When I started to teach myself graphic design, I found that creating an effective logo was one of the toughest things to get right. It may look easy but there are a mind-boggling number of pitfalls. The tools, techniques and ability to come up with creative answers are not mastered overnight. Here is my logo design 101 – I’ve chosen just a few practical tips to keep in mind once you get down to the business of design.
Be Bold – Ditch the Detail
“I strive for two things in design: simplicity and clarity. Great design is born of those two things.” Lindon Leader (Designer behind Avery and FedEx)
It can be tempting to try to be clever-clever and cram a shit-ton of visual ideas and cool details into a design, but this defeats the object. As the imprint of the brand, a logo must be memorable. Therefore, bold and minimal forms are everything.
Apple. McDonald’s. Netflix. Coca-Cola. Ford. Clichéd examples they may be, but these brands all have one thing in common: we can picture their logos clearly because they are so simple and therefore easy to recall in the mind’s eye.
So walk away from the intricate graphics, eye-melting patterns, wordy straplines and ornate fonts. You will be glad to say goodbye to a hot mess of illegible text and forgettable visuals!
Draw it Yourself
Use Illustrator’s pen tool to draw your own illustrations. Don’t dump clip art or stock designs onto the artboard and pat yourself on the back. It’s lazy, legally shaky and sucks all the individuality out of the brand you’re meant to be adding a unique stamp to. By all means, draw inspiration from existing work – we all do (while keeping a healthy distance from charges of plagiarism!) – but work from scratch. It’s great practice and, if you get it right, it’s an awesomely satisfying feeling of a job well done.
Use Vectors Every Time
When creating a logo, always work in vector format (such as Adobe Illustrator’s default .ai). Why? Because this format is scalable – you can resize vector graphics from minuscule to infinitely whopping dimensions without any loss of clarity or quality. This means that your logo can be used on everything from a business card to a billboard and will look pin-sharp every time.
Compare this with bitmap formats such as .jpeg, .png or Adobe Photoshop’s .psd, which are most commonly used for photography but misused in logo design (rookie error!). Avoid them, because any significant resize of a graphic in these formats can mean a serious loss of quality where the graphic becomes jagged (‘pixellated’) or blurry. A logo in this format will become quickly unusable in different design and print contexts.
There are so many other factors that come into play when designing a strong logo, but with this handful of tips to add to your logo design 101 toolkit, it should help you to overcome some of the most common blunders. Happy designing!