Practical Logo Design


Practical Logo Design


Sym­bol­ize and sum­ma­rize.

—Saul Bass

A lot of graph­ic design work is pret­ty spe­cif­ic in nature. Brochures have spe­cif­ic sizes and fold­ing pat­terns. Direct mail has to meet postal reg­u­la­tions. Web design has to be flex­i­ble, leg­i­ble, and acces­si­ble across many devices and browsers. But logo design? Well.

Logo design is in its own category.

Think about the projects men­tioned above.

Aaand now think about logo design.

Unlike direct mail or web­sites, a logo doesn’t even have a phys­i­cal pres­ence or loca­tion. It’s pure­ly graph­ic in nature. While it does need to be able to stand as its own visu­al unit, it’s also got to work on actu­al phys­i­cal prod­ucts — things like busi­ness cards, brochures, web­sites, bill­boards, embroi­dered patch­es, and a whole host of oth­er prod­ucts and projects.

Logo design sim­ply demands an amount of ver­sa­til­i­ty that almost no oth­er design project requires.

That’s why a designer’s tech­ni­cal approach to logo design has to be as unique and flex­i­ble as the logo itself.

Keep it simple.

Com­plex­i­ty cer­tain­ly has its place in design. But a logo must be instan­ta­neous­ly rec­og­niz­able. A suc­cess­ful logo is often nec­es­sar­i­ly sim­ple.

Avoid com­plex shapes or pat­terns. Instead, focus on the rela­tion­ship between neg­a­tive and pos­i­tive space in sim­ple shapes and let­ters.

Along the same lines, make sure that a logo design is eas­i­ly view­able at small sizes. Thin strokes or let­ters and com­plex graph­ics get mud­dy when small. Every mil­lime­ter of space counts.

Shape before color before form.

The shape of a logo is the pri­ma­ry point of recog­ni­tion for view­ers. Don’t rely on col­or or con­tent alone. Mem­o­rable logos almost always work as a sim­ple one-col­or graph­ic. Adding col­or and com­plex­i­ty should enhance the expe­ri­ence. It shouldn’t define it.

Bri­an Lis­ch­er over at ignyte has writ­ten a fan­tas­tic arti­cle explain­ing and explor­ing the sci­ence and psy­chol­o­gy of this con­cept, for­mal­ly known as the sequence of cog­ni­tion.

Think about application.

Real­ly hor­i­zon­tal or super ver­ti­cal logos can be incred­i­bly dif­fi­cult to work with on a prac­ti­cal lev­el. Aim to cre­ate a mark that can be used every­where.

Study the gold­en ratio for guide­lines on cre­at­ing a well-pro­por­tioned design. If that’s not a suc­cess­ful solu­tion for your project, con­sid­er a square- or cir­cle-shaped logo. Both are real­ly ver­sa­tile.

A mod­u­lar logo can also be a very flex­i­ble, suc­cess­ful approach. Typ­i­cal­ly, mod­u­lar logo design incor­po­rates a sep­a­rate logo­type and icon that can be split and/or rearranged to fit the need of a project.

Design blog 99designs has great infor­ma­tion on 7 dif­fer­ent types of logos and how to use them.

Don’t touch Photoshop.

Whether it’s being cre­at­ed for a web start-up or a large inter­na­tion­al cor­po­ra­tion, always cre­ate a logo as a vec­tor image. It’s got to work on a busi­ness card and a bill­board, an enam­el pin and a vehi­cle graph­ic, a web ad and a TV spot. Raster images just can’t be infi­nite­ly scaled. That’s why they’re lim­it­ed in their prac­ti­cal use. Vec­tor images, how­ev­er, can be scaled to any size to meet any need.

Use your pasteboard.

Don’t jump into your art­board to work on your ideas. Devel­op your ideas in your can­vas, or paste­board, the area out­side your art­board. Remov­ing that visu­al bound­ary line can help unleash your cre­ativ­i­ty (it quite lit­er­al­ly helps you think out­side the box!). Use your can­vas to house inspi­ra­tion, type notes, work on half-for­mu­lat­ed ideas, or even cre­ate a dizzy­ing num­ber of iter­a­tions.

Aaron Draplin has a fan­tas­tic 16 minute video demon­strat­ing good ways to use your paste­board when design­ing a logo.

Keep your strokes and type.

A final logo will like­ly not include strokes or active fonts. Usu­al­ly those are expand­ed and con­vert­ed to out­lines by final pro­duc­tion. We want to make sure the image is sim­ple and ready to use.

But it’s a good idea to keep the orig­i­nal draw­ing in a sep­a­rate file or lay­er, or even on your paste­board.

Maybe your client will want to make a change down the road. Or you might want to repeat a cer­tain effect on anoth­er project. Or maybe you don’t remem­ber the type­face you used because you cus­tomized the let­ter­forms. When you have that orig­i­nal text, those strokes, the orig­i­nal shapes with­out hav­ing used the pathfind­er, you can always go back to an ear­li­er ver­sion for ref­er­ence.

Logo design is full of unique challenges.

But hope­ful­ly, now you’re bet­ter equipped to han­dle those chal­lenges and deliv­er sol­id, sim­ple, usable logos for any client.


What kind of chal­lenges do you encounter the most when work­ing on brand­ing?

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