A Guide to Logo Design


Ok before we start I need to establish that this article is simply a guide. The below is what works for me and even I deviate from it some times. There really is no wrong or right way to coming up with a logo - anybody can do it, from the 15 year old student to the 50 year old Senior Creative. I have personally tried many design processes and at the moment this is how I do it - this process may, and probably will, change over time.

The way I usually work is basically a short listing process. I start with hundreds of possibilities and then I single it down, down, down to just one overall champion. I never really ever start out with a clear design in mind, I try to keep completely open to change. Never be blinded by your own opinion as the secret of good logo design is simply to "listen". Listen to what your client has to say, listen to what other designers you're working with have to say, listen to what your target audience has to say, and most of all, listen to what your logo is saying.

I have split the process into 6 stages:
1) Identify 2) Research 3) Fonts 4) Emblem 5) Composition 6) Mock Up

In this article I wish to deal with the technicalities and the thoughts behind my process. I hope to post another article with an example of this process in action, so check back soon.

So here goes:

01. Identify

Before I get going, I normally get to grips with the purpose of my design. This is what separates a designer from an artist in my view. A designer has a specific purpose that does not necessarily come from him. An artist's role is more inward as they wish to express themselves or their feelings on society etc. So what do we mean by purpose? Well target audience, competition, tone of voice, key messages, targets and areas of reproduction are all things which are helpful for defining a logo's "purpose". These areas can be found out by asking simple but effective questions to the client, such as: What do you want to say? Who are you saying it to? Who else is trying to tell them the same thing? Where are you going to say it?

When these answers are collected I feel I have a good foundation to move on to the next stage. Although this phase may seem tedious I always feel that to identify your self with the purpose of the logo is the key phase of all that will follow. I have found that if this is not done, alot of time will be spent later, changing and going over design concepts. As we all know time is money, so spend a little bit of time at the start to get the facts straight rather than a large amount of time later re-doing the project.

02. Research

Next comes the part where you go scouting out the enemies' camps. What are the competition doing? What is the design standard of the particular industry doing? If it's a global company then you need to consider these things in other countries and see what they are doing. It's always worth while looking at market leaders as well, even if they are well out of the league of the company you are working for. As well as the competition you need to research and get to understand the target audience. Try to define who your average target customer would be. Build up a profile of them (e.g., her name is Jane, she lives in a suburb of a big city, she drives a four by four, she is married, she has three children, she like to go shopping etc.) I have found that this profiling although seems a little bizarre, helps me get into the heads of my audience and helps me see what makes them tick. I also look at other products and services aimed at the same market - this gives me ideas and inspiration, and again helps to see into the minds of these consumers. How can I attract their attention, how can I make them feel what the messaging needs them to feel? etc.

It's at this stage when I normally get a good idea about what colour ways will be appropriate. I normally produce a colour pallet with a few variations which would fit well.

Research can be a grand large scale "Qualitative Audience Research" process but more often then not, the average client will not have the budget for large scale research to be implemented, so it's normally a couple of hours on Google getting the information I need for this stage.

03. Fonts

When I first started out in design the emphasis, in logo development, was on the emblem. I feel this has changed and although emblems (or marks/icons) are important, it is my belief that a logo's tone of voice is primarily defined by its typeface. Therefore I always start by selecting from between 20-50 potential fonts which all have a tone of voice which I feel best suit my research and client discussions. For example if somebody wants to present a respectable, classic feel, I would choose a serif typeface. At this stage I also look at changing the typeface in a creative way if I can - I always like to add something bespoke to each design to add originality. Once I have a good selection of typefaces to play with I then move on to the next phase.

04. Emblems

Now comes the killer. Although the typefaces of many brands set the tone it's normally the emblem/mark or icon that makes a logo recognizable (e.g. the MacDonald's "M", the Nike "tick", the "shell" emblem of Shell oil, the "three stripes" of Adidas, etc). The mark can be anything from a shape to a physical illustration, to a crest to a 3d object. If your typeface is strong enough or your logo is not intended to be imposing then a mark may not be required. However when it is it needs to be done in a way consistent to all the information we have gathered already. It needs to compliment the typeface, it needs to compliment the key messages and it needs to be original and different from any of the competition.

Again there is no wrong or right way of coming up with an emblem. I usually try and develop my emblem around the type face and sometimes even use elements of the type. I like to design more abstract marks then literal exemplifications of the nature of the business the mark is representing. Some clients cannot afford for their audience to guess what their business is about, others require the sophistication of not being so direct. I tend to like a brand that stands for abstract messages such as "communication", "modern", "corporate", "friend" etc.

I normally design my emblems within the same file as I have all my potential typefaces. This way I can see if a mark would work or not work with a certain emblem. The last thing you want is a logo's emblem to clash with its typeface. They must compliment each other. I normally try and develop at least 10 marks which compliment about 20 typefaces. I then delete the typefaces that didn't make it though this round.

05. Composition

My next concern is the composition of my logos. I now have a good selection of marks which compliment typefaces. Next comes the practicalities of a logo. On each logo I ask myself "how will this fit on a page". I often find that a logo without a straight edge of some sort is very difficult to sit nicely on a page.

If there is any strap lines that need to fit with the logo - or if a web address needs to work with it I consider these things at this stage also.

When these things are refined I normally have about 10 potential winners which then move on to the final stage.

06. Mock Up

In an ideal world I have time to mock up a few letterheads, brochures and signage etc. which show the logo in context. Many times clients and designers alike underestimate this stage but it can really influence the final choice. A logo has to work along side other elements and any future problems can be ruled out at this stage.

After I have completed this final section I have about 5 solid concepts which I can confidently show my client - safe in the knowledge that I have done my best to meet their needs. Obviously other phases follow this one and changes will probably take place on those final 5 logos but more often then not, I usually find that when this approach is taken at least one of the final 5 designs is chosen and accepted without further changes.

Designing an effective logo is important to all businesses. Their brand identity depends on how well recognized they are. Companies can place their logos on many different custom promotional products. Items that are popular for businesses to distribute to their customers at trade shows are stress balls, t-shirts, frisbees, personalized travel mugs, and more. These logo products help companies stick in the minds of their potential consumers.


Good Article! Creating logos can be a challenging task, if you just jump right into it. I guess we tend to forget that most designs we create are usually not the ones we started with. The Design process is an important one that should not be overlooked.

Everyone has different expectations for what is effective. Everyone has different points of views.

Great article Matt. I've been searching for a definitive way to design logos for awhile and this was of great interest of me - especially the research paragraph. Keep up the good work!

An interesting, well-written article.

I felt such jubilation when I finalised a logo design for my website. I then looked around and found a similar type of thing in a few places. I felt guilt that perhaps my inspiration had somehow subconsiously been blatant plagiarism.

I've gone back to the drawing board, and all that's left of the original design is a favicon.ico on my personal site.

For inspiration, head off to http://www.goodlogo.com/backgrounds/good.logos/

Thanks for your article.

Thank you all for your comments. I'm intrested to find out if anybody disagrees with anything in the article. Does anybody have any other hints that could help me and other readers?

lalalaalalalaalaa cool website here like it nnn worldddd the best keepo it hard werk n keep art scene

Your article makes alot of sense.

I follow a general 5 stage process in my design work:

research > ideas > design > development > final design > presentation.

It isn't as tailored as yours, this is due to having to fit it around the many different areas of design covered by my uni briefs.

Your method is definately one for the bookmarks!

"Does anybody have any other hints that could help me and other readers?"

I do - learn the differences between "its" and "it's", "your" and "you're". Also, learn to use commas, where necessary.

I like your ideas, but reading them is a challenge.

Good point Steve, English was never my strong point but I'm trying - I think the creative side of my brain was made slightly larger and the spelling and grammer part missed out a little. Please bear with me...

very enlighting article. yet, i have a question to set forth, how would these rules apply for an abstract concept. for example, setting the target group.

great article ;) alla u graphx out there, follow these steps, u'll get there easily

Sorry Lara, could you elaborate on that question a little more please? I would tend to research and try to understand my target audience at the very beginning of the process in stages 1 and 2 - is that what you mean?

I've done design for 12 years, and its true internet its like a piñata filled mostly with crap, but I've learned the best way to improve your design proficiency, it's not by looking for the "definite guide for anything", instead develop a global design taste by collecting diferent design aproaches like this logo guide, wich is really optimized for a "do it yourself, do it now" taste. The best way to level up its by having a wider vision of your work.

I agree Javier. I had beginners in mind for this tutorial. I wouldn't expect people to just take what I have said and not learn anymore - I would hope they would continue to explore the programs and attempt to develop their own styles and skills. Thanks for the comments.

cool info hey. i was doing a project where i needed outside points of view & urs was great!i luv ur input on the process of graphic design.

An extremely well-written article . Very informative. Ill use a lot of key points from it while deciding on the logo for my company.

Matt Davies

Creative Director

Matt Davies