How to make a logo

When was the last time you thought about the Apple logo? It’s not a overly-complicated design, a fruit outline with a sizable bite missing from its right side, but it’s also one that nearly every American can identify within a split second. It’s renowned, even iconic, and ranks among the likes of Shell, Nike, and FedEx in terms of simplicity and brand recognition. And like Yahoo’s whimsical, purple redesign, and the notorious Golden Arches that first donned McDonald’s in the early ’60s, it tells a narrative while conveying a desired message to its respective and potential markets.

A logo can come in countless forms and represent a bevvy of things, whether it be a service or product, but it will always remain unique visual embodiment of what it represents. Being so, it shouldn’t be something you haphazardly introduce to the world without proper planning, feedback and execution. Sure, redesigns come and go with the times — evident from recent updates to Instagram, Windows 8 and Facebook — but it’s best to lay a solid foundation on which to build your logo and accompanying business entity from the moment you publicly open the doors.

Here’s quick guide on how to make a logo. We aren’t going to hold your hand through the entire process, but at least we’ll give you a few things to consider while crafting the ultimate logo.

Step 1: Consider

Appropriateness — Your logo is representation of you and therefore needs to reflect your particular brand, service or idea. Things such as your ideal target audience and the overall aesthetics of your design must all be taken into account if you desire to produce a professional and effective logo. It’s unlikely a law firm would sport the same kind of logo design as a hometown skate shop or a company that dabbles in curating colorful floral bouquets. Each one has its own individual appeal and clientele, thus each logo must also possess individual nuances and a cohesive message tailored toward the appropriate demographic and marketplace.

A professional company should don a professional (and perhaps serious) logo, while a small business or restaurant may want something a bit more lighthearted and playful. In some cases, your logo may represent the perfect opportunity for you to showcase what defines your company or brand. For instance, the official NBA logo fittingly depicts a man dribbling a basketball while the World Wildlife Fund uses the endangered panda bear to aptly illustrate the organization’s devotion to environmental concerns. Regardless of what your logo represents, do some research regarding your audience’s personal tastes and look at the logos of potential competitors for a better idea of what works and what doesn’t.

Versatility — Having an appropriate logo is not nearly enough. The design itself should be flexible and versatile, allowing it to appear just as polished and legible on the Web and business cards as billboards and merchandise. Obviously not all logos are fit for beer koozies and trucker hats, but having a logo that can be properly scaled — and looks just as grandiose when produced in black-and-white — is an absolute must for an emerging company or brand. Try to avoid elongated logos, whether horizontal or vertical, as they can prove difficult to work with when transferring mediums.

Simplicity — A great logo is both simple and describable, thus rendering it memorable. Your audience doesn’t want to process a myriad of components and layers if they don’t need to. Ditch the clutter and consider opting for a minimalist approach that avoids photographs, multiple fonts and a vast array of colors. Keeping it simple will also likely make it easier, cheaper, and quicker to reproduce and distribute your logo once finalized. Look no further than enduring logos like the Nike swoosh or Shell’s clam-shaped logo for elegantly simple inspiration.

Uniqueness — Logo design is an exercise in restraint and bucking the trend is one way to persevere and retain an element of uniqueness in an industry bustling with Helvetica, arches, and the classic double-letter overlay. While you should be inspired by the work of others, make your design choices based on more than just what is commercially appealing to your audience at the present, as popular baselines are constantly shifting and adapting to the times. Instead, try to incorporate a sense of timelessness and your own individually, while avoiding gimmicky and stock clip art at all costs. It’s called a bandwagon for a reason.

Step 2: Create

Sketch designs — The design of a logo is what makes or breaks it in the real world. That being said, sketches are a fantastic way to utilize the above elements and actually begin visualizing your logo to be. Some logos are entirely font-based (i.e. Facebook, Twitter), some incorporate an illustration alongside text (i.e. Taco Bell, Goodyear) and others rely solely on an abstract design often devoid of an apparent meaning altogether (i.e. Nike).

It’s best to sketch a multitude of differing designs — factoring in negative space, proportions, symmetry, and active appeal — to help you pinpoint what it is exactly you’re looking for. Try restricting yourself purely to black-and-white for the time being, thus initially avoiding a heavy reliance on color, and save all your work for future reference. Again, remember to keep things simple with your font choices and overall design aesthetics. Practice may not make perfect, but it will bring you closer to pinpointing what it is you like from each of the sketches.

Colors — There’s visually more to a logo than just the shapes and fonts that may compose it. Although your logo should hold its own when converted to greyscale, color still plays a crucial factor when solidifying your branding and capturing an attentive audience. People often associate different emotions with different colors, meaning you should be careful what you choose, but you also shouldn’t shy away from a particular color scheme if it’s part of your broader image and overall branding. For instance, the pine green color of the John Deere logo is both iconic and psychologically evocative of peacefulness and subtle growth. Other colors, like blood red and navy blue, are often psychologically associated with emotions such as excitement and trust respectively. Consistent colors help build a familiarity that can come define you in time.

Step 3: Translate

If sketches are the bones of a logo, then translating would be equivalent to adding a layer of flesh. While you could utilize a premium Web-based solution such as LogoMaker or LogoYes, there is a bounty of freemium tools that are just capable and comprehensive for expanding upon the sketches of your choice. All of them are vector-based, offering smaller files sizes and distortion-free scaling, and therefore ideal for creating logos likely to don a variety of mediums and formats. Below are a few of our personal favorites given their price point, robust feature set and overall industriousness. Scan your sketches or start from scratch using the software of your choice.

Adobe Illustrator (Windows/Mac/Premium/Free) — Chances are you already know Adobe’s flagship, premium products are standouts in all senses of the word. Illustrator is no different, loaded with a professional swatch of sophisticated tools for quickly creating and altering crisp images that maintain their vector-based art no matter their size. Like most applications in the Adobe suite, Illustrator does not boast the lightest footprint, but it’s still renowned when it comes to creating both Web and print graphics. Simple tasks are self-explanatory enough though, regardless of your skill level, and there are countless websites dedicated to publishing advanced tutorials for anyone looking to perform specific task or just generally hone their skills. Feel free to download and install a free copy of Adobe Illustrator CS2 if you don’t mind utilizing outdated software and engaging in borderline-illegal activities. We take no moral, or legal, responsibility for your actions.

Adobe Illustrator

Inkscape (Windows/Mac/Free) — Inkscape doesn’t compare to Adobe Illustrator or CoralDRAW in all aspects, but it does excel in one, crucial component: price. The freemium, open-source software was designed on a cross-vector platform, utilizing real-time effects while subsequently providing options for quickly carrying out many of the basic tasks found in more robust programs. Various SVG features include shapes, text, markers, paths, alpha blending, grouping, gradients, and a cornucopia of useful tools for crafting graphics, as well as additional tools for node editing, drafting layers and performing extensive bitmap tracing. The software is relatively light, donned with large self-explanatory icons and an ever-present color palette, and equipped with gobs of tutorials covering everything from basic shape creation to editing calligraphy. It’s not the best vector-based software on the market, but its nonexistent price tag and lavish tool set will more than suffice for making basic logo designs.


Step 4: Obtain feedback

While you may think you’ve hit the jackpot when it comes to designing a quality logo, others might not be as receptive to your supposed bout of ingeniousness. Share, show, and send your potential designs to your friends, colleagues and potential clients to illicit a bit of feedback. Let them analyze your designs to a tee and look at them from every possible angle, after all, you don’t want to wind up on a list like the Huff Post‘s most embarrassing logo roundup or create an uproar akin to the one surrounding the recent University of California logo redesign. Talk about terrible.

A fresh set of eyes might alert you to something you previously missed, such as a hidden word or meaning, while providing you with a general consensus of what did and did not work. Remain open and receptive to the feedback directed at your work, but remember everyone has their own set of personal preferences and opinions. Your friend may be a crack shot lawyer, or even an accomplished astronaut, but the doesn’t necessarily mean he or she knows the first thing about logo design. Take note, asking and focusing questions on your logo’s weakest and strongest points, but don’t solely rely on the input of others when making your final decision. Everything with a grain of salt as they say.

Step 5: Refine & finalize

Feedback is generally terrific — if you actually utilize it for the betterment of your logo. Taking into account the criticisms and reactions you’ve received, tweak, and refine your logo before settling on single design or several you fit appropriate, memorable and appealing. Although nothing is set in stone, frequently changing your logo can often alienate your audience. It’s difficult for people to affiliate a specific logo with your produce, service or idea if the logo is in a constant state of limbo and extensive rebranding. Still, don’t be afraid to run your logo through the feedback ringer again until your satisfied with the results. When finished, finalize your logo and use it to your heart’s desire.

What do you think of our simple guide on how to make a logo? Do you have a better methodology or additional tips for beginners? As usual, don’t be shy and chime in below with the details.

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