Ten surprisingly common design faux pas, mistakes and missteps you should never, ever commit when designing a logo or creating files for it.
Never mind the long preamble, let’s just get to business and count ’em down..
#1: Do not use script type in all caps.
If you insist on using a script font in your logo art, do not use all caps. Same goes for hand drawn fonts. On most script font sets, capital letters are designed as display fonts, that is they have nice decorative flourishes that aren’t designed to be beside another capital letter with similar features. In layman terms, it looks horrible. Take a look at typography use in logos for more info.
#2: Do not start your logo in Photoshop.
This is one of the most important ‘do nots’ and yet it the one that is most routinely ignored. Bitmap graphics are cool for photo images. Logos need to be in vector format. While later versions of Photoshop do handle some rudimentary vector functions, they’re not up to snuff when compared to Illustrator or other vector drawing software. Here’s a short video that explains this concept in more detail.
#3: Do not use bitmap graphics as part of your logo.
This is a follow up to #2 but repeated for emphasis – using a bitmap graphic as part of any logo is going to end in heartache at some point down the road. Bitmap graphics don’t enlarge very well. The high-resolution versions create huge files, and you’re going to run into all sorts of issues when the logo is added to other artwork. Vector is where it’s at.
#4: Do not use an auto-traced image as central graphic.
While the Live Trace, bitmap to vector, function of Illustrator is actually marketed by Adobe as a way of making logos, it isn’t. The resultant vector setup is sketchy at best and when you convert live-traced images back to bitmaps, the anti-alaising feature of the format creates weird outlines and unpredictable abstract and orphaned pixels. When it comes to printing auto-traced images, you can run into problems, as the files are created with shapes butting into each other rather than overlaying. We even compated live tracing to hand vectorization.
It takes a little longer but trace your images by hand for predictable results (if you insist on live tracing, we have a few suggestions.)
#5: Do not copy images you’ve found on the internet.
Now that we’ve discussed the use of images in a logo, let’s talk about using photographs or art you’ve found on the internet for reference material. That’s very cool – saves you a trip to the library. But don’t just copy the photograph into vector art, slap some type on it and call it a day. There are copyright ramifications of using photographs in this way (a decent lawyer could argue that it’s a derivative work based on their client’s photograph) and in terms of originality, it’s a wash. If you managed to find the Gorilla image on the Internet using Google Image Search, it’s not too much of a stretch to think that other designers have too. Use photographs for reference, but draw original art using that reference. Do not copy logos from stuff on the Internet. Period. You don’t want to end up on a page like this.
#6: Do not use special effects filters.
Special effect filters – drop shadows, glows, lens flares, bevels – are wonderful. For use in everything BUT logos. Bottom line – special effect filters are usually thrown at a logo because it’s missing ‘something’. That something will be not be created by tossing a bevel at it. Here’s another thing to think about too – most special effect filters in Photoshop use the RGB palette to give them ‘sparkle’ and as a result, often look dull and listless when converted to CMYK. Even if your special effect filter can be employed in a vector program like Illustrator, use sparingly, if at all.
#7: Do not mix CMYK and RGB color palettes.
Later versions of Illustrator allow you to mix RGB and CMYK (and other color swatch libraries) in the same page. This is a cool feature, but you should be careful that you’re not mixing CMYK and RGB colors in the same piece of logo art. Keep in mind that while converting from CMYK ot RGB (or vice versa) is a snap, generally speaking, some color effects (blends for example) will NOT convert automatically from one palette to another. Always better to stay in one palette (CMYK if the logo is destined for print). Web formats are bitmap and it’s a breeze creating RGB bitmaps like .JPGs or .PNGs using basic export functions. See here for more on design color spaces.
#8: Do not use strokes to outline logo artwork.
Using the stroke outlines (where your design software places a thin line around a selected bit of your logo artwork) is a fast way to do things. It’s also not a good way to do things. There are certain output devices (digital vinyl plotters for example) that are ‘blind’ to strokes. Strokes can ‘gum up’ when your logo artwork is reproduced at very small sizes (and the output device rounds up the width of your stroke). Best to use the outline path function which is much more stable and predictable. See here for the proper way to put an outline around fonts.
#9: Do not forget to outline your type faces.
Speaking about fonts, do not forget to convert them to outline fonts before shipping any files to the client or to the printer. If you don’t outline your fonts, everyone down the road is going to have compatibility problems, unless they have the EXACT same font set as you used, and even then, spacing and kerning can be thrown out of whack platform to platform, software to software. Font licensing restrictions will often stop you from shipping a copy of your font set along with any logo artwork, and outlining them is a nifty way around that too.
#10: Do not leave open vector shapes.
While it’s important that your logo look nice on a monitor, it has to work ‘under the hood’. That means closing any vector shapes into proper polygons (open shapes can cause all sorts of output issues). Take a look at our broken logo, bad formats for more on this.
This was originally published in the older version of our Designer Lounge but due to some housecleaning and moving things around, we’ve republished it here. The tips are still pretty solid so we’re golden.