BLOG

My fans don't feel like I hold anything back from them

Corridor

This was an article I originally wrote for the Sep / Oct 2010 edition of Layers Magazine, it has been republished here with permission. You can see pictures of the article in print at the bottom of this article or you can view the PDF here. The article is targeted towards designers, rather than business owners.

One of the easiest ways to distinguish a company is by having a unique and memorable logo; however, creating a unique and memorable logo is not as easy as it sounds. Here are 12 common logo design mistakes that amateur logo designers often fall victim to. In no particular order…

1. Typographic chaos

Typography in logo design can make or break a design, so it’s vital you know your typographic ABC‘s. A logo should be kept as simple as possible while still portraying the intended message, and for this to happen, one must consider all typographic aspects of the design.

Don’t use too many fonts or weights (two maximum). Don’t use predictable, crazy, or ultra thin fonts. Pay close attention to kerning, spacing, and sizing and most importantly, ensure you’ve chosen the right font(s) for the project at hand.

Easy Speedy

EASYSPEEDY: TAKE NOTE HOW THIS LOGO USES JUST ONE FONT FAMILY BUT WITH DIFFERENT STYLING. THE ITALIC LETTER-FORMS CONVEY SPEED WHILE THE BOLD EMPHASIZES THE EASE OF THE SERVICE.

2. Poor font choice

As touched on above, when it comes to creating a logo, choosing the right font can make or break a design. Font choice can often take as long as the creation of the logo mark itself and it should not be done briskly.

Spend time researching all the various fonts that could be used for the project, narrow them down further, and then see how each one gels with the logo mark. Don’t be afraid to purchase a font, modify one, or create your own. Also, keep in mind how the logo’s font could be used across the rest of the brand identity in conjunction with other fonts and imagery.

Emotive Analytics

EMOTIVE ANALYTICS: ALL FONTS HAVE THEIR OWN PERSONALITY, SO YOU SHOULD CHOOSE THE RIGHT “FONT PERSONALITY” FOR THE JOB AT HAND. THE FONT CHOSEN IN THIS LOGO IS MUCH MORE SERIOUS THAN, SAY, A HAND-DRAWN FONT, WHICH WOULD CONVEY VERY DIFFERENT ATTRIBUTES.

3. Too complex, too abstract

Simple logos are more memorable as they allow for easier recognition; however, for a logo to be memorable and stand apart from the crowd, it must have something unique about it, without being too overdrawn. Not only does simplicity make a logo more memorable, but it also makes the logo more versatile, meaning it can work over more mediums. For example, a logo should work on something the size of a postage stamp and on something as large as a billboard. Don’t make your logo too abstract either.

4. Relying on special effects or color

If a logo requires color or special effects to make it a strong logo, it’s not a strong logo. To get around this, work in black and white first and then add the special effects or color later. This allows you to focus on the shape and concept rather than the special effects. Don’t use drop shadows, embossing, or other layer styles to gloss up logos — a good logo will stand on its own. You can also make different variations of a logo to ensure it works in colour or grey scale.

Opus Grex Logo

OPUS GREX: ALTHOUGH THIS LOGO HAS GRADIENTS AND COLOUR, IF WE TOOK AWAY THESE EFFECTS IT STILL HAS A STRONG FORM.

5. Using raster images

A logo should be designed in a vector graphics program such as Adobe Illustrator to ensure that the final logo can be scaled to any size, enabling the logo to be applied easily to other media. A vector graphic is made up of mathematically precise points, which ensures visual consistency across all mediums and sizes. A raster image (made out of pixels, such as what you would find in Photoshop) can’t be scaled to any size, which means at large sizes, the logo would be unusable. Use a vector graphics program when creating logos.

For further explanation: Raster vs Vector.

6. Settling for a monogram

One of the more common mistakes of the amateur logo designer is trying to create a monogram out of the business’ initials (e.g. Bob’s Hardware would become a logo made out of B & H). Although this sounds like a smart solution at first, it’s rather difficult to build credibility or convey an intended message with just the initials of a company. You can certainly explore this route, but don’t settle on it unless you can create an original, creative, and memorable solutionthat reflects the business’ goals.

Also, try not to shorten a business name into acronyms until it has been around for a while or if it suits the target goals. HP, FedEx, IBM, and GM never started out as acronyms — they became acronyms after many years of high-profile exposure.

7. Using visual clichés

Light bulbs for ‘ideas’, speech bubbles for ‘discussion’, swooshes for ‘dynamism’, etc. These ideas are often the first things to pop into one’s head when brainstorming, and for the same reason should be the first ideas discarded. How is your design going to be unique when so many other logos feature the same idea? Stay clear of these visual clichés and come up with an original idea and design.

Just Creative Design Logo

JUST CREATIVE DESIGN: A PENCIL ON ITS OWN WOULD BE A VISUAL CLICHÉ FOR ANY ILLUSTRATOR OR DESIGNER; HOWEVER, IF YOU USE A CLICHÉ IN A CREATIVE AND UNIQUE WAY, THEN YOUR LOGO WILL BE MUCH MORE MEMORABLE. HAVE A LOOK AT MY PERSONAL LOGO, DID YOU EVER NOTICE THE HIDDEN J, C, AND D?

8. Copying, stealing, or borrowing design

It’s sad that this has to be said, but it’s an all-too-common practice these days. A designer sees an idea that he likes, does a quick mirror, color swap, or word change, and then calls the idea his own. Not only is this unethical, illegal, and downright stupid but you’re also going to get caught sooner or later. Do not use stock or clip art either — the point of a logo is to be unique and original.

9. Getting too much client input

A client is paying you as a professional designer to come up with a relevant design, so you should direct the client to the best possible solution. The best way to do this is to offer your expertise, not by letting them direct the project (entirely). If a client asks for a misinformed change, explain why it may not be such a good idea and offer a better alternative. If they still refuse, try sending your own design decisions as well as their design suggestions. They will often realize that their suggestions may not have been the best; however, you as a designer should also realize that you also, are not always right, so try giving the client’s suggestions a go — who knows where it will lead.

10. Providing too many concepts

Loosely linked to the above point is providing the client with too many options. This again means the client will have too much say over the design direction of the project. If you provide 10 concepts to a client, more often than not they will choose what you consider, the ‘worst’ design. A good rule of thumb is to onlysend one to three concepts that you personally could see working for their business. Of course, the number of concepts you send can change from project to project, but once you feel confident enough as a designer, these one to three concepts should nail the project on the head every time.

11. Not cleaning up logo files

Logo files should be one of the cleanest files you ever deliver a client. Node points should be kept to a minimum; curves should be as smooth as possible and without overlap. Shapes should be combined, and if your logo is symmetrical, it should be perfectly symmetrical. Everything about the delivered file should be perfect and as minimal as possible. Imagine if the client needs to blow up the logo to put on the side of a truck. If the logo has any mistakes, these will now be clearly visible. Make it perfect.

Redwave Systems

REDWAVE SYSTEMS: TAKE NOTE OF THE HIDDEN WAVE IN THIS LOGO DESIGN. AS AN EXAMPLE OF CLEANING UP FILES, THIS WAVE WOULD HAVE TO BE KNOCKED OUT OF THE LETTERS “W” AND “A” RATHER THAN HAVING A WHITE WAVE SHAPE SITTING ON TOP OF THE LETTER-FORMS.

12. Not delivering correct files to client

Delivering the right files to your client is one way to ensure that your client never comes back asking for revisions or different versions of a logo. It also ensures that the logo gets displayed correctly in all circumstances, which should be supported by a style guide.

You should give your client four high-quality files per logo variation — this means providing a spot-color file, a pure CMYK (no spot colors), a pure black file, and a pure white (knockout) file. These should generally be in EPS, TIFF, and JPEG formats. You can provide a favicon too, if you’re feeling nice.

A Closing Word

These logo design tips should help you become a better logo designer in theory, however, it’s important to state that although lists such as this are a good starting point, they should not hold you back — rules are made to be broken & there is no ‘right’ way when it comes to logo design. Sketch, explore and create! Then repeat.

Below you can see this article as featured in Layers Magazine. Thank you to those who sent me pictures of the article!

Common Logo Design Mistakes in Layers Magazine

Common Logo Design Mistakes in Layers Magazine Page 2

Agree? Disagree? Have you got any other common logo design mistakes to add?

(Source: http://adf.ly/11Nmw9)

What makes a good logo?

logo design tips

What makes a good logo? A good logo is distinctive, appropriate, practical, graphic, simple in form and conveys an intended message.

There are five principles that you should follow to ensure that this is so…

An effective logo is (in no particular order):

  • Simple
  • Memorable
  • Timeless
  • Versatile
  • Appropriate

1. Simple

London Underground Logo

A simple logo design allows for easy recognition and allows the logo to be versatile & memorable. Good logos feature something unique without being overdrawn.

While in college in the mid-70′s an instructor introduced me to the K.I.S.S. Principle of design; which translates to: Keep It Simple, Stupid. It does convey a very important design consideration. Simple logos are often easily recognized, incredibly memorable and the most effective in conveying the requirements of the client. A refined and distilled identity will also catch the attention of a viewer zipping by signage at 70 miles per hour, on packaging on the crowded shelves of a store, or in any other vehicle used for advertising, marketing and promotion. Remember, the basis of the hugely effective international branding for the world’s largest shoe manufacturer is a very simple graphic swoosh.

~ Jeff Fisher

2. Memorable

McDonalds Logo Design

Following closely behind the principle of simplicity, is that of memorability. An effective logo design should be memorable and this is achieved by having a simple, yet, appropriate logo.

You may be interested to see some examples of bad logo designs.

Surprising to many, the subject matter of a logo is of relatively little importance, and even appropriateness of content does not always play a significant role.

This does not imply that appropriateness is undesirable. It merely indicates that a one-to-one relationship between a symbol and what it symbolized is very often impossible to achieve and, under certain conditions, objectionable.Ultimately, the only mandate in the design of logos, it seems, is that they be distinctive, memorable, and clear.

~ Paul Rand

3. Timeless

coca-cola-logo

An effective logo should be timeless – that is, it will endure the ages. Will the logo still be effective in 10, 20, 50 years?

Leave trends to the fashion industry – Trends come and go, and when you’re talking about changing a pair of jeans, or buying a new dress, that’s fine, but where your brand identity is concerned, longevity is key. Don’t follow the pack. Stand out.

~ David Airey

Probably the best example of a timeless logo is the Coca-Cola logo… if you compare it to the Pepsi logo below, you can see just how effective creating a timeless logo can be. Notice how the Coca Cola logo has barely changed since 1885? That is timeless design.

Update: 8/08/09 – Underconsideration has posted an updated timeline of the Pepsi vs CocaCola logo. Thanks for the tip off Jon.

Timeless Logo Design

4. Versatile

WWF Logo

An effective logo should be able to work across a variety of mediums and applications. The logo should be functional. For this reason a logo should be designed in vector format, to ensure that it can be scaled to any size. The logo should be able to work both in horizontal and vertical formats.

Ask yourself; is a logo still effective if:

  • Printed in one colour?
  • Printed on the something the size of a postage stamp?
  • Printed on something as large as a billboard?
  • Printed in reverse (ie. light logo on dark background)

One way around creating a versatile logo is to begin designing in black and white only. This allows one to focus on the concept and shape, rather than thesubjective nature of colour. One must also remember printing costs – the more colors used, the more expensive it will be for the business over the long term.

I like to work first in black and white to ensure that the logo will look good in its simplest form. Color is very subjective and emotional. This can distract from the overall design – say if you saw your logo in all red, that color may be the first thing that you respond to and not the composition of the design elements. I will not even consider submitting color suggestions to a client for review until they have signed off on a final black and white logo.

~ Patrick Winfield

One should also familiarise themself with the commercial printing process so as not to come into printing problems further down the track. Learn to know the difference between the CMYK, Pantone and RGB color systems. When designing logos, the Pantone colour system is recommended.

5. Appropriate

ToysRUs Logo

How you position the logo should be appropriate for its intended purpose. For example, if you are designing a logo for children’s toys store, it would be appropriate to use a childish font & colour scheme. This would not be so appropriate for a law firm.

It is also important to state that that a logo doesn’t need to show what a business sells or offers as a service. ie. Car logos don’t need to show cars, computer logos don’t need to show computers. The Harley Davidson logo isn’t a motorcycle, nor is the Nokia logo a mobile phone. A logo is purely for identification.

How to choose a logo designer

How to choose a logo designer

CMYK Paint

With such a plethora of choice it may be hard to find the right designer for your specific needs. Below is a short guide to help you make the right choice when choosing a logo designer. These points could also be useful when hiring a web designer, graphic designer, or any designer for that matter.

I don’t want this post to come across as self promotional, however, I’ve linked to my own examples to show you how I personally communicate to potential clients the value of my design work. For other designers, I hope this in turn, gives you an idea of how you too can communicate the value of your work.

In no particular order:

1. Experience

Previous identity projects will give you a good idea of what skill level your designer is at and what you can expect though this is not to say that a new designer can not produce top quality results – this point has to be considered with all of the other points mentioned below, in which case a strong portfolio is probably the best indicator.

For examples of some quality identity design, please check out Logo Of The Day, where Jeff Fisher and I feature a new talented logo designer every day.

2. Positive Testimonials

Have they got positive testimonials from past clients and colleagues?

Ensure you check the testimonials validity which can be done by looking for a web address or even by emailing the company. It’s a good idea to check if the company even exists.

3. A Thorough Design Process

Do they have a logo design process in which they follow or are they simplyproducing logos like fast food? A typical process does not take under 48 hours to complete which is why I wrote the article How NOT To Design A Logo which tells you to avoid design contests, logo factories, etc.

Think for how long your logo design will be in use – would you want that to be designed (let alone researched) in under 48 hours? Logo design is not a take away food store and this is why logo design does not cost $5.00.

There is no ‘typical’ time frame as every client will have different needs but for small and medium businesses a rough guide would be around 2 – 6 weeks.

4. Awards Won / Published Work

Have they won any awards for their work? Is their work published in any books or magazines? How recognised are they in the industry?

5. A Strong Portfolio

How strong is their portfolio?   What is the make up of real to ‘fake’ logo designs? When I say ‘fake logos’ I refer to the logos made for fictional companies, rather than for real clients.

Ink Drops

6. Price

The costs of the service is usually quite evident of what you are going to receive. In most cases, you will get what you pay for but don’t take price as the only indication.

How much does a logo design actually cost? In my experience, this is the most frequently asked question and the hardest to answer. This is because every company has different needs… the best approach is to draw up a customised quote for each individual client.

7. Design Affiliations

Are they affiliated with any design associations or publications? This is a good indication of how dedicated they are to their craft though is not at all essential.

As an example, I am a member of NAPP – The National Association of Photoshop Professionals and Logo Lounge, an online gallery for logo design professionals. Other affiliations could be AIGA, HOW or even a local design group.

8. Great Customer Service

Do they respond to your emails quickly? How do they communicate & present themselves? A designer should provide great customer service throughout the whole process, from the initial email right through to after sales support.

9. Business Professionalism

Attention to detail, trustworthiness, strong communication skills and time management are all vital and go hand in hand with great customer service.

10. Appropriate Questions

A designer should ask a variety of questions to find out your needs in relation to your business goals. Questions should revolve around the companies history, target market, competitors, company goals, etc. For an example of the questions asked, check out my logo design questionnaire.

In summary

These are 10 things you should take into account when choosing a logo designer:

  1. Proven Success & Experience
  2. Positive Testimonials
  3. A Thorough Design Process
  4. Awards & Published Work
  5. A Strong Portfolio
  6. Price
  7. Design Affiliations
  8. Great Customer Service
  9. Business Professionalism
  10. Appropriate Questions

Do you have any further points to add?

(Source: http://adf.ly/11NXg1)