A DIY tutorial on using your logo on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Linked In and Instagram.

Sure, your logo looks lovely. It’s a perfect representation of your company ethos, brand and personality. Regardless of how nice your logo is, it’s only by using the design does it gain any traction so once clients have downloaded their logo assets, they’re generally off to their favorite social media platform – Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, YouTube, Instagram, et al – to plaster it over their profiles and timelines. Over the years we’ve assisted a lot of people on the wheres and wherefores of creating their social media presence, so figured it might be time to post this to our blog, if nothing else but to save us from writing the same email over-and-over again.

You’re gonna need a PNG or JPG of your logo.

The beginning always seems like a good place to start, and in this case that would be what logo files to use. At our shop, we’re all about designing logos in vector format – solid rule – but uploading your logo to a social media site always involves the use of a pixel-based bitmap (raster) image, either a .PNG or .JPG in specific. It can’t be an itty-bitty version either. While most social media platforms feature avatar images that are small (some as tiny as 16 pixels square,) there are also places where your avatar is going to be larger. Worth noting here – you should never enlarge a bitmap image larger than it’s original pixel size or it will look blurry and jagged so accordingly, you’ll need a decent sized image to begin with, preferably created from the original source vector files of your design. At a very minimum, you should be starting with a logo that’s about 500 pixels wide, or high, using its widest edge as the gauge. If you don’t have vector versions of your logo to begin with, it’s probably time to to get some. Which logo format should you use? That all depends on the platform and what’s in your logo. If your design is “flat” – absent blends and gradients – or text based, it’s almost always better to use a .PNG file. They don’t clump up with compression abstracts like .JPGs and can appear cleaner (though some platforms convert profile images to .JPGs anyway, so best to experiment.) If your logo is illustrative in nature – and features complex blends, drop shadows or the like – it’s always best to use a .JPG as .PNGs (especially 8 bit) tend to “band” these colors. As an aside, if your logo is that complex, it’s not going to work terribly well on social media in general, so it would be better to work with a simplified version. We’ll touch on that more later.

Square images is where it’s at.

We’ll begin with a simple golden rule. All social media platforms use a square box in which to place your avatar image – in this case your logo. Keep in mind we’re not talking about your logo being precisely square, few are, but rather the image box that your design needs to sit inside. The aspect ratio of your logo is determined by the width vs. height shape and is dictated by the widest edge of your logo – horizontal or vertical – that edge being the tail that wags the dog. If your basic logo setup can sit in a squarish image box, the horizontal and vertical close to equal – you’re golden.using-logo-in-social-media-sizesIf, on the other hand, your logo art is in a horizontal (or vertical) aspect ratio, you’re gonna need to perform a few more steps. We have to crowbar that design into a square image box come hell or high water and if our “please help me!!!” emails from clients are any indication, this is where many do-it-yourselfers lose their way.

Do not bend, spindle or mutilate your logo.

Whenever you upload your logo image to a social media site, there are tools that allow you to crop the image. Fair enough, but these aren’t magical and you have to follow some basic rules. The first is that your logo image has to fit edge to edge, top and bottom. Keep in mind you can’t “stretch” your logo into a square format – it either is or isn’t square – and if you try to upload a logo that’s horizontal, the platform software will invariably truncate your logo into its square format. Like so:
sizing-your-logo-to-fit-inside-a-social-media-avatarThere’s another option of course, and that’s to fit your logo – at its widest edge – inside the square avatar proportions. Like so:resizing-logo-to-fit-square-social-mediaRemember, your image box has to end up as a square, so if your logo is horizontal, you’ll have to open up the image box to square it up (above left). That will result in a perfectly square avatar (above right) and you should be good to go, right? Not so fast. So far, we’ve only talked about prepping your logo for use on social media from a technical point-of-view. Let’s take a look at how this plays out in the visual sense. We’ll take the adjusted logo from above and scale it to Twitter sizes:twitter-avatars-size-logoTwitter profile avatars (above left) are 200 pixels wide, so lots of wiggle room for finite detail. The same image is shrunk down for use on timelines (where most people will see it) to a paltry 48 pixels square (desktop version, smaller on smartphone) with little wiggle room for much of anything. Keep in mind that the example we’re using is a simple font – it only gets worse with more complex logos with lots of detail.

Adapting a logo for social media use.

Used to be that a logo design was sacrosanct – not one hair in the design could be changed – but the advent of social media has changed all that. We no longer talk about designing logos in the absolute, but the creation of brand systems: adaptable logos that can be dissected, spun and mashed-up depending on where, and how, they are being used. Let’s take a look at a recent design project at our studio – the brand system development for Dublin (Ireland) based Customer Link. Their logo is fairly straightforward iconic treatment, a series of interwoven links inspired by the name. There are two primary versions of the design – horizontal and vertical – that allow its application on a variety of media.customer-link-social-media-brandWe can perform the same exercise as above with an actual live logo and say how it plays out. First, we’ll use the horizontal version of the, that’s not gonna work. The logo is illegible at the small timeline size and sits uncomfortably in its larger profile badge. Let’s try the same exercise, but use the vertical version instead:social-media-Twitter-avatar-mediumBetter. The logo sits much nicer in its frame, and is more recognizable in the 48 pixel version. What if we ditch the typography all together, and use the icon on its own? Let’s take a look:social-media-Twitter-avatar-icon-onlyVery nice indeed. I point out that all the above examples feature edge-to-edge examples for clarity, whereas I’d give the logos a few pixels (it has to be an even number) around the art so it can “breathe” (see below.) This “icon only” approach allows us lots of design options to work with depending on what we’re trying to accomplish – here’s how a full social media array might look like:social-media-avatar-iconsI should point out that this approach almost requires a certain level of brand equity – people should know your icon already (think the Nike swoosh) – but it’s a viable alternative if you have one of those logos that doesn’t fit into a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram avatar regardless of what you do or how hard you twist, stretch and move it around.

Building a social media brand system price tag.

There is a cost to building a social media brand system to be sure. It takes time, a little know how, and lots of file prep. Each social media platform, be it Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Instagram or You Tube have a wide range of specs (and they change frequently) so the cost is either your time, or the money you pay a designer to do it for you. Which ever investment method you choose, it is a worthwhile one, because all social media platforms allow you to get your name, your logo and your brand out there – potentially to millions – for nothing.

Logo file management.

One thing I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention – though it has very little to do with design per se – and that’s the issue of file management. Whenever you’re building a social media brand system you’re gonna produce an awful lot of digital assets and files and it’s critical that you name everything cohesively or you’re going to run into problems somewhere down the road. For instance, here’s just one of the square avatar folders we shipped to Customer Link:social-media-avatar-file-managementIt the files weren’t named descriptively, imagine trying to sort that mess out six months from now, when you’re forgotten what you did, how big you did it, and what color you did it in. I tend to name files with what they are, as well as the width of the image contained within. Trust me on this one – it will save you oodles of time over the lifetime of your brand.