Some pragmatic suggestions for the designer and client

This isn’t a full run-down of logo design tips, but rather, 12 completely random suggestions to utilize when designing a logo. For a lot more of this stuff, see our Logo Design Help Center but these should suffice in a pinch. Without further adieu:

1) Easy on the number of fonts.

More than two fonts in a a logo and you’re going to end up with a design that looks like a ransom note.

2) Keep it simple.

While this isn’t as absolute as it used to be (modern day reproduction and hi-res monitors have helped) it’s still a good idea to keep you logo as simple as possible. Simple logos reproduce on the widest range of media and headaches increase exponentially the more complex your design is.

3) Do not copy.

Pretty straightforward stuff. Don’t copy anyone else’s logo. Doing that, dear friends, is the polar opposite of what developing an original logo is supposed to be about. That goes for so-called ready made template logos and most of these “do-it-yourself” logo makers that churn out the same icons for a multitude of different customers. Oh yeah, free logos are pretty well out too. They’re probably not free anyway.

4) Golden mean.

A logo that is too skinny and tall is going to cause all sorts of placement issues, especially on website headers. Take a look at the top 100 brand logos. Most are leaning towards horizontal, a golden mean aspect ratio (about the shape of a traditional business card – above) or a square layout.aspect-ratiosThere’s a reason for that. See here for more on logos and aspect ratios.

5) Two colors is perfect.

While it’s true that most printing these days have moved to CMYK (in order to gang-run brochures, pamphlets and what have you) and it’s possible to utilize a full color palette in your logo, it’s still advisable to keep the number of colors down to two. This allows for color accuracy (using the Pantone Matching System and spot color swatches) as well as make your logo ready for instances where spot color reproduction is still the only option. Best of both worlds and all that. Here’s a run-down of color spaces that explains much.

6) Vector all the way.

As part of your brand assets, one version of your logo needs to be in vector format. Here’s why. You can find find a complete DIY guide to file formats here.

7) Originality counts.

We’ve already gone over copying as a bad idea for your logo. But what about inadvertent copying, where your logo is a visual doppelganger of a design that’s already out there. Or what if someone else designed your logo and you’re not sure of its heritage? It’s not a bullet-proof method, but Google image search can help suss out if there’s similar designs already floating about.

8) Avoid trailing gradients.

If you insist in having gradients in your logo, and unless your Illustrator skills are up-to-snuff, try to make sure they don’t trail off into nothingness. Here’ s what we’re talking about:
Trailing-BlendThat will only cause you grief down the road when you’re trying to add your logo to a colored background, and the white ‘nothingness’ becomes visible. Try and keep all your gradients inside their own shapes (if you insist on ignoring this advice, are technically inclined and know your way around Adobe Illustrator, here’s a technical how-to on how to use trailing gradients in logos properly.)

9) Ditch the bevels, glows and lens flares.

Whenever people add bevels, glows and lens flares to their logo, it’s invariably because the design is missing ‘something’. More often than not, that missing part is effective design. If you feel your logo needs a bevel or a lens flare to make the cut, it’s probably time to start over. Even if it looks great, try embroidering this over-the-top glam shot on a golf shirt:

10) Use paths as opposed to strokes.

Strokes are when a designer uses a design software package (in this case Illustrator) to run an outline around a shape. The width of the stroke can be set in varying degrees and is cool for quick and dirty rendering. A path is a vector shape that is “filled” with color.
When it comes to final production of files, change those strokes to paths. They will scale more accurately, and there are instances (vinyl plotters for example) where the output device cannot assess the thickness of a stroke, but can cut around a path, likity-split. Unless certain toggles are set in everybody’s software, strokes may not scale properly – or scale at all.

11) A logo is not a brand.

Granted, a logo is a pretty important PART of a brand but still only a part. A brand is built by everything your company does and produces. A logo is a symbol, a banner if you will, of those efforts. Think Apple. Their logo is but a symbol for products that people love to use. Apple’s brand is much more complex than a simplified graphic of an apple with a bite taken out of it.

12) Bored with it already?

At some point, perhaps even during the design phase itself, you’re going to get sick and tired of looking at your logo and want to change it. Here’s the rub – a logo isn’t supposed to be different and fresh every time you look at it. A logo is supposed to have longevity, not be some flash-in-the-pan design element.