Anatomy of a logo

Have you ever wondered why you are interested in certain companies? Did their logo play a part? What attracted you to one company and made you reject the other? You may be telling yourself that it was appealing, but it probably wasn’t just that factor alone. Maybe you thought it looked more professional or better suited to the industry? There is in fact a lot more thinking that goes into designing a logo than making it look good.

The aim when designing a logo is for it to send the perfect message about the company. What industry does it work in? What are its values? What is its history? Every detail is chosen with great care; the colour, the typeface, the shape, the size etc. Every aspect is an important part of building the message that the logo will translate. The logo should look good, but that’s not enough. What matters the most is the meaning that goes behind it, the story that is being told. Your logo is the visual representation of your brand’s message.

Now, you may think you know what is needed for the logo, what type of colour could look nice and shape could be relevant for the design. But try to remember, that knowing quality is different from creating quality, as you may know how to distinguish an efficient logo from a decorative one. Designing a logo is another story. As it is in everyone’s ability to judge a logo, but not everybody can design the right logo. You may feel that you know what would work best for the company and maybe even create the logo yourself. There are a lot of things you can do yourself when it comes to creating and developing the company, but this is a field you should leave to a professional.

Setting the tone

Your logo is the first window that potential consumers will have to see your company. It is what they will build their opinion on and what they will remember the most. You want to ensure that it shows your brand’s best angle but also that it is accurate to your brand’s values. You need to do some research as to what your brand’s history and goals are as they will help you create your logo. You don’t want something that seems relevant now but that will be outdated in a few months or years. Don’t follow a current trend, create your own. It needs to be timeless and to grow with you and your company.

First, you will need to find inspiration. Look online and in magazines for patterns or illustrations that could inspire you. Don’t necessarily look for other companies’ logos. Ask yourself, what inspires you? You are looking for originality so taking inspiration from another logo will make it difficult for you to differentiate yourself from other companies.

You need to do researches on your direct competitors as well. Look at what people are doing in your industry. Like we said before, looking at other companies’ logos is probably not the best way to find inspiration. You don’t want to look similar to another company that works in the same field, that would be confusing and probably make you lose some clients. But this is a good way to know what works and what doesn’t in your industry. You will find out how you differentiate yourself from your competitors and how you could highlight these additional values in your brand identity.

Other important insights to your logo design can come from the target audience. After working on the message conducted by your logo, you need to ensure that it finds and fits the right person. For that, there are two things you need to know:

  • Your current audience: who buys your products or your services
  • Your target audience: who are your goal consumers

Those two groups of people can be the same. In this case, you just need to make sure that your design is fitted to that audience and that it attracts more people in that category. If your current audience is not the one you want to attract, then you need to think about your current image. Why are you attracting that audience? What can you change in your image to attract your target audience?  What would grab their attention and make them engage with your company? This is important information as designing a new logo for your company is a great opportunity for you to grow your audience and to change your image if you feel that it is needed. You want to make sure that you get it right and that you take this opportunity to build the brand you want to be.

Colours

An important part of designing a logo is choosing the colour palette. Once you have collected some inspirations for your logo, your first set of colours will start to appear to you. Your choice of colour palette needs great care as it could ruin the entire design of the logo. The best advice is to keep it simple, as choosing too many colours would be overwhelming and make it look like DIY. Two or three main colours is the safest option to have a result that will be suited to your brand. In total, you shouldn’t have more than 5 colours for your brand, including your main colours that will go with your logo and your 2-3 complementary colours. For your secondary colours, you should always include black, grey or any neutral colours to make it look more professional and corporate. These sober and neutral colours will complement your choice of more vivid colours, making it look balanced. These 5 colours will represent the base of your design. You can use the main options in your bigger campaigns and the others in complementary items.

Just like symbols, colours transmit different emotions. For example, the colour red refers to warning and vivacity while blue is a more appeasing colour. This is the natural human response to colours. In that regard, warm and cool colours have completely different connotations. Consequently, they will be connected to different industries. As cool colours refers to cold, minimalist and scientific, these colours would suit better a Tech company. The same thing goes for warm colours which refers to inviting and sharing, these colours would be better for the cosmetic industry. These are general conceptions about what type of feeling some colours can transmit, but every perception stays subjective and people can react differently to what colour palette you choose.

Icon style

There are lots of different styles of logos that you can choose from. You need to find the one that is the most suited to your company. For most companies, the logo consists of an icon and a wordmark, generally the name of the company. But for some others, it can be just a symbol, a word or a letter. As some symbols have obvious connotations, they can easily refer to an industry or a company without needing a wordmark. For example, a company working in the marine or water treatment industries could use drops or wavy lines as symbols. These symbols are associated with water so the message of the logo would be relatively obvious. It makes more sense to use an obvious symbol rather than creating a new one for something that already have lots of symbols associated to it. For well-established companies, using a symbol, word or letter might be enough as most people will recognize the company just looking at the icon. But it doesn’t mean that one must go without the other. Even if the logo includes a symbol and a wordmark, you can use one or the other on their own as they are two pieces of a whole.

Typography

Another decision you need to make is will the logo include a wordmark or not. Most of the time, the wordmark is the company’s name. Your choice to include it will depend on what it means to you. Why did you choose it? Does it help people recognize who you are? For example, if your company’s name is your family name, it should be part of your logo as this is most likely how people know your business.

If you choose to include a wordmark, then you will need a typeface. This might seem like a minor detail to you but each typeface passes on a different message so this decision can have an important impact on the interpretation of your logo. There are hundreds of thousands of typefaces that you can choose from. You could probably narrow it down to a list of your preferences but choosing the right one can be difficult and confusing. Don’t worry about it though, as designers generally know the best and they will help you find the right one for your company. Finding a typeface can seem like an accessory step but it can be the starting point of your logo. Once you have found the right one, you can build your logo around the font. Your logo doesn’t have to start from your icon. One of the main points you should be looking for in your typeface is for it to be easy to read and clean. They are a few cases of well-established brands that have uneasy to read typefaces but this is extremely rare. However, these companies have more freedom with their logo as they are already a recognizable organisation for a lot of people. But for most businesses, it is necessary for the name of the company to be easy to read as this is how consumers will recognize and remember their name. The typeface must match the brand’s industry. Customers should understand at a glance the link between what the company does and their logo. Otherwise, they could be confused and they could lose interest in the company. Once you have selected the right font for you, try to stick to it as it will be part of your brand identity. Don’t use too many different styles on your logo as it could be overwhelming and confusing. It can still be good to pick up one or two secondary typefaces though as you will need those for other brands elements like a tagline or additional text.

There is a genuinely tight link between the icon and wordmark. They can complement each other and form parts of a whole that can be used just as well separately. Also, it could be possible to create icons from the letters of the wordmark. That way the icon and the wordmark become integrated.

Form / Shape Dynamics

When designing your logo, you must go through the process of choosing the form and shape dynamics. Each shape has traditional connotations and you will need to take that in consideration. In fact, some shapes will be more suitable for some industries that others. That is important to make sure that your logo conveys the right message to your consumers. For example, the square has a significance of stability and honesty, the triangle is often synonym of tension and the circle often refers to infinity and honesty. Like we said before, a logo can be recognized by its typeface but also by its icon. For that, your choice of shapes and graphic elements should be simple, unique and should match your company.

Space / Size

The size you choose for your logo to appear on your product will influence the perception of your brand. For example, if you choose to put your logo in an important area of the product or business card etc. with big letters and small spaces between them, it will seem forceful. On the contrary, if you choose a subtle sizing and kerning, it will give a corporate and professional look to your brand. That decision will be guided by the target audience of your company. As two different sizing and spacing won’t give the same perception of the brand, they won’t attract the same people either. In fact, if you take the example of two chocolate bars, a subtle logo with big spacing will give the impression of a good quality chocolate when a big obnoxious logo with small spacing will give a feeling of a more industrial chocolate.

Whatever your choice is, you need everything to be balanced and easy to read. You want to make sure that your design looks unique, graspable and will attract your target audience.

Details

When you are creating your logo, you are looking for a design that is simple, clean and easy to read. Most of the logos you will remember are clean and straightforward. This is what makes them efficient. It is where the difficulty of designing a logo lies, as you want something simple but unique and memorable. That will probably make you want to skip the details and go for something efficient. Yet, when you look at some well-established companies, their logos are emblems that are often full of little details. It is true that making it simple will make it easier to read but also easier to replicate on different materials. Consequently, if you have a logo full of details, they will be lost when it is replicated on small sizes. Even if you have a well-designed logo, it will just look to be of poor quality. Some well-established companies decide to create logos full of details to show that it is difficult to replicate. It gives them an image of quality and luxury that other brands can’t keep up with. Their ability to reproduce their logo correctly, reinforce the luxury of their brand.

Connection to industry

With your logo, you want people to know what industry you work in at a glance. Though this will be harder with some industries, for others, the meaning will be obvious. For example, if you work for an IT or Tech company, it would be preferable to use colours like blue or grey and square shapes. On another hand, if you are the owner of a hair salon, colours like yellow or orange would be favoured as well as circular shapes. That way, at first glance, people will know what type of industry you work in. If you do the opposite, you will probably be misleading your potential consumers. The most straightforward your logo is, the most chance you will have to engage with potential new customers.

Scalability

Once your logo is all ready, you need to start thinking about adapting it to all potential materials that it could appear on. In fact, in most cases, your logo will be shown on all kind of mediums, whether they are printed or digital. Your logo should look good whatever the size of the medium it is printed on. In that case, we need to consider the two different options: print and web. For the print, your logo should be a Vector file. That way, it could be used at any size without looking blurry. On another hand, for the web, it should be in a bitmap file. In that matter, there are two things you need to consider: the quality of the image and the size of the file. You need to find the right balance between these two aspects. You want your image to be the best quality possible, but this means that the file of your image will be heavy and it will slow down the loading of your website. You can’t compromise the loading of your website for the quality of your image, this is where you need to find the right balance.

Conclusion

All these aspects combined are what make a logo. Creating a logo is about going through all these steps and knowing how to put them together to get the best possible result. Knowing how to put the symbol, the colours and the wordmark together and balancing the size and spacing to make it look harmonious.

Now you have all the tools that will allow you to scan a logo and start to understand every detail that makes it what it is. This way, you will be able to test your own logo and determine whether it is appropriate to your industry, your company’s personality and your target audience. If not, then you may need a new one. But this means that you now have an idea of the direction you should take for your new logo to suit your target audience, your industry and to send the right message about your company.

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