What is the purpose of a logo?
Before describing how to design a logo for your business, it is important to understand the purpose of a logo. Logo design isn’t art, they are rarely beautiful. A logo is simply a symbol or mark used to represent your brand, you can think of it as your signature. Above all, the primary role of a logo is brand recognition. A good logo design will help your customers instantly recognise your business. Therefore your logo should be distinctive, clear and memorable.
How will the logo be used?
Establishing how your logo will be used will help you to decide how it should be designed. For example, there is currently a focus on design for digital. Which means in some instances, your logo will only be seen at a small size, so scalability should be taken into consideration. Or perhaps you own a coffee shop and you’d like your logo design printed on to T-shirts. Understanding the requirements for embroidery is an additional factor to consider. Intricate designs with multiple colours won’t translate to t-shirt printing.
Consequently, these considerations have led to many businesses opting for minimal logo designs. This is because minimal design offers the most versatility across different uses, due to its simplicity.
Research the competition
Before getting out your sketch pad, your first step is to research the competition. The aim is to objectively review logo designs within your industry. This will help you to recognise effective logo designs, as well as ones to avoid. Finally, begin to sketch your own concepts, ensuring they don’t mimic any of your competitors. Remember, the purpose is to create a logo that represents your brand. Your research will help you to ensure your logo doesn’t blend in with the crowd.
Top tip – Avoid generic logo’s
There is a common misconception that your logo should tell people what you do, leading many small business owners to fall into the trap of searching for a generic logo.
Their logo research looks something like this.
Google – *Insert your industry* logo.
Estate Agency – House
Bakery – Wheat/Bread
Recruitment Company – People/Magnifying Glass
Legal Services – Scales
Hairdresser – Scissors
This seems to be a natural response to logo design. However, there are only so many ways to design an estate agency using a house for a symbol. This is how designs become too complicated because people lose sight of the purpose. With that in mind, we should try to think a little more abstractly about our logo design and avoid the obvious.
Remember the purpose of a logo is to help customers recognise your business, not what you do.
Not convinced? Take a look at the UK’s most successful businesses. FTSE 100.
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The Five types of logo design
A wordmark is a freestanding word or words. Logotypes are uniquely styled text logos that spell out the company or brand name in a stylised typeface.
Lettermark is a symbol representing the company through the use of its initials. These marks are exclusively typographic.
Abstract marks are a symbol that conveys a big idea in an interesting shape. Abstract marks are highly conceptual, they might represent an idea or value rather than provide a direct message.
An emblem is a mark in which the company name is inextricably connected to a pictorial element. What differentiates them from other brandmarks is that the elements are never isolated.
As the name suggests a combination mark involves a combination of wordmark and brandmark.
Visual hierarchy is the order in which you process visual information. It is a system that prioritises elements so that they are easily understood. Without a visual hierarchy or design structure, people can be overwhelmed and as a result, fail to recognise your logo. For that reason, you should organise elements using a layout the human eye can make sense of. This can be achieved using visual cues, such as fonts, colours and sizing. We can take a look at the examples below to get a better understanding.
None of the elements in the design calls for our attention, there is no focal point. Due to the amount of ‘white space,’ there is no real relationship between any of the design elements.
By turning each element into an abstract shape we can begin to create a visual hierarchy using scale.
The company name is now the largest element, drawing our attention. As well as the text ‘visual hierarchy’ being made smaller, we have also reduced the weight of the font so that it isn’t confused as part of the business name. We have also brought all of the elements closer together, making it clear that the symbol is a mark for the brand.
Colour can impact our emotions and behaviours. Don’t believe me? Here’s a study by Frontiers Media. Choosing the right colours for your logo helps you to begin to communicate your brand with your customers. Something as simple as a poor colour choice can lead to a confusing, and forgettable brand.
Colour psychology is an entire topic of its own so I won’t attempt to describe the impact of each colour. If you are interested in learning more you can take a look at this blog by Orbelo.
If you plan on using more than one colour in your logo, a solid understanding of colour theory will help you to make the right choices. Colours don’t all work well together, so it is important to take your time in selecting your colour palette.
A colour wheel is a great tool to help you choose your logo colours. The colour wheel contains warm colours (red, yellow, orange) on the left side and cool colours (blue, green, and purple) on the right.
Complementary colour combinations are colours opposite of each other on the colour wheel, these create contrast.
If you don’t feel comfortable creating your brand’s colour palette there are some great online tools to help you. You can either start searching with a colour in mind or let the tools suggest some for you.
How many colours should be in a logo?
We have already established early on in this article that simplicity wins, so one to three colours is optimum for a great logo design. An old fashioned rule that still holds weight today is that your logo should be recognisable even when shown in just one colour (black or white). This was as traditional printing only allowed for one colour to be produced.
Just like colour, font choice also impacts the perception of your logo design so it is key to find the right one. But with 1000’s of fonts available how do you find the one that’s right for you?
Start by deciding what font style is for you. There are only four primary font styles, these are;
Serif fonts have small decorative or embellished lines added to each character (or letter).
Sans-serif means without serifs. They do not contain embellishments.
Script fonts are designed to mimic calligraphy and traditional hand lettering.
These are informal fonts that are entirely original. These fonts are interpreted as quirky, creative and fun.
If you are struggling to find a font that represents your business, it is possible to have a custom font created for you. This is typically an option for large companies like Facebook and Google due to the time and cost implications of font design. However, the investment gives you a unique identity that your competitors can’t replicate.
Symbols can be pictorial and literal (like a house or a tree) or geometric and abstract (like a square or spiral). Let’s remember the purpose of our logo, ‘to help the customer identify your business’. Your symbol should be unique to your brand, so try to avoid the obvious.
Finally, we all know the Nike swoosh. McDonald’s golden arches and Mastercard’s overlapping circles. You could ask anybody to recreate any of these logos from memory and 99% of people could. How? Because of the simplicity of the design, and repeated exposure through brand awareness.
Digital Marketing Manager @ RD Design
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