Design Help Center

Tips & pointers.

A series of Design Help tips, suggestions & practical advice assembled by designers in our studio. For more help features check out the Buyer’s Branding Tips category on our blog.

Potential Logo Pitfalls

Some common logo design mistakes and how to avoid them

While it’s true that you know your business better than anyone else, the same can be said of designers in general, and TLF designers in specific. They know the ins and outs of designing logos more than people who don’t. And so they should. After all, our design team has been creating logos and corporate identity for companies the world over for almost twenty years. During those years we’ve developed a keen sense of what makes a great logo and the steps involved (see our logo design tips here.) We’ve also been able to quantify some factors involved in unsuccessful logo design projects and the common events that derail an otherwise great design.

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Before you begin.

While you may have an idea of what you want your logo to look like, there are some issues that you’ve probably not even thought about. How will your logo reproduce on a variety of media. In general, is your new logo going to be reproduced as a large image, or the size of a postage-stamp? Will it be used exclusively on websites and blogs, or in the less-color friendly environment of traditional offset printing? How are you going to work with your designer – as a passive client leaving the designing up to them, or involved deeply in the process, giving direction and suggestions throughout? Here’s some things that you should avoid in the creative process, whether you’re working with The Logo Factory or another design firm.

Sometimes, it ain’t any fun.

We would love to tell potential clients that every logo design project is fast, fun and easy. Sometimes it is. We would, however, be lying if we claimed EVERY project was. Sometime a project will appear to go nowhere. The client and the designer can become frustrated, and sometimes a new designer, or art director intervention is required to salvage the project.

Why some projects become a teeth-grindingly frustrating & dragged out affair.

While we’ve seen every scenario, ‘problem’ projects that drag on, without any clear resolution all seem to have certain common characteristics (in addition to less than desirable results for both client and designer.) Here’s some things to avoid:

The ‘War and Peace’ logo extravaganza.

While it’s always nice for logos to actually ‘mean’ something (i.e. – this color represents growth, this dot represents our product) sometimes clients wish to write ‘War-and-Peace’ with their logo’s metaphors. The most memorable logos are almost always simple logos that symbolically tell a tale. Memorable complex logos are often highly rendered illustrative designs, but even then, they’ve almost always dialed back any literal narration. There’s very little in between. Dozens of swooshes, dots and colors – all professing to ‘mean’ something will not mean anything to the first time viewer. Any logo has a nanosecond to grab someone’s attention and designers will almost universally make a case for simple logos. It’s difficult to argue.

Design by Committee. Too many cooks and all that.

Perhaps the most difficult project for a designer, and the most frustrating for a client. A large group of people are responsible for selecting, approving and modifying the logo throughout the various design stages. Keep in mind that it usually the loudest (and dare we say – the committee staffer with the largest ego) who invariably makes their opinion heard – not the committee member who has a keen sense of design. Better to select a ‘voice’ for the committee who is keenly aware of your group’s goals.

Art directing the project:

As designers, we are trained in many aspects of design, graphics and technology. By the time you view preliminary designs, we have attempted every variation of that particular design, having moved swooshes, right, left, up and down. Micro-tweaks will not improve the design if it is not to your liking. Best to tell your designer that you’re not happy with the design, and work from fresh proposals. It’s highly unlikely a design that does not have the ‘ah-ha’ factor can be forced into a design that you love by moving its elements around. This is a problematic feature with logo design contest and euphemistically named ‘crowdsourcing‘ sites. You’re expected to play art director throughout the entire contest. Cool if you are an art director. A little daunting if you’re not.

Purse Shopping:

(A close relative of art-directing the job) – when you view your new logo and your reaction is instant. “There it is! It’s perfect! Just what I want”. At this point, the purse-shopping phenomenon can kick in – “Now, why don’t we try moving the text down, the globe to the right?” If you have developed a killer logo, your reaction will be similar to the people you’re trying to reach. Fumbling around for a ‘better’ version of a ‘perfect’ logo will only weaken its design, or worse, lose the original appeal completely. It would appear that most purse shopping is brought on by client’s desire to get their ‘money’s worth’, and exhausting what they perceive is the time paid for in design charges. Remember, you’re not paying for someone to put X number of hours into your design. You’re looking for your designer to utilize their skill, experience, talents and knowledge of technology into creating the icon that will represent your company for years. Milking a design for a few dollars can only hurt its integrity.

Cliches or trends:

Logo trends come and go every couple of years. In the latter half of the 90’s the trend was the swoosh (or was it the swish?) A combo homage to Nike and an attempt by every company on the planet to illustrate that they were all high-tech and stuff, the swoosh became the most overdone graphic element in recent memory. Then came shadows. Then ‘gel’ blends and reflections (like many graphic trends, thanks to Apple.) Now, it’s the so-called flat-design ‘look’ and feel. How to tell of a logo trend is just that? Simple. Is everybody doing it? Then it’s a trend. It will be very passe in a few months or years and you’ll be stuck with tens of thousands of business items plastered with a logo that causes you to shudder every time you look at it. Stick to the classic types of logos – longevity, adaptability and impact will be the pay-off.

Copying someone else:

As strange as it might seem, we sometimes get asked to ‘copy’ other people’s logos. And a lot of people find a little bit too much of their design inspiration from ours. While this is a bad idea for a variety of reasons, including copyright and trademark problems down the road, it’s something we refuse to do because it defeats the purpose of developing a great logo in the first place. That logo that you like may indeed be wonderful – for the company that’s already using it. It won’t work for you. While it’s very helpful for our designers to view types of logos that you ‘like’ in order to assess the direction that your project will take, it’s best to keep the influence of other people’s brands to a minimum. When your company becomes successful, it’s always better to have a logo that’s completely yours, rather than a mark that can be traced back to someone else.

Cheaper in attorney fees too.

The Logo! Factor blog for designers & clients
The Logo! Factor is the official design blog of The Logo Factory, offering features for business owners and designers alike. To receive notifications of new releases, subscribe to our Design Dispatches mailing list.

Logo Design Help Center

A collection of helpful and informative tutorials for designers, do-it-yourselfers and anyone interested in branding their company.


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