way. To impart some of this knowledge, in this post, you will find fifteen useful logo design tips.

1. It all starts with the brief

Okay, this first one is really a given. Building a comprehensive design brief upfront is vital to the success of a logo design project. It will become your point of reference throughout the project, ensuring that requirements are understood and everything stays on track

Some clients may be reluctant to provide enough detail in the brief – dismissing its importance. When you encounter this problem, it is important not to give up and proceed with a half-baked brief. Educate your client on the importance of the brief and follow-up for more infomation until satisfied. Its not always easy, but well worth the effort.

A weak brief will almost always lead to a weak logo.

2. Its a problem solving exercise

Approach each logo design project as a problem solving exercise. Research your clients’ background and market. Put on your analytical thinking cap.

Some clients say that they ‘just need a logo’, but this is rarely the case. Dig deeper. What is the purpose of the logo? Who does it need to appeal to? What is the clients goal and how can I help them achieve it?

Advise and guide your client with your expertise. Design is your problem solving tool.

3. Simple = Memorable

As a rule of thumb, simple logos are usually more memorable. Think Nike, Apple, McDonalds, etc. A memorable logo will also aid brand recognition.

4. Subtract, don’t add

Carrying on from the last point, good logo design is typically a process of reduction. When designing a logo, don’t think, what can I add to this design to make it better? Instead think, what can I reduce from this design to make it more memorable?

5. Sketch, sketch, and sketch again

It is usually best to start with pen and paper before moving to the computer. Ideas tend to come easier while drawing freehand. Perhaps it is our primal connection with drawing (random: humans have been drawing for an estimated 32,000 years), or perhaps there is simply less tendency to become distracted. It’s likely both.

6. Avoid the obvious

A logo does not have to say what a company does. For example, a logo for a dentist does not have to feature a tooth. Due to overuse, these types of logos have become clichés, and are usually best avoided.

Instead of depicting what a company does in a logo, concentrate on developing a meaningful concept. Analyse how your client got to be where they are and where they want to be. Look for messages that will resonate with their audience.

7. Focus on one concept, maybe two

Regarding the number of logo concepts designed, less is usually more.

It’s invariably more effective to develop one or two really strong ideas with your client, then to produce five or six watered down concepts.

8. Don’t follow logo trends

Trends come and go and really should be avoided at all costs. Logo design should be timeless.

It’s both unfair and unprofessional to burden a client with a logo that’s likely go out of fashion in a few short months or years.

9. Take your time

Rushed logos are seldom good logos. Logo design is a process of weeks (often months), not days. While it is understandable that some clients have tight deadlines, expectations should be kept realistic.

Allow sufficient time to research your client and explore all possible avenues.

If possible, also budget enough time to step away from a logo project for a few days. More often than not you will return to it with a completely new perspective.

10. Seek client feedback

Right from the outset, actively seek feedback from your client and include them in the creative process. This ensure that all parties understand the direction of the project and no time is spent exploring wasted concepts.

A client who feels invested in the process is much more likely to approve the final design.

11. Design in black and white

Design a logo in black and white until you’re satisfied with the basic form of the design. Don’t rely on colour or effects to enhance a poorly conceived concept.

12. Don’t compare yourself to other designers

Logo gallery and inspiration sites are full of highly rated logos that weren’t designed for the real world. Comparing your own logos against these sites is short-sighted.

While a particular logo may look impressive, unless it was designed for a client, its just a pretty picture.

Do you own thing. Design for your client (and their audience), not your portfolio.

13. Think identity, not just logo

Even if your client doesn’t request it, consider how a logo could be utilised as part of an overall identity system. Not only will this usually lead to the development of a more adaptable design, if/when your client grows, the logo will have the flexibility to grow with them.

14. Don’t neglect typography

Type selection shouldn’t be an afterthought. Choosing the right font can either make or break a logo.

Its usually better to avoid poorly made free fonts. Money invested in great typefaces can really make a huge difference to the quality of your work.

15. Present logo concepts in context

When presenting logo concepts to clients include context mock-ups. Choose appropriate images for your client, be it business cards or billboards. Photoshop is your friend in this instance.

Not only will it look impressive, but it will also help your client visualise how the logo will look in the real world. This is often enough to seal the deal.

Do you have anything else to add? Please share your opinion in the comments section below.

Image Credit

  • http://twitter.com/JinDesigns Jinny Ursell

    Great post here. Number 12 is very true. There are some great logos out there but I often wonder if they have featured anywhere else other than on the designer’s screen. And you’re right, sometimes you do have to stop comparing yourself to other designers. It’s the client’s opinion that matters. If you can get that right, it doesn’t really matter what the rest of the design world think.

    Thanks Logobird for sharing these tips.

    • http://www.logobird.com Duane Kinsey

      Thanks Jinny, very glad to see you stopping the blog again.

  • http://twitter.com/GreenInkStudio InkaMathew

    I disagree with #3. Simple is not always memorable. A lot of maximalist logos out there that are actually memorable too. Starbucks is one of them. Unilever is another.

    • http://www.logobird.com Duane Kinsey

      Point taken Inka, however the memorability of those logos was also helped along by massive marketing budgets.

  • Anonymous

    interesante

  • Anonymous

    What are the rules when you’re competing against the client’s seventeen year old neighbor who got Photoshop as a birthday present last year?

    • http://www.logobird.com Duane Kinsey

      Good question, but personally I couldn’t give a damn about the client’s seventeen year old neighbor.

      If a prospective client doesn’t want a professional to do the job, that is their prerogative. While I will attempt to convince them otherwise, at the end of the day, its their business and they can do what they choose.

      I am only interested in working with clients who understand (or are willing to understand) the value of professional design. Its as simple as that.

      • Anonymous

        You make a very valid point Duane. Perhaps, as a different topic, you might share your thoughts on how this growing number of unprofessional “competitors” is effecting market dynamics and deflating the perceived value (quality/cost) of truly professional work. You might even include how “crowd sourcing” is also changing how the world does business.

        • http://www.josephblalock.com Joseph Blalock

          DrDeadline, I would say that the difference between the professionals and the 17-year-old neighbor with Illustrator and a computer comes down to strategic thought. I believe that #2 in this list is the most important. Everything else is table steaks. That’s the exact problem with these “logo factories” that will simple replace the name on a pre-made logo. Where’s the strategy? Where’s the problem solving?

          As Duane mentioned, there are clients who understand and don’t (or won’t) understand the value of strategy versus a few shapes thrown together with a gradient applied behind it. That being said, it is also our job as designers to help educate our clients to the best of our abilities, and as Duane mentioned, their willingness.

          • Anonymous

            Joseph, well put. Educating clients to better value what true design professionals bring to the table has been part of the landscape for us all for decades. However, changing market dynamics are causing a steep decline in the number of prospective clients willing to consider and appreciate a serious (strategic) approach (let alone bear the cost with a smile on their face and a thank you on their lips).

            My real concern is how do we turn that decline around before we find ourselves fighting over deck chairs on the Titanic?

          • http://www.josephblalock.com Joseph Blalock

            Hard to say. I guess market demand goes where it will. I agree—how do we stay on top of it? I know one thing—it’s not a matter of relevance, but we know that.

          • Anonymous

            Joseph, you’re right… I believe “we” are relevant and that the years of talent and experience we bring to every project deserves to be recognized, respected and willingly compensated for just like any other professional.

            A personal opinion: I believe most of the design associations and groups have become a bit inbred and have lost sight of how they can positively impact the very community their members serve. I quit going to those self-congratulatory back patting meetings… maybe it’s partially my fault the group’s missions have strayed.

            I should have stuck around and and made a difference… for all of us.

        • http://www.logobird.com Duane Kinsey

          I had thought about putting together a similar article, but thought it had already been done to death. Maybe its time to rethink.

          • Anonymous

            It’s been a while since I read an article on the topic written from the point-of-view of someone who is in the trenches every day. I think you’d make an excellent job of it and that your “fans” would help push it deeper into the community. Go ahead, please, ruffle some feathers and wake a few people up!

  • http://www.theraisak.com/ Theraisa K

    There’s lots of great advice here. I agree, it is almost always better to get the client involved from the start not only actively in the design process but also keeping them educated about the process itself. I find today too many people want things done so quickly that they don’t stop to think about the importance of the long term impact of the design or logo.

  • http://twitter.com/aslammemon aslammemon

    a good point made about typography, its a very essential part of the logo design

  • http://toeleven.wordpress.com/ Jayson

    I agree with all of this except the color advice. I’ve seen some great color logos that I am not sure would work as black and white, especially if color is the main part of the concept.

  • http://ibrandstudio.com Eko S

    Very useful tips, thanks

  • allisou

    I agree with your tips but… I work at a design company where they want logos from today to yesterday (1-2 days), and no only one… but four or five proposals… for every designer.

    Even when we try to change these problems, our boss (the CEO can I say) tends to fall in the same over and over again. Not only we have concern about the client that want his logo right away but for the boss who want to get rid of the project quickly :(

    (I don’t speak english, sorry for the mistakes)

    • http://www.logobird.com Duane Kinsey

      No problem Allisou, your English is fine. My advice would be to find a new job if possible. From the sounds of it, things wont change where you are.

  • http://www.hendersoniandesign.com Ian Henderson

    These are great tips! Nice to be reminded of the fundamentals of logo design in world that now expects instant results. I especially agree with the tips on “Simple = Memorable” and “Design in Black and White”. If the logo is too complex, it will not reproduce in small sizes well. I run into this all the time when some association’s logo has to be included in small size on a client’s ad. Some of these logos suffer greatly at that scale. And if your logo only works in color, but your client decides to buy ad space in a publication and only wants to pay for a black and white ad, then your logo won’t have the impact it should. Thanks Logobird.

    • http://www.logobird.com Duane Kinsey

      Thanks Ian, good points there as well.

  • Josh Hayes

    To me, No #4 is the tip most overlooked these days.

    • http://www.logobird.com Duane Kinsey

      I would probably have to agree with you there Josh.

  • http://www.graphicdesignboss.com GraphicDesignBoss

    Nice post Duane! I discovered you today.

    I’m a fellow Melburnian who blogs about my experience as a graphic designer.

    I grew up in the UK and I think number 15 resonates strongly with me. Good typography can make an average logo a good logo!

    I also start with a pen and paper. Only when I think I’ve got a couple of good ideas do I then hop onto my mac. I don’t need a moleskin and a fancy pen. Cheap and cheerful does it for me!

    • http://www.logobird.com Duane Kinsey

      Cheap and cheerful certainly does the job. Thanks for stopping by mate.

  • http://blog.arenacreative.com/ Arena Creative Stock Imagery

    Subtract, don’t add – that was one I had a problem with at first but definitely came with maturity and more experience. Less is more

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  • http://www.robertogadotti.it Roberto G.

    really, a good article.

    • http://www.logobird.com Duane Kinsey

      Thanks Roberto. Checked out your portfolio and I must say it is quite impressive! Appreciate you stopping by.

  • http://twitter.com/deseyner Lisa Raymond

    Great post! You suggest in point #6 to avoid the obvious. I’d be interested in learning your opinion of the new 7Up logo, which, in my opinion, points to the obvious. Thanks!

  • http://rolling-webdesign.com Theo

    Short and to the point, very useful article, thanks!

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  • Chetaru

    Hi….

    Thanks for sharing this information and resources ith us its
    really help full for me with the  help of
    this we can improve our designs and development I really inspire with this
    information thanks

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  • www.destinycontest.com

    thanks for the tips , i really like it

  • designsift

    Really great tutorials for good logo desings
    thanks

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  • http://twitter.com/TrulyAceDesign TrulyAceDesign

    A great blog offering fantastic guidance for designers, I particularly like the ‘what can I reduce from this design to make it better’ tip.

    The best designs are always simple I totally agree, but it can be such a challenge to create something simple that does not tread on the toes of another brand out there.

    One of your other best tips is involving the client. An involved client (before you even start designing) equals a happy client at the end of the process and does also prevent time wasting and makes for a far more efficient (ie profitable) project. I wouldn’t be afraid to speak your mind though and offer them your experience, you’re the designer after all :)

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