Here’s the top ten things you’re going need the ability to do, before you hang out that logo design shingle…

At the shop, and over the years, we’re often asked what it takes to be a great graphic designer, or more specifically, what it takes to be a great logo designer. Here’s the top ten.

1. The ability to draw.

Logo design often involves deconstructing some object, or concept, into its raw component parts. In order to do this, you need to be able to draw the visual in the first place. The globe and swoosh phenomenon of the late 90’s happened because a whole bunch of people, who couldn’t draw, managed to get their hands on a warez version of Adobe Illustrator. The internet let them pretend to be logo designers and the industry has never been the same since. If you’re not at least a marginal illustrator, logos probably won’t be your bag. I’m not talking museum quality illustration, but if you still render stick-figures it’s time for some drawing classes.

2. A kick-ass eye for typography.

Logos will almost always consist of art and typography combinations. If you want to create consistently great logos, you’ll need to love fonts, typography The Logo Factor designer editionand letter forms to death. You’ll boast a collection of hundreds, if not thousands of fonts. Some hand made stuff too. You’ll need to understand kerning and why auto-spacing, even in the best software platforms, is wonky at best. You’ll also need to know how to outline fonts (pet peeve – you’ve no idea how many ‘logos’ we receive with required, but missing, fonts). You need to understand some basic type psychology ie: Serif equals conservative, Italic equals fast, Papyrus equals done to death, unless you’re James Cameron.

3. A working knowledge of illustrator. No, not Photoshop. Illustrator.

Should go without saying, but it doesn’t, so I will. A capable logo designer needs to know the ins and outs of at least one pro-level vector based software package. You’ll need to know .eps, CMYK logos, PANTONE spot color logos and how the various logo formats can be used. Being able to throw a bevel onto some text in Photoshop does not make you a great logo designer. Neither does throwing together some bits and pieces in Paint or Word. Once your wonderful new logo is finished, the clock is ticking until such times as it hits a printing press. Technically speaking, files better be up to snuff , so a working knowledge of prepress is equally important. Doesn’t matter how spiffy your 72 dpi JPG logo is, if it can’t print on a business card, it’s only half-baked. And no, you can’t design a logo in Photoshop.

4. An allergic reaction to logo templates, clip art and recycled artwork.

There is no chance, none at all, of anyone that uses so-called DIY logo creator software of becoming a great logo designer. I’d argue there’s no chance of you even becoming a poor one, but I digress. Same goes for those Flash driven do-it-yourself web sites. It’s clip art logos with a fancy interface. It’s not great. It’s not design. They’re not logos.

5. The ability to avoid trends.

By the time something has become a trend, it is over.


Copying what is now a trend, means that you’re developing a logo that’s out-of-date in the eyes of 95% of the design community and will be hackneyed in about seven seconds. Think Web 2.0 logos. Stay original. Focus on unique. Try to be timeless. Trends are called trends for a reason. They end. Here’s a look at logos to avoid if you want to swim with the sharks in the originality department.

6. A very, very, very thick skin.

You need to be able to ignore comments that are almost formula guaranteed to rile a designer up. If statements like ‘looks like clip art logo’, ‘I could have done that myself’ and ‘my kid could have done better’ run the risk of cranking up the homicidal rage, best look elsewhere for a career. You also need to be able to deal with the ‘surely this will only take a minute’ and ‘can’t you just press a button’ variants. Statements like “it costs how much?!!!” need to be like water off a duck. Similarly, you have to understand that not every one of your logos can be legends.

7. The ability to “let it go.”

The first tip I give to a newly hired designer is simply this – avoid getting ‘married to your artwork’. The logo is for the client – it’s their baby. They may have just butchered your great award winning concept, but they’re the ones that need to connect with their design. The client may not recognize your graphic design brilliance, but does it really matter? You can also put your favorite version in your logo gallery as an example of ‘what coulda been’. When it comes to taste, there’s no litmus test.

No right and wrong.

At the end of the day, logo design is a service industry – if the client’s happy, you should be happy. As designers, the client certainly wants our help, but may wish to have some creative input. Sliding scale from passive observer to full-blown art direction. With the resultant morphing of your original ideas. You may not want to take credit for the hideous beast their logo has been mutated into, but you should be satisfied that you’ve made their day. This is, alas, one of the pitfalls of logo design and you’re just going to have to get used to it.

8. The ability to work quickly. Or for a very long time.

Economic realities being what they are, the production time for the average logo is down. How long should a logo design project take? It varies but in general, it’s way, way down. Some folks cut corners – but a great logo designer manages to fit in all the required steps, in a shorter period of time. In the day, we used to sit in the park, sketch book in hand, doodling ideas and concepts. Still probably the best method. Alas, unless the budget on a project is above average, there’s less ‘think time’ and more emphasis on ‘do time’. Clients like to see results. Not hear why the idea that exists only as vaporware in your head is going to be the best logo evah.

9. A lack of pretension.

Avoid being a prima donna. Back in the day graphic design was known as commercial art. At some point, every graphic designer decided to avoid dying of tuberculosis in some drafty loft (while waiting for their latest painting to sell) but earn a living creating artwork for the sole intention of selling stuff.

“At some point, every graphic designer decided to avoid dying of tuberculosis in some drafty loft (while waiting for their latest painting to sell) but earn a living creating artwork for the sole intention of selling stuff.”

Your latest logo is to be used to sell pet food, tampons, condoms and sports equipment. It’s never going to appear in The Louvre. Keep it in perspective. And while the Buddy Holly glasses and black turtle neck may have be tres chic in art school, a pair a jeans and loafers is much more comfortable when chained to a Macintosh for ten flippin’ hours

10. An almost super-human ability to consume coffee.

Caffeine enriched beverages will make your life easier. Goes without saying.

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 to get it out of the way. It’s still a pretty solid piece that nobody found in its old spot, so we’re golden.