Designing logos can be a humbling experience. Some days you’re receiving praise from your peers, and the next day you just can’t seem to land on a concept that sticks. It’s been almost twenty years since my first professional logo gig and yet some days I still feel like a rookie in the field with much to learn. All that aside, here is a handful of logo design wisdom I can share with you to help you crush your next design.
MOODBOARD IT UP!
Before you get started on the actual design phase of the logo, creating a mood board is a great place to start. By gathering a collection of images with the right art direction, style, and potential colour palettes, you give yourself a target to aim for, and a document that can help convey that direction to your client before you even really begin. Be sure to also include key competitor’s brands too so you can ensure your logo stands out from the pack. The best tool I’ve found for quickly pulling together a mood board while you hunt for inspiration is Pinterest. It even allows you to share a board between multiple collaborators, making it an excellent resource for your design team.
start in your sketchbook?
This is probably the number one thing most designers will tell you when asked about logo design. “Whatever you do, start in your sketchbook. It’s faster, it’s looser, it’s more natural.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this. But the fact of the matter is; I don’t do this. I’ve been using Illustrator on a daily basis for my entire career and I’m as comfortable drawing vectors with the pen tool as I am with a pencil in my hand. Occasionally I’ll draw a very basic thumbnail sketch before I dive into vectors, but mostly I just go for it in Illustrator. So maybe don’t always start in your sketchbook. Do what works for you. If that means a bunch of pencil sketches – that’s great, but if you are comfortable diving right into vectors don’t feel like it’s taboo. There is no right or wrong way to approach a logo design.
Master the Pen Tool
If you are someone who’s just starting out with vector graphics, spend as much time as you can mastering bezier curves using the pen tool. It’s the most powerful tool for drawing the clean geometric shapes that make up great logos. The secret is “less is more.” meaning use as few points as possible in your shapes, as it will always result in the smoothest curves. The pen tool can definitely be really frustrating at first, but as with anything practice makes perfect, and once you get the hang of this tool you’ll find it’s your moneymaker.
Attack of the clones
If you were ever to sneak a peek at one of my working files it’s an undulating organic mess of logos, each one a little different. But there is order in the madness. Upon careful inspection, you can trace the creative path and see each logo concept unfolding through a series of iterations. If you’re working on a logo and you want to try a variation on a part of it, always work in a non-destructive manner. Make a copy of that logo and do your variation, then repeat. You inevitably go down some fruitless paths, but by working this way you can always go back to that early version that you liked hours ago.
simple IS BETTER
The best logos are clean, bold and simple. They are as legible on a business card as they are embroidered onto a cheap polo shirt. Avoid all those things that rose to popularity in the 90’s: gradients, drop shadows, and hundreds of colours. These are all things that looked great on techno album covers, but they negatively affect legibility when it comes to logos. Take a cue from the old masters and always try to reduce your logo to the simplest form possible. The end result will be a bold mark that will reproduce flawlessly in any medium.