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Vital Tips For Effective Logo Design


There have been numerous creative logo design showcases1, logo design resources2 and logo design tutorials3 posted across the Web. While these help you to create a powerful toolbox for your logo designs, first you need to gain a solid understanding of what makes a logo design good and what you need to consider before starting using this toolbox.

In this article, we’ll get down to the nitty gritty of what makes an effective logo design and we’ll also guide you through the principles and best practices of how to create an iconic brand identity.

You may be interested in the following related posts:

To understand what a logo is, we first must understand what the main purpose of logos is. The design process must aim to make the logo immediately recognizable, inspiring trust, admiration, loyalty and an implied superiority. The logo is one aspect of a company’s commercial brand or economic entity, and its shapes, colors, fonts, and images usually are strikingly different from other logos in the same market niche. Logos are used to identify.

Paul Rand, one of the world’s greatest designers states that “a logo is a flag, a signature, an escutcheon, a street sign. A logo does not sell (directly), it identifies. A logo is rarely a description of a business. A logo derives meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way around. A logo is less important than the product it signifies; what it represents is more important than what it looks like. The subject matter of a logo can be almost anything.”

For more on Paul Rand, consider reading the book Design, Form & Chaos8.

Rand Logos

A good logo is distinctive, appropriate, practical, graphic and simple in form, and it conveys the owner’s intended message. A concept or “meaning” is usually behind an effective logo, and it communicates the intended message. A logo should be able to be printed at any size and, in most cases, be effective without color. A great logo essentially boils down to two things: great concept and great execution.

Logo Design Process Link

“Some wonder what’s so difficult about creating a good logo. They’re small, they look easy to do, so no problem, right? When you only see the result of a designer’s efforts, the logo creation can look like it was a simple task. But it’s not. A logo takes thought and creativity, and many elements combine to make a good one.” (via Harrison Mcleod9)

When creating a logo, follow a process that ensures the final design meets the needs of the clients. Below, we have listed the typical process that professional logo designers follow. With practice, you will no doubt develop your own.

Logo Design Process

Design brief.
Conduct a questionnaire or interview with the client to get the design brief.

Conduct research on the industry itself, its history and competitors. Problem-solve first, design later.

Conduct research on logo designs that have been successful and on current styles and trends that may relate to the design brief. Follow trends not for their own sake but rather to be aware of them: longevity in logo design is key.

Sketching and conceptualizing.
Develop the logo design concept(s) around the brief and your research. This is the single most important part of the design process. Get creative and be inspired. As Dainis Graveris10 has written once, “sketching isn’t time-consuming and is a really good way to put ideas in your head right on paper. After that, it’s always easier to actually design it on the computer. Sketching helps to evolve your imagination: once you understand it, you will always start from just white paper.


Image by Panoramas11.

Take breaks throughout the design process. This helps your ideas mature, renews your enthusiasm and allows you to solicit feedback. It also gives you a fresh perspective on your work.

Revisions and positioning.
Whether you position yourself as a contractor (i.e. getting instructions from the client) or build a long-lasting relationship (i.e. guiding the client to the best solution), revise and improve the logo as required.

Present only your best logo designs to your client. PDF format usually works best. You may also wish to show the logo in context, which will help the client more clearly visualize the brand identity. Preparing a high-quality presentation is the single most effective way to get your clients to approve your designs.

“Canned presentations have the ring of emptiness. The meaningful presentation is custom designed—for a particular purpose, for a particular person. How to present a new idea is, perhaps, one of the designer’s most difficult tasks. This how is not only a design problem, it also pleads for something novel.

Everything a designer does involves a presentation of some kind—not only how to explain (present) a particular design to an interested listener (client, reader, spectator), but how the design may explain itself in the marketplace… A presentation is the musical accompaniment of design. A presentation that lacks an idea cannot hide behind glamorous photos, pizazz, or ballyhoo. If it is full of gibberish, it may fall on deaf ears; if too laid back, it may land a prospect in the arms of Morpheus.” (Paul Rand)

Delivery and support.
Deliver the appropriate files to the client and give all support that is needed. Remember to under-promise and over-deliver. After you’ve finished, have a beer, eat some chocolate and then start your next project.

Logo Design Process Case Studies Link

For some in-depth examples of how professional logo designers work, check out these logo design process case studies:

Tenth Logo

Tenth Church Logo Design Process by Nancy Wu12
Nancy Wu goes through her logo sketches and development for the Tenth Church logo.

16 Revealed Logo Design Processes by The Design Cubicle13
Brian Hoff lists 16 logo design process walkthroughs found across the Web.

5 Principles Of Effective Logo Design Link

Effective Logo Design

As mentioned, a good logo is distinctive, appropriate, practical, graphic and simple in form, and it conveys the owner’s intended message. You should follow the five principles below to ensure that your design meets all of these criteria:

  1. Simple
  2. Memorable
  3. Timeless
  4. Versatile
  5. Appropriate

1. Simple Link

Nike Logo

Simplicity makes a logo design easily recognizable, versatile and memorable. Good logos feature something unexpected or unique, without being “overdrawn.”

While in college in the mid-’70s, an instructor introduced me to the K.I.S.S. Principle14 of design, which translates as: Keep It Simple, Stupid. It does convey a very important design consideration. Simple logos are often easily recognized, incredibly memorable and the most effective in conveying the requirements of the client.

A refined and distilled identity will also catch the attention of a viewer zipping by signage at 70 miles per hour, on packaging on the crowded shelves of a store, or in any other vehicle used for advertising, marketing and promotion. Remember, the basis of the hugely effective international branding for the world’s largest shoe manufacturer is a very simple graphic swoosh.

Jeff Fisher15

On that note, you may find the history of the Nike logo quite interesting.

2. Memorable Link

McDonalds Logo

Following closely on this principle of simplicity is that of memorability. An effective logo design should be memorable, which is achieved by keeping it simple yet appropriate.

Surprising to many, the subject matter of a logo is of relatively little importance, and even appropriateness of content does not always play a significant role.

This does not imply that appropriateness is undesirable. It merely indicates that a one-to-one relationship between a symbol and what it symbolized is very often impossible to achieve and, under certain conditions, objectionable. Ultimately, the only mandate in the design of logos, it seems, is that they be distinctive, memorable, and clear.

Paul Rand2216

3. Timeless Link

Underground Logo

An effective logo should be timeless. Will yours stand the test of time? Will it still be effective in 10, 20 or 50 years?

Leave trends to the fashion industry. Trends come and go, and when you’re talking about changing a pair of jeans or buying a new dress, that’s fine, but where your brand identity is concerned, longevity is key. Don’t follow the pack. Stand out.

David Airey17

4. Versatile Link


An effective logo works across a variety of media and applications. For this reason, logos should be designed in vector18 format, to ensure that they scale to any size.

Ask yourself, is your logo still effective if it is printed…

  • In one color?
  • In reverse color (i.e. light logo on dark background)?
  • The size of a postage stamp?
  • As large as a billboard?

One way to create a versatile logo is to begin designing in black and white. This allows you to focus on the concept and shape, rather than color19, which is subjective in nature. Also keep in mind printing costs: the more colors you use, the more expensive it will be for the business over the long term.

I like to work first in black and white to ensure that the logo will look good in its simplest form. Color is very subjective and emotional. This can distract from the overall design – say if you saw your logo in all red, that color may be the first thing that you respond to and not the composition of the design elements. I will not even consider submitting color suggestions to a client for review until they have signed off on a final black and white logo.

— Patrick Winfield

Familiarize yourself with the commercial printing process so that you do not encounter printing problems down the line. Know the difference between the CMYK, Pantone and RGB color systems20.

5. Appropriate Link


How you “position” the logo should be appropriate for its intended audience. For example, a child-like font and color scheme would be appropriate for a logo for a children’s toy store, not so much for a law firm.

A logo doesn’t need to say what a company does. Restaurant logos don’t need to show food, dentist logos don’t need to show teeth, furniture store logos don’t need to show furniture. Just because it’s relevant, doesn’t mean you can’t do better. The Mercedes logo isn’t a car. The Virgin Atlantic logo isn’t an airplane. The Apple logo isn’t a computer. Etc.

David Airey21

Should a logo be self-explanatory? It is only by association with a product, a service, a business, or a corporation that a logo takes on any real meaning. It derives its meaning and usefulness from the quality of that which it symbolizes. If a company is second rate, the logo will eventually be perceived as second rate. It is foolhardy to believe that a logo will do its job immediately, before an audience has been properly conditioned.

Paul Rand2216

How Much Does A Logo Cost? Link

How much does a logo cost

In my experience, this is the most frequently asked question. It cannot be easily answered because every company has different needs. The best approach is to draw up a customized quote for each client.

You have to take a number of factors into consideration when designing a logo, such as how many logo concepts need to be presented, how many revisions will be needed, how much research is required, how big the business is and so on.

How To Choose A Logo Designer? Link

Eeny Meeny Miny Mo

Keep an eye out for certain things when choosing a logo designer:

  • Experience and proven success
    Do they have a proven track record? How experienced are they?
  • Testimonials
    Do they have positive testimonials from previous clients? Ensure you check the validity of testimonials. A quick email to the company should suffice.
  • Their design process
    Do they follow a logo design process?
  • Awards won and published work
    Have they won any awards for their work? Is their work published in any books or magazines? How recognized are they in the industry?
  • Strength of portfolio
    How strong is their portfolio? Have they got 100+ mediocre logo designs or 10 to 30 excellent ones? What is the ratio of real to fake logo designs?
  • Timeframe
    How long would they take to complete your logo? A typical logo design process takes 4 to 15 days, but many can go for months on end. Think of how long your logo design will be used for: would you want it to be designed (much less researched) in less than 24 hours?
  • Price
    The cost of the service usually reflects what you will receive. In most cases, you get what you pay for… but price is not the only indication.
  • Affiliations
    Are they affiliated with any design associations or publications? This is a good indication of how dedicated they are to their craft, though it is not essential.
  • Professionalism and communication
    How do they present themselves? Do they respond to your emails quickly? How do they communicate? Do they work with a contract (to protect both them and you)?
  • Questions asked
    How many questions does the designer ask about your business? Questions should revolve around your company’s history, target market, goals, etc.

A big thank you to Sven and Vitaly for the opportunity to write for Smashing Magazine. Much appreciated. If you have any questions, comments or advice to share, please do leave a message in the comments below.

You may be interested in the following related posts:


Footnotes Link

  1. 1 /2009/04/01/drawing-inspiration-from-creative-logos/
  2. 2
  3. 3 /2009/04/30/60-beautiful-logo-design-tutorials-and-resources/
  4. 4 /2009/06/25/10-common-mistakes-in-logo-design/
  5. 5 /2009/05/24/do-you-want-fries-with-that-logo/
  6. 6 /2009/04/30/60-beautiful-logo-design-tutorials-and-resources/
  7. 7 /2009/04/01/drawing-inspiration-from-creative-logos/
  8. 8
  9. 9
  10. 10
  11. 11
  12. 12
  13. 13
  14. 14
  15. 15
  16. 16
  17. 17
  18. 18
  19. 19
  20. 20
  21. 21
  22. 22
  23. 23
  24. 24
  25. 25
  26. 26
  27. 27
  28. 28
  29. 29 /2007/08/08/80-beautiful-fonts-typefaces-for-professional-design/
  30. 30
  31. 31
  32. 32
  33. 33
  34. 34 /2009/06/25/10-common-mistakes-in-logo-design/
  35. 35 /2009/05/24/do-you-want-fries-with-that-logo/
  36. 36 /2009/04/30/60-beautiful-logo-design-tutorials-and-resources/
  37. 37 /2009/04/01/drawing-inspiration-from-creative-logos/
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Jacob Cass is a logo, Web and graphic designer from Sydney, Australia, who freelances under his business Just Creative Design, which doubles as a wildly popular design blog. Jacob also judges logos for the Logo of the Day website and runs the Logo Designer Blog, a blog dedicated entirely to branding and logo design. Jacob’s talent has brought him numerous international design awards, including Wolda’s “Best of Continent” and “Best of Australia.” Jacob’s work has been published in books worldwide, and he is in the process of writing his own book focused on logo design.

  1. 1

    Caesar Aldhela

    August 26, 2009 1:50 am

    This is great post.
    very informative :D

    Thanks SM!!

  2. 2

    Thats a great resource on Logo Designing.

  3. 3

    Really nice article from Mr Cass.

    Awesome, will use this article when I am doing a logo in the future.


  4. 4

    Very well crafted article Jacob, loved it!

  5. 5

    very good article… I will try to use every information there, but I think is very difficult to make a logo with your 5 points…

  6. 6

    Really great. Thank you SM. I’m also logo designer for 10 years ;) can follow me on TW: @delogo

  7. 7

    Coming from a programming background it’s good to see what’s involved in logo design. I now have a finer appreciation for the work and process involved in creating these little pieces of art.

    Also, I’m suprised that the SMART acronym wasn’t applied to the 5 principles of logo design:

    Robust (instead of Versatile)

    Anyway, great article!

  8. 8

    Finally a good logo article :-)
    i like his logos are so unique and stands out, somehow different.

  9. 9

    Great Article! Yesterday one client asked me about logo cost, now i will definitely quote.

  10. 10

    TENTH CHURCH: I did not saw the T as an person until I read the article.

  11. 11

    Speaking of logo design, the Smashing Magazine logo really needs a redesign. I could do that.

  12. 12

    Didier LAHELY

    August 26, 2009 4:03 am

    HI SM and thanks for this article.

    I’d like to ask you some Questions:

    1• You are a designer, working for an advertising agency, you create a Logotype. Client like it and take it. – WHO is the “owner” of this logotype? – I mean copyrights?
    You? (the designer), the agency or the client?

    2• Same question but you are working for a company (as creative in-house for example): WHO is the owner of the copyright?



  13. 13

    This is an excellent and very informative article. Nevertheless I am a little bit disappointed about the fact that there is absolutely no information about reasonable prices. Of course I understand that there is a huge variety in quality from the designer and needs from the buyer. But Jacob said it himself: “How much does a logo cost” is the most frequently asked question. There should be at least a wide spectrum of average prices for logos.

    Another thing I would love to see in the future is a list with great logo designer and design studios. Maybe it is common knowledge if you are very deep in the design scene but for an “only interested outsider” it isn’t easy to find a proper logo designer. This could be a cool article for Smashing Magazine: “The smashing top 20 logo designers”. If that is too critical for Mr. Friedmann and Mr. Lennartz because it might look like paid advertise, you could just let your users vote the top ten out of several suggestions.

    Kind regards,

  14. 14

    amazing amazing

  15. 15

    Great post on Logos and its quiet informative and useful… You can add something more on this topic.. Fine..


  16. 16

    It’s amazing how many times this is told to the masses yet PEOPLE NEVER LEARN.

    It’s sad to know such excellent advice will fall flat on most people out there, but it’s the undeniable truth, a tautology if you may. The only reason why is that most people are stubborn and stuck up, and this is more a social problem than a design problem.

  17. 17

    Nice Article. The sketching stage is really important… it really frees the imagination up to think outside the (Not so proverbial) box. I always do my initial thinking on paper.

    Too many people just sit down at the computer and start designing without having done that very important conceptualization step – and it generally shows…

    BTW… How Much does a logo cost?
    Not a simple question to answer. Begin by looking at the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook, and then assess the region in which you live. The book is a great resource and starting point, but ultimately pricing is based on what the market will bear in YOUR AREA. It is up to the designer to understand the market in which he or she lives. That is just part of Business.

  18. 18

    I hate, hate, HATE logo design; partly because I’m much more proficient at PS than AI, partly because I want the design to be all-inclusive, all-expository of the business and its products. This post represents a big ol’ sigh of relief for me. Thanks!

  19. 19

    .14 Didier LAHELY:

    I’m creative lead at an agency. Your questions touch on a sensitive subject in the agency arena, though there shouldn’t be any question at all.

    When working for a client–via employment at an agency, or via contract work–that design should become the property of the client. If you’re paid to take cash from customers at McDonald’s, even though you’re the one doing the actual work, that cash belongs to McDonald’s.

  20. 20

    really cool !!!

    ~ Love smashing

  21. 21

    Andrew Butterworth

    August 26, 2009 5:22 am

    This is a good overview of some important aspects of logo design. It is too true that so many people jump in after the sketching phase. I too have done this in the past where it seems easier to jump straight in at the illustrator phase and knock something up from there. However, you always see the error in your ways when you create a nice looking logo but one that may not past the test of time.

    Good advice cheers.

  22. 22

    Excellent article. Readers, please notice that the design examples do not contain gradients, are not complex, and do not depend on color. They are the exact opposite of the lists of “great logos” you see everywhere online today.

    As for the reader who says Smashing needs a new logo: Did you even READ this article?? The Smashing logo meets all the criteria for a good logo. Now, you may not personally care for the Smashing design, but don’t cry for a redesign just because it doesn’t suit your taste.

    Regarding who owns the logo, the client does. They paid you plenty of money for it, right? In the client contract, you need to stipulate that you may use the logo image in your promotional materials, on your website, etc. Put yourself in the client’s shoes: I paid you HOW MUCH for this design and you’re telling me it isn’t mine???

  23. 23

    Jacob, it’s always a pleasure reading your stuff. I’ve been following JCD for sometime now, and really enjoy all the articles you have on there about logo design and branding.

  24. 24

    It’s always a laugh when clients request: Make My Logo Bigger Cream be applied to their branding…. my advice to n00b designers out there, it’s something to be weary of.

  25. 25

    I’m always amazed at how often criteria such as “Reproducible” and “Legible” get left off “How to design a great logo” lists, and how often they are are violated.

  26. 26

    I think the Smashing-logo is, well, smashing! Nothing wrong with that. :3

  27. 27

    Very good points. One of the hardest things to do is communicate the true value of a good logo design and branding to a client. To some a logo is an image they designed in Publisher that they can put on their stationary.

  28. 28

    Harrison McLeod

    August 26, 2009 6:56 am


    First, thank you for the mention. Made my day to wake up and find myself quoted by Jacob Cass on Smashing Magazine.

    Now, logos…so small yet so complex. In some ways it’s the visual equivalent of trying to make the point of a whole post in a single paragraph. Not always easy to do, but not entirely impossible.

    You’ve set up a lot of good guidelines to follow here that will benefit up and coming designers and veterans alike.

  29. 29

    IMO the Keep it simple stupid is the best advice – not only for logo design but for everything else as well.

  30. 30

    What a surprise!
    Hej SM, how did you know that I got my first logo design work (a serious one) from a local pop-star in sweden today?
    a priceless guide!

  31. 31

    Logo design is one of the most challenging, yet rewarding parts of design for me. A good or great one will be seen the world over and there’s just something zen about a good logo. Conversely, if you compromise too much — even if the client likes it — you can subject yourself to much cringing as the world is subjected to a crappy design.

  32. 32


    August 26, 2009 8:06 am

    The thought behind designing a good logo is interesting, but a lot of times most people won’t notice the hidden meaning behind elements of a logo. Having a not-so-obvious meaning behind a certain part of your logo is always fun for you as the designer or as the company it represents, but I wouldn’t force myself to only stick to certain designs because of the meaning of certain styles. Over-thinking things is lost on your customers. They will usually just see a nice looking logo, not the fact that you have a swoosh pointing right to represent moving forward as a company. It’s a nice thing to add to a logo to make it represent your company easier, but I’d put more thought into making an appropriate logo rather than a subtle, subconscious meaning.

    As for the “simple” aspect, I’m still amazed at how many people calling themselves designers don’t understand this. I’m fairly new to design and still have a lot to learn, but even before I started getting into design, I knew that keeping a logo simple and easily reproducible is the best practice. There’s a difference between a web icon and a logo. Sure, a logo can be used in a web icon, but the entire image with styling added to it is not the logo itself. Gradients/shadows/etc. are things that should be added *after* the logo is designed, depending on the environment it is being placed in.

  33. 33

    IMO, if logos are flat i.e., two-dimensional in perspective, it will fit everywhere.

  34. 34

    “How Much Does A Logo Cost?”

    The Million Dollar Question. Where are examples, at least, to compare and avoid to call “absurd” the answer given in this article? IMHO, a common logo costs much less than designers want to admit. Isn’t there any designer with no embarrassment to tell us (and SHARE, the holy word in the XXI century) his/her experience? I promise not to laugh …

    Logo prizes seem a myth.

  35. 35

    Jacob, I realize you know a lot about logo design but I feel like all of your stuff is the same. All of your articles give the same information. I have been reading your stuff for a while, and frankly, you need to get a little more creative with your articles.

    Good luck in all.

  36. 36

    Thnx for the info

  37. 37

    Srecko Bradic

    August 26, 2009 9:37 am

    I learn this long time ago but it is good to refresh info :)

  38. 38

    According to the first image/example, being Paul Rand is the best tip anyone could have for designing and effective logo…and that’s not far from the truth!

    Oh yeah, how come no logo designer is credited? This isn’t like web design where we just take and borrow (*ahem* rip-off) stuff we like. Paul Rand was responsible for IBM and ABC (not to mention American Airlines, Cummins, and a kick-ass redesign of Ford’s identity that was never used) to mention some.

    How much to charge? If you’re like some blogs, you hold a design contest and get it for free, so of course they aren’t going to say. Apologies to web designers that think differently (and I am a web designer) a company’s logo and identity should cost much more than a web site. If it’s a well-done identity it will easily outlast any flavor-of-the-month site you build. The turnover rate for a site is so much higher than for identity. Don’t do a cheap logo.

  39. 39

    Fabian / brandsimplicity

    August 26, 2009 1:41 pm

    Great article Jacob…one of your best yet bro:)

  40. 40

    This is very good article. I had read many logo design book especially to DESIGN MATTERS’ LOGOS An essential primer for today’s competitive market. I had read many at there but this article inject more knowledge about logos into my thoughts. I love it. Thanks all.




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