Logo Design for Dummies

This is a short article I wrote for August issue of T8N magazine on 8 tips for good logo design. Nothing earth shattering and written to fit into their 8s section.


A Logo Is Worth a Thousand Words

Every good logo tells a story. In fact, your logo is often the first introduction that potential customers have to your business and, therefore, needs to be able to stand on its own as your front-line brand ambassador. Tall order? A little, but with more and more customers wanting to feel a connection to the brands they support, the role of your logo as a brand ambassador becomes increasingly important. So what makes a logo a good logo? And just how does it tell your story? Here are 8 tips to consider…

Always Consider This

If in doubt, leave it out. If you can’t rationalize something in your logo, chances are it should be removed. When your logo is at its simplest, it’s probably at its strongest. Be ruthless.

1. Ask the Whys

Why do you have a logo? Who does it target? What is its purpose? If you can answer these deceptively easy questions, you are well on your way to creating a great logo. Time spent figuring this out is probably the single most valuable thing you can do when considering logo design. And don’t forget: since every good logo tells a story, yours should be filled with meaning (both obvious and hidden) and even occasionally whimsical—did you know the Apple logo has a “byte” missing?

logo 4

2. Keep It Simple

Name the first three logos that pop into your mind, and chances are they are clear and uncomplicated (at least on the surface). Simple but powerful logos almost always prove the best at standing the test of time. Trust in that.

3. Logotype vs. Logomark

People often confuse a logomark (think Nike’s swoosh) with a logotype, which uses the name of the brand rather than a symbol or icon (think Google or Disney).

A logotype is often the easiest and most all-around logo to use since it identifies the name of the company or product, as well as expresses the brand. But it is also often bulkier and is sometimes more difficult to use in situations where something smaller and simpler would work better.

A logomark can help enhance brand identity. This is especially true if your mark happens to be a representation of your product or service. And if a logomark is marketed correctly, it can often be more identifiable than a logotype, as exemplified by the Apple or Lululemon logos.

logo 1

4. Shape, Proportion & Symmetry

Where does your logo need to appear? If you do a lot of sponsorships, the logo will often appear at the bottom of a sign or poster, along with a lot of other logos. Do you have (or want) a strong web presence? Will your advertising strategy involve TV? How about print? The shape and proportion of your logo may affect how it fits in different applications or media, so try out the basic shape in as many situations as possible.

A symmetrical logo is aesthetically pleasing and will encourage more symmetry in whatever application it’s used in. Asymmetry can carry a complexity that communicates different emotions—anything from laid-back to intense or moody. There is no right answer, but take a moment to carefully consider the implications.

5. Colour & Tone

Make no mistake, your colour choice will communicate ideas. Lego’s red, for example, reflects passion and energy, Starbucks green speaks to nature and freshness and Intel’s blue conveys professionalism and sincerity. Consider your message before committing to a colour choice.

Remember, too, that for a logo to be really useful, it needs to work in black and white or even in reverse (as white on a dark background). So colour should be the last decision you make.

logo 2

6. Active vs. Passive

Consider your business and consider your brand. Should your logo convey a sense of movement and activity? Red Bull’s charging bull and Twitter’s flying bird are both instilled with motion and energy, which complements their brands. What do you want your potential customers to feel?

7. Negative Space

Don’t forget that the shapes in your logo can often convey more than one image. The right facing arrow embedded in the FedEx logo is the classic example of using negative space to add meaning. But also consider the simplicity of the white peacock in NBC’s rainbow of tail feathers or the clever “1” in the Formula 1 logo. Used correctly, negative space can allow you to add more elements to the design without increasing the complexity.

logo 3

8. Consider Custom Type

When it comes to good logo design, a typeface should be unique. A custom, hand-drawn typeface is always better than something standard or that you download off the Internet—just take a look at the timelessness of Coca-Cola. A custom type helps ensure that your unique logo will stay that way. But if you can’t afford a completely custom font, at least customize any pre-existing font to make it your own.?


8 Biggest Logo Mistakes

  1. Overdoing the special effects. More is not better.
  2. Using too many fonts. Use one or two at most.
  3. Not considering its scalability. Does it work as well tiny as it does on
    a billboard?
  4. Being too trendy. Don’t just jump aboard the bandwagon—stand out!
  5. Being too abstract. Don’t leave your customers guessing.
  6. Leaving it to an amateur. Cousin Bob may be cheap, but you inevitably get what you pay for.
  7. Relying on stock art. It’s the quickest way to look like everyone else.
  8. Relying on colour to be effective. All too often, colour is a luxury you can’t afford.

Did You Know?

golden ratioSince the time of Euclid, people have studied and used the golden ratio, which in mathematics, is when the ratio of two quantities is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities. Good logo design often makes use of such classic principles. Despite the fact that the bite out of the Apple logo seems to violate the symmetry of the logo, if you break it down, you can see that they put a lot of work into applying math to the design.

Note: many people think the strict adherence to the Golden Ratio in the Apple logo is a bit of a myth but I think the use of proportion and symmetry still shine through regardless of the precise math.

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Instagram This Week

This one's looking a bit better... #stainedglass
This one's looking a bit better… #stainedglass
Homemade. First buns in the linen keeper...
Homemade. First buns in the linen keeper…
Chinese-Caribbean ... But apparently its actually Guyanese. #Mmmmm
Chinese-Caribbean … But apparently its actually Guyanese. #Mmmmm
We three kings... #brothers
We three kings… #brothers
Not minding the design; hating the execution.
Not minding the design; hating the execution.

Heading Down the Coast

No, we are not taking Never for Ever out into the pacific (yet). But yes, I am heading south aboard a friend’s boat.

IMG_2412 copy

Ever since we managed to basically motor around Vancouver Island, I have been hankering to get back out “offshore” to see if it is something I actually want to do on my own. Well Northwest Passage, the Baltic 42 we did our circumnavigation on, is heading south next month to Zihuatanejo for a few years and they were looking for a hand for the “crappy”part down the west coast of the U.S. before they join up with the Baha Haha in San Diego. After a lot of humming and hawing I finally decided that — YOLO being the philosophy de jour — I might as well take advantage of the opportunity.


There are generally two options once you turn south after exiting the Strait of Juan de Fuca. One is to head offshore 20 miles or so and head strait to San Francisco. This is the most generally popular option because many of the ports available on the rugged Oregon coast are subject to weather and feature some of the roughest weather around — some say in the world. This means sailing 10-14 days straight. The other option, obviously, is to try and harbour hop down and sleep in a harbour most nights, hoping the weather allows getting in close to shore. At this point we are going to be trying for option 2, but I assume that option 1 is always available if the weather doesn’t cooperate.


After we leave San Francisco, which should be around 2 weeks after leaving Vancouver, we set sail again and make our way to San Diego which is another week away. That leg of the trip offers a lot more options for places to stop. So in a perfect world the trip should take around 3 weeks, with lots of hard sailing and tons of experience for me.

The tentative cast off date is September 1st, weather depending. I will likely fly out the day before and pick up a few personal provisions before board the boat. I haven’t yet decided if I will blog the whole trip or just post a summary when it’s all done. I guess that will be decided by just how much of interest actually happens.


—Captain Why #Posts

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