5 BASIC LOGO MAKING TIPS
Updated: Oct 27
You have just finished your branding and have a logo you love. The visual style is flashy. All your favorite colors and fonts are there. It looks great!
To you, that is.
You should like your logo, no doubt about that, but when it comes to the visual representation of your organization, everyone else has to be taken into account as well. Who is everyone else? Well, quite literally anyone who will ever become exposed to your brand.
Is that your local community? Your state? The world?
Don't make a logo just for you. You are already sold on your business. Now get everyone else in on the action. Here’s how to do it!
1. CONSIDER YOUR TARGET CLIENTS
A logo isn’t just about catching eyes, it’s about catching the right eyes.
This means first knowing specifically who you are marketing to. This is largely a matter of branding, but it is the difference between saying, “I’m marketing to anyone who needs winter clothes,” and “I’m marketing to professionals who need winter attire for working in the elements for a duration.”
What does the first statement give you to work with for visuals? Snow, cold, maybe an icicle.
What does the second statement give you? Professional-grade, rugged, tough, efficient, ambitious, quality, high-performance, in addition to things mentioned from the first.
The first statement does not differentiate between a kindergartener waiting for the bus and a thrill-seeker about to take on Everest. If you or your graphic designer tailor your logo to everyone, it will appeal to no one.
Your logo should bear authority in your field. Would you want to walk into a lawyer’s office with the neon red sign of a bar and grill? Probably not. You’d likely feel better if it had tidy black and blue lettering with an icon inspiring trustworthiness.
Your logo is a handshake. How should yours greet your target audience?
Good or not, we live in a world of first impressions. People decide whether they want to stay before you have the chance to explain yourself. If your logo sends them back on the road before that point, it hasn’t done its job.
2. ANTICIPATE ANY FUTURE USE
Speaking of a logo’s job, once it appeals to the target audience, you’re done, right? Not quite.
You (and/or your designer) need to consider how you might use your logo down the road. Will it be your storefront sign? Will it appear on a business card? Will it go on a T-shirt? A billboard? A company vehicle? A video ad? A website? A favicon?
The ways in which you can use your logo are as wide as your imagination and need combining. Planning for all of these needs starts in the design process.
First, your logo needs to be created in vector software such as Inkscape, Coreldraw, or Adobe Illustrator; not raster software, such as Photoshop or Gimp. Raster graphics are pixel-based and have their uses in photo editing, but vector graphics are based on mathematical equations that allow for infinite resizing. Creating your design in the proper software will grant you the file formats you’ll need to take your logo anywhere.
A word of caution when designing. Graphic apps and logo maker kits should be avoided, free or otherwise. They do not support the file types your logo will need to grow with your business, while also presenting functional and even legal conflicts. You can read more about that here.
Having a vector logo means you never lose resolution when resizing it, which is what you will be doing frequently for various uses.
A graphic designer should experiment with your design, scaling it up and down to extremes and making sure it maintains clarity. Favicons, for example, display at a size of 16 pixels by 16 pixels. Is your logo still clear at that size?
3. MAKE YOUR LOGO ACCESSIBLE
A vast majority of a logo’s success hinges on visibility, which also depends on the viewer’s capabilities. Like websites and public places with accessibility obligations, your logo should be treated the same way.
Government sites must be clear and accessible for those with challenged vision. While there are no legal guidelines that require private organizations to design logos for accessibility, it is a consideration that is appreciated by many and reflects well on your company.
Those who are colorblind or elderly will likely be viewing your logo. For those that cannot differentiate hue, it is important to make sure that color is not the only distinguishing feature of elements in your logo.
Designing in only black before making a color version ensures that the logo can survive being viewed in one color. Another approach is to utilize negative space such that objects in your logo stand independently and are not muddled by others. See the photo below for an example.
Not only do these tests make your logo more accessible, they also prepare it for certain single-color applications such as company shirt embroidery, or embossing.
4. TIE YOUR LOGO TO YOUR BRAND
Making your logo seen also means making it recognized. Your graphic is the face of your brand and public awareness is a small business’ best friend.
This is done by using the same building blocks for your logo that you used for your branding: your colors, your fonts, your icons.
A logo designer’s niche is researching what colors, fonts, and visuals are appropriate and effective to include in the logo based on your target clients' preferences and needs.
Whimsical hand-drawn fonts and vibrant colors won't represent a law firm in a manner that will make their clients feel as though they are in good hands.
Strategically styling your logo to communicate an on-brand message visually will allow you to evoke the right thoughts and feelings in your target clientele when they first become aware of your business.
Then, repeating this imagery across your other brand materials - social media, websites, newsletters - will boost your brand credibility and memorability.
Avoid using a logo that is disconnected from your brand. Be consistent. Repetition equals recognition.
5. DO YOUR LEGAL RESEARCH
Lastly, as you’re making the long-term decisions of what will represent you, make sure the building blocks you’re grabbing aren’t already claimed.
Now, can Beats Audio copyright the color red? No, but they may take issue if you start up an audio company that uses a red circular logo.
No transgression is ever this obvious, but infringement is a grey area that can beat up companies large and small. This does not mean you should be looking over your shoulder for the next lawsuit, but these issues are easily avoided when creating a logo and brand if appropriate research is executed first.
Research the competition — strive to emphasize what sets you apart in your logo and branding — never copy or mimic.
Even if your competition doesn’t pursue you legally, how did you feel about the last knock-off company you saw? No one wants to be known as "that" company.
Design the difference between you and your competition and capitalize on it. Not only do you avoid the fear of legal repercussions, but you appeal more to target clients looking for your specialization. Two birds, one stone, and all that.
Designing an effective logo means understanding your target clientele and their needs. Research your fonts and icons to ensure you're not at risk of infringement. The result will be a niched, attractive logo that carries authority in your field.