10 Tips For Creating A Logo That Doesn’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 crowd sourcing 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.

1. Use a Visual Double Entendre

Some of my favorite logos in the business world utilize an interesting technique that we 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 of this technique.

Wine Place Logo

This simple but effective 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 utilize this technique come off as clever and memorable. Viewers love the intelligence that you suggest they have with the mind game that you’re playing and are more prone to appreciate your design because of it.

We found this post of fifty fantastically clever logos like the one below. Check it out if you love this type of logo design as much as I do!

Spartan Golf Club

2. Color is Vitally Important

Remember that one of the most important considerations for your 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.

Zion Logo Color

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:

Zion Logo BW

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, so keep this in mind.

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

3. Please… Avoid the Cliché

Every few years or so, some new “cool” fads come along in logo design. We at RLS personally love to study design trends and you might even find me suggesting jumping onto a few bandwagons to keep up with the times! Like any market you need to be careful with logos, we just hate it when a bunch of designers use the same idea over and over. Boring, and you won’t stay out from the crowd!

Hipster Logo

Check out the design above. This basic archetype above is being used again and again in logo design right now and it’s getting old very quickly.

“Why not use a design that you actually thought up yourself rather than ripping off what everyone else is doing?”

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

4. You Must Make it Ownable

So, maybe “ownable” isn’t an actual word, but you will no doubt hear it often 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:

Evernote Logo

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 your logo, try and consider whether or not your design is generic or unique. How likely is it that others will produce something similar? Remember, your first idea is typically your most generic (it’s also everyone else’s first idea). We recommend filling a notebook page or two with some rough sketches before choosing which ideas to pursue further. You’ll be amazed at how preparing this way can help your quality control.

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. We love custom fonts, but you have to be about simply relying on a custom font for your logo.

Frisky Goat Logo

Too often people that are new to designing logos see it as simply a trip to the font menu to see which typeface makes the company name look best. If someone were paying you to “design” their logo, they would probably expect you to put a little more effort into it. So do it!

“Too often we see logo design as simply a trip to the font menu to see which typeface makes the company name look best, but great logo creation is more involved than that!” – J. Hanlon (RL Studios)

The benefit of a custom type is that it helps 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:

Coca Cola Logo

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

Christ Church Coke Logo

6. Keep it Simple Stupid

Ok, let’s face it, not everyone can bust out 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. We can always help if you need us! We create awesome logos daily!

When you are a do-it-yourselfer, you must remember these four powerful words: keep it simple stupid!

The key is this: simple but powerful!

Simple but powerful logos permeate the business world and always prove to be the best icons for standing the test of time.

Apple Nike Logos

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:

Apple without bite logo

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.

Once you create your logo idea, always stop a minute to think about how you can go that extra mile and turn your logo into an unmistakable brand mark.

7. Remember to Consider Proportion & Symmetry

It so easy to 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:

Twitter Logo Symmetry

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):

Apple Golden Ratio

8. Think About Negative Space

What is negative space? No not arguing with your girlfriend, it’s actually the space that you leave open.

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 for this technique is the FedEx logo and its hidden arrow. The arrow is negative space. Clever right?

Fedex Logo

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. This logo uses negative space and the double entendre techniques.

Cork & Cow

9. Passive vs. Active

Let’s get a little more in depth. One interesting facet of logo design that we’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. The point is to capture attention and give the sense of being active.

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.

Old Twitter Logos

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.

New Twitter Logos

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.

Yamato Logo

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.

Rough House Logo

10. Know What it Means – Create Meaning

Every good logo actually has a story. This goes beyond just a pretty sketch, strong logos are filled with meaning, both obvious and hidden. As you read above we have discussed this in several cases already. The FedEx logo’s arrow indicates moving forward and making deliveries, the Apple logo has a “byte” missing, and the Twitter bird is active and flying in an upward trajectory.

“It’s great when our design team can show a client how much thought and reasoning went into the logo that you produced for them.” – J. Hanlon (RL Studios)

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 a designer can show a client how much thought and reasoning went into the logo that you produced for them. This is why we want to encourage you to do the same. Great logos need a story!

“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.” – Julie Lind (RL Studios)

BMW Logo

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?

Rose Lane Studio is proud to offer this advice for free. We love support our business community! If you ever need our services, please email us at info@roselane.com. We would love to offer you a free consultation!

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