Design a Great Logo: 10 Tips

Great logos aren't accidents. Here's a look at a slew of thoughtfully designed logos and why they work.

Is your brand trustworthy, legitimate, memorable, and unique? It's a lot to pack into a tiny icon, but well-designed logos can accomplish exactly that. To find out how to do it, I spoke with experts who offered their ideas on what makes a logo work.--Christina DesMarais

A logo is the foundation for building your brand. Keep in mind that memorable logos don’t need to describe what your business does. Ever seen a car manufacturer with a picture of a car as its logo? How about a picture of a shoe on a shoe? This logo for electric motorcycle company Brammo is a perfect example of how simplicity can communicate strength. The design came from crowdSPRING, a marketplace where graphic designers submit ideas for projects.

Free e-learning site MentorMob is a great example of a logo that's been designed to work on large or small formats and on different materials. Does your logo work well on a billboard, business card, brochure, or t-shirt? Will you use embroidery, stamping or embossing? The logo also should be readable on or adaptable for both black and white backgrounds.

Too many colors make a logo more difficult and costly to produce. One-color logos, on the other hand, are often quite scalable and easy to display in grayscale. Mobile commerce app GoPago employs a simple one-color logo while using a safe-like icon to convey security.

The Wahoo Food Group logo, which was created on crowdSPRING, has a classic look to it--that’s because of the serifs, the slight projections off the edges of the letters that can convey a sense of dignity and power. You can see them on the company name but not on “W” of the logo’s icon.

In contrast, sans serif typefaces (such as Arial) lack those litte sharp edges and as such are often considered more clean-looking. In the case of personalized shopping website CakeStyle, the font conveys whimsy. But for analytics applications company Vizier the sans serif type communicates stability.

Building strong brand recognition means using a logo that stays the same over time (think Coca-Cola or Apple). Timelessness is key--so watch out for faddish designs. Mobile application builder Fivespark uses a crowdSPRING-sourced logo that is simple enough to transcend trends.

When used purposefully, color can be a great way to communicate. KurbKarma, a new social network for parking, goes for a striking--and memorable--yellow and black contrast. (It also looks great on an iPhone.) The new, all-you-can-fly luxury airline Surf Air uses the color blue to suggest air and water and it's prime selling point: tranquility. GridIron Systems uses a strong red and black theme reminiscent of racing, which is appropriate given its mission of turning performance-challenged IT environments into super-fast data serving infrastructures. And Do brings together many colors harmoniously--a good choice for a social productivity app that helps team members stay in sync.

Think about how your logo will be used on the Web. Will you need to create buttons or icons that are smaller versions of your larger logo? “Logo design has also trended toward very simple, elegantly drawn lines or shapes that can be used in conjunction with bright backgrounds, patterned packaging, and other collateral," says Jeffrey Martin, owner and designer of Jeffrey Martin Design in Minneapolis, Minnesota. "Logos that can be easily translated into a Web button or icon are very popular, like Pinterest, for example."

Do you have a strong business culture that you want to communicate to the world? Consider a logo with more of a personal touch. Hand-drawn fonts or pictures and old-school tools such as gears “can convey an understandable, hard-working yet friendly outlook or an approachable DIY-style of business,” he says. Fundraising platform GoodTwo is one hand-drawn example that’s definitely friendly.

Fortunately, finding a logo designer has become easier in recent years with more online platforms that showcase artists' work. CrowdSPRING, for example, claims to have more than 116,000 registered creatives and nearly 500 new artists registering per week. Know, however, that many designers don’t care for the model because it requires them to work on spec. The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) or professional placement firms like Aquent are also good places to look. But “the best way may be simply word-of-mouth,” Martin says. “That is how I have gotten almost [all]of my business.” Shown here: Designer Nancy Harris Rouemy’s page on Carbonmade, an online portfolio site where many artists show off their work.
Christina DesMarais

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