Secrets of Designing a good Logo

by Fred Showker

oline discussions about logo design Over the years I've seen them all. And from time to time, when I see someone giving out design advice online, I'll ask -- where did you obtain your formal training? Most of the time, they'll confess they have no formal training. That's a problem in today's society -- and the reason the design profession is becoming more and more mediocre, with fewer and fewer 'stars' and more and more "mash" in the middle.

We recently received an article submission for DTG, where the young designer was sharing his "secrets" for designing great logos. Reading it quickly revealed that he had not been in the field too long, and that he probably had no real training. His starting point was selecting a font that he likes. Another was selecting a color palette. Well, needless to say, these two are not 'starting' points for logo design.

The other day, I watched as a discussion unfold when a person asked about tactics for designing a logo. Many 'designers' began to chime in with their for some interesting reading. Chances are, however, you won't get "secret tactics" for designing logos in an online discussion forum. He asked:

Quoting  begins I am curious to know how to have attractive logo if any one have some secret tactics please share Quoting  ends

... and here are just a few of the comments shared by designers:

There is no simple answer to your question, no secret. If you want an attractive, well rounded, well designed logo, hire a designer. It's what we do, and we do it well.

The closest thing to a secret is to research and test market to establish which of a number of logos your target market responds to the best.

Gavin brings up a very salient point quickly. But if you do not think you understand how conduct the market research or cannot find someone to help you, then let me suggest this thought process to take before you talk to any designer. It will help you both.
      What it the story you are trying to tell? What mood do you want to set? Is it excitement? Confidence? Honesty? You might want to break with the norm of your industry and do something bold. That can simultaneously be both differentiating and dangerous. It can either set you apart from the norm, or be so wild that your target market will not consider you.
      Good designers will help tell people who you are and what you do. Great designers help you focus your story - in pictures and words - toward the benefit of your target and what they are interested in achieving

  1. First, hire a designer who has samples you like, a person you enjoy talking with and one who has a good business sense. They should be able to convince you they understand (or can quickly learn) your business and your audience.
  2. Give them a budget. You should have some idea of what you can afford.
  3. Many designers are willing to negotiate the design fee if they know there is more work beyond the logo design - building graphics, marketing materials, vehicles, etc.
  4. Speaking of the aforementioned items - be sure your designer has samples to show they can do more than design an attractive logo. Understanding application is as critical as the design itself.
  5. Meet with them and discuss your business, your goals, your dreams, how you want people who see your logo to think of your business. Give them reasonable time to create and be creative.
  6. Pen/pencil and paper is the first place to start - never, never, never start on the computer. Ever.
  7. I'll do what John suggested as step two or maybe if I'm stuck but I throw all that away, think about it for a few days, and start over.
  8. Clip art is not fine - for any logo - even if manipulated.

My humble opinion after doing this successfully for more than 30 years

If you take a look at the cost of implenting the logo in all the places it's used, the cost of a good designer starts to make a lot more sense. An unbudgeted or low-cost logo lacks organzational "weight" and is subject to infinite tinkering. The less money involved, the less chance it has an executive sponsor (like the CEO) who you can leverage to streamline the process.
      If you don't have that and your orgainization is of any size, good luck ever getting it implemented

Keep it simple. Choose a font (or fonts) that are readable when small as well as large. It should work as well in black (or a single color) as it does in multiple colors. Create it in Illustrator, Corel or a comparable program so you have a solid vector base, then you can bring it into Photoshop to add effects if you wish. Clip art is fine, but you should alter and adapt it to your use and not just place a clip art symbol next to your type.
      I start by typing the text in Illustrator, copying and pasting the text again and again down the page, and then trying different fonts on each line. See if any of the fonts hit you just right. How do certain letters look in the different fonts? Pick a few to keep, and then see how the words or letters nest and work together. Do any of the letters lend themselves to icon shapes that are compatible with your business/product? Have fun and be open to changes in direction. If an idea isn't coming together, set it aside and try something else. Being flexible allows for inspiration. Often my most inspired solutions are stumbled upon while going from A to B. In heading in one direction, I get an idea for another solution

Please allow me to amplify two of John's points.

1. Clip Art is never acceptable under any circumstances
2. If the designer starts on the computer, I would consider it strike one.

The work of the two best designers that I am familiar with (simply my opinion), both of whom do work for both large and small companies, always, always, always start with pencil and paper.
      One of them has an advanced industrial design degree from RISD and the other has been lured by Disney studios many times but always turns them down. Again, note that they both do business with small companies at acceptable prices. They charge the big guys more - but that is an ethical sales strategy. These guys are out there

I work for a National HR Compliance company as the Art Director/Design Manager and I routinely design logos for the HR market. Use the same approach you would for any logo design project.
1. Research market/audience
2. Research competition
3. create type solution
4. create icon solution
5. create hyrid solution
6. Self critique

Consider where it will be used, web, print, business cards, etc. , well rounded design serves all of these at the same time. Does not good to have a beautiful business card and a splashy website logo if it won't hold up when printed in black and white in the newspaper.
      I see a lot of this because some Designers design for themselves and not their client and their marketplace

There are lots of good comments here and I think the answer is included within the many opinions suggested. Here is my opinion on a summary. Yes, hire a designer - don't try to become one - no matter how "creative" you think you are. (So, forget about all the "how to" stuff your designer knows this and a lot more.)
BEFORE BEGINNING make sure the designer knows the logo is to be compatible with the many ways to apply your logo (print, silkscreen, web, email) that it will need to be used as 1-color ink, Black, White, CYMK, RGB, HSB or any other color mode you may use. And make sure they know that it will need to scale from billboard size to a key chain and still be sharp and readable. Your designer should know this but make sure you do too.
      The logo should be attractive to your specific audience - which means, you have to do some homework BEFORE you begin designing anything. Your designer will probably ask you these same questions in one manner or another. The biggie to answer is "WHY?". If you don't explain why your customer should care to even consider your product then, every other question is irrelevant. (Who, what, when, where, how)

  1. Define exactly who you are speaking to. (Who is your ideal customer? Speak to them and their interests)
  2. Define exactly what they get when they purchase from you. (WHY should they care?)
  3. Define exactly why they would buy it from you. (What's so special about you or product?)

Only after answering these questions and putting it to paper, should you talk to anyone about communicating your business to anyone. Give this information to everyone who creates anything for you -- and stick to it. The logo and EVERYTHING else you do should be communicating that information to those people. Period, End.
      After all, how the heck can you sell anything to anyone if you don't know who you're talking to, what they get or why they should buy it from you?????

Oh, one other thing, don't start talking about yourself until AFTER you've answered these questions. The customer wants to know about those things first. They don't give a crap about you or how wonderful you are, UNTIL they have a reason to care

Absolutely true, have never met a customer /client yet that did not first want to know how you can help them and how you would actually do that. With each project there is always a get to know how to best serve your client phase of development. I don't presume to know more about their business than they do. If you take time to go through this process you have a customer that is happy and prosperous.
      I also get many referrals that way, not to mention a customer for future projects. Part of the "hire a designer" is finding one that listens to you and is great to work with....a real winning combination. Add stellar work to that equation and you won't be sorry

Wow, that's like asking your doctor for free visits. I love questions like this and everyone has made a good point. How to design a pretty logo and how to design a proper logo are two very different things. People need to be serious about their logo and what it stands for. Ya, everyone has a budget, but don't cheap out on your brand identity. With any brand there is a goal and a logo should be representative of that goal. It takes more than a pretty logo to make a businesses succeed.
      Here's the deal, if you ask a designer how to design your logo they're going to ask for money

Informative and interesting. It reminds me of the TV commercial showing a Doctor going out on the pitcher's mound to pitch a major league baseball game, while the baseball player is in the pharmacy trying to figure out what medications to take.

But like I said in the beginning, there is a big difference between professional design and amateur design. And, you will always GET what you pay for.

You want to design logos?
GO see the next DTG article on designing logos Get : SAUL BASS
GO see the next DTG article on designing logos Paul Rand : Logos, Flags, and Escutcheons
GO see the next DTG article on designing logos Designing Logos : what really endures as good logo design?
GO see the next DTG article on designing logos Logo Design reflections by Gary Dickson
GO see the next DTG article on designing logos Graphic Design : Logo Design Tips
GO see the next DTG article on designing logos Logos: of Negative Space
GO see the next DTG article on designing logos Logo Design Processes
GO see the next DTG article on designing logos Colleen Ryan: The Right Logo
GO see the next DTG article on designing logos Logo Design : Pepsi and Obama
GO see the next DTG article on designing logos Logo Design : a circle by any other name
GO Creative Tidbits: LOGOS and JC Penny

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