January 9, 2012

Logo design tutorial

A great logo is a powerful tool to have in your branding toolkit. But what makes a logo a great logo? Here are some tips I have learned from others and some which I have learned the hard way:

Tip #1 – Research the Competition

Some logos are great...so great that your competitors are already using them. One needs to be aware of this so that his or her design can easily be distinguished from the competition. A few Google searches are often all that is necessary to avoid ambiguity.

Here are some questions to ask when one is researching logos:

  1. Why was this design chosen?
  2. Who does this logo appeal to?
  3. What does it say about the organization's market strategy?
  4. How does it serve its purpose?

Please remember that there are a lot of poorly designed logos out there. One must be discerning while he or she is researching. The competition’s logo might not work for them, and more likely, might not work for you. In these cases, it is helpful to note the reasons why the design does not work. One should learn from other's mistakes so he or she does not make them as well.

I hope you can see that a little bit of research can give you a lot of useful information. I am not suggesting that you base your design on this information alone but it should be a consideration. This step of the process is key for both designers and clients alike. One should do their own research even if the logo is being designed by another person.

Tip #2 - Start in Black & White

A logo which has been designed with this in mind can be used in more ways than other logos. One can use it in documents, receipts, as an imprint, and many more situations where colour based logos often fail. We are looking for a logo with a recognizable shape. If the shape is memorable, then one can change its colour without obscuring the logo's identity.

I had a particular reason for designing the Kid's Bible Adventure Club logo for black and white situations. I knew that the logo would be screen printed on polo shirts. Each colour used in the screen print would increase the price. A shape-based design would provide the least expensive screen print. I also knew that it can be tricky to get the colour one wants in a shirt. This logo will work in any colour on any background. For dark backgrounds, one simply replaces the black with a light colour to provide sufficient visual contrast.

Tip #3 - Design for Small Scale Situations

This has been one of my biggest challenges in logo design. A logo needs to be scalable, especially to small sizes. Text can become illegible when the logo is shrunk. Fine details are lost when it is scaled down. So what is the antidote? I will pass along some of the solutions that have worked for me.

  1. Simplify your design. Does your logo need the text or the fine details? If so, consider designing a second logo for small scale applications using a portion of your design. The two logos need to be similar enough that people recognize them as belonging to the same brand.
  2. Carefully choose the aspect ratio. Try to list all the small scale applications you may encounter. (Document headers, tags, charts, etc...) Will the width or height be the limiting factor in these situations? If the width is the issue, then make your logo narrower so that the details can be displayed larger, and vice versa. (Hint: height is often the limiting factor) A square-like logo might work best if you are unable to determine which dimension you need to compensate for.