While logo trends will come and go, there are some things about good design that just never change. These eight rules are just as true now as they have ever been when it comes to creating the perfect logo.
1. The Audience Leads the Design
Your audience will determine the style of your logo. You want to speak to the people you are trying to attract.
A crafting store is going to have a very different target audience than a cigar shop or golf pro shop. If you don’t understand your audience, then your logo is very likely to miss the mark.
All great logos are driven by the target audiences. The logo has to communicate the purpose of the brand immediately to the audience. There has to be an immediate connection of the audience to the imagery in order to become the kind of mark that is memorable.
2. A Logo Reflects Brand Personality
Every great brand should stand out from the competition. A logo will immediately help your audience understand your brand’s personality. Even generic brands use very plain and cheap-looking logos to convey their value-centric approach to products.
It is crucial to understand your company and where it sits in the market in order to create the perfect logo. You need to know what makes your brand unique and what you want to offer customers. Your approach to sales, support, long-term customer relationships and product production are all things that will impact your company’s personality.
A logo should be created in a style that reflects that brand personality. The first impression the logo makes should be feelings in line with what you want to convey about your brand.
3. Your Font Choice Tells a Story
Some logos tell literal stories, while others are much more abstract. The Polo Ralph Lauren logo, for example, shows an image of a polo rider in keeping with its target audience. On the other hand, the Nike check is a much more streamlined logo.
Even logos that only use type (logotype) are still telling a story with their choice of color, font, shape and more.
You should never feel as if your logo needs to be a literal description of what you do, though. Ralph Lauren’s polo player speaks to the audience, it doesn’t mean the brand is a polo team or a brand that creates polo equipment. The same thing goes for the illustrations used for the logos of Starbucks, Apple, Target and Shell.
If you do want to go with a more literal interpretation of what you do (and not just who you are), then think along the lines of Spotify (soundwaves), Burger King (burger) and Pinterest (pushpin). All of these logos work well because they are extremely simple and classic in form without being generic.
However, the most common rule of thumb is to use indirect symbolism when telling your story. It can be extremely hard to strike the right balance between creating a classic or amateur design when using literal illustration.
4. Colors Convey Personality
Colors hold meaning to your target audience and can differ in their meaning from group to group. If you are an international brand, for example, the meaning of color may be very different from what is commonly perceived in the US. So, you need to understand your audience and then learn about how colors impact them before settling on the right color palettes.
If you are a funeral home business owner, you probably won’t have a colorful logo or use childish/handwritten fonts. And, if you are a daycare provider or sell children’s accessories, then your logo probably will be colorful and youthful to show your understanding of that audience.
Most top brands stick with one or two colors for the sake of simplicity. Some brands do use multiple colors or gradients (like Instagram), but this can cause an issue with printing in some formats. Brands with multi-color logos will typically have a backup monochrome version as another option for when just one color is needed.
5. Logos Should be Memorable
Without question, your logo shouldn’t be easily forgotten or difficult to identify. You want to create a custom logo design, that people naturally identify with your brand. This is why it’s so important to understand your target audience, tell your story and convey your brand personality with every design choice you make.
When you combine the type, colors, imagery, shape and style of your logo, you should have something that perfectly sums up your brand in one quick glance.
A memorable logo is easy to take in and makes a favorable impression before any conscious thoughts even occur. People automatically have instinctual feelings at the first glimpse of an image, so you need to make sure the design provokes the desired response right away. Asset management firms typically want to convey trustworthiness and experience, while a sports drink company might want to convey high energy and delicious flavor to a young and active audience.
6. Less is More (Keep it Simple)
It’s really easy to go overboard with the design when you are considering all the potential elements and how they could represent your brand. However, the most powerful and recognizable logos are often a series of extremely simple shapes with just one or two colors, like McDonald’s, Motorola, Twitter, Monster and many more.
There isn’t a hard and fast rule about how simple a logo needs to be. Universities and government branches typically use crests that can be someone complex. This sometimes means that people don’t quickly recognize the mark. Schools often have secondary mascot-based logos or letterform logos to use for the general public instead of the scholastic emblem.
Even if you choose a more complicated emblem, it shouldn’t be difficult to read or replicate. Push yourself throughout your logo design process to cut out all unnecessary components until you have the design boiled down to only the most essential elements.
7. Logos Should be Instantly Recognizable
If it takes more than a couple of seconds to understand your logo, then you’ve failed with your design. People don’t spend long trying to understand what they are looking at—especially when it comes to branding or advertising.
You need to connect with your audience on a subconscious level so they understand your logo on some level without even taking a second look.
Check out your logo from other angles, upside down and reversed to see if it sill is recognizable. Consider getting the opinion of a few trusted friends, coworkers, stakeholders or VIP customers to see if they understand what you are going for with the logo.
8. A Logo Must be Scalable
Fi.nally, you never know exactly what you are going to need your logo for. While you might design your logo to work as an app icon, you will find that it still has to work well on t-shirts, business cards and billboards.
Your logo should be perfectly recognizable from the smallest size to the largest.
This usually means avoiding too many special effects or cluttery details. A scalable logo also rarely has more than a few letters, since text can get very hard to read at a small size. The logo also has to be made with a high-quality vector file so that it looks smooth (and not pixalated) when blown up for larger formats.
Try printing your logo on the corner of an envelope for letterhead and then as a large poster to see if it looks good in both size extremes.
Your Logo Should be Timeless
While most companies do refresh their logo every few years or decade, you don’t want to have to do a complete design overhaul and rebrand because you didn’t plan well the first time around. With these eight rules in hand, you should be prepared to create a powerful logo that is able to stand the test of time.