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10 Common Mistakes In Logo Design


With the power of the Web, and more eyes watching than ever, it’s important for a business to communicate its unique message clearly. The easiest way to recognize a company and distinguish it from others is by its logo. Below, we go through 10 common logo design mistakes that you should avoid if you want to create a successful and professional logo.

1. Designed By An Amateur Link

Avoid websites that promote ridiculously cheap logo packages. You get what you pay for.

A professional business should look professional. New business owners often invest a lot of time and money in property and equipment, but do not often match it by investing suitably in their logo.

Here are the most common reasons why many logos look amateurish:

  • The business owner wanted to save money by designing the logo quickly themselves.
  • A friend or relative who claims to know a little about graphic design does it as a favor.
  • The wrong people are commissioned. (Local printers are not likely proficient in logo design.)
  • The business outsourced the job via one of several design competition websites, which are mostly populated by amateur designers.
  • The job was given to an online company that offers really cheap logos.

All of the above can result in disastrous outcomes. If your logo looks amateurish, then so will your business. A business should know where to look when it wants a new logo. David Airey offers great insight on how to choose the right logo designer1 for your requirements.

Here are the advantages of hiring an established and professional logo designer:

  • Your logo will be unique and memorable.
  • You won’t run into any problems down the line with reproducing it.
  • Your logo will have a longer lifespan and won’t need to be redesigned in a couple of years.
  • Your logo will look professional.

Focusing on current logo trends is like putting a sell-by date on a logo.

Trends (whether swooshes, glows or bevels) come and go and ultimately turn into cliches. A well-designed logo should be timeless, and this can be achieved by ignoring the latest design tricks and gimmicks. The biggest cliche in logo design is the dreaded “corporate swoosh,” which is the ultimate way to play it safe. As a logo designer, your job is to create a unique identity for your client, so completely ignoring logo design trends is best.

Logo Online Pros2 has a great section on its website in which it updates current logo design trends every year. Being aware as a designer of the latest crazes is important, mainly so that you can avoid them at all costs.

3. Uses Raster Images Link

An example of how raster graphics can limit reproduction.

Standard practice when designing a logo is to use vector graphics software, such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. A vector graphic3 is made up of mathematically precise points, which ensures visual consistency across multiple sizes. The alternative, of course, is use to raster graphics software, such as Adobe Photoshop. A raster graphic4 — or bitmap, as it’s commonly called — consists of pixels.

Using raster images for logos is not advisable because it can cause problems with reproduction. While Photoshop is capable of creating very large logos, you never know for sure how large you will have to reproduce your logo at some point. If you zoom in enough on a raster graphic, it will appear pixelated, making it unusable. Maintaining visual consistency by making sure the logo looks the same in all sizes is essential.

The main advantages of vector graphics for logo design are:

  • The logo can be scaled to any size without losing quality.
  • Editing the logo later on is much easier.
  • It can be adapted to other media more easily than a raster image.

4. Contains Stock Art Link

Using stock vector graphics in a logo puts your client at risk.

This mistake is often made by business owners who design their own logo or by amateur designers who are not clued in to the laws on copyright. Downloading stock vector imagery from websites such as VectorStock5 is not a crime, but it could possibly get you in trouble if you incorporate it in a logo.

A logo should be unique and original, and the licensing agreement should be exclusive to the client: using stock art breaks both of these rules. Chances are, if you are using a stock vector image, it is also being used by someone somewhere else in the world, so yours is no longer unique. You can pretty easily spot stock vectors in logos because they are usually familiar shapes, such as globes and silhouettes.

5. Designing For Yourself Rather Than The Client Link

Never impose your own personality onto a client’s work.

You can often spot this logo design sin a mile away; the cause is usually a designer’s enormous ego. If you have found a cool new font that you can’t wait to use in a design, well… don’t. Ask yourself if that font is truly appropriate for the business you’re designing for? For example, a great modern typographic font that you just love is not likely suited to a serious business such as a lawyer’s office.

Some designers also make the mistake of including a “trademark” in their work. While you should be proud of your work, imposing your personality onto a logo is wrong. Stay focused on the client’s requirements by sticking to the brief.

6. Overly Complex Link

Highly detailed designs don’t scale well when printed or viewed in smaller sizes.

What better analogy for thumbnail images than fingerprints? You’ll notice the intricacies of your fingerprints only when looking at them really close up. As soon as you move away, those details are lost. The same holds true for highly detailed logo designs.

When printed in small sizes, a complex design will lose detail and in some cases will look like a smudge or, worse, a mistake. The more detail a logo has, the more information the viewer has to process. A logo should be memorable, and one of the best ways to make it memorable is to keep things simple. Look at the corporate identities of Nike, McDonald’s and Apple. Each company has a very simple icon that can easily be reproduced at any size.

7. Relies On Color For Its Effect Link

Without color, your great design may lose its identity.

This is a very common mistake. Some designers cannot wait to add color to a design, and some rely on it completely. Choosing color should be your last decision, so starting your work in black and white is best.

Every business owner will need to display their logo in only one color at one time or another, so the designer should test to see whether this would affect the logo’s identity. If you use color to help distinguish certain elements in the design, then the logo will look completely different in one tone.

8. Poor Choice Of Font Link

Font choice can make or break a logo.

When it comes to executing a logo, choosing the right font is the most important decision a designer can make. More often than not, a logo fails because of a poor font choice (our example shows the infamous Comic Sans).

Finding the perfect font for your design is all about matching the font to the style of the icon. But this can be tricky. If the match is too close, the icon and font will compete with each other for attention; if the complete opposite, then the viewer won’t know where to focus. The key is finding the right balance, somewhere in the middle. Every typeface has a personality. If the font you have chosen does not reflect the icon’s characteristics, then the whole message of the brand will misfire.

Bad fonts are often chosen simply because the decision isn’t taken seriously enough. Some designers simply throw in type as an afterthought. Professional font foundries, such as MyFonts6 and FontFont7, offer much better typeface options than those over-used websites that offer free downloads.

9. Has Too Many Fonts Link

A logo works best with a maximum of two fonts.

Using too many fonts is like trying to show someone a whole photo album at once. Each typeface is different, and the viewer needs time to recognize it. Seeing too many at once causes confusion.

Using a maximum of two fonts of different weights is standard practice. Restricting the number of fonts to this number greatly improves the legibility of a logo design and improves brand recognition.

10. Copies Others Link

This is the biggest logo design mistake of all and, unfortunately, is becoming more and more common. As mentioned, the purpose of a logo is to represent a business. If it looks the same as someone else’s, it has failed in that regard. Copying others does no one any favors, neither the client nor the designer.

Footnotes Link

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Gareth Hardy is a professional graphic designer and illustrator based in the United Kingdom. You can find Gareth at Down With Design or on a snowy mountain near you.

  1. 1

    Great article for beginers :)

  2. 2

    Thanks, some very good points here.

  3. 3

    excellent! the amount of people i see trying to get their “future big business” logo designed for dirt cheap is crazy

  4. 4

    Cool article.. very very informative. Big thanks ! :)

  5. 5

    I believe that logos should be designed as vector and in pixel formats, especially if your main presence is online. If your going to display in pixels, you need to design for pixels, or else the anti-aliasing on a vector image is not going to look sharp on a computer screen.

  6. 6

    good article…suits as a remainder :)

  7. 7

    Andrew Turnbull

    June 25, 2009 5:03 am

    A great article. Like the above. It important that the logo works to small scale and also looks good when photocopyed in black and white. Lot of new / fresh designers need to be aware of those facts. Im sure most designers here would agree with this: Never use Clip Art!

    Never follow trends as mentioned, it becomes to common and not original.
    The key is to be original/Unique.

    good job smashing!

  8. 8


    Keep it simple, stupids. The best logo is an easily recognisable, reproducable and understandable one. Look at McDonald’s, Shell and Nike for some unbeatable and timeless logos.

  9. 9

    lunetta: I thought I was the only one. Thanks.

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  11. 11

    Thank you for stating the obvious! So-called designers today are doing a huge disservice to their clients by abusing Number 5 (designing for yourself). That leads to overly complex, color-dependent logos (Numbers 6 and 7). The commenter “lunetta” above is missing the point when saying technology today allows for greater detail and use of detail. So what?? Just because you can zoom in 1600% in Illustrator doesn’t mean you won’t end up with mud when viewed or printed at 100%. I tell clients that their new logo should look good at any size, whether on their business card or on the side of a bus. I also tell them their business card should be distinctive when viewed from across the room. Meeting those two objectives is not easy, and it’s why great logo design is never cheap.

  12. 12

    Very well put! I couldn’t agree more. All of these points were spot on.

  13. 13

    @MArc, I definitely understand the reason for creating some logos that can translate well into black and white for a company that has to budget their production quality for their identity. But for the businesses that were mentioned above as a “future big business” they should not limit their designs to limited printing. Especially since digital printing is the production way of the “future” and now.

    People would not question companies that adopted technologies quickly in the past, such as a store that incorporated digital store, an online store. And now its a no-brainier for a serious store to do.

  14. 14

    I agree that the logo should be colorless.
    Web pages today make it a possible to change themes easily and now a colorful log clashes with the theme. So I try to make a good black and white PNG, so the transparency shades the color giving it a hue no matter what theme is used.

  15. 15

    I like. Well done. Thanks…

  16. 16

    great article, definitely a topic which can be hard to find decent free info on. As mentioned above logo lounge is a subscription site, so these article are quite useful and informative. cheers

  17. 17

    Josiah Jost | Siah Design

    June 25, 2009 7:29 am

    Great article, Gareth. :D

  18. 18

    You could use one of the links here in SM for a $100 logo, and then combine that with some of the free icon sets, and one of the free wordpress themes, and you’re going to look VERY professional! (note sarcasm).

  19. 19

    Daniel Hunninghake

    June 25, 2009 7:36 am

    Nice work, Gareth! Each point is relevant, and I kept thinking.. “Yeah, very true!” Keep it up, and I look forward to your work in the future.

  20. 20

    Thanks you. Very usefull

  21. 21

    I won’t even LOOK at logos with swishes.

  22. 22

    While I agree that following trends can cause problems, being able to keep up and design by these standards is important.

    Sure, you want to be “ahead of the curve”, but realistically you need to make a buck. If you’re a professional, that is.

    What I mean is this. There’s a reason that certain designs are trendy… because for the most part they are successful and popular. Yes, in a perfect world, you will innovate and lead clients towards an original design. However, for the most part, clients will want “something like that one” or a logo that is in some part based on another successful logo. I can’t tell you how many designs I’ve made that were finally sold because I added a web 2.0 style reflection.

    These are great guides though… each one could have it’s own page full of examples and how-to guides for designing, from inception to completion.

    Just understand that having a foundation based in originality and avoiding trends may not get you much work. Even if they aren’t portfolio-worthy, learning the techniques behind trendy design as well as practicing making some (even if you never use them) is important.

    Sometimes you just have to do what the client wants. You gotta eat!

  23. 23

    So for those that are on a budget where do you go? I guess the stock answer is “find a good logo designer” but for those not in the industry this is sort of like finding a good doctor or dentist. You know they are out there but for most it’s hard to tell the good from the bad.

  24. 24

    i kinda like the fingerprint logo! a lot actually lol

  25. 25

    Great Article just when i needed.
    Thanks a lot.

  26. 26

    Funny thing is that some of these logos in this post are actually much nicer than the current SMASHING MAGAZING logo ;)

  27. 27

    I agree, with everything … i saw too many bad logos :(

  28. 28

    This is a great article, I’ll think about this!

  29. 29

    Thank you for having the design in black and white first section. Someone starting a logo in color is a tell tale sign of someone who doesn’t really know what they are doing.

  30. 30

    Great article. Simple, concise and some great ideas. I’m currently looking to brand a new blog so this is very relevant and helpful. Cheers.


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