Previously on the CogitActive Saga:
It would be probably wise to trust a talented designer for the development of my logo (for it not to look amateurish). Not in my budget, though!
In its basic form, a logo is a unique symbol that an audience can identify a brand with. At the same time, a well-designed logo has the power to communicate what you stand for – quickly and effectively. When it comes to branding, getting a great logo comes with a lot of responsibility. It’s an essential part of a brand visual identity.
Deciding on a logo is one of the most important decision you’ll make as a founder/owner. It’s an important design element that needs to be done right the first time.Tina Lombardo
Designing an effective logo is more than just creating an appealing visual. Similarly, conceptualizing design ideas requires more than just a little thought and creativity. Certainly, translating the essence of a brand into a single, simple – yet aesthetically enticing – image requires a complex mixture of design skills, creative theory and skillful application. It also involves a lot of research, and thoughtful consideration of the principles of logo design.
To tackle such a complex challenge, it would be wise to hire a professional. However, here is the thing:
hiring a professional logo designer can range between $50 – $100,000 and you should not hire someone just because of his or her bargain price1. Indeed, while
hiring a freelancer is quick, easy, and cheap, according to Tina Lombardo,
it really is a gamble.
DO NOT cheapen out on the most important piece graphic your company will ever possess and embody.Tina Lombardo
In keeping with this idea, any designer will advise against designing your logo yourself – even if you have a good eye for color and a sense of what you want your logo to look like. In spite of this sound advice, I decided to go down the DIY route (see I will need graphics – part 2). Now, I am not a graphic designer. Therefore, it was essential first to learn about creating a logo, from the concept stage to the final product.
Defining your identity
Your (business) name will affect your logo design, but your brand identity should also be captured in your logo. Therefore, the first step before you even start the design process is to define what you do or who you are. Importantly, you have to pinpoint what makes you special, different, and unique. You also need to step outside of what you do and convey why you do it.
Your logo should be an authentic expression of what differentiates you and what makes the way your brand approaches things unique.Jessica Koffman
What is your story?
While the initial research stage should help drive your design process, you will still need to get inspired. Of course, you may seek inspiration by looking at other logos, but anything that stands out or appeals to you (beyond logo design) is a potential root of an awesome idea.
Having a mission statement – or keywords that best capture your brand – will be an asset. Still, you will need inspiration to translate these concepts into your design. Brainstorms and/or mood boards may prove handy to crystallize the associations linked to your brand. However, your story may be a greater source of inspiration.
Now, bringing your story to life will be challenging; yet, your logo should relate directly to it. Staying true to your story (while creating your logo) can be just what you need to pin down the look and feel you are trying to achieve.
Articulating the message you want your logo to convey is an essential step. The clearer you get on what your brand is all about,
the better you’ll be able to communicate that through your logo design2. This will also help you to make design choices that complement and complete your message.
Understanding the basics
Before you even begin designing the logo itself, it is important to determine how you want people to perceive your brand. There are different kinds of logo, each giving a different feel, and it is essential to pick the right one. Besides, your choice will help guide your decisions on the other elements of your design.
From logo styles …
In her How to design a logo: the ultimate guide article3, Antonia Zimmerlich lists five different styles:
- Retro or vintage
- Modern and minimalist
- Fun and quirky
- Handmade and handcrafted
Clearly, each style has a general encompassing feel and emotive response to it. Accordingly,
there is no one style that is right for everyone3. For instance, according to her,
a classic style tells people that you are reliable and down to earth3, while vintage-style logos
evoke romantic feelings of nostalgia3.
… to logo types
This classification is more documented than the overall style; yet, there is apparently no consensus on the number of types. It is not clear whether there are three, five, seven, or even more of them; however, what matters is to understand that each type has unique advantages. Briefly, here are five of the main categories:
Emblems (e.g. Starbucks) are apparently good at conveying a sense of tradition and/or longevity.
Wordmarks (e.g. Google) may be a good decision if you need to get your name out there, as long as it is short enough.
Lettermarks (e.g. CNN) can be great to streamline your logo, especially if your name is very long or hard to remember.
Pictorial marks (e.g. Apple) are clean-cut and easy to remember, but can be a tricky type for new companies.
Abstract logo marks (e.g. Nike) allow creating something truly unique without relying on a real-word image.
As suggested by Antonia Zimmerlich,
you can pick the one that suits your company name or overall aesthetic best, or combine them to create something unique3. Actually, this suggestion corresponds to a sixth category, namely combination marks. As the name implies, this type combines the wordmark with a symbol, both items being laid out side-by-side, stacked on top of each other, or integrated together to create an image.
While initially used in combination for people to associate both items with your brand, you may be able to rely exclusively on the symbol once this association is established. Being the best of several words and a versatile choice, it is no surprise that combination mark is the most popular type (see below example).
The pieces of the puzzle
A logo consists of many different elements and the one
you choose to incorporate into your logo will say a lot about your brand2. Not only is it important to
choose wisely2, but also to know how to pair them in a harmonious way.
Color can be a powerful tool in any logo design; it will communicate the essence of your brand. Indeed, colors have certain emotions and ideas attached to them and you can use those associations to your advantage. However, the psychology behind color is complex and colors mean different things in different contexts. At the end of the day,
choosing the right colors requires a mix of science and intuition4.
It’s helpful to reference color psychology in your design process, but ultimately what matters is whether or not people feel something when they look at your logo.Alessandro Tersigni
when it comes to incorporating color into your logo, less is more2. It is better not to exceed three colors. In addition, an effective logo works in color AND in black and white. Specifically, the design should not rely on colors, and for this reason, it is actually best to start working on it in black and white.
If you incorporate graphics in your logo, be aware that shapes, like colors, pack a lot of meaning. For example, sharp and angular shapes are perceived as more intimidating than round soft ones. Moreover, many shapes have specific culture meaning (e.g. the shape of a heart). Hence, the shapes you incorporate into your design will be an intrinsic component of the story you want it to convey.
In keeping with shape psychology, the graphics should not be too literal; they should suggest an idea rather than literally depicting it. Thus, it is critical to avoid clip arts or clichés. Besides, a logo should be unique and original and the more abstract the mark, the more enduring it can become.
Last, but not least, you don’t have to depict a shape for it to be seen. The human brain automatically completes the missing parts, combining positive and negative space in closure to form a whole. Used cleverly and appropriately, negative space can actually add extra meaning into a logo design.
The implications of colors and shapes extend to the typography chosen. Indeed, like colors,
fonts evoke a wide range of feelings4 and
can be just as impactful as the graphics4. Not only is choosing the right typeface a critical part of the logo design process, but it is important
to pick a font that complements and completes your logo3. To accomplish this, you can decide on a more traditional serif, a more modern sans serif, a cursive handwriting (i.e. script) or a unique display font.
However, if you incorporate fonts into your logo design, they must be distinctive (and you should not use more than two). Besides, custom typography can add a unique twist to fit the tone of the brand.
Designing a logo that looks like it was created using Microsoft Office Suite drastically degrades your professionalism.Alessandro Tersigni
The principles of logo design
Everything about your logo, including color, choice of typography, icon, overall style, and illustrative elements has meaning.Jessica Koffman
Indeed, creating a logo is much more than just putting some colors, shapes and fonts together. It demands critical thinking, creative input, and to observe some principles:
An effective logo is unique, sensible, visually enticing, and delivers its intended message. . . However intricate or time-consuming the design process gets, the end product must always be simple to understand, memorable, enduring, versatile, and appropriate.Igor Ovsyannykov
While these principles should be considered individually, it is also true that they relate to each other. For instance, the simpler a logo design, the more memorable it will be. Simplicity is also key for versatility.
In keeping with versatility, a logo should work across various media and within different contexts. In particular, every part of your logo should be legible, regardless of the logo’s size or color. In addition, it is worthwhile to have logo color variations for both dark and light backgrounds.
As formulated by Alessandro Tersigni,
designing an effective logo can be a precarious process that depends on many different factors4. Furthermore, creating a logo is a labor-intensive process requiring countless hours of research and revisions. While the principles of logo help guide the development of effective logos, they cannot substitute for inspiration.
I have barely covered the basics about logos in this article, and I am aware that truly mastering all aspects of the craft will take time. For sure, creating my logo will be tricky!
One last thing: since it is essential the logo looks the same in all sizes, it is standard practice when designing a logo to use vector graphics.
Coming next: vector graphics
1 If you decide to hire a logo designer, you may want to consider reading this article by Tina Lombardo on the subject matter. She describes several options available from going with an agency to hiring a freelancer to creating an online contest. Clearly, the cost for the first option will be high, but according to her, this is your best bet
if you must have the best of the best and cannot compromise on quality. ^
2 Deanna deBara (2019) Logos for beginners. Canva. ^
3 Antonia Zimmerlich (2019) How to design a logo: the ultimate guide. 99designs. ^
4 Alessandro Tersigni (2018) Ten Steps to Creating A Personal Logo That Stands Out. Format. ^