Four Rules for the Logo Design Sandbox

Jake More, Creative Director

logoJust admit it. You’ve looked at a company’s logo, which probably took a team of consultants to design (not to mention tons of focus groups and surveys), and thought that you could have done better on a napkin at the local bar. Maybe so, maybe not – after all, art is very subjective – but before you jump into the logo design sandbox, here are four rules that will not, and should not, budge:

1. Your logo is your footprint. There are three basic styles: round, square and elongated, but there are countless ways for a logo to be used. It could appear on a slide with 20 other logos, you may need to shrink it to fit on a business card, or enlarge it for a tradeshow booth. The logo must be legible in every instance it is used, and a good logo will work at any scale.

2. The color sends a message. Different colors have different kinds of associations, and the color of your logo should not be a personal choice, but rather a calculated and specific decision. Your logo should make it clear what kind of business you’re in, but you can’t rely exclusively on color to evoke a gut response. There will be times when your logo will not appear in color (for example, a fax or a white paper), so you should always have a black-and-white version that can communicate through font or image.

3. Avoid gimmicks. The line between cheesy and avant-garde isn’t all that fine, but it is easily crossed. Err on the side of restraint and avoid trends that will soon be used for purposes of irony. If you need to be hip, grow a handlebar mustache, and save the color gradients for the Air Supply reunion tour – you don’t want your logo looking dated in six months.

4. A Font Makes or Breaks the Logo. Your logo has one main purpose: to make people remember you, so it must be perfectly legible. There are many interesting fonts, but if you want your logo to work for you, avoid Old English, Vivaldi, Broadway and other fonts that are hard to read or just don’t look very good. The classic sans serifs are often the best way to go, and it’s important to remember that there are plenty of ways to strike the right note — even with the most basic fonts.

Logo design is a serious craft, but it is still one of the most enjoyable parts of starting a business. These four principles don’t need to stifle creativity – in fact, we have always found that baseline rules actually enhance our creativity. Bringing some order to the chaos will push your imagination to new heights and help you come up with a logo that will really resonate with your key audiences. Enjoy the ride.


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