Take a look at any of these images, and what do you see?
Almost certainly you instantly recognize them. You know what company or product they represent without even having to think about it. You might be remembering the last time you filled up on gas, even if it wasn’t at a Shell station, or the last movie you watched with your children, or the last text you sent, or the last meal you had. Even though none of the logos above contain the names of the things they represent, humans are powerfully visual creatures, and the ability of logos to create associations in a customer’s mind is unmatched. The saying is that a picture is worth a thousand words, but any advertiser or marketing professional will be able to tell you that no amount of words could do the same job as the shape of a Coke bottle, or the interlocking colors of the Olympic rings.
So how do you harness that power for yourself? If you are looking to create an iconic logo, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Keep it Simple
The best logos are instantly recognizable from a distance, whether that be a road sign, a rapidly scrolled past web banner, or a hastily pocketed business card. The simpler your design, the easier it is for it to catch someone’s eye. In the perfect world, a customer would see something that isn’t even related – an apple, a seashell, the shape of a tree – and be reminded of your logo. The cleaner the design, the fewer lines and colors you use, the more likely it is people will recognize it quickly and easily.
Keep it Small
Logos are often shrunk down to fit in tiny surfaces: stamped on labels and business cards, or crammed into the corners of websites and banners. When designing your logo, make sure it still parses at small sizes. The easiest way to do this is to include as few lines as possible, or to make sure all the lines are the same general type. Coca-Cola’s logo has a lot of lines, but you don’t need to see all of them clearly to know what the logo is: it’s enough that they are all the same kind of sweeping curve.
Have a Plan
The fact that a logo has to be both small and simple counter-intuitively makes it one of the most difficult challenges in the design world. When you have so little space to work with, every tiny choice can make a huge difference. Think about what your logo is trying to evoke, and try to find a design that makes people feel in their gut the way you want them to feel about your product. Apple’s design is minimal and black and white because the simplicity of the logo makes customers imagine their products are intuitive and easy to use. Coke’s logo uses smooth, sweeping lines to make you think of its smooth taste, and Pepsi’s logo is red, white, and blue to make Americans see it as the natural drink for their country. These sorts of things may sound silly when stated out loud, but subconsciously, which is where sales are made, they really do work.
Use Color Contrast
We talked about this in our article on Web Banners, but if anything, it’s even more true for logos. Because your image is smaller and you have fewer lines than in a banner, you’ll also want to use fewer colors. This will also save costs when printing labels or business cards, or even t-shirts (see How to start a t-shirt printing business), and every little bit helps! To make sure your colors work together, try this article – not only does it have a great title, it also has a solid introduction to the basics of color theory. Remember, there’s no point to designing a logo if people don’t even notice it’s there!
It’s also important to use the right color palette for the job. A dentist’s office should never use too much red, for example – it will make people think about blood. On the other hand, a company marketing toys to small children might want as many bright colors as possible.
Hire a Designer to Get You Started
Unless you’re a digital artist, you probably won’t have experience making this type of image yourself. Luckily, you don’t have to do it all on your own! Hiring a good designer to sketch out some logo designs, or to perfect what you’ve come up with, can be a great way to make sure your logo works the way you want it to. The images are the most important part of building a brand identity or taking on an advertising campaign, so if you plan to spend any money on your ads, this is the best place to spend it. Once you have an image you’re happy with, you can use and reuse it everywhere – and for a logo, the more places you put it the more effective it is.
Check Your Logo Against Other Companies
One of the dangers of small, simple designs is that someone else might have had the same idea you did. Logopedia is a user-curated database of corporate logos – it’s by no means comprehensive, but some browsing under your industry or in your location can give you an idea of if your logo design might tread on someone’s toes. And of course, once you have your design, trademark it! Trademarking and copyright laws vary from place to place, but the trademarking board will check to make sure your design isn’t too similar to another company’s – and that future logos don’t look too much like yours.
Designing a Logo – Quick Steps
- Decide what feelings or emotions you want your logo to evoke – what are you trying to say about your product or brand?
- Know your audience – Who is the logo meant for? This will help you pick out a design and color scheme that will appeal to them.
- Hire a designer. If you’re planning to hire a designer, do so early in the process. Know what you want out of it so they can help as much as possible.
- Pick a primary design color, and choose secondary colors that pair well with it (and one another!).
- Design the image. Try for a combination of shapes that you’ll recognize from far away, at tiny resolutions, or even folded in half.
- Trim it back if it’s getting too complicated
- Print up some business cards, put it on labels, stick it in banners! You’re done!