Logo Design: The 10 Most Important Rules For Designers
Consumers often don’t realise that the process of designing a logo is both difficult and delicate. A graphic designer doesn’t get to their finished product in one or two days.
The reality of logo design is that designers need to harness their creativity and focus it on a particular purpose.
Designers use many “rules” to ensure an aesthetically pleasing visual in the design field. Some of these are pretty technical, while others are founded in common sense.
We’ve put together a list of the top ten rules that logo designers can’t afford to break.
Table of Contents
1 – Put planning and research first
That saying, “fail to plan, plan to fail”, is never more apt than in the world of graphic design.
Logo design, in particular, requires a comprehensive preparation stage.
Most people don’t realise the significance of logos. We see them and immediately recognise a brand without a second thought. For a logo designer, this is the ultimate goal.
But to get there involves much meticulous planning.
Planning is a process of several steps.
When a designer creates a logo, the brief will most likely come from a company looking for an expert who can combine great visuals with a dose of marketing thrown in.
Before beginning their first draft, logo designers must research to get a more thorough understanding of what’s needed. Market research is necessary to understand the client’s needs and get an idea of the logos they’ll be competing against.
Careful planning is a non-negotiable in logo design. Your logo is the face of your business, and you want that face to be a memorable one.
2 – Communicate and collaborate
This fundamental stage of the design process is very similar to planning and preparation, but this time in close consultation with the client.
This rule—communicating and collaborating to the best of your ability—needs to be adhered to if the designer and client create a final product they’re both happy with.
At this stage, brainstorming together is essential. A client can’t communicate to a designer only through instructions and no demonstration.
Active collaboration is a must, and it is highly advisable to get together in person instead of communicating solely through email or virtual meetings.
There is no replacement for sitting down together and discussing ideas as they come up.
A logo is useless if it fails to capture the essence of the business which it represents. Without collaboration, a logo designer can construct a fantastic logo. But one that’s based only on their understanding of the brief.
This logo might be a great piece of graphic design, but this is wasted when it’s not relevant to the client’s brand or business.
3 – Stick with simplicity
The simpler, the better—at least in contemporary logo design.
Many established businesses have taken steps towards a more straightforward branding and logo. Simple doesn’t equate to boring by any means.
Instead, it makes a lasting impression on consumers because remembering a simple image is so much easier than trying to recall a complex one.
“Brand recall” is the overlap between an accurate representation of the company and the ability to design a logo that is easy to remember. But not so generic that it blends into all the other logos we already know.
4 – Begin in black and white
Many logos are instantly recognisable in part because of their colour. Coca-Cola? Red. Starbucks? Green, right?
Behind the scenes, though, each logo has gone through an intense process that looks at all the variables, including how well the logo stands up to the black-and-white treatment.
It’s strongly advised that designers begin with black and white rather than working in colour and rework the style if it doesn’t work in monochrome.
Sticking to this golden rule ensures that the style and structure are appealing and engaging and that it doesn’t rely solely on an excellent colour combination.
Looking at the Apple logo, for example, a silhouette of an apple with a bite out of it that’s now recognised all over the world.
The logo often appears in silver, chrome, black or white. Apple’s design, however, is instantly recognisable no matter what colour it is.
Relying too heavily on colour can limit the options for using a logo in more than one way.
The Adidas logo, for example, appears in a multitude of different colours on various products, yet it is still immediately recognisable.
Shape plays a crucial part in the sports brand’s logo, which makes it versatile and memorable.
5 – Connect with the company and their ethos
This is possibly the most crucial point to remember when creating a logo.
Making sure that your logo fits with the relevant brand or company is a no-brainer. Yet, some designers still need reminding.
For this reason, logo designers, in particular, need to be open to communicating and understanding what’s asked of them.
Graphic designers, in general, are also required to make sure their visuals align with a client’s goals.
Some logo creators may not produce an appropriate logo for a client, possibly because their style is incompatible with its products and ethos.
Graphic designers are often more comfortable with one style over another. It’s more worthwhile to perfect your skills in one or two areas instead of producing mediocre work in various fields.
Communication and collaboration go hand in hand with this rule.
Logo designers have no way of successfully representing brands if they don’t collaborate with their clients.
Designers must understand precisely what is needed, while it is the responsibility of clients to clarify what they want and expect.
6 – Bring about balance
Graphic designers are artists at heart, and when it comes to art, anything goes.
Graphic designers are also part of the business world, and their field overlaps both advertising and digital communication.
Logo designers, in particular, need to work closely with companies to create visuals that make an impression on consumers.
When you look at the most famous logos, you see meticulously balanced designs to elicit the desired response from consumers.
Our eyes are drawn to attractive visuals, and there are tried and tested recipes, for want of a better word, that nail the “sweet spot” between originality and balance.
Contemporary logo design is leaning more and more towards a minimalist style focusing on patterns and repetition.
7 – Consider colours
This point is an extension of the above rule: keep things simple.
If you turn your mind to some of the most well-known logos of major brands, you’ll soon realise that most stick to one or two colours.
Twitter, Netflix, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s… these companies have chosen straightforward colours and use them to build a solid brand identity immediately identifiable.
The colours chosen by a logo designer are always carefully thought out. Each colour has its meaning in terms of the feelings it evokes from people.
We’re all familiar with the phrases “in the red” or “feeling blue”.
Companies and logo designers exploit these associations to achieve a strong connection between their logos and specific emotions.
When people see colour, they mostly don’t consciously think about their reaction. However, what does happen is that people’s minds jump to associations in milliseconds, unconsciously eliciting emotions.
If we look at the Apple logo, we’ll find it in different hues and shades. But these days, it always contains only one colour.
While the colour of that design isn’t set, it is monochromatic, steers it away from “loud” feelings and towards a professional impression.
Using the colour wheel is an excellent tool in deciding which colours to use for a logo. It suggests colour combinations that work together to create a specific feeling, allowing logo designers to experiment.
8 – Take on the topic of typography
Typography is an integral part of graphic design—and logo design in particular.
If you consider some of the most famous logos, you’ll soon realise that their different typography links to the company’s overall branding.
It’s not compulsory to add text to a logo, but many brands do. It simply makes it easier for consumers to recognise the company in question.
Some brands eschew words in their logos, such as Apple, Volkswagen, Roxy (part of the Quicksilver brand) and Wikipedia.
Some companies use letters creatively in their logos, which cuts down on “busyness” but still communicates to consumers.
Some companies, however, build their logos entirely around a specific font that then becomes synonymous with their name. Two examples are:
- Instagram: The colourful gradient of Instagram’s logo is unmistakable, but the simple cursive underneath is equally essential to the social media platform’s image. The font used is Billabong.
- Adidas: The simple three lines of Adidas are underlined by its name in Avant-Garde font.
- NASA: The font used by designers is known as “the worm” and is unmistakable. The curves and slightly abstract appearance is unique. From the perspective of colour, this logo works well in both colour and monochrome without losing its meaning.
There are plenty of suggestions online that can help a designer looking for ideas. An ideal font is distinguishable but not overwhelmingly cryptic.
Consumers need to understand the visual at a glance rather than work out which company it represents.
9 – Let your creative side shine
Creativity is something all graphic designers have. Logo designers especially require the ability to think outside the box and come up with unique ideas.
There are millions of companies and millions of logos to compete with.
Consider the following. Designing a logo for a new fashion line means conducting market research and ensuring that your process results in a unique and memorable visual.
Taking inspiration from existing designs is something every artist does. But there is no good reason to copy from others’ work—a lazy and unethical action.
Using your creativity, however, doesn’t mean running riot (metaphorically). If you have ideas that are controversial or perhaps very different to the norm, instead save these for your online portfolio.
Logo designers have to work for clients, not for themselves. That doesn’t mean boring or stock-standard ideas, but the importance of working with clients is impossible to overstate.
Designing unique logos is essentially about creating something that stands out amongst hundreds of thousands of other designs.
So, there needs to be a point where creativity meets purpose.
Clients love designers who think out the box, but they appreciate it even more if the graphic designer is ready to channel that creativity into their brief.
10 – Break rules only once you’ve mastered them
“Rules are meant to be broken” is a controversial saying, but for anyone working in a creative field, there comes the point when this advice needs following.
Logo designers always work to a precise brief, which sometimes inhibits their wish to follow their creative urges. Some of the rules we’ve touched on are non-negotiable.
Planning comprehensively, communicating with your client and creating a solid link to the business you’re representing is essential when creating a logo.
The other rules aren’t open to interpretation, but you can use them in various ways.
Designing in a more straightforward style, for example, does not specify the exact degree of simplicity or how a simple logo should get formatted.
In other words, you can break the rules once you’re an expert in practising them.
It takes much thought to create a balanced logo. Even a designer who breaks the rules spends days, or even weeks, crafting a logo that incorporates both design rules and their creative preferences that break them.
Follow the rules your way
Logo design is a highly specialised field and demands a lot from those who choose it as a career.
Following these rules can help you on your way, but you need to have a solid foundation in your creativity and own design style.
The goal is to stand out, which requires imagination and technical knowledge.