Amazon’s arrow, Instagram’s camera, Twitter’s bird and Apple’s… apple. Most people can recognise the world’s most famous brands just with a glimpse of their logo. As a start-up, it seems like a lot of pressure to choose an image that will represent your company or product, possibly forever (remember the backlash when Microsoft updated its logo?).
Considering that, where should you begin? Kate McInnes, quality media specialist at creative marketplace Envato, who recently launched a free Logo Kit offering texts, colours and icons, offers her top tips for creating a logo that could be the next Nike tick.
Be mindfully minimal
Some of the most famous logos on the planet, like McDonald’s and its golden arches for example, aren’t complicated, but there is such a thing as too simplistic.
“Minimal is powerful if it’s used with purpose,” says Kate. “You have to be mindful when going minimal – simply using an icon next to some text isn’t the same as minimalism.” She uses the example of Apple’s iconic fruit logo. The Apple logo is minimal, but not simple,” she says. “The shape and space is used to invoke the feel of something complex. The leaf is balanced in a way that it doesn’t interfere with the bite; and the the curves are meticulous. None of this happened by accident.”
Follow the monoline
A monoline logo is one like Airbnb’s, which are made up of one single line that doesn’t change its weight. What are the design benefits?
“Product wise, monoline logos offer fun branding opportunities,” says Kate. “They look nice incorporated into merchandise designs and patterns, and work well in motion graphics.” If you Google ‘monoline label’ you’ll see that a line can still offer a lot of versatility. But there can be a downside.
“As with minimal logos, you have to be mindful of the form and the purpose of the design,” says Kate. “If it’s abstract, have a look at the shape from all angles, just to be sure it doesn’t morph into something distasteful.”
Keep track of trends
In logo design, hand drawn or ‘sketched’ fonts are an emerging trend, especially with surf and skate brands that want a retro feel.
“Hand-drawn fonts are born from the same nostalgia that saw the rise in popularity for painted signs and vintage influenced clothing,” says Kate. “Although, the hand drawn fonts I’ve seen lately are edgier than ones I’ve seen in previous years. They’re reminiscent of 1990s brush fonts, thankfully with a little less attitude.” Like any artistic form, trends come and go.
“When I was studying it was all about noughties futurism, sharp angles and arrow symbols,” says Kate. “There was also graffiti fonts, grunge fonts and jelly gradients. You should also use fonts that align with the client, rather than just follow a trend.”
Think of the medium
In the age of smartphones and iPads, consider how a logo will appear across all mediums.
“Always test the logo in as many ways as possible,” says Kate. “You never know what it might be used for.” Thinking long term, how can you create a logo that’s as powerful in a social media banner as it could be on a 10-foot billboard or any other form of communication?
“When letterheads were common, I’d print up test pages and mail them to myself,” says Kate. “The placement and scales that didn’t work would stand out as soon as I opened the letters. The same method can be used for smartphone screens and business cards. I find that [Photoshop] product mock-ups are a great way to test scale.”
Seek out (obscure) inspiration
Although market research has its benefits, look for inspiration in unusual places. “I see many young designers drawing inspiration from [design] gallery sites, like Behance or Dribbble,” says Kate. “If they want to design a logo, they look at logos. But, sometimes, it’s too easy to spot the inspiration and that can obscure the skill of the designer.” Instead, look further afield for visual prompts – get out in the outside world, observe architecture and shapes found in nature.
“Pure inspiration can be found in something totally unrelated,” says Kate. “Looking at the work of others at the time of creating a design sets up a rigid outlook on your project. You might miss out on creating something beautiful and unexpected.”