10 Tips for Designing Logos That Don’t Suck

So you’re designing a logo. It sounds like an easy enough
task, right? Draw a circle, type in the company name and you’re
done (I’ve literally heard a designer suggest that very process).
Unfortunately, if you’re really worth the money the client is
paying you, there’s a lot more to it than that.

There are a million people in the logo design industry today
dishing out crappy logos in bulk for crowdsourcing sites. How do
you as a serious professional stand out from the crowd and produce
quality logos that don’t suck? Read on to find out.

Are you in the middle of a logo design project? Don’t forget
to check out our in-depth guide on how to design a
logo
!

Pro Tip: Use a Logo Template

If you’re looking for a quick start with a logo design,
experimenting with a logo template can be
a great initial step. It can help give you a starting point for
your logo design, on which you can build and adapt.

Envato Elements has a collection of
over 6,000 logo templates
that you can access for a low monthly
price of $17 (as well as icons, photos, graphic templates, and
more). Here are a few of our favorites!


1. Use a Visual Double Entendre

Some of my favorite logos in the world utilize a technique that
I like to call a visual double entendre, which is an overly fancy
way to say that it has two pictures wrapped into one through clever
interpretation of a concept or idea.

The WinePlace logo
below is a perfect example.

This logo takes on the shape of a thumbtack, which suggests
“location” or “place,” but it also clearly looks like an
upside down wine glass. Logo designs that use this technique come
off as clever and memorable. Viewers love the little mind game that
you’re playing and are more prone to appreciate a design because
of it.

In the past, we’ve put together a post of clever
negative space logos
like the one below. Check it out if you
love this type of logo design as much as I do!

2. Color is Vitally Important

One of the most important considerations for logo design is the
color palette. This is not a superficial decision, color carries
meanings and communicates ideas.

Sometimes you’re pegged to the colors of a brand, but other
times you’ll have the freedom to explore. I love the rich palette
used in the Zion logo below.

The colors here grab you and pull you in, they bring life to the
illustration and give further context to the shape of the
landscape. That being said, remember that a good logo is versatile
and will still function well in grayscale:

Beyond a grayscale version, I like to also provide clients with
a true single color version, using only black and negative space.
This would be a little tricky with the logo above, but definitely
possible.

Always consider what it is that the logo will be used for and
whether or not the various use cases require different
versions.

3. Avoid the Cliché

Every few years or so, some new fads come along in logo design.
I personally love to study design trends and you might even find me
suggesting jumping onto a few bandwagons to keep up with the times,
but with logos, I just hate it when a bunch of designers use the
same idea over and over.

The basic archetype above is being used again and again in logo
design right now and it’s getting old fast. Why not use a design
that you actually thought up yourself rather than ripping off what
everyone else is doing?

We have an entire article dedicated to showcasing
logo design clichés
, be sure to check it out to make sure
you’re not guilty of uninspired logo design.

4. Make it Ownable

I don’t believe that “ownable” is a real word, but you
nevertheless hear it quite a bit in marketing (marketers love to
make up words). The concept is definitely an important one that
ties closely to the previous tip.

Rather than following the herd and using a cliché design, you
should instead strive for something that is uniquely recognizable.
I’ve always appreciated the Evernote logo in this regard:

It’s really just an elephant head, which doesn’t sound like
a very unique concept. However, the way it’s drawn with the
curled trunk and page fold in the ear makes it instantly
recognizable.

As you’re designing logos, consider whether or not your design
is generic or unique. Is it likely that others will produce
something similar? Remember, your first idea is typically your most
generic (it’s also everyone else’s first idea). Try filling a
notebook page or two with some rough sketches before choosing which
ideas to pursue further.

5. Everybody Loves Custom Type

While we’re on the subject of being unique, there’s almost
nothing that can give your logo a unique feel quite like some
awesome custom lettering.

Too often we see logo design as simply a trip to the font menu
to see which typeface makes the company name look best. If someone
is paying you to “design” their logo, they probably expect you
to put a little more effort into it.

Too often we see logo design as simply a trip to the font
menu.

Custom type helps to ensure that your unique logo will stay that
way. Lowlife designers will rip off your work in a heartbeat if
they discover which typeface you’re using, but it takes some real
skill to mimic custom hand-drawn type!

Keep in mind though that if your logo is famous enough, people
will always try to rip it off. This certainly holds true for my
favorite script logo:

The awesome Coca-Cola script has been stolen countless times in
awkward parodies throughout the last few decades.

6. Keep it Simple Stupid

Let’s face it, not everyone can bust out a beautiful,
hand-drawn script on a whim. Just because you’re a designer
doesn’t mean you’re an awesome illustrator or typographer
(though it helps). If you fit this description, fear not, there’s
nothing preventing you from making awesome logos.

In this situation, remember these four powerful words: keep it
simple stupid! Simple but powerful logos permeate the business
world and always prove to be the best icons for standing the test
of time.

In considering how to construct one of these types of logos,
let’s discuss the Apple logo. The silhouette of an apple is
nothing special or memorable:

It’s that missing bite that takes it to the next level. It
gives the logo character, makes it unique, and drives the meaning
deeper (computers and bytes, get it?). Without the bite, the apple
is boring, with it, the apple is suddenly iconic.

Always think about how you can go that extra mile and turn your
boring logos into unmistakable brand marks.

7. Consider Proportion & Symmetry

Some people can get carried away with discussions of proportion
and symmetry (see the new Pepsi logo pitch), but if we strip out
the crazy, there’s still some important lessons here. Consider
the new Twitter logo as an example:

Here circles aren’t used to convince you of some strange
cosmic tale that makes no sense, they’re simply used as a guide
to create a well balanced logo with consistent curves and arcs.

Despite the fact that the bite seems to violate the symmetry of
the Apple logo above, if we dig deeper we can see that there was
still a lot of through put into proportion and symmetry here
(image
source
):

8. Think About Negative Space

Along the same vein as a double entendre is the age-old trick of
utilizing the negative space in a logo in some clever way. The
industry standard example of this technique is the FedEx logo and
its hidden arrow.

Don’t see it yet? Keep looking, it’s there. That’s what I
love about this logo, the use of negative space is so subtle. Most
people in the U.S. see the FedEx logo daily or weekly for years as
it drives by on the side of countless trucks and they never even
notice the arrow.

Logopond
is chock full of great logo designs that utilize negative space in
a cool way. Check out the example below, which blends together the
idea of bull horns and a wine glass.

9. Passive vs. Active

One interesting facet of logo design that I’ve been
considering a lot lately is the concept of instilling motion or a
sense of activity into a logo. This isn’t always appropriate
(such as with the Apple logo), but sometimes it can really give a
logo the boost it needs, both from a visual and conceptual
standpoint.

As an example, let’s look again to the Twitter logo. Way back
in the early days, the bird went from sitting perched and passive
to becoming active and taking flight.

In the most recent iteration, they took this concept even
further by pointing the bird in an upward direction to indicate
that it’s climbing into the air rather than floating along the
same old trajectory.

A sense of motion is especially important when it comes to logos
with mascots. The image of the marlin below doesn’t depict the
fish merely lying still, instead, it’s leaping into the air in a
victorious pose.

screenshot

This concept even extends to typically inanimate objects.
Consider how much better the logo below portrays the concept of
“rough house” by instilling a sense of motion.

screenshot

10. Know What it Means

It’s great when you as a designer can show a client how much
thought and reasoning went into the logo that you produced for
them.

Every good logo has a story. Far beyond simply a pretty sketch,
strong logos are filled with meaning, both obvious and hidden. We
discussed this in several cases above. The FedEx logo’s arrow
indicates moving forward and making deliveries, the Apple logo has
a “byte” missing, and the Twitter bird is flying in an upward
trajectory.

Half the time I wonder if logo designers don’t come up with
the meaning after the logo is already produced, but regardless,
it’s great when you as a designer can show a client how much
thought and reasoning went into the logo that you produced for
them.

Clients might think that all they want is something fresh and
cool, but if you instead provide a logo that ties into the
company’s core values and mission, you’ll blow their minds and
they’ll love you for it.

If you’re into hidden logo meanings, check out our post titled
Five
Fascinating Things You Didn’t Know About Famous Car
Logos
.”

Do Your Logos Suck?

Now that you’ve read our tips for designing logos that don’t
suck, leave a comment below and let us know what you think of your
own work in this area.

Are you an awesome logo designer or is it something that you
struggle with? Which of the tips above are useful to you and what
tips can you offer to other designers?

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