A Field Guide to Logo Design Creation

When you look at the logo design of that famous burger chain or that well-loved brand of sportswear, you instantaneously associate it with several things.

Colored Logos

One is instant recall and recognition of the company’s name, even if the company’s name doesn’t form part of the logo. Another is clear identification of the company’s products—burger (and french fries!) and sportswear, in the case of our example. These two phenomena reflect what is known as effective branding and is what each company logo wants to achieve.

That is, the company that owns the logo has successfully etched its identity sharply into your memory so that every time you see the logo, the company immediately comes to your mind, along with the thoughts and feelings that you associate with it.

I bet you can easily recognize famous logos of many brands from all over the world, but who made their logos and how did they go about creating those? For many startup businesses, the question of who should create the business logo design makes it to the top of the list of to-do items before the business is launched. Another important item on that same list concerns the matter of how to create a business logo design.

Who Should Craft Your Business Logo Design?

The quick answer to this question is this: someone who knows how to render abstract ideas into simple visual form. This person may not necessarily be a professional or hired graphic designer. If you have artistic talents yourself, you might as well do your own logo. Otherwise, you’ll have to look for other options.

In your company, there’s probably a colleague or an employee who knows how to use illustration and graphics editing tools. Or, if you work for a big company, you probably have a creative department, and the folks there can help you design your corporate logo. The people in this department usually are in charge of the visual media needs of the company (e.g., publication layouts, poster designs, signage creation, and other similar materials). Second to doing it on your own, this is the next best step, and the most practical, as well, since your employees no longer need to be oriented on company goals, vision, and such other stuff.

However, for startups and fledgling companies, a creative department may not be existent at all. In such cases, many startups and home-based enterprises usually decide to outsource their logo creation requirement, as well as their graphic media needs. In this situation, the company needs to shop for the right logo design company that can work according to the specifications of the client.

Not Just an Art Creation Process

color pencilsThe task of creating a business logo is not exactly similar to picking apples, or even shopping for shoes. It’s not even as simple as modifying a template you downloaded, or putting disparate graphic pieces together, or pasting clipart that looks nice. Many logo design companies, logo creation software companies, and logo template companies would have you think that creating a logo is all about picking nice shapes and adding nice text and nice effects to those shapes. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Rather than a whimsical process, the logo design process is a deliberate and painstaking one. It begins with the company’s idea of what it is, what it does, what it can offer to its clients, what it values, and what value it can create for its clients. These ideas are very abstract and complex. And, your business logo must reflect these ideas in an easy-to-grasp, captivating, fascinating, interesting, and thought-provoking manner.

Thus, whether you are working on your logo on your own or are hiring someone else, these ideas must be crystal clear to the logo designer. More importantly, casting these ideas into a simple, easy-to-remember design requires a lot of creative thinking—and often a lot of sketchpad sheets, too.

How Do You Create a Business Logo Design?

If you were a hired artist, I’d tell you to get to know the client first. As a matter of fact, I’d encourage you to be intimate with your client. (No, not that kind of intimacy!) The more you know about the company and its nature, the better ideas you can generate for your drafts. Whether you are an in-house artist, an artistic employee of the company, or an outsourced graphic designer, it will be helpful to know the following:

  • Company History. This will give you insights about the company’s roots and beginnings, as well as its directions for the future. You will want to create a logo that will withstand the test of time and will be flexible enough to changes.
  • Company’s Market and Industry. This will give you an idea of who are the key players and competitors in the market and industry. You might want to check the logos of those other companies and create one that will deviate from what is common to those competitors’ logos. In short, make your logo design stand out from the competition.
  • Company Vision, Goals, and Values. If you understand how the company wants to identify itself, you’ll be in a better position to create a pictorial representation of that same identity.

logo sketch

Once you’ve reached a deeper level of intimacy with your client, it’s time to reach for your pen and paper. Yes, pen and paper. Leave your computer off for now. The following are the usual steps that you will go through:

  • Find Inspiration. This step usually involves taking a look at current logos of companies from the same industry. Doing so, you can easily perceive a trend in logo designs in your client’s own industry. You will have the option to break away from the trend (i.e., in order to stand out), or to follow the trend but outdo the rest. It’s also possible to skip this step if you already have several ideas brewing in your mind.
  • Sketch! Go ahead and doodle, draw, scribble, or sketch on your pad. Let your creative juices flow as you come up with a variety of visual ideas for the logo. For starters, you can play around with the company’s name. If you use the company name as your major element for the draft, it will be a wordmark. You may also opt for an iconic design, which is an abstract shape that represents an object or idea, albeit indirectly. Or, you can combine both wordmark and icon. Be witty and smart with your design idea. Think outside the box and keep the design simple.
  • Seek Feedback. Once you’ve made several rough sketches, sit down with your client over coffee and show the sketches to the client. You don’t need to present all your sketches. Just show only those sketches that you think have good potential. Discuss with your client the benefits and disadvantages of each draft sketch. Listen intently to what the client says about each draft and take note of the client’s recommendations or suggestions. Together with you client, select a few designs that you both think have good potential for a logo.
  • Render the Design Digitally. Now it’s time to go to your electronic drawing board. Fire up your computer and render your sketch into digital format. Incorporate your client’s suggestions into the revised designs. Use a vector illustration program (e.g., Inkscape or Adobe Illustrator) to create your design drafts. Start with a one-color design. If your design packs punch even in monochrome, how much more if you add finer details and more colors to it? This will also ensure that your logo will remain effective even if it is printed in one color. Then, once you have black-and-white versions, play around with colors for each version. Do not overload the design with colors. Stick to just two, or three at the most.
  • Present the Revisions to Your Client. Again, discuss with your client the merits of each version. Continue to solicit feedback each time you present subsequent revisions. By this time, your client will have chosen one design that is best fit for the company’s needs. You will make one final revision to that version.
  • Place Finishing Touches. At this final stage, you’ll integrate the final recommendations provided by your client. Then, save the design in various formats (e.g., BMP, PNG, JPEG), but you should not forget to save it also in a lossless vector format (e.g., Adobe Illustrator file, or Scalable Vector Graphics file, or Encapsulated PostScript). Prepare also a Web-optimized version that uses Web-safe colors.

As you can see, the logo design process is not pure artistic endeavor whose purpose is artistic expression. It’s not even much about technical expertise in the use of computer tools. Rather, it is a purposeful, deliberate, and extremely creative activity that keeps referring back to the company’s nature, identity, and goals at each step of the process.

Guest author Paul Adrian Gonzalez is Senior author and editor for ImpactLogos.com.au, Australia’s premiere logo design company. Visit Paul’s little nook to learn more how to create a high-impact business logo for your startup company. Image credits to Bernat and Jason under CC license. You can also share your logo design tips and write guest articles.

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About the Author: P Chandra is editor of QOT, one of India's earliest tech bloggers since 2004. A tech enthusiast with expertise in coding, WordPress, web tools, SEO and DIY hacks.