How to design a logo: the complete step-by-step guide

14 minutes to read • 23 November 2020 • Branding & Identity, Digital strategy, Marketing

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    Behind every successful brand is a memorable, instantly recognisable logo. Whether it’s the Nike swoosh, the Amazon A-Z or the golden arches of McDonald’s, the right logo can become intrinsically tied with a business.

    This, naturally, suggests that you should design something just as distinguished for your brand.

    If creating a successful logo was easy, every business would be a corporate monolith. Instead, designing the right logo is a blend of art, science, and maybe just a hint of magic.

    Let’s take a look at the steps required to devise an unforgettable logo that will put your brand on the map – and keep you there.

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    Contents

    How to design a logo

    1. Consider why you need a logo

      Firstly, you need to consider what a logo is, and why it’s so critical to your business.

    2. Define your brand identity

      Your company logo will, at a glance, define your brand. This means that you’re looking to ensure that this definition meets your expectations.

    3. Investigate the competition

      Ask yourself how these competitors managed to stand apart while both carving out a successful share of the marketplace.

    4. Design, refine, and design again

      It’s time to sit down with a sketchpad and any notes from your brainstorm and competitor analysis.

    5. Consider professional help and advice

      These people design for a living. They have an innate understanding of what works and what does not, born of years of experience.

    6. Perform market research

      Now that you have a handful of designs in mind, you should start communicating again.

    7. Roll out your logo

      Now comes the moment of truth. It’s time to reveal your facelift to the world and roll out your logo to your customers.

    1. Consider why you need a logo

    Firstly, you need to consider what a logo is, and why it’s so critical to your business. It’s important to remember that a logo alone will not make or break your business.

    No customer ever returned to a company that provided substandard products or service based on their logo.

    What a logo can do, is create a great first impression. It’s nice to imagine that everybody is already familiar with your business and what you do. In reality, this is unlikely.

    A logo is a way to capture the imagination and attention of a customer or client. From there, you can work on maintaining and justifying this piqued curiosity.

    The importance of a logo stems from its omnipresence. Your logo will follow your business everywhere, for good or ill. It will sit proudly at the top of your website and any company letterhead stationery.

    It will be a way to distinguish your business card from a selection collected at a networking event. It will invoke emotion in anybody that sees it.

    Now you understand the importance of a logo, you can start to give serious consideration to the designing process. Before you reach for a sketchpad, however, you need to deliberate upon what you want your logo to represent. 

    2. Define your brand identity

    Your company logo will, at a glance, define your brand. This means that you’re looking to ensure that this definition meets your expectations.

    We discussed previously a logo will invoke an emotional response in anybody that sees it. Not all emotions are positive. You’ll be looking for a logo that reflects the personality and values of your business.

    To achieve this, you’re going to need to do some brainstorming. This should involve everybody connected with your business, from the CEO to the guys in the post room.

    Everybody that works for a company is an ambassador of that business, regardless of how large or small a part they are perceived to play in the day-to-day running.

    Get everybody together and ask them what they feel your company represents. If necessary, ask people to post their comments in an anonymous suggestion box.

    The idea is to gain a long list of words that can be connected to your business. Lead the conversation by asking some key questions. These could include:

    • What do we value above all else?
    • What do we offer that nobody else does?
    • How would we like to be described by clients and customers?
    • If we ceased trading tomorrow, how would we like to be remembered?

    Now, if possible, extend this brainstorm to your target audience. We will touch further upon market research later in this guide. For now, though, it will be beneficial to know how your business is seen by the outside world. You know what you want to achieve, and how you’d like to be perceived. This is an opportunity to learn whether expectation matches reality.

    You may end up with a jumbled mass of words, or you could be looking at a long list of completed sentences. Over time, however, a common theme should start to present itself. These are the core values of your business and should be the driving force behind the design of your logo.

    3. Investigate the competition

    It’s tempting to avoid any interaction with your competition while designing a logo. After all, it could be easy to subconsciously plagiarise a successful rival. The fact is, though, you need to know what is out there. It’s important to stand out, but equally, you will likely find a standard template that provides a little guidance.

    Key things to consider here are:

    • Impact. You will likely be familiar with the branding of your competitors. And have no trouble picking their logo out of a line-up. Ask yourself why that is. Is it just familiarity, or is there something about the logo and catches your eye every time?
    • Emotion. Put aside professional rivalry for a moment and ask yourself – what does a competitor’s logo make you feel? Consider whether you are aiming to evoke a similar response, or something entirely different.
    • Values. Do you feel the logo of your rivals is an accurate representation of their values and delivery? If so, why? Remember, this is what you are trying to achieve with your logo design.
    See also →  What is conversational design? And how can you use it?

    Once you have established what your competitors are doing well, you can add your own flourishes. If they are using monochrome colour schemes, consider a little flamboyancy in your logo. If rivals keep things strictly business, perhaps you could add a fun and playful touch. 

    Do not limit this to just your immediate competitors, either. Think about the most memorable and successful logos out there in the business world, regardless of industry. Think about what they are doing well, and how they stand apart. 

    Anybody would likely recognise both Coca-Cola and Pepsi products on a supermarket shelf, even if the names of the brands were removed. Ask yourself how these competitors managed to stand apart while both carving out a successful share of the marketplace.

    4. Design, refine and design again

    OK, this is where the real work starts. It’s time to sit down with a sketchpad and any notes from your brainstorm and competitor analysis. Start drawing up all the possible options for your logo.

    Do not settle for just one logo design. Come up with multiple possible options. Choice is not just a nice to have – it’s essential. One man’s meat is another man’s poison, and as we’ll discuss shortly, you’ll be looking to gain outside opinion on your potential logo. This will be a considerably more valuable process if you have several selections.

    Logo design is not a task to leap into with feet-first. You’ll need to stop and take a few things under advisement before you start designing. Let’s assess each of these key considerations in turn.

    Flexibility

    The biggest factor of a logo must be flexibility. This logo needs to be suitable for any occasion, on any physical or digital format. 

    The Apple logo is a great example of this. Apple keeps things simple. You’ll see that famous piece of fruit on every desktop or laptop computer, and every time you boot up a smartphone or tablet. It works in any context.

    Now, however, let’s take a trip down memory lane. This was Apple’s first logo, back in 1976. Can you picture this design catching on quite as much?

    Image for post

    This is why we stress the importance of flexibility. Keep your logo as simple and memorable as you can. If your business scales the heights of success that you’re hoping it will, the logo will quickly become a cultural icon.

    Size

    As an extension of this flexibility, you’ll also need to consider the size of your logo. A good logo will always have impact, regardless of dimensions. This means that you should avoid anything too intricate or oversized.

    Consider where your logo will appear. It will need to sit in the corner of an 85 x 55 mm business card, for example. This will involve shrinking and resizing the logo so it’s visible without detracting the eye from contact information. 

    OK, so maybe you’re thinking that business cards died out with the dinosaurs and that’s an irrelevant concern. Think about a smartphone user visiting your website, though. Your logo will appear on your site – likely every page. Is it still distinctive without coding to ensure it does not bleed out and block your copy?

    When it comes to a logo, size matters. A logo must be distinctive, whether it’s loudly and proudly displayed on a billboard or as a tiny embellishment to something altogether smaller. If a logo needs to be magnified to be recognisable, it will fall at the first hurdle.

    Style

    Now you need to think about the style of logo that you are looking for. Here are some examples of what we mean by this.

    • Modern, clean logos are easy to read and minimalist. They’re ideal for a brand that wants to present itself as reliable and strictly business
    • Retro, classic logo provide sensations of warm nostalgia and familial trust. They can work for a brand that seeks an emotional connection with customers.
    • Classic logos may not be as exciting or instantly recognisable as retro or modern designs, but in many respects offer the best of both worlds. They never go out of style.
    • Quirky logos could include a mascot or cute character. These will provoke a feeling of fun and frivolity. Whether that’s a good or bad thing depends on your perspective!

    A good logo should be timeless, ensuring that you only need to change if you feel it’s time for a refresh. This means that you need to be careful about being too beholden to current trends. The whims and fancies of the human race change like the wind. Do not hitch your wagon to a design that is firmly implanted in the year 2020 – it could be outdated by 2021.

    Colour scheme

    There is undeniable psychology to branding, and colour plays a huge role in this. The colour scheme that you choose for your logo can effortlessly reflect your brand values. If you place a great deal of emphasis on eco-friendly credentials, for example, a green logo is advisable.

    See also →  What are design systems and why do you need one?

    Take a look at the table below for the common emotional reactions to colours. Pick what kind of reaction you are attempting with your logo and consider applying these shades to the design.

    Emotional reactionRelated colours
    Action and ExcitementRed, Orange
    CaringPink, Yellow
    Friendliness and ApproachabilityYellow, Blue
    IntelligenceGrey, Blue, Red, Brown
    JoyYellow, Pink, Green
    Luxury and OpulencePurple
    StabilityBlue, White, Green, Brown
    TraditionBlack, White, Grey, Brown
    TrustBlue, Green, Grey

    Of course, there will still be other considerations. You’ll need to ensure that a logo matches the colour scheme of your brand as a whole. These suggestions are a great way to get started, though.

    Font and typography

    Finally, you need to review the font of any text on your logo. Like so many parts of the design process, this is something of a tightrope. It’s tempting to use a unique font, so you stand apart from your competitors. What happens if this font is not supported by a printer or digital platform, though? It could end up illegible.

    Equally, avoid generic fonts like Arial or Times New Roman. These will not stand out in any way. And please, in the name of that is holy, never even consider Comic Sans! Many experts recommend using Serif or Sans Serif fonts for a company logo. These fonts are clear, timeless and elegant. 

    The core difference is that a Serif font will include small strokes or lines at the end of letters. This can convey an air of sophistication, so Serif is best utilised if you are opting for a classical logo. Sans Serif is every bit as clear but lacks these additional flourishes. This is great for a modern or minimalist look – nobody will struggle to read or understand a Serif font.

    5. Consider professional help and advice

    You may be keen to manage the design and creation of your logo in-house. After all, this is your brand, and you have spent countless hours designing and finessing the potential designs.

    All the same, it’s advisable to seek outside help and opinion. Whether that’s a graphic designer on Fiverr or a professional agency is up to you. It all depends on your budget. Try to remember, though. These people design for a living. They have an innate understanding of what works and what does not, born of years of experience. Approach multiple possible designers, ensuring you choose somebody that feels like a fit with your business.

    Yes, there will be a cost attributed to this. Logo design is not the time to shave pennies from the pound, though. Done right, your logo can become the best investment that you’ll ever make. A great logo can be eternal. 

    As the adage goes, “buy cheap, pay twice.” If you find that your logo rollout is unsuccessful because you refused to assign an appropriate budget, you’ll lose a lot more than money. The reputation of your brand could be irreparably damaged.

    6. Perform market research

    Back in Point 2, we suggested reaching out your target audience to learn about the perception of your brand. Now that you have a handful of designs in mind, you should start communicating again. This time, you intend to learn whether these attempts at reflecting your core values have been successful.

    Start with a basic question. Offer multiple logo options, asking which design your customers prefer. Try not to load the dice, here. Don’t pick three almost-identical designs that you prefer. Include some designs that you’re far from sure about. 

    If customers like these, you’ll have to disregard your own inclinations. Your logo is how customers will remember and recognise you, so you need to think with the mindset of a customer. No successful business disregards the opinions of a target audience in favour of meeting their preferences.

    It’s important to understand what people like, but it’s just as critical to know what did not capture the imagination – and why. Try to gain information as to what works and what doesn’t. Pay particular attention to negative feedback. You may find that your customers use terms like, “too busy”, “too big or small”, “inappropriate colour scheme” or, “confusing or unclear design.”

    This is highly important. You may need to go back to the drawing board and start again if there is no clear winner. Any negative feedback can be used to finesse and improve upon all designs, though. You want a logo to provoke a distinct and visceral reaction. If that’s a poor reaction, you can turn this to your advantage. Knowing what your customers do not like every bit as important as acknowledging what they are looking for.

    7. Roll out your logo

    Now comes the moment of truth. It’s time to reveal your facelift to the world and roll out your logo to your customers. Once this is done there is no turning back, so make sure you’re certain that you’re ready. Back at the beginning of this guide, we described a logo as the first impression of your business. The thing about first impressions is that you only get one chance to make them.

    We hope that you have found this guide to designing the perfect company logo helpful. If you have any further questions, pr are interested in learning more about how Creative.onl can help you achieve your creative goals, do not hesitate to get in touch. Just remember the golden rules about logo design. Take your time, reflect your brand values, manage your budget, keep things simple and flexible – and create something truly memorable.

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