Designing a new logo?

Design & print

Logo and motif design is an ancient art that is still vitally important today. Years ago, pre printing press, tradesmen would hang pictorial signs over their shop doors to depict their business. Official seals would be used to show authenticity and authority. Nowadays we use a logo or trademark to do a number of things.

It should set a company apart from the competition, give them instant recognition and suggest something about how the company, business or organisation would like to be perceived. Some logos also make a suggestion as to what the company does although this is not always necessary. An established logo will instantly convey to the viewer a vast amount of information – just picture in your mind the ‘Coca-Cola’ logo – you should find that it is instantly accompanied by your complete knowledge of that company; what they make, and how you feel about it both good and bad. All that from just one recognisable visual identifier.

1. Research
Start researching the competition in your field. What kind of logos do they have? What works and what doesn’t work? You will instantly find a variation of results. Some companies will have very poor branding and you will make judgements on them based on this. Other companies will look very good and have a logo that works well. It’s very important to keep in mind what these companies are doing. You may well feel you would like something similar but you must beware, if you create something too similar you could leave yourself open to accusations of plagiarism and even legal action. It’s best to create something original, has someone missed a trick?

2. Doodles and ideas
This is probably the most fun part of designing a logo. You have a complete blank sheet of paper and can do anything! Sometimes it can be hard to know where to start though. Is there something in the name of the company that suggests something? Are there any of the letters that can be adapted to pictorially show something relevant to what the company does? What about the negative space between letters – can this be used (for example think about the arrow in the ‘fedex’ logo).

At this stage I would also mention heritage. Sometimes we are not simply asked to create a new logo, we are asked to refresh an old one. There can be a value in retaining a flavour and suggestion of what has gone before, especially if the company is successful and has a good reputation. It’s important not to throw the baby out with the bathwater! Take a look at how well known trademarks like ‘Shell oil’ have adapted and changed gradually over the years.

3. Working up the best routes
Once you have several pages of creative doodles, it’s time to review what you’ve done. On rare occasions there might be one idea that is clearly head and shoulders above the rest, but usually there will be multiple possibilities. How to whittle down the ideas? Sometimes it helps to think about how the logo will be used. It can really help to hone down the stronger ideas. Is there an option that would lend itself very well to signage? Is there a route that would give the business stationery a new twist? Is there an option which is beautiful in it’s simplicity? It’s time to start working the chosen routes up to something approaching presentability. I would do this simply using black and white, as I feel that it’s important for any logo to be able to work in monotone. It’s also time to double check that you’ve not created something too close to the competition, anything that could be open to accusations of this should be discarded. It’s vital that what is created is original and ownable by the company it’s being created for. At this point I would also mention fonts. The typeface used for the trade name also needs to suggest the right tone, and also be unique and ownable. Take time to play with different options, and also how the type would sit with the logo. Custom lettering (eg not simply a font chosen from the font menu) will add a uniqueness to any logo.

4. Add colour
Once you have 4 or 5 options it’s time to consider colour. The colour of a logo can be as important as the logo itself, colour can illicit an emotional reaction from the viewer. For example scarlet red suggests excitement, aggression, drama and dynamism, whereas royal purple can come over as majestic, expensive and regal. It’s important to understand what the colour will say about the brand. Use of colour is also very important as the logo and ‘visual identity’ is rolled out over the multiple uses that will be required. Use of a smaller range of select colours can give the brand a real cohesive feel and excellent brand recognition.

5. Present the ideas! 
This can be the most nerve-wracking point in the process as it’s now time to sell the ideas to clients and other stakeholders. It can sometimes be hard for people to visualise how a particular logo would work in different situations so showing a couple of visual ‘uses’ of the logo would be really helpful, although I feel it’s important not to go too far with this as this is the next stage.

6. Review the feedback.
Now’s the time to consider carefully the client’s comments, after all, they are the ones who will have to buy in to the logo and live with it for the foreseeable future. Hopefully there will be a route that everybody feels is the best, and it’s then time to refine and tweak the logo into it’s final form. Care must be taken to create something that can be reproduced at any required size from the largest of signs ( a minimum reproduction size should be decided). Also, it’s now time to consider if an animated version will be required for digital options etc. If none of the ideas hit the mark (and this does happen occasionally) then it’s time to go back to the doodles, but it’s also vital to get more input from the client at this stage, if they don’t like the ideas it’s usually because they have something else in mind.

7. Present the final logo.
Once the refinements are complete it’s time to present the final logo, along with examples of how the logo will look over printed material, signage, workwear, vehicles etc. When the roll out of these ideas start it can be a very exciting time for the client, as they see the look and feel of the business transformed.

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