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Logo Design: How To Design The Right Logo for You

Updated on March 11, 2016

The Right Logo is Important

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A Logo Defines You

Image is powerful. Image is defining. What does image mean? It can mean many things. To start with image is visual. Think about symbols that you know. The universal symbol for happiness and joy is a smile. The universal symbol for peace is a circle with a line through it that branches out on both sides. The Star of David is the symbol for the religion Judaism. The cross of Christ is the universal symbol for the faith of Christians. Even popular culture has created symbols. The Superman "S" crest is accepted as a sign of strength and power. Symbols are everywhere. On a smaller branch of the image tree, lies the logo. The logo defines an organization or corporation.

When on your journey to create that perfect logo it's an exciting time. Your beginning a fresh process of discovery that is leading you to new and exciting places. Designing a logo means that your stepping out into something new, so congratulations!. Are you starting that business you always wanted, maybe your church planting? Could it be that your organizing a Little League Team or launching a Book Club? Everything can use a logo! A logo is the defining feature of your product, entity, organization or industry. It is the first thing that is seen and comes to mind when your organization is mentioned. It stands for your values, goals, and message. Think about McDonalds, Starbucks, Apple, American Airlines; all companies with world wide known logos that define them.

Designer Rick Mullenix has this to say about logo design:

A great logo speaks to its audience. A design is amazing if is speaks loudest to its target customer. Do they know what your business is without the name next to it? Or have you created a symbol to represent your industry. A golden “M” has nothing to do with food, but it represents one of the largest food chains on the planet. McDonald’s “M” is consistently paired with their food, on happy meals, and in catchy TV commercials, enough that it defines its industry.

What Makes a Strong Logo?

Images of these logos can easily be found online.

American Airlines: This is a great modern logo. It incorporates the classic eagle and the AA for the name and brings the two images into one new clean image that even emulates the wings of a plane. The classic images and colors are both in the new design while creating something new, bold and fresh. That's great logo design.

Disney: Wether in the full name or just the classic Disney "D" this logo yells fun and excitement! Even if you didn't know who or what Disney was you would get a sense of fun just by looking a this logo. Sometimes a picture is not necessary for a logo. Sometimes an interesting specialized font can jump right off the page or screen. With the long standing history of Disney brilliance and excellence the simple but fun font becomes more than just a word it becomes an image itself.

McDonalds: The "M" for McDonalds says nothing about food, but its strength lies in simplicity. Its bold strong line art and bright colors makes it stand out. It's as in your face as a stop sign. It's instantly recognizable wether your in New York or Hong Kong. In the modern age I find its design to be weak and gaudy but its got the test of time behind it. McDonalds is a staple in the fast food industry. No matter if you think their food is good,bad or indifferent people know what the golden arches represent. It also subliminally reminds me of one of their most popular foods, the french fry. Coincidence? I don't think so.

Nike: This may be the best logo of all time. The Nike "swoosh" is simple, strong, iconic. The "swoosh" makes me think of speed, agility; all things that are associated with running and sports the industry that Nike caters to. It works wether you have the name with it or not. It works in both positive space or negative space. If you place the "swoosh" on a black field and cut the "swoosh" out you are stiff left with the iconic outline.

Pixar: Even though Pixar Animation Studios has not been around as long as their parent company Disney their logo is nearly as recognizable. Partly due to excellence in filming and patly due to simple but great design. The logo by itself is somewhat boring. The text is not all that special unlike the font that Disney uses. However using their trademark lamp as the "I" in PIXAR is great design. A lamp makes me think of light in a dark spot, illumination, new, fresh ideas. These are characteristics of Pixar animated movies and shorts, fresh, lighthearted and fun. The design encompasses the companies values.

FaceBook:The social media giant has a simple but strong logo. Notice the word simple is running a theme here.The white and blue is professional and adult while the little "f" says youth. In essence Facebook is for all people young or old. The crest is clean, polished but still fun. The design also caters to web use, because it already looks like a web button. After all it is a web based company.

Starbucks: Again, long standing history and a great product help with the recognition of the logo like many of the others. Another similarity with the others is the simple design and color scheme. At first the logo looks complicated and looks to have a lot of detail. But on closer inspection we can see that the detail is simply repeated shapes on the outside and strong line art and use of negative space on the inside. It's a great example of positive and negative space being utilized to create a singular image.

Some of the common traits with all these logos are, simplicity, color scheme, strong shape and line, and use of negative space.


Simplicity is very important. When your making a great piece of art that is trying to capture photo realism then it is totally fine to use as many details as possible. Details are a representation of what real life looks like. Real life has little quirks, bumps; its raw, unfinished and it's made up of little details. But a logo should not be to detailed. A logo is a "big picture" piece of art. A logo needs to be quickly recognizable, it needs to be strong and clean and to be able to be blown up or shrunk small. Details on a logo will only cloud and muck up the branding of the company. For example American Airlines could have a picture of a plane for their logo. But that image would have to many details in it and it does not say anything about the company. The simplicity of the logo makes it easy to put on a large plane for all to see or put in a magazine and its just as easy to see and understand. The colors are patriotic they say "American". The shapes look like wings of a plane and at the same time the wings of an eagle. They did all that in that little design. Simplicity.

Color Scheme

The color scheme is also important. It is a part of simplicity. One or two colors are all you want in a logo. If McDonalds chose to use all the colors on a cheeseburger they would have yellow, red, brown, grey, green and so on. But instead the red and gold are strong, simple and to the point. Nike can use a color they want for their design. They've left themselves room for choice. The swoosh is a contained singular shape, so it works with whatever message they want to send and andy color they want to place it in. Starbucks uses just one color. Again if you're making a great illustration then it's advisable to use lots of color and color variations but for logo design the simpler the better.

Strong Shape, Line and Negative Space

All of the logos above use strong shape and line work. Again if you use lots of different shapes, squares, circles and rectangles all in your logo it'd be a mess. If you used tangle lines that criss cross and cross hatch it'd be a mess. Clean art work will set your logo apart from all the others. Even if you just use your organization name you're still using clean line art to make the font. Finally good logos work with negative space. Negative space is is the space around and between the subject(s) of an image. Negative space may be most evident when the space around a subject, not the subject itself, forms an interesting or artistically relevant shape, and such space occasionally is used to artistic effect as the "real" subject of an image.-wikipedia. The Starbucks logo uses the negative shape of their line art and shapes to create the "Siren" in their logo.

What is your favorite logo?

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The Process

When creating a logo remember to think, clean, bold, simple, strong lines,shapes and small color pallet. Details, multiple colors and lots of variations create a great piece of art, illustration or paining but not a great logo. A simple, single, iconic image is what were going for. But also start thinking about the message you want to send. Who are you? What's your values? What does your organization do, make, practice, believe, teach, etc. What image will work best? What color or colors will work? What makes sense? What kind of shape fits your organization? What do you want to portray? All of these need to go into your choice of image, color, shapes, etc.

Start out by sketching, rough sketches, variations, fast, simple and elemental. Then pick out a few favorites and start designing in Adobe Illustrator. I saw Adobe because their the best at what they do. Make a pattern you like in black and white first. If it doesn't work in black and white it won't work in color. Make a design you like, try it with your name and try it without. You may need a name on there first while your starting out and then once you grow and get bigger you can drop the name. Save your work and multiply it so you have something to work with to make variations. Make some variations of your artwork that you just multiplied. Just the simplest changes can be a big difference. Now you've got your favorites so start adding color. Pick a pallet. Change it up. Do it over again. What did you miss? Take some time away from it. Then come back and look at it again with a fresh pair of eyes. Have other people look at it and review it. My suggestion, find other designers or artistic people to review it. Don't have your mother look at it she'll like it no matter what. Now you can keep it or if desired throw it into Photoshop. Next refine it by adding a shadow, highlight, simple texture, just something to really make it pop. But then again maybe it's good like it is. Only you will know once you have something really good. The last suggestion is to find a spot your happy with it. Resolve that it is finished and let it go. Finally you can save it as a jpeg or whatever file suits your needs. Congrats your ready to go with your own logo!

Pro Tools for Logo Design

Great Video About Building a Logo

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