Designing a logo is a deliberate and conscious process of choosing design elements that, collectively, mean something very specific. Everything from shapes to colors and from layout to fonts should be backed by strategy:
- What do you want people to think/feel when they look at your logo?
- Are you going after “premiumness” or “easy access”?
- Will your target audience respond well to bright colors or subdued shades?
Answering these questions will guide your choice of logo elements. And rightly so, because while a cartoon logo may be the perfect choice for a toy store, it won’t do you much good if you are running a law firm.
So, what are the critical design elements in a good logo that you need to get right? Let’s uncover the mystery.
The human brain, in its attempt to make sense of things, associates meanings to everything it encounters—even something as abstract as shapes. So, when we look at curves, we think of streams and waves. We consider circles—even incomplete ones—as a whole. Edges and angles are considered bold and dominant.
Perhaps it’s these associations that lead the pointy angles of the Mitsubishi logo to make us feel on edge and the curvy angles of the Airbnb logo look cheerful and inviting, even though both use a triangle shape.
|Images from Wikimedia Commons|
Let’s list some of these associations:
- Circles & curves: natural, complete, wholesome, relaxing
- Edges & angles: confidence, daring, fearlessness, leadership
- Squares & rectangles: dependability, equality, security, stability
- Lines: vertical lines represent growth and upward motion; horizontal lines are reliable and balanced
- Organic shapes: shapes such as clouds, leaves, and water droplets are used to convey spontaneity, creativity, or natural processes
Choose the right shape to convey the right meaning and take the guesswork out of the process.
Icons are a graphical representation of your brand name. These icons convey a clear brand perception to your audience. These may or may not directly relate to your business’ core offering. Case in point: Apple. It’s a tech company that uses fruit as its logo icon. Usually, however, your icon will closely match what your brand does.
The icon can be graphic (pictures), abstract (lines, blobs, and other vague shapes), or simply your brand name or brand initials (monograms). Each icon style is unique and favored by particular industries. Abstract logos are more common in the tech world. A monogram logo maker will come in handy if you are designing a logo for a fashion brand, law firm, or even an education center logo. The most popular style, however, is a combination logo that uses both the logo shape and the font to convey the brand message.
Let’s see the icon choices employed by popular brands:
- Abstract: For a subtle and more complex brand message; used by Pepsi, Nike, Spotify, and more
- Wordmarks: For a brand name that is short, easy to pronounce, easy to spell; used by Coca-Cola, Disney, Google
- Monograms: For brand names that are long, hard to spell/pronounce, and for a classier look; used by Chanel, Louis Vuitton, H&M
- Combination: Favored by all brands, covers all basics, conveys most meaning; used by Dove, Rolex, Cisco
- Emblem: For brands that want to appear institutional, grand, authoritative; used by Starbucks, Warner Brothers, BMW
- Pictorial: For the most well-known brands; for subtle brand messages; used by Apple, Playboy, Twitter
- Mascot: For a humanistic feel; brands that want to appear friendly, more approachable; used by KFC, Pringles, Wendy’s
Colors are powerful carriers of meaning. Of all design elements, colors have the most influence to alter a brand message completely. Even subtle differences in shades and hues can mean the difference between a brand message that’s aggressive and edgy or exciting and playful.
Three major factors will determine your color choice for your logo design:
a) Color psychology
Color psychology is an important and evolving field of study. We don’t really understand why we consider a certain shade of blue calming while another sad. We think red is the height of glamor but we also consider it violent. Black is for mourning as well as the color of choice for professional events. So, which to use?
The thing is, colors have a very distinct and decisive effect on how we feel and respond. Red and yellow in your food logo design can make people feel hungry—these colors can affect metabolism and blood pressure. But use black and white in your restaurant logo and people are more likely to call you to set up their reservation first, instead of rushing to your establishment in their PJs.
For more on how colors can help your brand strategy stand on solid ground, here is a comprehensive guide on the color psychology by Ashton Hauff of CoSchedule.
b) Cultural associations
In addition to psychological connections, colors also have cultural links when it comes to meaning. White may mean purity in the West, but in Asia, it is a sign of mourning and widowhood. So, tread with caution in your color choices if you are running a global brand.
c) Target market
Some color associations are specific to target markets. The restaurant industry mostly uses red and yellow in its branding. Black is more common in luxury goods. Green is the color of choice for organic or nature-related brands. So, make sure there’s relevance between your color choice and the industry your brand represents.
Keep in mind, though, that a lot of color associations are subjective. So, you won’t be able to make everyone happy with the shade you choose. Go with what works for the majority.
If you think fonts don’t mean much in logo design, imagine the Vogue logo in the IHOP font. Not that classy anymore, is it? Truth is, fonts are the binding gel of all other design elements. They can either elevate the logo or make it fall flat. Cohesiveness and unity in all design elements are critical for a brand message that’s on point.
There are three major type choices you can go for in your logo design process:
- Serif: These fonts are stately, impressive, and are used to convey authority, dependability, success, and dominance in a field. In different variations, they can also make a brand look confident without being too aggressive. Prada, Gucci, and HSBC are all serif font logos.
- Sans serif: If your brand message is all cheerful, exciting, happy, and welcoming, go with sans serif fonts. These fonts are favored by tech brands, the food industry, as well as casual fashion. Levis, Google, and Facebook all use sans serif fonts.
- Script: These fonts resemble handwriting. These are chosen by brands that are going for a humanistic look, a playful feel, or a relaxing and laid back environment. Kellogg’s, Instagram, and Barbie use script-based fonts.
- Custom: Sometimes, you want something unique. While your custom font may be based on serif, sans serif, or script type, it can still have a distinct and unique look. Netflix, Prada, and Coca-Cola all use custom fonts.
It comes down to cohesiveness and unity across the elements of a logo
Cohesiveness and unity are the two factors that can differentiate a logo from mediocre to oh-my-god-that’s-stunning! To create such a design, ask yourself: Does the logo design, as a whole, make sense? Does it look attractive? Will it be memorable?
If you can’t immediately understand what a particular logo image is trying to say or it’s instantly forgettable, that’s your cue to redesign. Remember, there isn’t a lot of room for chance when it comes to logo design. Make sure each choice you make is backed by strategy and conscious thought.
Veronica likes reading, writing and exploring through her travel. With her freelance guest writing, she hopes to achieve both her passion and career in online content marketing. She writes on topics like business, advertising, and digital marketing.