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Published 13th December 2014 by

As graphic designers, we are often asked to design logos or redesign existing logos. What are the logo design principals, and what tools and techniques can we use?
Graphic Design Series
  1. What is Graphic Design?
  2. Graphic Design Elements & Principles
  3. Colour Theory - Tips and Inspiration
  4. Everything You Wanted to Know About Typography
  5. Introduction to Adobe Photoshop
  6. Introduction to Photo Editing
  7. Creating Web Designs in Photoshop
  8. Introduction to Adobe Illustrator
  9. Tracing Artwork in Adobe Illustrator
  10. Logo Design
  11. Introduction to the Printing Process

Logo design requires a few different skills, not just graphic design. Firstly a logo must fit within the companies branding, reflect the message the company wishes to put forward and also be eye catching, memorable and distinctive. Here are some top tips for improving your branding and logo designs to master logo design.


Before pen hits paper you need to thoroughly research your client, their history, past brandings, objectives, understand their competition and their target audience. Your client should be able to provide some information about their competitors to get you started.

Gather all the logos together of all the competition and lay them out. Have a look through them, are there any trends for this market sector, do they share a similar style or typography? Are there branding conventions in this market sector? These questions can help your creative process by playing on familiar visual associations. It's also worth noting that some of the more successful logos stand out because they do not conform to the branding conventions of the sector, so being different and breaking the expected conventions can help as well.

Graphic Design

Graphic Design

Asking Questions

There are six main questions you need to ask your client to determine the overall message they want to portray in their branding.

  1. Why are we here?
  2. What do we do, and how do we do it?
  3. What makes us different?
  4. Who are we here for?
  5. What do we value the most?
  6. What's our personality?

Answers to these questions can help create the tone of the design. For examples, if your client portrays a friendly family orientated image then a strong, bold military styled design is not going to work.

Stay Flexible

You must be flexible in your designs. The client will often want to change certain aspects of the design, often many times over. It's not uncommon to provide half a dozen proofs, have one selected with proposed changes which result in another half dozen designs. It could be that two concepts individually are great, but when they come together do not compliment each other. There will be a lot of back and forth, multiple changes and revisions so stay flexible.

Respect the Heritage

If you are working with a well established client, they it would pay to take inspiration of their previous branding. The current trend is for "back to the roots" branding and it allows the target audience to connect with the brands past and allow them to realise that the client is well established, they have been around for some time and they know what they are doing. While a retro-branding exercise can reinvigorate a brand if they have a genuine heritage, be wary if they have had troubles in the past. The last thing you want to do is introduce a new logo which many would associate with past failure.

Choose your Typography Correctly

Typography can make or break a logo and branding. Typography is a very powerful tool to portray a message so care must be taken to choose the right typeface. For example, serif fonts are seen as more traditional, while sans-serif are modern. Cursive fonts are friendly, while block can be aggressive. Similarly, a brand may be associated with a particular typeface. In this case you may not which to change it, or at least keep the change very subtle.

Anatomy of Typograhy

Anatomy of Typograhy

You can read more about how typography portrays messages in may typography article.

Go Back to Basics

Sometimes the simplest approach is the best. Taking logo design back to the absolute basics can create some fantastic logos. Consider Apple and Nike. Two very simple logos, both immediately identifiable.

Apple Logo is minimal and distinctive

Apple Logo is minimal and distinctive


Don't Forget Negative Space

Another approach to effective logo design is to make use of negative space to help portray a message or brand identification. Negative space is the space inbetween graphic design elements and is successfully used by companies such as FedEx and NBC. Used cleverly and appropriately, negative space can also pack extra meaning into a logo design.

FedEx-Logo Illustrates use of Negative Space, creating an arrow between the E and x

FedEx-Logo Illustrates use of Negative Space, creating an arrow between the E and x

Understand Colours

At the core of colour theory is the colour wheel, an essential tool for combining colours in different ways. The colour wheel was originally devised by Sir Isaac Newton in 1666, and the most common version features 12 colours, based on the RYB colour model.

Colour Theory Wheel

Colour Theory Wheel

Different colours can be used to elicit a mood or feeling, either towards the brand or to the company. Here are a few suggestions as to how colour affects mood.

  • Red: energetic, sexy, bold
  • Orange: creative, friendly, youthful
  • Yellow: sunny, inventive, optimism
  • Green: growth, organic, instructional
  • Blue: professional, medical, tranquil, trustworthy
  • Purple: spiritual, wise, evocative
  • Black: credible and powerful
  • White: simple, clean, pure
  • Pink: fun and flirty
  • Brown: rural, historical, steady

You can read more about colour theory in this other article.

Consider the Media

In the digital age, graphic design is not only limited to printed media but digitally, both online and TV. Any successful branding and logo must translate well to social media, websites, physical business cards, letterheads and traditional advertising. While effects such as embossing on a business card, or metallic effects on fliers and brochures look great and stand out, they do not translate to digital mediums.

Likewise, the choice of colours should take into account limitations of the printing process which are often in CMYK, and especially if promotional material such as embroidery and screen printing are on the cards. These are typically limited to a certain number of colours and stitch counts, maybe even just four colours, so if designing a logo with lots of colours, you may want to include a monochrome or reduced palette alternative for these.

Textured Business Cards

Textured Business Cards

Bryan Rowe

Help your Client Roll it Out

Once your branding is complete, a thorough brand usage guideline document should be produced. This should cover everything from colour options, to minimum and maximum sizes at which logo designs should be used, positioning rules, spacing. This will allow the client to get the most out of the new logo and ensure a consistent handover to a client's in-house team.

Online Resources

Check out these awesome online resources for graphic design inspiration or for critique on new designs and logos.

Tutorial Series

This post is part of the series Graphic Design. Use the links below to advance to the next tutorial in the couse, or go back and see the previous in the tutorial series.

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