The Ultimate Guide to Logo Design
The role of a logo in building your visual identity
If you close your eyes and try to think of any company, the first thing to come to your mind will most certainly be its logo – not the slogan, not the catchy jingle, but the logo. Humans are visual creatures, and we find symbols and colors easier to process than words. That’s just how our brains are wired to work. And that’s what makes the logo one of the most important strategic tools to use.
Logos can be used in both virtual and physical form. Companies can put it pretty much everywhere: on their website and social media accounts, business cards, packaging, branded merch, marketing materials and so on. It’s an essential part of any company, whether we’re talking about a small family business, a large corporation or an independent creator.
So, what is a logo?
Before we answer that question, let’s determine what a logo is not – simply a pretty picture or a random art piece. Companies that prioritize beauty over meaning are inevitably going to fail. Because logos are much more than that.
A logo is a visual representation of your brand. Together with corporate colors, packaging and messaging, logo design makes up the visual identity of your company. It’s arguably the most important part of your branding and visual communication, since it’s the first thing that people see when they come in contact with your business. A logo gives your company a chance to create a lasting impression and influence your clients’ decision-making.
Why logos matter
The main purpose of a logo is to help people identify your product or business. A well-designed logo goes a long way. Especially in the age of social media, when users are bombarded with hundreds of different products and offers and are often visually overwhelmed. If you manage to get it right, a logo will allow people to remember your company and distinguish it from your competitors.
Since your logo is the first thing that people see, it forms certain expectations of the company, and it’s essential to meet them. For example, if you specialize in luxury goods, but have chosen a fun-looking logo with bright colors and graphic elements, the people you attract are more likely to be disappointed by your pricing. And you can’t really blame them – after all, they had no idea what they were getting themselves into.
That’s why having a logo that stands out isn’t enough. You don’t need to appeal to everyone, you only need to reach your target audience that will go on to become your loyal customers. You should keep that in mind when designing a logo. Its goal is to communicate your core values, culture and brand identity – in other words, the things that make your organization unique. Is your company formal and serious? Or innovative and friendly? Whatever it is, your logo should convey that information.
Choosing the right logo design
Now that you know what a logo is and why it’s an essential part of your visual identity, let’s dive into some details regarding its design.
When creating a unique symbol to represent your brand, you need to be aware of the forms that it might take. There are different kinds of logos that can include graphic elements, plain text or various combinations of these two. Here are some of the most common types to give you a better idea.
Types of logos
- Wordmarks (or logotypes). This type consists of only one element – the company’s name written in a certain font and color. Think Google, Coca-Cola or Visa. Wordmarks work great if your company name is catchy and succinct, but can be tricky if it’s too long.
- Lettermarks (or monogram logos). Similar to wordmarks, lettermarks are made up of words – more specifically, brand initials. The most well-known examples here are NASA, BBC and IBM. Monogram logos are a good option, if your company name is long and consists of several words.
- Pictorial marks (a.k.a. brand marks or logo symbols). This type includes graphic symbols, images or icons. It’s usually what you imagine when you hear the word “logo”. The tricky part here is to make sure that the symbol you use isn’t just aesthetically pleasing, but also reflects your brand identity. Apple and Twitter are great examples of how it should be done.
- Abstract logo marks. Similar to the previous type, abstract logo marks consist of a graphic icon. The only difference is that instead of using an image of a real thing (like an apple or a bird), you rely on an abstract shape to represent your company. It gives you a lot of creative freedom and a chance to come up with something truly unique. However, in order to get it right, it’s essential to really understand what your brand stands for and what it is that you’re trying to convey. Examples: Nike, Slack, Pepsi.
- Emblems. They combine text and graphic elements and generally tend to look like crests or badges. Think about any university or government agency – chances are, that’s the type of logo that they have. That’s because emblems have a classic, traditional feel to them. Another good example here is Starbucks.
- Mascots. The key element in mascot logos is an illustrated character who acts as the face of your brand. This is a great way to connect to your audience, since people are more likely to associate themselves with other humans or, in this case, characters. If you manage to make the mascot cute and memorable, you can have him act as your brand ambassador. Examples of such characters include Colonel Sanders from KFC, the Nesquik bunny and the Bic Pen mascot.
- Combination marks. As the name suggests, this type combines two formats: a text-based logo (wordmark or lettermark) and an icon (abstract, pictorial and so on). Think Lacoste or Burger King. Combination marks are a great starting point for new companies, whose name isn’t very well-known yet. With time, people will start associating your name with the icon. Once that happens, you’ll be able to drop the letters, while remaining recognizable to your clients.
Whatever type you end up choosing, it’s important that your logo represents what your company stands for. Don’t try to compress every single part of your brand identity into one image. First of all, that’s impossible, and second, it’s a waste of time. It’s best to focus on conveying your core idea – that way you’ll manage to attract the right crowd.
Elements of logo design
So how do you do it? How can you possibly reflect such information using some symbols? The thing is, shapes, colors and other elements of graphic design aren’t abstract – if used knowingly, they are able to evoke certain emotions and associations in people. The key here is to actually know what meaning they carry. If you carefully consider this information, you’ll be able to use it to your advantage.
Let’s take a look at the elements that make up a logo and how you can use them to convey the right message.
You’ve probably heard about color psychology – the belief that every color is associated with certain emotions. For example, black is thought to be classic, timeless and sleek, yellow is friendly and approachable, and blue is usually associated with calm and stability. When creating a logo, you can combine different colors. Just make sure you stick to the main message that you’re trying to get across.
If you’ve decided to go for a text-based logo, you should carefully consider your options. Typography can have a huge influence on how your company is perceived. So make sure that the font you choose is consistent with your visual identity and reflects your brand’s philosophy. Unlike colors, fonts should rarely be combined – it’s best to stick to one single style.
This is a popular element used by many brands: Spotify, IBM, Soundcloud. Whether the lines are horizontal or vertical can drastically affect the impression that your logo makes. Horizontal lines in web design are generally associated with a sense of tranquility, calm, and community, whereas vertical lines tend to be seen as more aggressive, powerful and imposing.
The most common shapes used in logo design are squares, circles and triangles. Not only do they look different, but they can also say a lot about the company’s values and communication style. A lot of it is actually pretty intuitive. Circular shapes tend to be seen as friendly, welcoming and unifying (think Nivea or Mastercard), while rectangular shapes usually represent stability, practicality and professionalism (Uniqlo, BBC, Notion). As for triangles, they are often associated with movement, progress and innovation.
In other words, the empty space (or the background) within an image that can be utilized to create a whole new image. The most well-known example of this is probably FedEx – just take a closer look at the way the gap between “E” and “x” forms an arrow. Not only does it look cool, but it also compliments the company’s main value: fast delivery.
What’s the general style of your logo? Does it look realistic or hand-drawn? Are there any illustrations or 3D elements? How you answer these questions will determine what kind of customers you’ll attract. For example, if your target audience mostly consists of kids and teenagers, you might want to add quirky details and fun graphic elements to your final design.
In other words, the arrangement of text, shapes, lines and other elements used in the logo design. This part is essential, because it influences the way your clients perceive the final image. So you’ll need to determine which elements are most important and make sure they stand out.
How to navigate logo file formats and choose the right one
Before you design your logo or hire a professional to create it for you, it’s important to understand how you’ll be using it. Are you planning to print it on T-Shirts and distribute at corporate events? Or is it only meant for digital use on your website and social media platforms? These questions will help you understand what logo file format you need to go for.
All file formats used for images can be divided into two groups: raster and vector.
Raster graphics are made up of pixels, which means that you can’t change their size without losing resolution. If you do decide to scale them, you’ll see that the image becomes fuzzy and the tiny squares (pixels) become visible. Raster files include such formats as .jpg, .png and .jpeg.
Vector files, on the other hand, can be scaled without diminishing their quality. Unlike raster images, they can also be opened and edited in different design applications. Vector graphics include such formats as .svg, .pdf, .eps and .ai.
Vector files are what you need to use, if you plan to print your logos on merch or business cards. That way you’ll get the best quality, regardless of the image’s size. Raster graphics (specifically png files) can be used in digital form, for example, on your website or social media. It’s also the right choice if you need images with transparent backgrounds.
To recap, let’s remember all the steps you need to take if you want to design a unique logo.
Step 1: Understand why having a good logo is a necessity, not a luxury.
A logo is more than just a pretty picture. It’s the face of your brand and the most essential part of your visual identity. It allows your company to stand out among competitors and helps your customers identify and recognize you. Your logo is basically the key point in building a successful branding strategy. If done right, it will help you attract new customers and grow your business.
Step 2: Prioritize meaning over beauty.
In a way, a logo is a tool of communication with your clients. That’s why in addition to being visually appealing, it should reflect your brand identity. When looking at your logo, people should be able to understand what your company stands for. What are your values? Are you formal and serious or friendly and fun? What’s the price range? If your logo design conveys that information, you’ll manage to reach your target audience – the very people who would be interested in becoming your clients.
Step 3: Choose a type of logo that best represents your brand.
There are many different types of logos that can be grouped into 3 categories: text-based (wordmarks or lettermarks), icon-based (abstract or pictorial marks) and combination (logos that feature both text and images). When choosing the right type, it’s important to consider different factors. For example, the visual aesthetics of your brand and how well-known your company already is.
Step 4: Know what elements make up a logo and how you can use them.
Graphic designers use different kinds of elements to create the perfect logo: colors, fonts, shapes, lines and so on. While they may seem like simply fun things to play around with, they actually determine the impression that you’ll make on people. So be careful when deciding whether you want your logo to be black or orange!
Step 5: Be aware of the different file formats.
Once the design is complete, it’s important to understand what file format you need it to be in, so that you can use your logo for different purposes. Basically, there are two types of formats: raster and vector graphics. If you plan to print your logo on business cards or clothes, vector is the way to go. If you’re looking for a file to use on your website, opt for raster (specifically .png).
Step 6: Assess your resources and consider hiring a professional.
Designing a logo can seem like an overwhelming task. And sometimes, it is. There are a lot of things you need to keep in mind to get it right. But we promise, the results are totally worth it! That doesn’t mean you have to do everything on your own. These days there are options for any budget: using online logo makers, hiring a freelance creator or a graphic design agency.
What do I do with all that information?
At Sketchy Digital we understand the importance of good design and the role it plays in developing a strong visual identity. Our team of talented creators will make sure to capture your brand’s essence and values and find the best way to convey them through design. We know how hard it can be to trust strangers with your company’s image.
That’s why we maintain smooth communication with our clients throughout the entire process and make sure to handle all project-related risks and deadlines. Whether you’re looking to design a logo from scratch or already have some ideas, take the next step by scheduling a consultation with Sketchy Digital on our website.