Logo Design Basics

December 11th, 2008

The very basics of logo design can be broken down into a list of elements from which you can choose to use all of or a combination of for your final design.


1. Company or product name

2. A symbol, illustration or icon

3. A strap line or slogan


1. Company or product name

The most basic element of any logo design has to be the company of product name. This can be presented in a variety of different ways. The two fundamental decisions that have to be made are: What type face or combination of typeface will be used, and will the name be set in all capital letters, with only initial capital letters or a combination of both. 

There are many different type faces to choose from, but your choice is essentially limited to those that project the feelings that you want to associate with your company or product. It is best to avoid a font that imitates child’s hand writing if you are a bank. Once you have decided the type of font for your logo that matches the feelings that you want to associate with your company, it is then a good idea to modify that font slightly to make it ‘your own’. This can be achieved by modifying the look of one of the letters to make your logo more distinctive and different to the effect you would get if you were to just type your company name with your chosen typeface.


2. A symbol, illustration or icon

Along with your company or product name in your logo, it is very common to include a symbol, illustration or icon. The choice is normally to go with an abstract symbol, for example a lines representing momentum, or a stylised representation of something real, for example an illustration of an apple. The choice is yours, but remember that the simpler you make this symbol the better. Often your logo will have to work at a very small size, and a complicated symbol will only be confusing.


3. A strap line or slogan

In many cases the message conveyed by your logo can be strengthen and literally underlined by using a strap line or slogan running underneath the main logo image. Using a strap line or slogan can help to connect the essence of your offering to your audience, but a badly thought through strap line can sometimes take away from what you have achieved with the rest of your logo. The best advice is, if you think that the other elements in your logo need more explaining use a strap line, other wise you can probably live without one. 


A logo can be a combination of all of the above elements or just one or two of them. Nike does very well with just its swoosh, but it is only relatively recently that the swoosh has appeared on its own. To begin with the swoosh always appeared with the name of the company Nike, but as brand awareness increased, the name of the company slowly disappeared from the logo leaving only the swoosh. Unless you have an advertising budget on a par with nike, the only element of your logo that can be used in isolation is probably the company product or name.

Why your business needs a professionally designed logo

October 14th, 2008

Your business needs a professionally designed logo if you consider your business to be professional – it is as simple as that. Imagine working in a building where the bricks had not been professionally laid, or seeing a doctor who hadn’t been to medical school – you leave this work to professionals, and you should also trust the design of your logo to one.

Logo design is a first impression.

How do your potential customers find you? And what do they use to differentiate you from your competitors? Make a brief list of how your potential customers find your product or service, it is surprising to see just how many of these first points of contact with your company are visual – looking at your product on a shelf, at your website or your advertisement in a magazine. The one thing that all of these visual encounters have in common is that a first impression will be formed about your product or service, this is based in part on your logo design.

Logo design and product differentiation.

The more generic your product or service is the greater the importance of getting your logo design and visual identity right. If your product uses the same ingredients as your competitors, or your service is essentially the same as someone else’s, the only difference in that first contact with your product could be your visual presentation.

A logo is part of that first step of attraction in the decision making process of a purchase. This critical element should not be left to chance, and the best way to ensure the consumer makes the right choice, is to hire the services of a professional logo designer.

WordPress Update

September 12th, 2008

This isn’t really anything to do with logos, but I just wanted to say that I’ve just updated WordPress (this sites blogging software), and it all went really smoothly, so thank you WordPress people.

Paul Rand and One Option Logo Design

September 9th, 2008

Paul Rand is the graphic designer I admire most. He was the designer of the IBM logo, and the ABC television network logo. He was so confident in his ability that he would only present ONE option to the client.

I think that designing over the internet makes things a little harder when it comes down to how many options to present the client. All the corresponding by email and no face to face time makes more options more necessary. I think the more options you can give is better in some ways, but in others offering lots of different designs can start to confuse things.

I normally start with four distinct design routes based on the information gathered from the design brief.

In most instances something about one route grabs the client’s attention and I only need to make a couple of revisions and that’s that.

Two extremes

Sometimes – not very often, a client will leave a brief that is so tight that one option could be good enough, in this case I usually present the same design with only variations in colour and spacing. Other times – for example when they request a cartoon character in the design – the revision rounds can go on for ever! (I try to discourage cartoons in logos these days – simple bold typographic solutions are what I like.)

Paul Rand as far as I know, never had a design turned down and had a queue of major clients lined up for his magic touch. Perhaps less is more after all.

Hand Drawn Lettering

August 15th, 2008

When I design a new logo I normally start by typing the words that make up the logo into Font Book (Apple’s font management utility), then flick through all my fonts to see which ones suit the design brief the best. Once I find a good font I usually change some of the letters to make it look original and not just typed out. I have a favourite set of letters that I usually always change, and then kern (adjust the spacing between the letters) the logo by eye (a good tip for kerning is to print the logo out and look at it upside down), and that’s about it for the word based element of the design.

What I haven’t done for ages is hand draw my fonts or lettering.

The designer Roul Wouters loves hand drawn lettering, so much so he’s made a great short film all about it. Here it is below. Enjoy!


No Logo Fashion

August 11th, 2008

I read an interesting article on the Independent web site this weekend and wanted to share it with you. The article is about how some fashion brands are thriving because they produce clothing without a visible logo. 

Take a look at it here.


My Favourite Olympics Logo

August 8th, 2008

Mexico 1968. I love this logo. You can almost imagine the compasses and rulers that must have been used to create it. 

Olympics Logo Mexico 1968

There is a great article on the New York Times web site about the design of olympic torches, it also contains all of the olympic logos, it’s really fascinating. 

Heinz Baked Beans – Why Change Perfect Graphic Design?

July 25th, 2008

I’m in shock! Heinz baked beans are having a make over – and the results are not pretty, or at all necessary!

This, as if you didn’t know, is what the Heinz baked beans can looks like.

Classic Heinz Baked Beans

and this is what is planned for its future!

New Style Heinz Baked Beans

Why oh why! 

The old branding for Heinz baked beans was so good that it became part of our national heritage – what more could a brand want? Changing it to Heinz Beanz – I just can’t believe it. And why substitute the ‘s’ of beans for a ‘z’!

I’m off to the shops to buy as many tins of beans with the old logo as I can. Then I will be able to say to future generations that I did not stand idly by as part of our design history was so thoughtlessly destroyed.

Please don’t even think about changing Lyons Golden Syrup or Marmite! 


Lasers, No Cameras

July 19th, 2008

Watch this video, if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re in for a treat.

There are no cameras used to make this video. The action is scanned with a laser, and the collected data is used to make what you see above.

I think the result is beautiful.

I especially love the street scenes, the subtle rainbow colours as pinpoints of light on black. Watch as this creative video seeps into our visual advertising culture – it won’t take long!

Anything Else Creative

July 19th, 2008

I’ve just created a new category called ‘Anything Else Creative’. I did this because the whole business of logo and graphic design relies on a drip feed from the rest of the arts and the world around us. In this new category I can share some of this drip feed of inspiration.

Hope you like it!