A great logo is often times the symbol of any brand. It is the first thing that catches a viewer’s attention and it needs to make an impact! It must be original, and unique enough to stand out among the rest. When a logo is executed correctly it is thoughtful, eye catching, original, and above all memorable.
So how do you go about making a great logo? Well, creating the embodiment of a brand takes years of experience, practice, patience and knowledge for the design to be successful. That’s why I’ve come up with a list of 10 steps to help you create great, successful and thoughtfully original logos.
1. Gathering the information
The first thing any designer should do before starting anything is gather as much information as possible about their client, their company, their industry and their competitors. This will help you make clear and effective choices when you begin the design process.
The easiest, and most effective way to gather the information you require is to have them fill out a brief questionnaire. The questionnaire should contain the standard questions you need answers to in order to create the logo, such as the company name, tag line and contact information, but it’s also a good idea to ask more personal questions as well. For example, “Do you have any colour preferences?”, “What attributes of your business would you most like to portray?”, and “Who are your main competitors and what do you think about their logos?”.
Asking these simple questions can help you get a clear vision of what the client is looking for, and help you throughout the design process.
2. Sketch, sketch & sketch.
After you’ve done all your research and gathered all the information you were looking for it’s generally a good idea to pick up a pencil and paper and start sketching out your ideas, before you head into Illustrator. This step is crucial, and it will help you flesh out your ideas, or even come up with new ones along the way. Sketch out anything and everything that comes to mind as even the smallest scribble can turn into something great!
A good guide is to start with about 10 totally different ideas, and then make modifications to each idea until you have taken that concept as far as it will go. Not only will you have a much more fleshed out idea before you start designing, but you’ll also have a few back-up ideas just in case you decide to scrap your first concept half way through the design process.
Experienced designers know all too well that spending the time making these sketches is the most time consuming, yet most rewarding step in the logo design process.
3. Finally, you can start Designing!
So, you’ve done your research, and you’ve taken the time to sketch out your ideas, you should now have a few strong, clean concepts to start working with.
At this stage the best thing you can do is start creating your logo in 1 colour only. There are many reasons why you should start designing a logo in only one colour but to sum it all up, if you can make a great logo in 1 colour, chances are you can make a better logo by adding colour.
A strong logo works with or without colour. In black, or knocked out in white, a logo still needs to make an impact with or without colour. By starting your design process without worrying about colour, you will be more focused on the overall logo design as opposed to whether teal or cyan would look better. (That can come later.)
The old adage still holds true. Keep It Simple Stupid! The simpler the design, the more the logo will be recognized. Everyone knows the Nike swoosh, or the golden arches of McDonalds. They are very simple, yet effective logos that even with a simple glance, one can tell what the company is.
When you’re going through your design process, try and remember to keep things simple. Crisp, clean lines and simple shapes are much more memorable then abstract shapes with gradients and drop shadows. The cleaner the logo is, the more pleasing to the eye it becomes.
Work your initial concepts down to their essential points, removing any unnecessary embellishments. I guarantee you will be happier with the result.
5. BIG or small ?
Does size really matter? YES!! An effective logo needs to be legible and eye catching regardless of its size. Whether it’s in the corner of a business card, or on the side of a semi-truck, the logo needs to legible and crisp. For this reason, and I know it may be obvious, but you need to use a vector-based program like Illustrator CS6. Photoshop just won’t cut it here.
Scalability is key to an effective logo. Everything from your type to your graphic elements needs to be vector, and needs to reproduce properly regardless of their size.
For this reason, starting your design process off by working small is best. If you can make a fantastic looking, legible logo at business card size, it will still look great on the side of a blimp!
Lastly, don’t be afraid to print out your logo each step of the way. The best way to tell if your logo will reproduce well at different sizes is if you actually print it out at those sizes. It will give you a great visual representation of how the finished logo will look.
6. Typography is king!
Using Comic Sans is never the right font to use! Choosing the best font for your logo is essential. Some logos like Fed Ex, or Coca-Cola only use a font and no graphic element, so the font needs to speak volumes.
As a designer it’s generally a good idea to amass a library of fonts. You can often find inexpensive fonts all over the web, which can give your logo that wow factor that you’ve been looking for. Try and stay away from free fonts if you can, as they can be overused and kitschy. Don’t be afraid to try out 100 + different font variations with your logo concept. Each font brings something new to the design.
When selecting a font to use in your logo, try and avoid using “fad fonts” or overly stylized fonts, as these fonts may be in style now, but may not be in 5 or 10 years. Make sure that your font is legible at smaller sizes. Scripted fonts for instance can be difficult to read when scaled down.
Lastly, don’t forget about font variations. Remember, you not only have serif and sans-serif fonts available to you but you also have italics, bold, light and custom fonts. Taking the time to look for the right font will make all the difference.
7. Colours…So many colours
At this point in your design process, you’ve done all your research and concept sketches, you’ve created a clean simple design and chosen the perfect font for the logo. Now it’s time to add some colour! You will probably have a general direction from the client as to what colours they would like in their logo. If the client isn’t sure of what colours they would like to use this is where it can be fun!
Colour selection is a complex subject, but understanding some general rules about colour can help you make the best possible decisions when designing. One general rule of thumb is to use colours near to each other on the colour wheel. “Warm” colours are colours like red, orange and yellow, where as “Cool” colours are blue, violet and green.
Complimentary colours also work well together. Complimentary colours are colours that are directly across from one another on the colour wheel, like Violet & Yellow.
Lastly, colours have emotions. The colour red is reminiscent of anger, heat, and even love. Blue can be calming, gentle and intellectual, and green is symbolic of nature, growth and life. Be sure to keep these colour connotations in mind when selecting colours to use in your design.
8. Have a drink, or sleep!
Now it’s time to relax. You worked hard and came up with a fantastic logo, but now is the time to take a step back. Before you submit your concept to the client, take a day or 2 and sleep on the design. Come back to the design with fresh eyes and have one final look at the logo.
Most effective designers leave time for themselves to reflect on their logo designs. By giving yourself the time to step back and mull over the design you might realize that you want to change something or remove it all together to make an even more cohesive brand design. This essential step is often overlooked, but you should always try and leave some reflection time for your designs.
9. Submit the draft.
Once you are completely happy with the design you have come up with, it’s time to submit it to the client. Often times, there will be some small back and forth between you and the client. Of course, one should never expect the design to be perfect in the clients’ eyes the very first time. More often than not small tweaks will need to happen. It’s a normal part of the business relationship.
However sometimes clients like to micromanage. Some clients feel that they want to have 100% say in the logo design process. This can be due to many reasons, but there are a few things you can do to help minimize the amount of micromanaging.
First reassure the client that you know what you are doing and that you have years of experience as a designer. Offer references if it will reassure them. Keep them updated on their logo frequently. Sometimes a client is just anxious. Work out a schedule with them to show them the process at certain times. Lastly, if they insist on a change that you feel isn’t appropriate, show them 2 versions: the one they want to see and the one you feel works better. Chances are they will usually see your point of view.
10. Congratulations, you’re done!
Once the client signs off on the finalized logo your done! Well almost. As a good rule of thumb, before giving the client their final files, it’s a good idea to have them pay out the balance of the design job first. There’s nothing worse then spending hours upon hours working on a logo and submitting it to the client to have them turn around and not pay you. That’s why many effective designers ask for a 35% - 50% deposit before taking on a project, and ask for the final amount before the final files are handed off.
Once the logo is complete don’t forget to extend a professional hand. Send the client one last thank you e-mail expressing that you enjoyed working with them and you hope to work with them in the future. This gesture will leave the client with a positive impression of you, while letting them know that you would like to work with them again in the future. If you offer any other design services, such as a branding package, the client will be more inclined to work with you again, and garner you with a positive, long lasting working relationship.
I hope these steps help you or inspire you to go out and create something amazing. If I have missed anything, feel free to add them in the comments below. Thanks for dropping by!