An AWESOME logo is a combination of creativity, clarity of message and aesthetic appeal. It gives you an initial piece of story about a product or company, and if it’s truly exceptional, an urge to find out more.
When it comes to logo design, there are no techniques that can replace the need for talent and creative thinking. However, there are tricks of the trade that can be used as effective shortcuts for generating good ideas, saving you hours of time.
1. Start with words
I suggest using this tip as a starting point for any logo design. It takes very little time, yet helps you discover ideas and directions which would otherwise be left in the dark.
Read the client’s brief, then summarize it into three words that best describe the product or company — no sentences, no long descriptions… just three words.
The best way to do this is to ask yourself, “What is this company / product / service about?” Then provide an answer in form of: “It’s about this, that and that.”
Use these words as column headers, then brainstorm 5 visual ideas for each, as shown in the example above.
Make sure to think about both direct associations and metaphors — for example, “strength” can be represented with a bulging biceps (direct association) or with a lion (metaphor).
A company’s name often contains clues to visual ideas you can brainstorm. In this example, “Express” is represented by a locomotive but a stamp is another visual idea which would work just as well.
To make this even easier, use these categories to speed up brainstorming:
- Everyday tools & objects
- Vehicles and transportation
- Nature and wildlife
- Maps, geography, navigation
- Faces and characters
- Common signs & symbols (i.e. traffic signs, airport signs, etc.)
- Hands & gestures
Once you’re done, eliminate obvious and stereotypical approaches, then pick some of the unique visual ideas as the inspiration for your logo design.
2. Play with type
This trick is a secret weapon for all designers who like the simplicity of type and the ULTIMATE creative logo.
This task is seemingly simple but gets your creative juices flowing. Choose a good typeface and write out the company name, then think about how you can modify the lettering to give the logo originality and meaning.
FedEx is a great example of playing with type. Although it seems like nothing more than two words set in Futura bold, there is an embedded arrow between E and x, which symbolizes the speed of FedEx and it’s service.
The challenge is to keep things as simple as possible, introducing minimal changes with maximum effect. This takes some experimentation but once you understand how to use letters imaginatively, you’ll start getting some fantastic results pretty fast.
Herb Lubalin, a renowned graphic and type designer, used only type to create strong and memorable logos.
3. Borrow a style
If you look at real estate logos, you’ll find that most contain some sort of house or building with the company’s name written under the image and incorporate lots of blue and green.
Similarly, car logos tend to look like a badge or shield with initials, symbols or animals inside — most likely set in blue, red or gold color schemes.
Every industry speaks its own design language and imposes some unwritten rules and doctrines on how it’s logo should look. These rules often lead to obvious and uninventive logo designs which defeats the purpose of being different than the competition.
A bank to remember: it might be hard to believe but the logo on the right belongs to a leading financial group in Spain. Although it was created as piece of Joan Miró’s tapestry, technically speaking it borrows its style from an entirely different industry, perhaps toys or amusement parks.
A quick way to avoid the generic trap, and jump start an original logo, is to take a design style from one industry and apply it to another. This instantly differentiates your work and sets it apart from the expected stereotypes.
Here are some styles that transfer well but feel free to explore your own combinations:
- Art gallery style for Real estate and Food industries
- Toy style for Startups and Tech companies
- Car logo style for Clubs & Bars but also Insurance and Banking
- Sports style for Creative services and Web apps
4. Use black and white
These days, black and white logos are very hard to come by — not because they’re inferior but because most people design logos with color.
To see what is possible in black and white, take a look at this list of 35 stunning black and white logos.
Although selling black and white logo can be challenging, from a design standpoint, it has many advantages:
- You can work twice as fast — trying out color combinations takes a lot of design time.
- You can produce better designs — color often hides bad ideas, bad typography and bad shape harmony.
- Your design will stand out — its direct and simple.
You can use this tip even with a colorful logo — simply experiment with colors AFTER you finish the artwork, not before.
5. Revisit the work of industry kings
With power of modern design applications and hyper production of logos, it’s easy to follow the latest trends and forget about the pillars of great logo design — originality, simplicity and mindfulness.
David Airey composed a list of 9 World’s Best Logo Designers, a page worth checking out before you start any design project.
Luckily, the work of graphic design pioneers such as Herb Lubalin, Paul Rand and Milton Glaser, exists to remind us about these principles. These designers worked without computers but produced some of the most original and memorable logos in existence today.
So, whenever you’re stuck with a logo design, make sure to revisit their work. Inspiration guaranteed!
Finding the right idea is the most time consuming process in design, so you need to use effective techniques and sources of inspiration to help the process.
You should always start by brainstorming visual ideas, then follow the execution tips outlined above — play with type, borrow a design style, make the logo in black and white or get inspired by logo pioneers.