Here’s a list I compiled with few of the most important things a logo/brand designer should take into consideration when designing logos.
01. Use a mind map. Get your ideas out quickly.
A mind map is a diagram used to organize your ideas visually. Grab a pen and paper and start writing. I believe that right or wrong ideas don’t exist until you put them in practice. Their value is determined by the actions you take.
If you’re not a pen-to-paper fan, an alternative way is using mindmeister.com. You can also collaborate with your team and share ideas.
Just empty your head and drop all of your crazy, stupid, sick, horrible, genius, excellent ideas into a mind map so that you can make connections later on.
02. Pen and paper are designer’s best friends.
Visualize your ideas on paper first. If you tend to go directly digital, mmm don’t. Instead of quickly validating your ideas you will get caught up in aligning points, so you’ll miss the bigger picture. The point of sketching isn’t to make things look pretty. The point is to communicate the essence of your ideas. Sketching is a massively valuable tool in the creative process so use it as often as possible. You don’t need a degree to start doodling.
Develop the fear of losing ideas and capture them as soon as they arrive in your brain. I use Todoist to organize all of my ideas into lists. Here’s my review.
03. Use Adobe Illustrator for logos, not Photoshop
This is a no-brainer. Don’t use Photoshop; your logo needs to be in vector format and scalable. It’s much easier to control shapes and paths in Illustrator. Bluntly put, Photoshop equals Pixel, Illustrator equals Vector.
04. Create mood boards and collect inspiration
The goal here is to establish a particular style or concept by collecting images or words that best convey the character of the brand. The mind map can help you a lot in clarifying what to search for. Think of patterns, textures, colors, shapes, fonts, people, objects, products, etc. but don’t just dump images randomly, be mindful of what they mean in regards with your client brief. Sometimes you don’t need the whole picture as the reference, only a piece you particularly like. So, save it, crop it, add it.
After you’re done with your selections, curate every single image and throw everything that’s it’s not aligned with the brief. 10 to 15 images can be enough to clarify the direction in which you visually want the brand to go. There are a ton of tools out there you can use, you can start with Pinterest or Invision. I recommend making your mood boards Secret if you use Pinterest.
05. Design your logo in black and white
Let get this straight. Color is subjective so don’t let that get in the way in the inception phase. If you ask for feedback, for example, some people will judge your logo by the color…it’s just the way it is. Play safe, leave color at a later stage so go with black and white.
06. Reflect the logo
Reflecting the logo vertically or horizontally will help you see inconsistencies and kerning problems where is the case but mainly will force your brain to see shapes. That applies to the word mark and also to the symbol. So make sure to flip your logo from time to time.
07. If you run out of ideas, don’t force it. Take a break.
When you empty your head, you might hit a roadblock. Don’t worry this is something normal, just don’t overdo it. Take a break. It’s as easy as it sounds. Just disconnect yourself. Listen to some music, go for a walk, take a ride on your bike. After you cleared your head, get back to the drawing board with fresh ideas. Good things take time.
08. Size does matter after all
When designing a logo take in consideration, it’s adaptability. What does it mean? Simply put, the client may use it in many applications from signage, to app icon, to favicon. How do you ensure the logo looks good? Print it out in various sizes and see where it breaks. Refine, then repeat the process.
09. The logo should have meaning
We see pretty pictures every freakin’ day. Your logo design has to be “the one”. Think of it as Aladdin’s lamp, where the genie represents the brand’s story, values, feelings and people. So behind every pretty logo it has to reside a story, because stories sell. You’ll have to articulate that in front of your client to crush it.
10. Don’t confuse logo design with branding
There is a difference between the two. Period. This is a old debated topic, just google it. The word “branding” sounds so darn cool, but please use it in the right context. A Fiverr or 99designs designer most probably is not doing branding.
11. Keep it simple not simplistic
Don’t over complicate! Don’t try to convey 5 concepts into one. You will confuse every eyeball out there. Focus on one concept at a time. Define the idea and work around it. I will not mention the Nike and Apple logo, OK?.
12. Color meaning
Color is very subjective. The one that you like might not be the one that the client wants. Don’t put random color into your logo design, just because they’re cool or because you copied them from another logo. First of all ask your client if they have any preferences then do a small research and discover the meaning of that color if it aligns with the problem you are trying to solve. For example, blue would say, professional, tranquil, trustworthy or red would say, energetic, bold, sexy and so on.
13. Use negative or positive tracking
Here’s a trick for you. Don’t leave the font with default settings. Every logo design needs to steam personality, so use negative or positive tracking (the equal space between letters). Add some extra “quelque chose” (something). Combine tracking with Uppercase or Lowercase characters and see what works for you.
14. Use one of these fonts
Do you have problems in finding “the right” font? Just make your life easier and pick one of these fonts.
Akzidenz / Avant Garde / Avenir / Bell Gothic / Bembo / Bodoni / Caslon / Clarendon / Courier Std / DIN Std / Eurostile / Franklin Gothic / Frutiger / Futura / Garamond / Gill Sans / Gotham / Helvetica / Rockwell / Sabon LT Std / Trade Gothic / Univers
If you want to go with free fonts, here’s Google Fonts and fontsquirrel.com. Remember “Free” is not always equal with quality. To refine the vast infinity of crappy fonts just google search “best free fonts”. There are tons of articles with curated free fonts. DO, check their license tho.
15. Logo grid
Some logos are very complex and well executed, with visible and logic construction lines, but many logos out there are crap. Drawing all those smooth dotted lines, circles and top it with a golden ratio it’s just a gimmick if you don’t understand how composition works.
Here’s a trick for you to be viewed more as a professional (fake it until you learn it). Just draw horizontal and vertical lines to define the full height and width of your logo. In other words, put the logo in a rectangle. Choose a shape or a letter from your logo. Just pick one, anyone! And put it in all for corners to define a “Safe Zone.” Draw the horizontal and vertical lines again, to determine the full height and width including the Safe zone included.
16. Reverse image search with Google Images
You can’t always trust your brain. Sometimes we pick up ideas from different places or people, and we render them as our own. Have you ever had that moment when you jumped for joy when you thought you had a brilliant, unique idea, just to find out it’s been done before? I know I have. Use Google images to reverse search your logo and you might find similar designs. Another service is Tineye, I highly recommend it.
17. Logo declinations
Your logo has to function in various situations so you need to bring that to the table. The most obvious one is how it will look on white background. Second is on black background (inverted). Sometimes a white logo on a black background can reveal lots of inconsistencies or unwanted shapes. That’s the negative space talking. Lastly, if you chose the brand colors, check how the logo renders on them. Horizontal and vertical alignment should also be an option.
Instead of using pure black (#00000) add some white in the mix and go with 97% black. Why? You won’t get such a harsh contrast between whites and blacks and your client’s eyes, and yours will thank you.
18. Horizontal and vertical logo positioning
These days, logo design requires more of our attention because we need to think how it will adapt to various materials and situations. Scalability and readability are one of the issues to be taken care of, but also you’ll have to consider how a logo will sit above its wordmark or aside. Take the Victoria Secret old logo as an example. Having only the horizontal option is not always helping, so consider both vertical and horizontal. (See tip 17)
19. Put the logo in context and shine
There’s nothing more powerful than context. You’ll make your logo “believable” applying it on various mockups, like business cards, close-ups, mugs, banners, etc. Check out graphicburger.com for free mockup, or if you want to spend a dime, check creativemarket.com. For the tech savvy ones grab LiveSurface Context, it’s brilliant.
Don’t let the mockups’ design do the talking. Often, simply applying the logo is the fast way out. The way I see it, the mockup is like a house’s foundation on which you build. Bring colors into the mix, patterns, fonts, titles, images.
20. Accept any critique
Critique is fundamental! We designers are creatures that attach to our creations, and we hate when someone hurts our feelings. Did someone threw a few bad words at your work and you got so ambitious just to prove them wrong? If so, you’re likely to accept any critique and use it to your advantage.
This is one of the things I regret, not having someone to critique my work when I was just starting out. Let’s be fair and say that not every opinion matter, or it’s good, or it’s right. But if you’d like a more objective and valid opinion about your work, just share it with your fellow designers. Let everybody see what the heck are you working on, collect feedback, improve and repeat. Check out the LogoGeekcommunity.