logo configurations

A logo is more than a pretty picture but the visual cornerstone of your brand that has to be seen, and seen often, in many places. A look at the configurations, setups and design variations you’ll eventually need to make your logo work wherever it has to.

This isn’t another feature on logo file formats, though it would be easier to understand if you had a gander at that feature first as some of the terms are discussed. We’re going to use an example from our logo gallery to work with, that of Vector FX because it’s ours, we can do what we want with it and the vector nib theme seems somehow apropos.The design consists of 4 main components – a symbol (B above,) a primary wordmark (C and D) and a tag or strapline (E.)

Your default logo.

(A) above represents your logo in all its glory – what its supposed to look like under optimum conditions, those being a neutral background, fairly decent size and all the colors in the design readily available. Almost any logo – regardless of how badly setup, can and will work under those conditions. Alas, the point of this exercise is to make sure your logo works regardless of where you put it under terrible conditions, reduced color palette environments and even when its itty-bitty in the size department. There’s a lot of those places and most default logos aren’t going to work, off-the-shelf, in all of them. We’re going to have to make some modifications to the original artwork – something that up to a few years ago would be considered akin to branding heresy – which will involve moving things about, resizing bits and pieces and removing colors entirely. We’ll have to perform some technical file jiu jitsu for unicorn uses. All the while making sure the original design DNA is featured in whatever weird configuration we’ve dreamed up.

Horizontal aspect ratio.

Aspect ratio sounds like a fancier term than it actually is, namely the relationship between your height and width of your logo. If the upright edge is the largest, your logo would have a horizontal aspect ratio. Like so:Full color logoThe best logos are responsive, adaptable and work as both, depending on where you want to put it. Let’s see how.

Vertical aspect ratio.

The default version of our logo is horizontal, but that certainly doesn’t stop us from doing this.
Vertical version of the same logoNobody could argue that this is a different logo – its DNA is unmistakable – but it’ll work for occasions when a vertical area is all we have to work with. This version isn’t squarish enough to work as things like social media avatars and whatnot, so we’ll have to address that separately.

Light backgrounds.

Light backgrounds, whether on a website or in a brochure, are safe territory for most logos in their default setup (A, B below.) logo on light backgroundWe may want to use a variant from below to mix things up a bit, or adjust various bits and pieces (the orange color – B above – is getting a bit lost) but generally speaking we’re safe with any out-of-the-can setup.

Dark backgrounds.

Dark backgrounds get a little trickier because we may have to tweak various bits and pieces of the default setup to make it work. If we simply drop our default logo on a dark background – in this case black, various elements will no longer be visible (A below.)logos on dark backgroundWe’ll have to make some changes to the structure of the design for dark backgrounds, in this case changing some of the typography to white and running an outline around the symbol (B above.)


Sure, we could fit the default version of our logo into a square if needs be – for using it as an avatar or profile picture on social media platforms is one such instance – but in order to fit the widest edge in, we’d have to make it fairly small (A & B below) especially if we choose to go with our horizontal version.
By moving things around ever-so-slightly, we can maximize our use of the square real estate we’re dealing with (B and D above.)

Black & white versions.

Even in this color-soaked digital era, we’re still going to need black and white versions of our logo – unless you don’t mind blowing through ink cartridges on your desktop printer like there’s no tomorrow. Black and white versions also work on things like checks, faxes and what have you. Here’s the two types of black and white logos: Black and white logosThe design on the left (A) is still in black and white but uses a percentage of black (grayscale) to imply a second color. The version on the right (B) only uses solid black.

One color.

This is a little different than the black and white configuration we just talked about insomuch it’s not black per se, but color agnostic and merely needs one color to work.
That can be any color, be it black, purple or blue as shown here.

One color reverse.

This is a concept that seems to even confuse designers from time to time. The idea here is to have a logo that works on dark backgrounds, allows the background to “poke through” the design setup (B below.)This isn’t just a matter of turning the one color setup we talked about to white – that ends up with an X-ray effect – but creating a completely different configuration that works in the way we need. That’s gonna require a little tinkering with the original logo vector art. Here’s what our color reverse artwork looks like if we were to print it dark.reversed color artwotkSee, it can ONLY be used as a light color on dark backgrounds or it looks like an X-ray. This concept is particularly important on things like dark T-shirts.


Whenever a designer creates your logo, structurally speaking, it’s made up a bunch of color filled vectors – think polygons – sitting on top of each other in layers. Whenever you’re printing things, the film and plate making equipment understands what’s supposed to be on top and not print things that are covered. One exception on this is some vinyl plotters that don’t recognize what’s on top, but the blade merely follows the outlines of the vectors. To address this, we have to “trim” the original logo art so that there’s no overlapping vectors. Like so.
See here for a more detailed look at prepping logo art for vinyl plotters.

Icons and symbols.

We can continue to drill down, performing everything we’ve just done, only this time for icons and symbols on their own. Like so.Those would be lovely for use on social media as avatars and profiles. We could also develop another set of files based on the typographic wordmark portion of our logo. Like so:Wordmark configurations And on. And on.

Your own brand assets.

None of this is to stay you need all the various configurations and permutations before launching your new logo – you don’t – but the longer you’re around, and the more various places your logo shows up, you’re going to begin checking off the list up top. The key thing to any of this is organization of files – make sure to name everything what it is. Six months from now that logo file you called version2_final_final_USETHISONE.jpg isn’t going to make a lot of sense to you, or any vendor you ship digital to.