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The company logo is one of the most important components of corporate design – it is the public image of a company or organization. It provides direction in the design of all publications (including ads, brochures, web offers, product packaging, etc.) and communication tools (e-mail signatures, letterheads, etc.) because they all contain the logo, meaning they rely on good logo design. A well-designed logo is essential for a company looking to build a brand, as it’s easily recognizable, and has been proven to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.
But if you want to draft and design your own logo, you’ll need more than a pen and paper. A rough sketch can serve as a good example design, but when it comes to making your logo, you’ll need the right photo editing software to convert your logo idea into digital form. This is the only way you can achieve differently-sized designs for a wide range of applications, such as webpages, videos, PDFs, and more. Here, we take you through the steps to develop your own logo.
Logo design: basics and examples
It doesn’t matter whether you’re creating a logo for your company, a product, an event, a webpage, or something else: you have to be aware that alogo determines the perception of a brand in many different respects. Many people who have had good experiences with a brand then associate these positives with the corresponding brand logo, strengthening brand loyalty and simplifying the marketing of other products.
The term ‘brand’ isn’t restricted to a product range or a type of service: instead, it can be representative of an entire company or organization. In fact, even people can turn themselves into a brand through personal branding. Your logo simply acts as a reminder, a guideline for your target group to remember you by and recognize your products and services. For this reason, you have to think ahead about the characteristics of your trademark and what it should look like. For new businesses or new product lines, the logo should be created and ready to use by the release or launch date.
The bottom line is very simple when it comes to logo design: a logo should express what a brand stands for as well and clearly as possible. It doesn’t matter whether it’s the logo of a large company, a small home business, or a new range of products – there are characteristics that need to be demonstrated and highlighted through the new logo. Logos can contain combinations of letters/characters and visual elements. They’re usually made up of one or more alphabetical characters and/or different image elements, with the choice and use of color being determining factors for recognition. So let’s take a closer look at the individual areas involved in successful logo design, with examples of brand logos that have mastered the task.
Visual elements (symbols, shapes, and patterns)
Symbols and stylized objects are a common feature in logos. The window from Microsoft Windows, the panda bear from the WWF, and the globe in the Greenpeace logo are all famous examples of this technique. Some logos even go so far as to dispense from using letters of the company or brand name entirely. A certain iconic apple symbol springs to mind here.
But not every brand is lucky enough to have a picture element that immediately makes you think of their name, as Apple has achieved. The ‘swoosh’ tick from sportswear designer Nike, which stands for dynamic and fast, is not necessarily a symbol associated with sports clothing and products, let alone the brand name ‘Nike’. But because the brand has established and stuck with the logo from very early on, the logo has grown with the brand over time, gaining popularity and international fame. The Mercedes star is another example. For decades, it has been closely associated with the famous German car manufacturer, although this association doesn’t stem from its logo – a star wouldn’t immediately make you think of a car, nor the name ‘Mercedes’. But over an extended time, the famous star logo has become synonymous with the Mercedes Benz brand. These examples prove that a simple logo symbol will automatically become more famous and respected with business success – but a great design that feeds into a strong brand will speed up the process and help improve your chances of recognition.
Looking at other examples can help you see that you have freedom when it comes to logo design: not every airline uses a stylized airplane in its logo, and not every bank uses a reference to finances in its logo either - Irish airline Ryanair uses the harp, while Barclays bank uses an eagle. Sometimes, the use of a more abstract logo can represent a company brand perfectly (examples of this would be the aforementioned Nike and Mercedes Benz, but also Adidas, who use an unusual geometric shape pattern). The most important thing here, regardless of the symbol, shape, or pattern you decide to use, is that it fits to your brand image and won’t harm your corporate design in the future.
Typography (Font and size as well as positioning of characters)
Of course, it’s not just image elements that can make up a logo: typography can be used to create distinctive brand images, too. The most important things to consider here are the choice of font (the digital version of handwriting style) and the way it’s used and displayed (font size, character and line spacing, as well as the arrangement of the characters). Characters can also be combined with texturing elements, like frames or shading, to accentuate certain areas. Use of shape can be a good way to further personalize the design of a text-based logo. Good examples of this are the 1993 Samsung logo, in which the brand name was encapsulated by an ellipse, and the Volkswagen trademark, which features the famous ‘VW’ letters inside of a circle. Often, typography and imagery combined allows the name of the brand to better stand out, rather than illustrating what the product or service actually is. This is particularly the case in industries such as food manufacturing, where the product range may be too varied to focus on one product, so that the company chooses to focus on their name, with imagery not directly related to their product line (e.g. Dr. Oetker).
In some cases, just the font on its own – without an image element– can be enough to create a brand identity and transport you to another place. Until 1985, the Walt Disney (Pictures) logo was simply clever lettering with a very playful and magical font, immediately bringing the animation films and famous studios to mind. Similar examples include global powerhouses Google and Coca Cola. And one of the most famous and well-known logos in the world is made up of just a single letter: the yellow M, from McDonald’s, commonly referred to as the golden arches. In these instances, great choice of font, with simple but effective displays, can have a powerful impact. And their choice of color is crucial, too.
Choice of color
Colors create associations. Some companies have mastered the use of color, causing their target groups to associate particular color combinations with their brand or products. The Starbucks logo is a classic green, with white images and lettering, and a black background inside the center. The traditional combination of green and white with black detail has been used countless times before, with similar variations used by some big and established brands, such has the beer brewing company Heineken, basketball franchise the Boston Celtics, music streaming company Spotify, and more recently, WhatsApp, the instant messenger service owned by Facebook. But despite all of these companies opting for very similar colors, they all manage to stand out in their own environment. If you’re walking down a high street and catch a glimpse of green and white, chances are you’re going to think of Starbucks, just as when you’re looking at a phone and a flash of green appears, you’re likely to associate that with WhatsApp. This phenomenon is usually best achieved by making sure that the entire corporate design of the brand is based on the color scheme of the respective logo. Sports teams usually pay particularly close attention to this.
Most brands go for classic colors. Facebook’s logo is dominated by blue and white, YouTube makes use of white and red. One look to the web presence of these big brands will show you that they stick rigidly to these logo colors in all their marketing measures. Often, the choice of color for some logos seems relatively arbitrary at first glance. Not every company has such an obvious color choice as red for the fire service or green for Greenpeace. And in many cases, making a close connection between color and the type of product or service being offered is impossible and/or unnecessary. The most important thing to remember here is that the color choices should fit to the image of the brand.
Traditional color choices
Some industries and fields have longstanding historical connection to particular colors. Besides the aforementioned fire department (red), police forces are also usually associated with the color blue. Medicinal and pharmaceutical companies often feature white elements in their logo designs. And taxis are traditionally connected to the color yellow (especially in New York!).
As a result, it would be unusual for a taxi company to set up a green logo or corporate design. This isn’t a problem in itself, but it would be very much against convention, making company recognition less likely. Then again, in some instances this might make it a good choice: if you were setting up a private taxi company with the hope of attracting attention and bringing a fresh approach to the taxi industry, using an unusual color could be positive. Let’s say your taxi company is focused on the environment and using electric cars to take guests around – the choice of green for your corporate design would be an excellent one, as it distinguishes itself from the norm and also ties your company to the color most commonly associated with environmental awareness. But a word of warning: if you decide to go against a classic color scheme in your industry, you need to have a valid reason for doing so.
Sustainable color choices
Once you’ve decided on a color scheme for your logo, you should stick with it for the long-term. Changing brand colors should only happen in exceptional circumstances: firstly, because your target group will usually associate your brand with a specific color, and secondly, because ‘rebranding’ is expensive and a lot of effort. Your logo is likely to be on almost every means of communication and publication you have, both online and offline, and it’s particularly important that products are reproduced with the new logo as quickly as possible during the rebrand. Imagine you’re deciding on a new color scheme for your brand: your product packaging, worker uniforms, even company cars and more may have to be redesigned, creating a significant cost increase.
A famous example of this is the color scheme change of the famous McDonald’s logo for the European market. Since its creation, this fast food chain has undergone a number of slightly varying logos to keep in touch with the market and current trends, but one basic constant has remained: a traditional yellow ‘M’ on a red background. But in Europe, the end of 2009 saw a significant change for McDonald’s, as they swapped the red background for green. Of course, McDonald’s is a global player and so could afford this change much more so than small and medium-sized businesses, but when you consider the number of McDonald’s stores in Europe, this was a significant rebranding process.
How can I create a logo that fits my brand?
Of course, there’s a long journey ahead before your logo becomes as famous and recognizable as the examples listed above. If you want to create a memorable logo, you’ll need to become familiar with the logo design techniques and practices of global brand leaders and, above all, your competitors. There are two reasons for this: firstly, for inspiration and reference, and secondly, to avoid designing a logo that is too similar to that of a competitor’s. Although it might seem easy to copy a successful design and adapt it to use for your own purposes, this isn’t just bad etiquette: it’s also strictly illegal. But using other logos to gain inspiration is permitted, as long as you create your own logo rather than copying someone else’s.
When creating a logo, you shouldn’t just focus on an attractive and appealing graphic design – there are other aspects to consider in logo design besides aesthetics. A logo can’t be overloaded, for example. It’s okay to have certain details that are quite small and hard to see, but they must be limited. In general, though, you should follow the rule that less is more when it comes to logo design. Your logo should be made in such a way that it’s instantly recognizable, even in a small format. Too many details and components can negatively affect its recognition.
The ideal logo is…
- Easy to understand (there’s an obvious connection between the logo and the brand, product, or company)
- Unmistakeable (the logo can be attributed to your brand and your brand only)
- Memorable (a simple, minimalist design is better than a complicated, detailed one)
- Easy to reproduce (a digital logo in a high resolution can be used in lots of ways and scaled up or down easily)
You can find more about the characteristics of logos, the choice of colors, and the importance of corporate design in our guide to design and use of color in web design.
Making a logo: which data format and software should I use?
You don’t have to hire an expert to tackle your logo design if you don’t have the budget: provided you have the right software and an understanding of image editing, you can have a go at designing your own logo. The first question to ask yourself concerns file formats: do you want to create your logo as a vector graphic, or as a pixel or raster graphic. Most amateur image editors have experience with raster graphic-based programs like Photoshop. If that’s the case, it makes sense to use a raster graphics program for logo design. But the downside to these raster images is that they’re not so smooth to scale, which can mean additional editing after changing the size of the image. This problem doesn’t affect vector graphics.
The difference between the two: a raster graphic assembles an image from individual pixels. If the image size is enlarged, then the individual pixels are often also enlarged, reducing the quality of the picture. To display a logo on a large poster in high quality, you’ll need a raster graphic with very high resolution. Vector graphics don’t store images in pixels, but as a mathematical formula that describe the line courses of the graphics. This means that enlarging a vector graphic won’t affect its sharpness. Vector graphics are less suitable for complex images, but they’re suitable for logos because your logo should be kept relatively simple anyway. For this reason, logos are usually created as vector graphics. But if you’re certain that you only need your logo in small format sizes, then raster graphics are suitable, too.
Some classic programs used in logo development include Illustrator (for Windows and Mac operating systems), and CorelDraw (just Windows), both of which enable you to create images as vector graphics. For raster graphics, Photoshop from Adobe is the best option and the industry standard. These image editing programs are very complex, and it’s not easy to design a company logo on such a professional tool. For beginners, they can be very difficult to understand. These tools are also expensive – with prices often in the three or four-digit range for software packages.
But there are some free program alternatives, such as Adobe Illustrator, that allow you to create vector graphics (including Inkscape). And when it comes to the complex raster graphic program Adobe Photoshop, there are a number of simplified, free alternatives, including GIMP and Pixlr. But even though these programs are simpler to use and free of charge, you still need a decent level of understanding in photo editing techniques to create a professional logo. If image editing is new to you and you want to learn the basics, then there are plenty of tutorials and instruction videos online. With a little time and effort, you can learn how to design a logo and achieve a professional result by yourself.
For those who want to design a logo but would prefer not to download and use classic image editing software to do so, there are a number of web services that offer online logo editors. Web applications like Logaster, the Online Logo Maker, and Free Logo Services require no installation (you can use them directly and comfortably in your browser) or previous experience in digital image editing. Most of these web applications allow you to download your designed logo for free, but only in a lower resolution; a high-resolution version of the logo – which is essential for professional use – usually comes at a cost. But these tools are still great for inexperienced designers who want to create a logo that meets the highest standards.
Anyone can create a logo – even beginners!
Every brand needs a logo. This symbol doesn’t just increase the chances of your brand being recognized and remembered, it can completely transform the way your brand is portrayed. If the target market is convinced of the brand’s quality, the logo will instantly be positively associated. The design and color of a logo is usually also used as the benchmark for a company’s entire corporate design. But if you want to take the logo design process into your own hands, you’ll need some experience with image editing software.
Users who are confident and comfortable using programs like Photoshop and Illustrator should have no problem with creating a professional logo themselves. And if you’ve got the experience and skillset necessary but don’t wish to pay the expensive licensing fees for these industry-standard Adobe programs, you can make use of free image editing software like Inkscape or GIMP (both these function on Windows, Mac, and Linux) to design a high-quality logo.
For beginners, there are a number of free logo-editor tools that aren’t so complicated to get to grips with. These tools are great for getting started, but they usually require you to pay a fee in order to download a high resolution version of the photo. When you compare this with the task and financial outlay of sourcing and paying a professional designer, or the time commitment and effort of learning how to use an extensive image editor like Illustrator, then this online-based alternative makes good sense for a quick, efficient, and affordable result.
With IONOS’s logo maker, create your own logo for free in just a few steps. Try it out now!
Good to know: once you’ve created your logo, you can legally protect it against misuse and imitation by third parties. To find out more about patent and trademark law, and how to protect your creative capital, check out our guide to design rights.