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First Impressions: Logo Design


Why am I writing a post on logo design when the topic of this blog is puppetry? A logo is the most predominant and most powerful part behind turning your hobby/ministry/business into a brand that people remember, a simple image that reminds people of you when they see it.

Unfortunately, there are thousands, if not millions of people out there claiming to be a professional designer. People putting out crappy logos in bulk for cheap. On the other end, you have those who are good and know it, and charge an arm and a leg for their work. Then there are those in the middle who are great designers and charge reasonable fees, but how do you know that you are getting a great design?

Here are 10 things to look for when creating a logo that works. Whether paying for a professional design or doing it yourself, keep these in mind and you should end up with something remembered.

1. Visual Interest

The logo has to catch the attention at a glance without being too busy. Some of my favorite logos utilize hidden images, twists that take on multiple images and optical illusions, basically two pictures given to interpretation of the viewer. The double design or optical play is there, but they don’t really see it at first.

Some are noticeable while others are almost invisible, but the brain catches it and tells the viewer that there is something about the design that makes it interesting.

The “C” in the Chic-fil-a is a great example of a simple text logo modified to create a visual appeal; looks like a chicken head. One that is a little harder to detect is the arrow in the FedEx logo. Another one that I like is the Baskin Robbins logo, it simply uses a B and R, but with clever use of font and color, you can see a “31” in the middle of it, which Baskin Robbins is known for having 31 flavors of icecream.

So when creating a logo, have something that causes makes it interesting and gives it that double entendre that makes it unique to the eye.

2. Color is Key

One of the most important considerations for logo design is in the colors that you use. This can’t be a happenstance decision, color theory plays an important role; colors have visual meaning. Plus, the colors you use can also play a big role in your brand. Planet Fitness, Coke...Every brand has its specific colors. Think about what colors best represent you and incorporate those colors into your logo.

The colors can bring life to the illustration and give further context to the shapes. That being said, remember that a good logo is versatile and must function well in grayscale.

Beyond a grayscale version, I like to also provide clients with a true single color version, using only black and negative space because not every situation is going to allow for a good grayscale look, so don’t rely solely on color, but make it part of your full design. An example is when H & R Block changed their logo to a green square. In color, it used their signature color green, but there was no grayscale to be had and the black and white was very lackluster.

Always consider what it is that the logo will be used for and whether or not the various use cases require different versions.

3. Stay Away from the Cliche

We’ve all seen them, every few years or so, some new trend or fad comes along in logo design, suddenly there is a market full of similar style signs all over the place. A particular font or graphics style takes the world by storm, so everyone has to use it. My background kept me abreast of upcoming designs and design trends and now it is kind of an occupational hazard as I find myself noticing this stuff without wanting to. Though I do suggest keeping your signage and appearance fresh, with logos I just hate it when designers repurpose someone else’s design just because it works for them at that point or they are trying to gain assimilated attraction.

Why not use a design that you actually thought up yourself rather than ripping off what everyone else is doing? Originality is what makes the other logo designs stand out and forces trends.

4. Make it Yours

The concept of ownership is definitely an important one that ties in with the previous tip.

If you are just following the herd and being a sheep to the current design trends, you are going to find that you hot new logo which is trending and popular now, will fade once that trend takes a dive and will look dull and cliche, you should, instead strive to create something that is uniquely recognizable, but uniquely yours as well.

As you are designing your logo, consider whether or not your design is too generic or unique. Is it likely that others will produce something like it? Often times when designing, your first idea is typically going to be your most generic, this is generally true for everyone even the professional designers. Rough sketch as many ideas as you can first; this is called the ideation process. If you are not an independent performer, but work with a team, get the team involved. before choosing which ideas to pursue further, have a vote. Make a competition out of it, whatever it takes to get as much creativity in the ideation process as you can.

5. Custom Type

While we’re on the subject of being unique, there’s almost nothing that can give your logo a unique feel quite like some awesome custom lettering.

Too often we see logo design as simply a trip to the font menu to see which typeface makes the company name look best. If someone is paying you to “design” their logo, they probably expect you to put a little more effort into it.

Custom type helps ensure that your unique logo will stay that way. Lowlife designers will rip off your work in a heartbeat if they discover which typeface you’re using, but it takes some real skill to mimic custom hand-drawn type!

Keep in mind though that if your logo is famous enough, people will always try to rip it off. This certainly holds true for my favorite script logo:

The awesome Coca-Cola script has been stolen countless times in awkward parodies throughout the last few decades.

6. The K.I.S.S Method

Face it, not everyone is an artist or professional designer and can bust out beautiful, hand-drawn illustrations. However, just because you’re not a designer doesn’t mean you can’t come up with an amazing logo. If you fit this description, fear not, there’s nothing preventing you from making awesome logos.

In the situation of creating great logos without being a designer or hiring one, remember the acronym K.I.S.S:( keep it simple stupid)! The Nike logo is actually the reflective portion of a water drop angled. It was done by a college student for a competition where she won $400 and look how that worked out.

Always think about how you can go that extra mile and turn your boring logos into unmistakable brand marks.

7. Proportions & Symmetry

Some people can get carried away with discussions of proportion and symmetry, but if you take out the craziness, there’s still some important lessons to be learned that you can use.

Consider the new Twitter logo for example; It’s literally a series of overlapping circles, joining the intersecting parts and getting rid of the parts that didn’t intersect.

8. Think About Negative Space

Along the same vein as a double entendre is the age old trick of utilizing the negative space in a logo in some clever way. The industry standard example for this technique is the FedEx logo and its hidden arrow.

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium is a great example of using negative space. The first look is of a tree, but as your eye gets subconsciously brought down, you notice the animal heads on both sides of the tree.That’s what I love about this logo, the use of negative space is so subtle.

Another good one that is so subtle, look at the FedEx logo. How many of you have seen that logo on a daily basis, but have never noticed the right pointing arrow in the “E” and the “X”?

9. Passive vs. Active

Another thing to keep in mind is the amount of kinetic energy that your logo projects. This isn’t always an issue, but sometimes it can really give a logo the boost it needs, both from a visual and conceptual standpoint.

A good example of this is the sign company “FastSigns” where the word “Fast” has a forward italic lean to it with speed lines on the front end to give an impression that the word is racing forward.

This concept even extends to typically inanimate objects. Consider how much better your logo would be by giving the concept a sense of motion.

10. Know What it Means

Every good logo has a story. It can’t just be about a pretty design, strong logos are filled with meaning, some obvious like the FastSigns and some hidden like FedEx. We discussed this a little already. Both FastSigns’ forward moving word and the FedEx arrow indicate moving forward, the Apple logo has a “byte” missing, and the Twitter bird is flying in an upward trajectory. It has to have a story that represents you, your mission, and/or your values.

It’s great when your design can show how much thought went into the logo that you produced.

It shows event planners that you are serious and professional, so don’t leave you logo up to chance or last thing on your list.

I hope this helped and if you don’t have the time or the patience to create a logo, contact me an let me know if I can help. I have to use my degree for something. :)

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