Yeah, yeah. You need a great-looking logo.
But there are at least 10 things you don’t want to do.

I’ve been designing logos for a long, long time.

In that time, the tools have changed. Letraset and Rapidographs have been replaced by DaFont and Illustrator.

Design trends come and go. Papyrus and Curlz? Yikes.

I’ve seen the DIY route elevated to actually being not-so-bad. Some folks have an eye and can navigate the DIY process and produce good results. Some folks, not so much.

There’s crowdsourcing and competition sites where you have people “bid” with free work to design your logo.

I’ve also seen the rise of the $5 logo design from Sri Lanka. That route is hit or miss (the latter being the norm,) and we certainly don’t blame anyone for trying to save a buck or two – especially when just starting out and trying to save money. It’s a dangerous route, though – and you really don’t want to look like a cheap skate when it comes to your identity.*

Through all the changes, all the new stuff, there have been a few logo design “laws” that we’ve lived by. Below, you’ll find a list of 10 don’ts. This isn’t an exhaustive list – but the stuff I’ve left off will probably just make me look like a psycho with an ax to grind when it comes to logo design. That’s probably true, really, but – here’s a friendlier list. If you want to hear what I REALLY think, please give us a shout.

1: Don’t Forget the Future

This is number one for a reason. When you start with a new logo, think of the future. How’s it going to look later on? Are you going to need a new brand in a couple of years?

Logo design isn’t (typically) cheap. The initial fee is just the beginning. You’re going to have business cards, signage, vehicle wraps, websites and social media – and your logo is going to be all over the place. Is it going to look hokey or played out in 2 years? Think the guy with the Papyrus logo is happy in 2017?

Don’t get trendy. Don’t get cute. It doesn’t age well – and rebranding all your collateral is a MUCH more expensive and painful process than getting it done right the first time.

2: Don’t Get Complicated

I’ve said it for years: If you need to explain your logo, you’ve missed the mark.

An overly complicated, convoluted or contrived logo is a recipe for frustration. You wind up with a mark that you have to explain to people. You wind up with a mark that doesn’t size well. It’ll be hard to reproduce. It’ll look weird on different backgrounds. Complexity actually limits you in a number of ways.

Again – keep it simple and effective. There’s not much to Nike’s Swoosh, Target’s Target or Starbucks’ mermaid. That’s most of the reason that they work.

3: Don’t Go Color Crazy

This isn’t the same as the complexity issue above – but only slightly.

Having an extremely colorful mark or using a photograph in your logo is going to set you up for a lot of headaches in the future. A 2-3 color logo is easy to replicate across a number of media. It’ll look great on a website or on a sweat shirt. Embroidery will be a breeze. If you hire a sign painter, he’ll thank you and you’ll become immediate friends. He may invite you over for a home-cooked meal.

If your logo has a lot of colors, it’s going to be much more expensive to reproduce – or you’ll have to have a simplified version that opens you up to the possibility of fracturing your brand. No good.

Again – simple is better when it comes to a logo. It broadens the usefulness – and usefulness is good!

4: Don’t Be Cheap

This is a bit of a sensitive issue for us here at Blue Dozen. We make our livings with logo design. We’re not the cheapest people in the world – but, then again – we know what we’re doing. We’re not saying any of this to make you spend more money by hiring us – we’re saying it because we’re tired of seeing people cheap out and get burned in the long run.

With your logo, the last thing you want is to put a price tag in front of usefulness and longevity. If you go with a “well, it’s good enough – and I really saved some money” logo, you’re facing the very real possibility that you don’t get exactly what you want or need. You might have saved a couple of bucks, but those savings can wind up costing you a LOT more in the long run.

Start with a “meh” logo, and you’ll either need to rebrand (again – can be crazy expensive) or live with a less-than-stellar look that can make you look cheap or outdated or lame to your customers and clients.

Do something nice to start with. Might hurt more up front, but it’ll save you headaches and money in the long run.

5: Don’t Forget the Format

Honestly, this is one of the biggest problems we see when it comes to logos. Folks have their logo in one format – and it’s usually a tiny-ass JPG. Not good.

When you hire someone to design your logo, make sure that they will deliver the logo in several different formats. This will save you a tremendous amount of time and frustration in the future.

We recommend getting several different formats:

  • JPG: This will be useful across a variety of uses – but it isn’t all you need. You’ll probably need it for your websites/emails and stuff – but that’s where it ends. JPG can’t be enlarged without starting to lose sharpness.
  • PNG: This is another useful format, as it has a transparent background. With JPG, the background is solid – meaning that it can’t be used on top of different colors. PNG, with the transparent background, can be used on top of just about anything. Again, can’t be enlarged.
  • EPS: A vector-based format, this can be used for just about anything – and it can be scaled to the size of the moon without losing sharpness. Make sure your designer converts the fonts to outlines so that it can be used by different people and other designers.
  • PDF: Kind of like EPS – but even more flexible. A properly formatted PDF can be used anywhere by anyone for any purpose.
  • AI: This is the native format for Adobe Illustrator. Most designers, sign shops and screen printers use Illustrator – and they’ll thank you for handing them your logo in an Illustrator format. Hint: Back save a few versions – just to be sure that anyone can use it.

6: Don’t Rip It Off

This should be self-evident. Don’t copy a logo you’ve seen before – it just makes you look like a hack.

Finding inspiration in someone else’s logo is one thing – but if you go to your logo designer and say “I want the new logo to look just like these guys…” you need to rethink what you’re doing.

It’s not that you have to reinvent the wheel or come up with the newest greatest idea – but ripping people off just looks lame. Don’t do it.

Further, if you steal (or borrow or repurpose) your logo, it can come back to really bite you in the end. We’ve seen people have to completely rebrand after having someone complain that their logo is too close to an existing mark. Litigation is expensive, rebranding is expensive. Be original – you and your logo will be better in the long run.

7: Don’t Be Stupid (Unless That’s Your Thing)

Do you really want a robotic platypus as the logo for your consulting business?

Does your hair salon need to have “Curl Up & Dye” as a tagline?

Does a pun-based name make you more of an authority or expert?

Probably not. Keep it classy – leave the jokes to Mitch Hedberg.

8: Don’t Ignore the White Space

Ever see the arrow in the FedEx logo? That was (probably) a happy mistake – but it’s also an illustration to this point.

We’ve seen people (not naming names) who have the outlines of a penis in their logo. Look at everything in your logo – even the stuff that isn’t there. Sometimes, there’s a great opportunity to add some interest. Sometimes, there’s stuff (like knobs & bollocks) that you don’t want. Pay attention to the negative spaces and the overall shape of the logo.

9: Don’t Ignore Your Competition

Look and see what other folks in your market are doing. You can see what they’re doing well and – perhaps more importantly – you can see where they’re falling short.

When examining your competition, you have built-in market research. You’ll be able to see current conventions and things that people/customers like and dislike. This info can be invaluable, and it can help you decide to stay on the same proven path, or to go rogue and create a new space.

Learn from them and use their experience to make you, your business and your logo stronger.

10: Don’t Believe Your Logo is Your Brand

Your logo – while important – is NOT your brand. Your brand is your essence, your vibe, your ethos, your uniqueness. Your logo is a visual representation of your brand – not the other way around.

I’ve heard it explained like this – your logo is an identifier, whereas your brand is your identity. Brand leads, logo follows.

If you have the best, most awesome logo in the world, but your brand is that of a dour, bitter, hateful troll – you’ll just be a dour, bitter, hateful troll with a killer logo. If you have a plain, boring logo – but you’re a sunshiny, helpful and caring business, you have a wonderful brand that’s supported by a not-so-stellar logo. People will remember the brand LONG before they remember the logo. Logos are easier to fix – a busted brand is a nightmare to reposition.

The Big Takeaway

Don’t mess around when it comes to your logo. Mess around even less when it comes to your brand! Getting people to remember your logo is a difficult and time-intensive affair, no matter how great it looks. Getting people to remember your brand, your service and your personality is very easy – good or bad.

Sure, you want a killer logo – but pay more attention to your brand, your business and your service. Putting lipstick on a pig doesn’t make it Marilyn Monroe. Putting a great logo on a crappy business isn’t going to make that business Microsoft.

Now, all that said – having a sub-par or lame or janky logo makes it harder to properly express your brand in a positive light. It’s a complex relationship, but the brand certainly wears the pants in this relationship.

Ready to get started building your brand and developing that killer logo? Give me a holler…