What Makes a Great Logo? 7 Tips

By August 3, 2015Graphic Design

A logo is a graphic element, with or without text, that represents an individual, group or organization. It is one of the most popular subjects of graphic design, and one of my most favorite types of projects to work on.

Coincidentally it’s also one of the most challenging.

I’ve listened to many a designer agonize over the challenges of designing logos. There are a lot of questions to ask, a lot of information to take in and to thoughtfully consider and there are a lot of options when it comes to the execution of the design. Not to mention having to do that several times over when you’re providing the client with several options to choose from. It’s understandable why both the designer and the client may find it a bit intimidating.

The objective of the logo is to function as a component in the branding and identity of the individual, group or organization for which it is created. Contrary to some confusion among those not familiar with the purpose of a logo, it does not function as a quick fix to patch holes in a weak foundation.

Every successful artist, entertainer or business must build a solid foundation and know the answers to the tough questions every “new business” ultimately must face. Without a solid base, a designer cannot make informed decisions about the design of the logo in order make it a successful component of the branding and identity.

Now for the big reveal. Drumroll, bada bada bada bada bada bada bada…

Many of my clients who are just starting out don’t readily come to me with answers to those tough questions. You know, the ones about demographic, target audience, competitors, peers and what sets them apart from essentially everyone else. It’s actually pretty common. And that is the reason I begin every new client and project with a questionnaire.

Funny enough, I’ve had some clients actually use my questionnaire as a cheat sheet to help them build their foundation. That’s how thorough the questionnaire is AND how necessary.

For every new business there is a learning curve. Just as with every service I provide, I try to make it easy for anyone to catch up rather than saying “hey, come talk to me when you figure it out.” Not cool. You gotta start somewhere and I get that.

So now let’s get to it. What makes a great logo, great? Whether you’re an individual, a band or a small business, it all applies.

Here are 7 important tips to consider when choosing a logo design that is as much attractive as it is effective:

1. It needs to be simple and easily recognizable.

Most successful individuals, groups and businesses have one thing in common in their logo designs: simplicity. Not every important detail that relates to you, your group or your business needs to be crammed into the logo. In fact, it actually makes the logo appear a bit hokey, which reflects on how you and your brand are perceived.

Creatively concentrating on one key aspect that is unique to you and your brand will better capture the essence of your identity. It will also force you to focus on making sure it is memorable.

2. It should be unique and distinctive.

I get it. It’s sometimes hard to be unique in a world where there are more aspiring artists and businesses than you can humanly keep track of. But not impossible. You just have to be creative and identify what makes YOU unique. Why do you differ from everyone else? You need to embrace what makes you unique so that you are recognized and appreciated for those differences.

In my questionnaire, I ask my clients to list logos that they feel especially drawn to. It helps me to identify what they do and don’t like, and why. It gets me on the same page. With that, it’s great to be inspired by someone else’s creativity and style, but use it only as inspiration and learn from it. Don’t try to copy it. Even if you think you’ll get away with it, the second someone figures it out, you’ve lost all credibility.

3. It must be memorable.

It’s crucial that your logo is memorable. This ties together the importance of simplicity, distinction and uniqueness. The design needs to reflect honesty and authenticity. Logos that are the most memorable are so because they are effectively representing the heart of the brand and in turn capturing the hearts of the audience. They are creatively unique and easy to identify.

It is not advisable to try to visually explain the function or concept of your brand in the actual logo design. The positive relationship and connection between you and your audience heavily relies on your success at adequate branding and marketing. As mentioned before, the logo is not a cure all, but a visual representation that is used for quick and easy identification purposes. Kinda like your face.

4. It should be timeless.

Your logo design should stand the test of time. Often times I see logos that I would describe as “trendy,” but not “enduring.” I’m sure most of you are probably familiar with the hipster look. Think about how long a fad lasts. It’s only a matter of time before you see this style disappear down the drain, closely behind all those wooly beards. It’s natural for logos to evolve over time, but having to completely rebrand is costly and can negatively impact your recognizability.

Ask yourself: How will my logo look 5 years from now? 15 years from now? 30 years from now? Will it feel relevant?

5. The colors need to be meaningful and should serve a purpose.

Colors are suggestive and are systematically used to serve a purpose, whether it’s to set a mood or to allude to certain expectations. It’s actually based on the psychology of color and is related to color theory.

For example, blue is said to be calming and it implies trust and confidence. Light blue is associated with health and tranquility, where dark blue represents knowledge and power.

Read more on the meaning behind colors here.

6. The font should feel appropriate.

The font style is important. There are far too many for me to list. But it includes serif, sans serif, handwritten and script type fonts, as well as stylistic subgenres such as retro, brush, cartoon and gothic, to name a few. Don’t over think it though. It just needs to make sense and correspond with your overall objective.

Just as important to note, your text should be readable. Unless you’re a metal band. You should be able to clearly read all text included in your logo. Otherwise, what’s the point? You should also consider the space between text and graphic elements, as well as kerning (the space between the letters) and leading (the space between the lines of text).

7. The design needs to be versatile.

Your logo should be just as effective no matter where it may appear. It should be in vector format so that it can be easily scaled to any size. Ask yourself if it is just as effective and legible when used in your social media profile pic or when printed on a business card. What about if it were to appear on the side of a bus or even a billboard?

It should also be adapted so that it can be presented both horizontally and vertically. There are also times when your logo may only appear in black and white. Or you may need to invert colors for use on different backgrounds. Will you ever need it etched into something? If you want to create a custom sign, will the logo still be as impactful?

When you are working with a designer, you should always feel comfortable discussing your options as they pertain to this list. A good designer will know all of these things, but a great designer will be able to explain them to you, even if you know nothing about design, in a way that you can understand.

About Rebecca King

Rebecca is the founder and art director at Renegade Chihuahua and Pink Graphic Design. She was born in TX to two nomadic parents and was, in essence, raised all over the map. She currently lives in Dallas, TX with her husband and their motley crew of three dogs. Her passions include music, art, coffee, chocolate, animals and traveling.