Demystifying how logos are designed
By Guy Anderson
In this post we’re going to pull back the curtain on an almost mythical process: how logos are designed. Like most creative endeavours, it can seem like magic to the uninitiated.
This article is for small business owners and aspiring designers alike. If you run your own ethical business then you’ll most likely know how important your logo is for representing your brand. If you’re a designer you may be wondering how you can design better logos more consistently.
Of course, there are many ways to design logos so we’ll be sharing how we do it at Wildheart based on 2½ decades of experience. In fact, our founder Guy created his first logo when he was just 14!
The anatomy of a logo
Before we dive into the process of how logos are designed, let’s start by defining the 3 parts of a logo.
The brand mark
This is the symbol or graphical element of your logo.
The brand name
The name of your brand in your chosen brand font.
A short description that sits directly underneath the brand name. This is also sometimes called a tagline.
You can see how these 3 elements work together in our own logo:
For more details about the parts of a logo, check out our popular 3 parts of a logo PDF and our related blog post The 3 parts of a logo and why they matter.
Finding a logo designer
When searching for a designer, take a good look at their portfolio and make sure you can clearly see the 3 parts of a logo in most of their designs. Tip: The strapline is often the part that’s missing. Why? Because writing a meaningful strapline requires a solid understanding of your brand strategy.
Beware of designers who have a particular style, unless it’s a style that you know will resonate with your customers. Designers who have a strong individual style are generally less flexible when it comes to meeting the needs of their customers. Finding a good logo designer who specialises in your industry can be very helpful, as they’ll already have a good understanding of your niche, your business and the needs and expectations of your customers.
Once you’ve found a good logo designer – or if you’re doing the design yourself – you can get started on the logo design process.
Step 1: Creating the design brief
The design brief is the most important part of the whole process. Without a clear and accurate design brief, it’s impossible to create a meaningful and appropriate logo for your business or your client (if you’re the designer). Ideally, you’ll already have a brand strategy for your business and you can send the strategy document to your designer.
No brand strategy?
If you don’t have a solid brand strategy then you should hold off on commissioning a logo. Your logo needs to clearly represent your brand and it’ll be very difficult for a designer to do a good job without your brand strategy. Logo designers are not normally branding experts, so if you want a great logo for your business then take the time to create your brand strategy first.
Working with a logo designer
If you’re working with a designer they should be asking you lots of questions about your business, target audiences and values, so they can better understand what makes you tick and what value you offer your customers.
If you’re the designer then it’s your job to tease as much information out of your client as possible using language the client understands, so that you can design them the most appropriate logo for their business.
How we create a design brief
Here at Wildheart, when we deliver logos, for our clients we send you a worksheet with a set of questions covering 4 areas of their brand:
Who is your logo for?
Your logo should represent your business and brand values and of course you should love it! But it’s not just for you, in fact it’s equally important that it resonates with your customers. This sounds obvious but it can be easily overlooked. Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes is an important empathetic exercise, especially when starting out in your business.
Colleagues and competitors
Another important step in the process is to review your competitors or those who inspire you. This will give you an idea of your place in the market and how you want to position yourself in relation to them. Differentiation is both strategically and visually important when it comes to marketing and design. But it’s also important to meet the expectations of your market. If you’re a meditation teacher then your logo and website shouldn’t resemble a real estate broker’s website.
Ready, steady, design!
You should also let your designer know your preferences in terms of colours and fonts, sending over any pieces of design that inspire you. It’s a good idea to ask your designer if they feel they have a good design brief. Investing time in the beginning of the process will get better results and reduce stress later on.
Step 2: Creating the logo concepts
Armed with a solid design brief, a good designer should be able to create several eye-catching logo concepts for you to choose from. At Wildheart we usually deliver 3 concepts. We deliver these initial design concepts in black and white, because people are powerfully affected by colour and will often choose a logo concept based on a preferred colour.
Working in black and white levels the playing field, because it allows you to choose a logo based on the strength of the design concept rather than colour. Each logo concept should include the 3 parts of a logo mentioned above.
A common mistake is choosing a logo concept that’s too literal or too complicated with lots of detailed lines. A good logo is symbolic rather than literal. It also needs to look good in different contexts, e.g. on screen and also printed onto stationery and textiles.
In order for a logo concept to be fit for purpose, it needs to look great both in stacked and horizontal formats. The horizontal logo will be used a lot more often because it’s more space efficient. For example, we always recommend using a horizontal logo on your website:
Size isn’t everything, but it’s important
Make sure at the concept stage that your logo is easy to see and legible at small sizes. Pay special attention to the strapline as this is normally the smallest text in a logo.
Step 3: Refining colour and typography
In the third step of how logos are designed, you should be refining the initial design concept that you’ve chosen by creating a colour palette and showing colour usage. The chosen logo concept should be supported by a pair of complementary fonts. In design-speak this is called font pairing and it’s an important part of the design process that shows how fonts work together in a way that’s both stylish and legible.
This third stage is important because it shows how your logo could be used and balanced with other design elements, such as colours, fonts and images.
Here's what Mike Richards, aka The Travelling Ape, said about working with us on our Logo Package:
Surpassed all of my expectations...
“I thoroughly enjoyed the process of developing my logo and brand with Wildheart. I had a rough idea of what I wanted the logo to look like. Having taken all of my views on board, the final logo that Wildheart produced surpassed all of my expectations and I love it. I have received positive feedback about it from so many people, and it has made me excited to take my brand to the next level. I would highly recommend!”
– Mike Richards, The Travelling Ape
In this post we explored how logos are designed and shared a 3-step process for getting the job done. You’ve learned what the 3 parts of a logo are and some tips for making sure that your logo works in different sizes and formats. Whether you’re a business owner who needs a logo, or you’re an aspiring designer yourself, you’ll hopefully be better informed about how logos are designed.
If you run an ethical business or you’re a spiritual entrepreneur and need a custom logo that resonates with both you and your audience, check out our Logo Design page. We’re experienced in both branding and logo design and we understand your customers.