Logo Design

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Logos are, by definition and practice, simple, direct, provocative visual statements about a person, product or company. A logo is the unique, graphic. It can be used (applied) on letterhead, business cards, in advertisements, on products, billboards, or on novelty items such as give-away pens and buttons. Logos are often purely typographic. Think of them as word-pictures. Because they are high concept, they are also subject to a wide variety of interpretations. Think deeply and clearly; practice the “Tao” of logo design. In logo creation every design element can speak too boldly — or too meekly — or just loudly enough. Quiet exaggeration is the key to this high concept, intensely symbolic design problem. Logos must be scale-able and fit a wide range of print, web, and new media applications. Work in spot color to help keep the budget own. Develop your logo so that it communicates effectively at both a large-scale (say, 2′ x 2′) and at small-scale (say 1/2 inch x 1/2 inch).


The designer’s role is to create a visual bridge between the way the company sees itself — both now and in the future — and the way the public thinks about its products or services. Most important in this statement is the “in the future” part. The logo should reflect the aspirations of the company—what it wants to be, not just where or what it is right now.

Since both sides of the communication equation are in flux (the way the company sees itself and the way the public perceives it) logo design can have a very real impact on the company’s actual success by it’s ability to communicate positive values or aspects of the company. Successful logo design depends on thorough research with both company representatives and with users of the product or service. Start by finding out all you can about the subject at hand. Interview the relevant people. Ask not only what their current impression of the company is, but what the company could or should be. Use the Marketing Analysis Form to aid you in your research. At a minimum find out answers to the following questions:

  • How is the company positioning itself?
  • What are its strengths and weaknesses?
  • How is it currently perceived in its market?
  • How does it stand up to its competitors?
  • Does it pride itself on its customer service, its product reliability, or its ability to individualize its services?
  • Is your client a successful “Mom-and-Pop” operation with a loyal clientele that is looking for a larger market share, going global on the Web, or taking on a big, national chain?
  • Is it a medium-sized company ready to expand its business in a very competitive and fast-moving industry?
  • Is there a break-though product that will position the company squarely at the center of innovative, cutting-edge technology?

Listen closely to the superlatives you’ll hear when you do your research. These will help you formulate high concept, provocative visual communicators that can “wow” even the CEO. Be sure you review the company’s entire product or service line, asking pertinent questions about the successful marketing campaigns of the past. Interview users of the company’s products or services. You might go so far as to conduct focus groups, but be sure you secure permission first.

It may be helpful to refer to one of the three logo design development charts to guide you in developing a wide range of form possibilities.

Design Strategy

After you’ve convinced yourself that you know everything you need to know about the company and its products, services, and personnel, think in pictures. Look around you as you go about your daily routines. Seek inspiration from the visual world you encounter all the time. This is a good practice in general, and you’ll be surprised how effective it can be. Your creative mind is “imaging” the logo even when you are not consciously dedicating time to the project, so keep it stimulated with interesting material! Go out of your way to place yourself in the world of the consumer of the product or service you are addressing. Go to a relevant industry convention or product exhibit. Take in the noise, the hustle and bustle, and translate it into colors, shapes, and letterforms.

Design Elements

Once you’ve developed a few approaches, you might want to combine elements and ideas from the different thumbnails you’ve created and pull them together into a rough draft. A rough approximates the colors; shapes, textures, lines, and fonts you’ll be using as you develop your design digitally. You can use construction paper, magic markers, tracing paper, and type cut from magazines to simulate your design strategy. Some designers prefer to go from thumbnails to digital design, and that’s fine. If this is your style, be sure to use the “Save As” function so you can always access your previous versions. The primary elements you’ll use will be colors and shapes — in the form of letters. What you’ll be looking for is a dynamic and appropriate way to convey the results of your research combined with your own sensibilities and design strategy into the company “mark” — permanent, indelible, and unique. This means that, conceptually, you will look to create an enticing and communicative symbol of the company that states its name, implies its business strategy, projects its self–image and appeals to its target market’s desires and aspirations. Discerning the pattern of needs and strategies of the players involved should be the starting point of your choice of design elements.

Shape Space, in this context, is the form that “contains” your design. There are two different but related spaces you’ll construct. The first is the graphic form that your logo will be used in (the context) — letterhead, business card, magazine ad, billboard, package, etc. Obviously, this space effects the size and file format of your logo. However, it also establishes a visual environment for your logo — an environment filled with other design elements and sometimes with distracting and competing elements. Your logo will often share cluttered, even chaotic visual space. A second space that you’ll need to consider is the area immediately surrounding your logo — its local environment! This space may be a color field that acts as a “pedestal” to your logo; it may be a line or box that “anchors” your to its background; or it may be a directional element that helps the reader navigate from your logo to other parts of the overall design. Pay very close attention to the visual relationship between the figure and ground within the design and also how it relates to its visual context.


Most logo designs do not incorporate texture within the design elements but choose to defer to the texture of the material on which the logo will be printed (stock texture can range from very rough matte to high-gloss coated). The successful logo designer will incorporate the advantages of the paper stock into the design strategy, calling attention to this tertiary, but important, design element.


Develop a limited color palette. Choose spot colors and keep within the self-imposed limits of your color range. Your logo will be translated across a wide range of media, subjected to many methods of printing technology, and may even show up on the web or on TV. You can vary your limited palette by using shades (10%, 20%, 40%, and 60%) of each of the colors you’ve chosen.

Typeface Choice

Your font choice must support your design concept. Pay careful attention to balance, directness of approach, consistency with company values and vision. Communicate with color, shape and combinations of typographic variation. Include the company name, but do not include at this stage any extraneous marketing material such as a tag line or directory information. Do not be satisfied with default font choices. Embellish and adapt your letters to your design strategy. Methods for font adaptation include all the typographic tools provided by the software you’ve chosen. For logo design, Illustrator or Quark seem to offer the widest range of choices. Review font catalogs and be sure you choose the font that will best communicate your design. Refining your design

Cultivate your logo until you run out of time or budget by asking the following:

  • Does my logo communicate directly, efficiently, and appropriately? Is it high-octane
  • Does my logo adequately identify the company using a limited set of visual symbols that reinforce its public image?
  • Does my logo present the company’s business strategy and its relation to its markets in a positive way?



Know the competition (direct and indirect)
How do they present themselves? What niché are they going for?

Interpret the characteristics or qualities that your client said were important.
What ever kind of mark you make, regardless of style, it must reflect your client’s self-proclaimed top quality or characteristic.

Good Gestalt
Unified whole making use of figure and ground, symbolism, tight
grouping/nesting of all elements

No extreme differences in size of single elements
No extraordinarily large images or words paired with really small words or important details

Make it work in Black and White First
Choose color objectively/symbolically to add to meaning already established by the overall design. The meaning of the design should not be totally dependent upon color, no matter how good the color choice is.

Trust the Process
The entire creative process should begin with a goal of generating as many possible ideas or design directions as possible. Do these quickly without judgement whether they might be good, bad, cliché, etc. Simply make as many as possible. Once there are many (30-40) possible ideas sketched out. Begin refining, combining, varying and narrowing those down to 5–10. From this group, go up to full size, refine further. The goal at this stage is quality, not quantity (the opposite of the beginning of the process). The general purpose of the process is to progress from quantity of ideas to quality of idea. You should end with 3 final designs, each different (not merely variations of the same idea) all 3 high quality. You should be able to explain why you did what you did for every aspect and detail of each of these designs.



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