Matt Jenkins
by Matt Jenkins

Five steps to great logo design

Five steps to great logo design
It can be difficult to take the plunge, a shake-up and change from the familiar branding you see day-in, day-out. But if you’re a business owner, a budding entrepreneur or just been tasked with overseeing the project; we all have to go through a re-brand at some point - starting with a logo design. This short five step guide is here to help you not be too overwhelmed by this sometimes daunting task.

Everyone knows how important a logo is to a business, but have you really thought about how important it actually is?! It’s more than likely the first thing people will notice about your business, sub-consciously forming an opinion within seconds and what they will remember and associate with you going forward, so it needs to be right and decisions made for the right reason.

1. Do your research and get inspired before you start:

As with most things in life, knowledge is king. As a rule of thumb, the more preparation you do the better the outcome and the smoother the ride. In the time that you’re considering updating your logo, keep a mental note (or even better, an actual note on old fashioned paper or slightly less old fashioned, on your phone) of logos and branding you’ve see elsewhere. It doesn’t have to necessarily be related to your business but it will get you thinking and when you have it all compiled you will start to form opinions on what you do and don’t like. Your designer will of course do their own research, but the more information you can provide and discussions you can have with your designer, the more they will be able to get in your frame of mind. This is necessary as being on the same level is important to a successful working relationship when it comes to design. When a client gives me a brief, I like to think of it as soaking up all the information they give, using my brain as a filter and a bit of a mixer, then outputting the other end in a concise, professional package.

It’s also a great idea to compile you research into a mood board. It will help you to narrow things down a bit and get a clear idea of the direction you want to head in with the designs. So again, if you come to the first meeting with one, you’re on to a winner!

If you’re lacking inspiration, here’s a link that contains a lot to motivate and get you enthused about your new logo. Because at the end of the day, it is quite exciting! http://justcreative.com/2008/12/02/logo-design-resources/

2. Ask yourself the right questions and then write a design brief

Writing a brief might sound a bit boring and tedious but you’ll find once you start, it’s actually quite therapeutic and some might argue, fun. It’s a chance to get everything that’s been bouncing around your brain in to some sort of logical and decipherable order. But this can seem like quite a tall order if like me, there’s a million things going on in there at once (most of the time).

Start by writing everything down in lists or bullets. It doesn’t matter what order, just get it out of your brain and into reality. Then it’s time to ask yourself some important questions:

  • How much time do you plan to dedicate to this project?
  • Do you have a fixed deadline or timeline in mind for the project?
  • What are your goals and why?
  • What product or service does your business offer?
  • Who is your target audience and who is your most ideal customer?
  • Who are your competitors and how do you differ from them?
  • What was the idea behind the business name?
  • Do you want your logo to have type, an icon or both? For instance, Nike has both but mainly just uses their tick which is recognised worldwide.
  • Is your logo to an evolution of what you have or are we stating from scratch?

If you’re answering all of these in your brief along with design ideas and inspiration then you’re winning. These questions can even act as a plan for writing your design brief.

Your designer will often ask you for 5-10 key words/buzz words that sum up the direction you’d like the designs to go so keep this in mind and make a note when you think of any.

If you want some further help, here’s a helpful link: http://justcreative.com/2008/09/26/how-to-write-an-effective-design-brief/

3. Learn from others triumphs and mistakes

We all have our favourite brands. For me it’s hard to pick out just one but I’d say Vans, BBC, Nike, Google, Coca Cola and Nike are a good starting point. Take a look at your favourites and try and work out exactly what it is you like about them. A good way to do this is to think about the feeling you’re getting when you’re looking and thinking about that particular brand. Is it the colour? The type? The spacing? The associations you have with it? The angles? Etc. Then, think about how these ideas could, if at all, fit into your upcoming branding project. Remember to keep in mind that simple is a good thing.

At the same time as looking at all the positives of timeless design, it’s equally a good idea to look at the negatives and downfalls of design you like and don’t like and the reasons why you feel like this.

Of course, design is 90% (≈) subjective but there are some big companies, including Coke, Mastercard and Gap, that have made some absolute clangers over the years. Most of them I’m sure being justified by their respective marketing departments as being ‘growers’. Here’s an insightful article to help you learn from the big boi’s mistakes: https://creativemarket.com/blog/20-rebranding-disasters-you-can-learn-from

4. Colour is key.

Colour is great! But also very powerful, especially when it comes to design. As Uncle Ben would say “with great power comes great responsibility.” And so, as you are the one making the decision, it’s best to understand a little bit about why certain colours are used in certain situation. (For a bit of an incite as to why colour is so important, click here for some interesting facts.) We all have associations with colours but there is a standard that, in general, is a good idea to follow. It’s more than just a nice aesthetic, but relies heavily on phycology and what society has subliminally engrained in us over the years.

I find the below infographic’s quite fascinating. It shows how brands do, to an extent conform to these colour standard which you may not have even noticed before.

Colour Emotion Guide

If you find that interesting, then click here for an infographic that expands on this a little more. Well worth a look and gets you thinking!

5. Be decisive and confident in your creative inclinations

By this stage, you’ve done most of the hard work but now it’s time for the important bit; making a decision on your final logo design and your colourways. Most of the time, from the first presentation of ideas from your designer, you will have formed some sort of prejudice towards one or two designs and this by no means is a bad thing! Call it a gut feeling, intuition or just a hunch. Sometimes, so long as you can justify it to yourself, you just need follow your instinct and be bold in your decision making as going backwards and forwards and overthinking can be detrimental. You’ve already got a selection of professional designs so you can be safe in the knowledge that whatever you choose, you can be proud of the outcome so why not go for what YOU think is the best option. After all, you have been given the responsibility of making a decision, be it by your superior or yourself.

Of course it’s great to get opinions from colleagues, friends, family or people ‘in the know’ but from personal experience, this can cloud your judgement and can make you feel less confident in your decision making. If you do feel like getting some opinions, my advice is to keep this in mind and take opinions with a pinch of salt as design is so individual. This is especially important if it’s your business as it needs to portray your personality to some extent.

I’m pretty confident that if you follow what you’ve just read, get excited and put your creative hat on, you’ll come out with something you’ll be proud of for years to come. But if there’s still unanswered questions or just fancy a casual conversation about your potential new logo design then I’d love to hear from you. Drop me an email to matt.j@calico-uk.com, give me a call on 01273 833353 or just pop in the studio for a brew and a biscuit.
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