5 simple logo design tips


Lately I’ve been creating more logos than usual and so the topic of logo design has been fresh on my mind. Today I’m not covering how to actually do the designing part, but rather things you should keep in mind before, during, and after the design process. If you’re designing a logo for a brand, many designers and vendors will use that logo for years to come. You want the logo file to be the best it can possibly be so you don’t have complications in the future. Here’s a list of 5 simple tips that will help you and everyone who uses your logo.

1. Do not design logos with raster images.

I beg of you, on behalf of all the designers and printers in the world, do not design logos to include images. There are so many logistical problems you will run into when you do this. You will have problems with every print job you do from apparel to newspapers to retail signage. Scaling your logo to large sizes will be downright ugly or impossible. The colors in the image will change every time they're printed since they're not a solid Pantone formulated color, etc. The list goes on. You are making your life harder, don’t do it!

2. You need to expand or outline your text before sending it to anyone.

If you send an EPS or AI file to someone and the text is not outlined, and they do not have that font installed on their computer, that beautiful text you worked so hard on will disappear. This is also true if you ever get a new computer and open the logo file without the font installed. Always keep a version with the text not expanded though! In the past I have accidentally expanded a logo’s text without keeping the original, and weeks later I went back to edit the text but I couldn’t. It was no longer clickable with the text tool and I forgot what font I used for it. So I had to actually redesign the logo… oops. Learn from my mistakes and keep an original copy with text in-tact for reference purposes.

3. The pen tool and shape tools are your best friends.

Yes, the pen tool is the devil when you first start using it. I hated that thing and avoided the pen for as long as I could until I realized I couldn’t go without it. Anyway, to the point. Use simple shapes to build your logos when initially starting. Why? Simple shapes and their silhouettes have a clear read. If you get too detailed too fast, your logo will start looking like a shapeless blob.

Here’s an example: I was designing a stylized Q logo for a project and initially I had all these crazy Q’s in mind. I started drawing the elaborate Q’s with the pen tool and then I realized that the Q no longer looked like a Q. It was kind of round with a line coming out of the bottom, but the first read of the shape didn’t say Q. That’s a problem. Your logo needs a clear shape so that viewers instantly know what the logo says. Humans have short attention spans and they’re not going to spend seconds trying to figure out what your logo says.

To fix my problem, I went back to the drawing board with simple shapes in mind. I used a circle shape for the round body and the rectangle shape tool for the stick. Wha-la, a Q appeared! A crude Q but it was clearly a Q. My point is that you should start simple with your shape tools and then work your way into the detail with the pen tool. As I like to say, the simpler your logo is the better the design will most likely be.

4. Design logos in black fill color only.

You will be tempted to start the beginning stages of a logo design in color but the color is just a distraction. Of course it’s cool to brainstorm color schemes and all that, but it’s best to not even think about that stage when you’ve just begun. Black helps you focus on the shape and design. If your logo only works in certain colors, you’ve got bigger problems than color. Something is fundamentally wrong with your composition. Your logo should be clear and readable in ONLY black. If it’s not, go back and fix the design. In that same vein, do not rely on gradients for design because you’re going to run into the same problem of a poor composition.

5. Unite (pathfinder -> unite) your logos before sending them to anyone.

There are very few things worse than receiving a logo with 437 individual shapes that are ungrouped and unorganized. It just screams unprofessional. Make the logo one solid shape so it’s easy to use and it looks great. Like in tip #2, save the original, ungrouped version somewhere in your personal files in case you need it but send off only the grouped/united version.

That’s it! Super simple but these little tips make a big difference. Your vendors and printers will love you if you follow these tips. :)