In this article, you’ll learn about the features of a well-designed logo as well as answer questions designed to assess whether your own logo is on the right track.
You’ve come up with a fantastic idea for a logo! It includes everything from your tagline, an illustrated scene, and the name of your biz in a fancy type treatment! You’ve thought of it all!
But your designer is pushing back saying that everything you’ve done is far too much to include. They say your logo should be clean, simple, and adaptable to different environments. What are they talking about? You can’t understand how they think that your idea won’t work. Why is it such a bad idea?
Or maybe you’re giving it a shot on your own and DIYing. But you’re still not sure what you’ve created fits the bill. How can you know your design contains all of the elements you need in a logo and that it’s well-executed?
All you want is a well-designed logo. Does it really have to be this difficult?
The short answer is no. But first, it’s a good idea to understand the elements and features that make up a well-designed logo.
Before we dive in, this article is part of a series we’ve written on Brand Identity as a whole. If you’re starting or running a business, a good place to begin is: Why Your Business Needs a Strategically Designed Brand Identity – as a logo is only ONE part of your Visual Brand Identity.
Now that it’s understood that a logo is only one part of your brand identity, let’s break it down!
Important Features of a Strategic and Well-Designed Logo:
We’ll be covering the following features – Each section is linked for ease of reference and includes assessment questions for your review.
Design is more complicated than most think. It’s a common idea that simply creating an attractive image is enough. Or that all you need is a wordmark using a fancy font. This isn’t the case.
Having a strategic foundation to inform the design of your logo is one of the most important aspects of the process you’ll be investing in. It’s what makes that logo WORK for you – engaging your audience, creating brand loyalty, brand recognition, and overall positively affecting your bottom line.
Most professional designers will have a process in place to include the strategy phase. But many make this an internal part of the process. So it’s something you might not hear much about. Hence the common idea that it’s simply a matter of creating an attractive image. And then there are those who don’t include the strategy phase at all – something you’ll want to avoid if you’re building a business you’re invested in.
The methods we’ve developed begin with research and strategy. This phase is, by far, the most valuable and critical part of the process. It ensures the designs we execute are well-informed by various data. This foundation is necessary to create intentionally designed visual assets.
Simplicity in Design:
Think of well-known and time-tested brand identities – Coke, Apple, Target for example. Notice how they’re easily recognizable, include limited colors, clean design, no extra fluff, and include additional files and assets across their brand identity to be used for legibility across different environments.
Below is an example of a logo we’ve developed to illustrate this rule. You’ll notice that there are various logo versions to be used in different environments. And for each of those versions, there are multiple additional versions created for light and dark contrasting backgrounds as well as a few different color variations using their brand colors. In total, it’s not uncommon that you’ll receive a folder of at least 20+ files for your final logo design.
Limited Colors: 2-4 main colors are all that’s needed for a successful identity in most cases. Sure, your overall brand identity can and probably will include additional complimentary brand colors (see above image for example). But for each application of your logo, it is recommended to include no more than 2-4 colors.
When you send your logo to a merch printer (say you’re having t-shirts, coffee mugs, pens, hats, etc. made) they’ll usually ask for a file with a breakdown of your brand colors included. This is important in ensuring your brand colors are cohesive throughout your collateral. Depending on the printing process (Pantone/Spot colors, CMYK 4-color process, etc) your printer will want your files to clearly depict those colors. The designer you work with will have probably provided you with a Brand Guidelines document when they created your Visual Brand Identity – the preceding image shows a spread from a branding guidelines document we provide to our clients upon completing their visual brand identity. This document will have those breakdowns for you, your printers, and anyone else who handles your brand assets to reference.
Clean Design: A clean design without extra fluff like filters and shadows is absolutely necessary. You might be tempted to ask your designer to add some of these extra elements, but when they push back, it’s because they know how poorly these translate. They’re unnecessary to the design and lessen the visual quality (and impact). Plus, if you’ve hired a pro designer – they are there to guide you when it comes to these decisions after all. 😉
Also, that illustrative scene you may have thought would be a great representation of your brand… that’s another item to hold off on when putting your logo together. Illustrative scenes are great to use to compliment your overall brand materials but are not to be used in logos which require simplicity in design for quick recognition and identification.
Adaptable for Different Environments:
Your logo will be scaled to different sizes throughout the life of your business and the different collateral you create. Maybe you’ll have an ad on a billboard at some point. And let’s not forget how your mark will look at extra small sizes like avatars for social media.
So what does this mean and what exactly will you need?
Flexibility via Variations: First, as we touched upon in the previous section, you’ll need multiple variations of logo lockups designed. Lockups are different layouts of your logo so to speak. You’ll want multiple versions for different environments your logo may appear. Ex: website header/navigation bar, sponsor sheet on a flyer, different types of merch – a horizontal pen or the vertical area of a hat, etc.
Different versions you’ll want to consider include:
- vertical/stacked logo
- horizontal logo
You’ll also want to have different colored versions of those lockups. Think about the color and contrast of possible backgrounds where your logo might appear. If you have a mostly dark-colored logo and it’s to appear on a black background, it will be lost. Think about this when choosing your brand colors and how these decisions will apply to your logo design and various lockups.
Think about sponsorship situations. It breaks my heart when a business only has one version of its logo to send. If only they had a package of logo lockups to provide… the designer who’s putting together the flyer for the event you’re sponsoring will be able to choose the logo that fits and reads best into the sponsorship area allotted. No back and forth scrambling for a “better version” or adding an unattractive border or block of color to your logo so that it’s visible. No one wants that!
File Types: You may have heard the terms “raster” and “vector” being discussed in the design world when discussing file types. So, what exactly do these terms mean and how do they apply to your logo?
Vector: Vector files are made of paths. Popular logo file formats include .AI, .EPS, .SVG. A file format that can be scaled to any size without losing quality. Billboard or avatar = same quality in edges. No pixelation, etc. These are the files you, your printers, and merch makers will require for your logo files.
Raster: Raster files are made of pixels. Popular logo file formats include .PSD, .JPG, .PNG, .TIF. These are set up to specific sizes. EX: An image set up to be 600 pixels wide for web at 72dpi converts to about 2 inches wide for print at 300dpi. If you force it any larger, you’ll see blurry and pixelated edges. A basic rule to remember with raster files is that you can make the image smaller, but never scale it to be larger than it’s created.
When creating your logo you will absolutely need vector files. The designer you work with will probably provide many different file types of your logo for ease of use, but make sure you have received true vectors of your files as described above.
A Timeless, Long-Lasting Design:
Trends die and age quickly – important to remember when you are in the process of designing your logo.
A long-lasting, classic design holds the power to build audience trust. I’m sure you can think of a product you always shop for at the grocery store. You’re a faithful consumer and trust that brand. When you’re moving quickly down the aisle, you know exactly what you’re looking for visually. Their branding is recognizable and easy to remember. While time plays a part in building brand recognition, having a classic design that isn’t confined by the style of a particular era is a beautiful thing.
You can think about it like a classic button-up shirt you can pair with anything in your closet. Or that pencil skirt that you can accessorize with any era stylings, and holds up on its own as the key focal piece of the outfit.
Meanwhile, Hypercolor t-shirts or jelly shoes aren’t foundational pieces you can rely on every day. You might wear them to that 80s themed party and be the star of the show! But when that’s over, that tee and shoes represent and remind us of one era. They show their age and you’ll probably be replacing them with newer styles as you move through the years.
Having a logo that isn’t marred by time also ensures that you’ll only need slight refreshes along the way. Not expensive redesigns. This contributes to the longevity of recognition in your brand, saving you a ton over the life of your business when it comes to marketing and design!
A Memorable Design:
Is your logo clearly recognizable? Does it stand out? Does it connect with your target audience? Much of this will be clarified during the strategy phase of your design. The data and information you collect in researching your audience will inform design decisions. What phase of life are they in? What appeals to them in terms of color, style, etc. What do they look for in a trustworthy brand? These are just a few important considerations in creating a visually memorable identity.
Most importantly, while these are all important elements of your logo design, thinking about your overall identity and how cohesive it is the highest priority in terms of your overall visual branding efforts are concerned. The way your brand design elements (brand colors, brand fonts, iconography, patterns, etc) are used together are what create a memorable association to your brand.
It’s incredibly common to get logo inquiries from new businesses that think that’s what “branding” means – the design of the logo alone. It’s our job to make sure businesses we work with are set up for success in their visual branding. We’re invested in that success. And creating a disconnected logo is not the solution. You need a full cohesive visual brand identity to get started. At a minimum, that includes your logo(s), brand colors, brand fonts, and branding guidelines reference document.
How are you feeling about your logo?
After the assessment questions in each section above, how are you feeling about your logo? Not sure if what you’ve developed is working for your business? Interested in a professional opinion to see if and where you can improve? Try our logo-specific Light Brand Identity Audit package!
By booking an audit, you’ll get
- An understanding of whether or not your messaging is aligned with your current visuals
- Insight on how you can improve your design assets to better convey your brand messaging
- Suggested ways design elements can be used to engage your target audience
- Tips on how to adapt visuals to improve brand recognition
A PDF Report Outlining:
- What’s done well
- What needs work/pain points
- Areas of opportunity for better visual execution
- Our recommendations
- Suggested Next Steps
PLUS: A bonus credit:
A credit in the amount of your chosen package to apply to one of our custom Visual Brand Identity Strategy and Design packages.
Have another project you’d like to discuss? Book a complimentary 30-minute consultation where we can learn more and get to know you and your business. Have questions or want to send a message? Contact us here.