Design a Logo – The Ultimate Guide

Articles January 11, 2008

Logo design is arguably one of the most important and valued areas of design. A quality logo design combined with the branding of an organization or company can become one of the most powerful forces in today’s society. If you love logo design as much as I do, then I am sure you will enjoy these logo design tips and resources.

LOGO DESIGN TIPS

Concepts, Concepts, Concepts!

I like to believe there’s a perfect concept out there for every project, but the hard part is finding it – or at least something close to it. The only way to do this is to brainstorm like crazy. Start looking up competitors, do Google image searches, write down keywords, do some mind mapping, and make sure you put everything down on paper! You don’t want to come up with a great idea only to forget it the next morning.

Nothing like Sketching

A lot of designers like to go straight to the computer, but the power of sketching is often underestimated. You can quickly sketch out multiple concepts and create variations to see what works and what doesn’t – in a matter of minutes. The computer will slow you down so be sure to break out the sketch pad, colored pencils, markers or whatever you prefer – and start sketching away.

Did you know? Large design companies will often sketch out dozens of pages of logo concepts before they even touch a computer mouse. Take a tip from the pros and focus on your sketches first.

Research the End Requirements

It’s always a good idea to talk to your client at the start to see what they plan on doing with the logo. Ask them if it going to just be on stationary, logo items or is it going to be on billboards and banners and such. This can help you better fine tune the logo for them to make sure it will look right in multiple instances.

Use the Most Professional Program

Although it can be tempting to use a program like Adobe Photoshop to design logos when starting out, mastering Adobe Illustrator and its pen tool will be essential if you are serious about logo design. Adobe Illustrator has a vector format that will allow your logo to be scaled up and down with no loss of quality.

Keep it Simple

In general it’s better to keep logo design simple. The main idea behind this is that you want the logo to be able to hold up well at very tiny sizes. A good test is to create a 16×16 pixel “favicon” of the logo and see how it looks. This is the smallest size the logo will probably ever be in.

Test it at Varying Sizes

Similar to the above mentioned, you should physically test the logo yourself by printing it in varying sizes. Also take a look at the logo from different distances to see how it would look on a poster, or on a t-shirt and stationary.

Test it in Multiple Colors

Clients always have different needs and different budgets and a quality logo design will be able to adapt to these circumstances and still look great. Test the logo in a variety of color printing processes, such as one-color, two-color, four-color and so on.

Test with Surrounding Text

Logos will rarely be seen totally alone, most of the time they will have taglines or other text nearby. So, why not test the logo ahead of time and see how it looks in different situations? Add a temporary tagline and see where it looks best. Justify the logo and text to the left, to the right, center it, and try out any other combinations of text and sizes.

MORE LOGO DESIGN TIPS

5 Vital Logo Design Tips

Branding Basics Create a Great Logo and Tag Line

LogoBee’s Top 10 Logo Design Tips

Paul Rand: Thoughts and Despair on Logo Design

Paul Rand – Corporate Identity Designs, Innovation and Excellence

WIKIPEDIA MUST READS

Below are some important people who helped shape identity design and typography as we know it. There are many more influential people who could be listed here, but these happen to be some of my favorites!

Paul Rand | William Caslon | Wally Olins | Aldus Manutius | Giambattista Bodoni | Max Miedinger

LOGO DESIGN INSPIRATION

If you need some inspiration for your logo design and identity design projects then check out these websites which will be sure to jump start your creative engine. Simply click the images below.

logopond.jpg

faveup.jpg

logosauce.jpg

LOGO DESIGN STUDIOS AND DESIGNERS

Similar to the logo design websites above, I find it very inspirational to view portfolios of designers and studios who produce quality work. Here are a few portfolios I came across recently:

Raja Sandhu

Raja Sandhu is a creative director living in Canada and has designed hundreds of logos. He has done work for clients such as Snoop Dogg and the State University of New York

Dache

Dache is a design studio founded by David Pache that is located in Switzerland. They have a large collection of recent logo designs that can help awaken ideas within you.

Common Brand

Common Brand is a major design studio that does branding, illustrations, flash animation website design & development, and even more. They have worked with major companies such as AOL and BMW Canada.

LOGO DESIGN BOOKS

book1.jpg book2.jpg book3.jpg book4.jpg

FREE FONT SITES

Dafont

Dafont is probably the best known free font site around. They have them all neatly organized into a variety of categories. Fonts are available for both Mac and PC, and new fonts are added on a regular basis.

Urban Fonts

Urban Fonts is another truly great site that offers free fonts. It has made its way to the top in a short amount of time. They also have free dingbats, fonts for sale and forums where you can ask questions.


 
The perfect hosting for all your apps, files, website and design and development hosting needs.

Share This Post
 Cadence Wu

Cadence is You The Designer's senior blogger, and the most jack-of-all-trades of the staff. She's always trying out something different every day, some of which fuels her posts here on the blog. Let her know if you want us to post more about your favorite topic - she might know more than a thing or two about it!

Powered by Shutterstock
  • http://sirjorge.com/blogx sir jorge

    as a designer, logos have been my worst suit, it’s hard to conceptualize logos for me.

  • Gino

    I actually enjoy logo and identity design the most. Coming up with concepts can be extremely challenging for certain company names though.

  • http://elitebydesign.com Brian

    Great post. My thing is that I have a hard time sketching things out and find myself wanting to go right to the computer. I’m trying to get away from that though.

  • http://www.aiburn.com Sean Hodge

    I love doing logos. I think its the most fun thing to design. I like designing websites also, but I find logos to be the most fun.

    @Brian – I usually do sketching first. I usually fill a page up with thumbnail size sketches. Though, I usually don’t need to scan it. Usually I can just look at it and then make the logo on screen. But sometimes it helps to scan the sketch in.

    Also, if you have a concept in your head I find that I can just go straight to the computer and make it. This often works if its something that it a composite of simple shapes. For example, I just designed a lightbulb with some abstract shapes in it for a client. I didn’t need to sketch with that one.

    Good list of tips. I think the one about communicating with the client is really important. I’ve found that some clients have an idea of what they want. It helps to design that idea and then present it in comparision to some other ideas. Also, it helps to find out the style the client is expecting. The more good information you get the more likely you are to be on target with the customer.

    Thanks.

  • http://jacobcassjustcreativedesign.com Jacob Cass

    Gino, you outline some very valid points and give good resources for logo design. Good post… oh and thanks for the link back to my guest article on David Airey. Have you got any logo books? If so what one/s?

  • Gino

    Thanks, I have the first two I listed under books in this post and the other two come highly recommended by several friends. I have a bunch of other random design books as well and I have about 12 books bookmarked that I want to buy soon, I’m gonna order a ton of books at once. =)

  • http://www.digitalrevolutions.biz Digital Revolutions

    Nice article with some great tips. Dugg.

  • http://eserrano.com/logos E. Serrano

    Great article about logo design. Many people think that a logo is just a nice picture, and forget about creating a meaningful symbol that depicts the main ideas of the customer business. That’s why communicating with the customer becomes so important.

    I totally agree about sketching: it’s the quickest way of finding out innovative ideas. Behind a simple and clean logo design there are dozens of sketches. In fact, creating something simple but meaningful at the same time is the real challenge about logo design.

  • http://www.dcrblogs.com/ dcr

    Great tips. Glad to see you recommend using a professional program, such as Illustrator, but how about a big bold discouragement of using something like Microsoft Word to design logos?

    Most professionals know better, but the aspiring designers need to hear that. Frequently.

  • http://www.sofachip.com Jessica

    In one of my art classes we had to come up with a fictional company and sketch logo after logo, for a couple hours on different days. It really helped in the end. Often the first idea you have is the simplest. If that’s what you want – that’s fine, but it’s also something that a lot of other’s might come up with first, too. If you want innovation, sparking your creativity through sketching is the best way to go.

    Oh – but there is something you can buy to attach to your computer that lets you draw on a flat screen in front of you, and it translates it as you draw to your computer monitor. Costs a pretty penny, though.

  • Dan

    Great article. Been in design for 15 years, logo design can be fun and rewarding, but depending on the brand and breif can be very challenging also.

    I’ve found over the years that, usually your first concept is the best. If you have to push it out you won’t be happy with it – good logo’s practically ‘fall out’.

    Couple of tips for aspiring designers;

    - You often have to sell your ideas to the client – good logo presentation is imperative.

    - Effective logo’s should look good in two colours.

    - Less is always more.

  • http://www.uprinting.com David S

    Definitely Dugg. I completely agree on sketching out logos and any design concept for that matter. We have a policy here that no mouse (or Wacom tablet) is ever touched until a clear concept is sketched out on paper.

    There’s something about that direct connection between the pen and hand that just triggers creativity when you’re developing concepts.

    From my experience, it also helps to start in black and white. Adding color treatment only after the final concepts are ready keeps you focused on the logo design.

    I would recommend a book called “Designing Corporate Identity” by Pat Matson Knapp. It shows you real case studies of identity design projects and walks you through the process. It’s a great book, published by the best, Rockport.

    On a side note, I personally believe logo and identity design are very specialized fields. If it’s not a designer’s forte, they should definitely work with someone who’s good at it. There’s nothing like team work in a creative projects. Plus, specializing helps position you as an authority in your field.

  • http://www.fubiz.net Fubiz

    Thanks for the good tips!

  • http://www.mlvdigital.com Dave

    I agree with the fact that “less is always more” and you don’t want the logo to be too busy. The push/pull comes from clients who want that, but you have to be disciplined enough to help them along the way.

  • depe

    Well you guys, you should try to read Andrew Glassner’s Logo Design published at Siggraph 98′.
    That is what should be called “How to make your logo”

  • http://www.thegraphicmac.com Jim

    Here’s a few more tips for designing logos I wrote about 6 months ago. They’re a great complement to what you’ve posted here.

  • http://logosauce.com David Vaassen

    Don’t forget us over at Logosauce.com.

    Logo inspiration, information and competition.

    At Logosauce you can run a competition and get concepts and finished designs from hundreds of logo designers around the world.

    Check it out at http://www.logosauce.com

  • http://www.gunnarandreassen.com Gunnar andreassen

    Perfect. Thanks for the tips! :-)

  • http://nubloo.com Nubloo

    Not bad, this delivers the essential basics. Especially good advice is sketching something before you start on the screen.

    I don’t know a single professional NOT starting with a simple sheet of paper! You might want to look at this article I wrote back in July 07: http://nubloo.com/design/the-sheet-vs-the-screen

  • http://www.samegarr.com Sam

    I also love designing logos and find the books ‘los logos’ ‘dos logo’s and ‘tres logos’ are a great source of inspiration.

  • http://www.ihatetomatoes.net Peter

    Simple is the best. Good logo usually means good website. I hate to design website for someone who’s logo is crap.

  • http://www.ne14design.co.uk Nigel

    Some great logo design tips. I highly recommend the ‘logo lounge’ set of books; excellent for inspiration!

  • JadedSilver

    This is great stuff. I love designing logos! I’ve been frustrated… ?? how do you get clean lines for images on color backgrounds? I get very pixelated and white outlines. Very frustrated! (both illustrator & photoshop)

    Thanks for your help!

  • nilesh

    thanks for such great article

  • Lalalalalalala

    mhmmm T___T
    wahhhta article .

  • panerdante

    Wowwww…Great inspiration..Nice picz..I try to follow your tips and the process and maybe I can design my own logo..

  • http://www.creative-web-designer.com/ Sydney Web Design

    Hi, awesome article, i’m designing a few logos right now so this was great inspiration for me. I posted a link to this article in my own article “7 secrets of great logo design”
    My Web Design Blog http://www.scottydonald.com

  • tammy

    I’m studing at the moment at a Design college in SA. My problem is I would came up with 4 dif designs and my teacher would say its crap or change it. It realy fustrats me is there a right way and a wrong way to logo’s? Thanx Tammy :)

  • http://gmail.com rohit

    i want to design a logo of my news service ‘ news on mobile’
    News can be throught sms or live news.

    if any body can help me thast will be a great help.

    Thanks

  • Shada

    Thanks 4 that useful info about logos….

  • Shada

    I have an exam in designing a logo!! wish me luck

  • http://www.sketchee.com Sketchee

    These are such great tips. It’s so important to have a fitting logo that is versatile and professional.

  • http://www.rm2media.net mack

    Well written! I’ve been doing logos for around 4 years – in and out. And this is partly due to the fact that I’m not a designer by trade. I’m doing sysadmin work. And doing logos is – you could say – my hobby. Then recently I’ve decided to do it full time (well, not technically) but I’m devoting more time to it.

    I’m using Xara and not Adobe Illustrator. If you think my tool of choice is kinda “weird”, well I’m open to suggestions :).

    Again thanks for putting this article. A worthy resource.

  • YouTheDesigner Fan

    Great job, thanks for this guide I can use it for sure!

  • http://www.60minutelogo.com Rich Loeffler

    You are correct, a great logo starts with sketching, jumping on the computer too soon is a sure way to a weak logo design

  • http://new-logo.co.uk/ Matt – New-Logo.co.uk

    This is a great post you have provide an excellent level of depth in within the article with some most helpful advice. Thank you for sharing such an excellent logo design article.

  • zhang yi

    Thank you for the advice! Really helps!

  • http://www.kombainas.com/portfolio Dizainas

    I think there should be mentioned that a good logo is a foundation of the whole visual system. Always keep in mind that all the other design elements arise from the logo.

  • http://none Bernal Aguilar

    Hi.. I have a question. Here in Guatemala when you design a logo usually we make a indentity manual.. in which we give 2 logos (color and black/white) with a description of the logo.. uses, rules and color codes (rgb, cymk, pantone)…

    Do you guys usually do that when a customer request a logo? or just the logo?

  • http://www.mintwebng.com Ayo

    Good hint and well broken down. Thanks for the effort

  • http://www.dollarlogodesign.com Logo Design Guy

    I think Raja Sandhu is one of the best. I have been a fan of his work for a while. Surprised you mentioned him as his site is not that main stream. If you want a laugh checkout his FAQ section.

  • http://logotivo.com logotivo

    very useful, thanks

  • http://www.impactlogos.com.au Luke Southwell

    Same here. I also have a hard time sketching tho it was fun cos I love challenges… red this one & it has a great point: A simple logo design allows for easy recognition and allows the logo to be versatile & memorable. Good logos feature something unexpected or unique without being overdrawn.

  • http://www.studiologo.pl projektant

    nice list, thx

  • www.destinycontest.com

    wonderful , thanks for tips

  • http://www.colorexpertsbd.com/ Jenifer Jeny

    Great ! Great !! Great !!! Much appreciated your tips, multiple colors, varying sizes and specially professional thinking helps to make a logo stunning. Really that’s a great concept sharing with ingenious.

  • Bruce Morris

    I want to say only word for this blog JUST AWESOME.
    Really Appreciated.
    Your Articles
    Your Guideness Help Me.

  • Daniel Taylor

    Really a helpful guide to design a logo.