10 Common Mistakes In Logo Design

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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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

  1. 1 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2007/11/09/how-to-choose-a-logo-designer/
  2. 2 http://www.logoonlinepros.com/blog/logo-design-trends/
  3. 3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vector_graphics
  4. 4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raster_graphics
  5. 5 http://www.vectorstock.com/
  6. 6 http://new.myfonts.com/
  7. 7 http://www.fontfont.com/

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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.

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  1. 1

    Fantastic.
    The tutorial and steps are amazing I have ever seen.
    Thanks for sharing this interesting creative ideas of logo designs.

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  2. 352

    This is a really good article, and despite being written a few years ago, all the information is still valid and something any logo designer can understand. Excellent post!

    0
  3. 703

    Some fare points are made in this article, but the top about amateurs designing a logo is not at all accurate. I am a graphic designer trying to make a start in logo design this does not make me a bad designer, and just because a designer charges you more and has been in design for years does not make them a good one.

    7
  4. 1054

    There is a lot of interesting points in this article, if you want to create great logos for free, i recommend http://www.logogenie.net, they’ve got really cool icons and online design tools for people like me who are starting up their own company

    -6
  5. 1405

    Meilani MacDonald

    October 21, 2013 6:47 pm

    This is a good article, and I agree with its stance. The issue of outsourcing to cheapo online design sites is complex. Yes, to the designers, they are a scourge because we see so much bad stuff coming from them. However, to the countless small business owners and solopreneurs working on a very tight budget, to those who are doing most of their own marketing, they are a very attractive solution to getting a logo done for a price they can afford. I have seen total crap come from these, and I have also seen some pretty good stuff come from the better ones.

    One of the services I’ve provided is logo review and advice for a client who went to two different cheapo sites to get her logo created. She filled out their questionnaire and got several submissions from the logo site, then she hired me to review them with her and offer advice and feedback from a professional designer, and took those comments back to the logo design company with instructions for the next round of revisions.

    In the end, she got something beautiful. However, between the cost of the first cheapo online place, which offered total crap, plus the cost of the second cheapo online place she found, which gave some decent (but not great) submissions but totally off the mark for her brand and messages, and what she paid me to provide advice and feedback she could take back to the designers, she ended up spending almost what it would have cost just to hire a local designer in the first place. She saved about $300 this way, but it was still a lot more than the $200 she expected to spend going the cheapo web site route, and it took a lot longer. So, she DID get something really nice at the end, it WAS less expensive, but it took longer and the process was frustrating. Each business person will have to weigh those factors for themselves… how restrained are they by budget? Is it worth the $300 savings to go through the process, or do they want a faster return that is worth the extra money?

    So it really depends on the business, the business owner, and the owner’s resources, time and budget, and the owner’s ability to review the online company’s submissions with a critical eye to design, branding and messaging.

    Also, where the inexpensive designers are based is another consideration. Will there be communication issues, do they speak the same language as you? There are a lot of great designers in other countries that charge much less because their cost of living is on a totally different scale than here in the US. But does the client have the time and the ability to do their research and find those good designers? Do they have the design and branding knowledge to know how to review and critique the logo comps they receive? Do they have the design and branding knowledge to provide the designer with relevant feedback so they can get what they need?

    Please visit my business blog at MeilaniMacDonald.com :)

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  6. 1756

    “The wrong people are commissioned. (Local printers are not likely proficient in logo design.)”

    You hit the nail on the head with that one. I worked at a local print shop and it was awful. I was the only employee there with any kind of art degree and I knew my job was doomed when I had to educate the lead “designer” about color theory, the color wheel, and color schemes. She was very unprofessional to begin with but it got much worse after that. She had been working “professionally” for at least twenty years and was pretty angry with me. I say steer clear of companies like this! They always overcharge and underdeliver.

    I also have to take issue with “design companies” who have employees or owners who are “self-educated”. They’re just rip-off sweat shops who won’t pay their employees living wages. If they don’t foster a hostile work environment they do nothing to rectify a hostile environment.

    If people would take as much care in choosing who to work with concerning their professional reputation (and their product), then these companies would go the way of the Dodo. I never recommended that any of my friends use my former employer – even when I was working there. I can’t believe how many horrible companies are around still just because people are too lazy to research who they do business with. Comparison shop, look at portfolios, and yes, ask what they pay their employees. Low paid employees will NOT give their best to a company like this. See if you can talk to an employee or if you see new people every time you walk in (high turnover is a red flag) go elsewhere.

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  7. 2107

    In an ideal world, every customer should be required to read this article before hiring a designer. Too often, customers want us to create a “great design” but won’t take any good advise.

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  8. 2458

    I agree with most of the points on this list. My biggest peeve with the list is that you have the “Don’t use sites like this” under the “designed by an amateur” heading. Websites like LogoWorks and LogoDesignTeam suck for us freelance designers, but to say they are amateurs is both very elitist of you, and very wrong.

    1
  9. 2809

    Great post, and what I mean by great post is actually that it triggered so many comments and turned out to be a great discussion.

    As one of the ‘amateur’ the best part of this article is more valuable resources are found. Thanks.

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  10. 3160

    Most of the designer do mistakes in choosing colors and fonts, both are the most important things in logo designing field. You all shared 10 mistakes are common and designers need to keep in mind these things to avoid from creepy designs.

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  11. 3511

    Hello Aqeel,

    In the interest of maintaining some standard in the comments sections please allow the following remark. How come your first sentence is grammatically very different from the rest of your comment? I found the exact same passage on other websites, e.g. the 110designs-Blog (just google it and you will, too). The fact that your first sentence is very incorrect while the remainder of your comment is in flawless English lets me conclude that these are not your words.

    Nobody should have a problem with someone’s writing being a little off, but you should definitely not claim credit for someone else’s thoughts. That would be plagiarism.

    Regards

    16

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