Design professionals offer tips for creating quality company logos

It’s not uncommon for startups to design their logo themselves or hand the task off to an amateur in an attempt to save money. It’s a simple decision that could come back to bite them, though.

We’ve all heard the expression, “You only have one chance to make a good first impression.” Well, that applies to people and companies.

“If you don’t have a thought through and well designed logo, you run the risk of losing potential customers because of misinterpretation, as well as missing the chance to make an early impression,” says Cody Holland, founder and creative director at Columbus-based Collective Independence Design.

“Worst of all, bad design can lead potential customers to wonder if that’s all the care you put into your identity, how much care would you put into the rest of your business?” he adds.

A good designer knows how to develop a brand identity that speaks to your audience in subtle ways that attract them to your product or service, says Nathan Hackley, partner at Columbus-based Dynosaur Creative.

In other words, it’s easy to make a logo that looks good, but it’s harder to make a logo that communicates well.

When creating a logo, simplicity is the one element all three designers interviewed for this story list as a must.

“A good logo defines you without telling the entire story all at once,” says Amanda Helber, president of Lancaster-based Pemberley Studio. “Think of the best, most recognizable marks out there: Nike, Coca Cola, Apple. They are to the point and do not confuse their audience.”

Helber also says a particular icon or mark is necessary, as well as a concept or story behind the logo.

“If a person sells paper and wants their logo to include a puppy, we had better come up with a story or concept for what the puppy has to do with paper,” she explains.

Holland and Hackley say a logo should also be memorable and recognizable.

A complex logo is bad for several reasons, perhaps most importantly because when it’s printed in small sizes, the details are lost.

“Your logo should be able to be flattened and printed in black and white,” Holland says. “This should be the simplest form of your logo and read well in newsprint. If you cannot imagine it being legible in a small newspaper ad, it’s probably not versatile enough.”

Further, logos should be in a vector format, so they can be edited and sized indefinitely, Helber says.

“Have you ever seen a picture or graphic that looks fuzzy and looks like it’s made up of squares?” she asks. “That’s what happens when you try to scale up a raster graphic. A vector file will never do that.”

When it comes to choosing a font, Hackley suggests using one that “feels” like your company, and cautions against low quality fonts, such as papyrus and comic sans, as they can cheapen your brand image.

Helber says a good rule of thumb is if it’s free, you probably shouldn’t use it.

“Free fonts tend to be poorly spaced and amateurish,” she explains.

All three designers say two fonts should be the maximum number in a logo.

“Less is more in most all design situations, but even more importantly when designing logos,” Holland says.

The pros we interviewed have differing opinions about another key consideration: color.

Helber recommends always starting with a black and white logo, saying that color can become too big an influence if integrated at the start of the development process. However, Hackley says one color often makes sense right from the beginning.

So is there such a thing as too many colors in a logo? Hackley and Holland say there is.

“The more colors you add to a logo, the less a viewer will be able to commit to permanent memory,” Hackley says.

Helber has a different take on the issue.

“Up until a few years ago, printing two-color saved money,” she says. “Now with gang run printing, digital presses and more companies digitally distributing their collateral, limiting color for economic reasons is no longer a concern. If the colors make sense and the logo is simple and clean, I see no reason why it shouldn’t have more than two colors.”

Though it might sound like common sense, Helber says that when hiring a designer to develop a logo, make sure you like their other logo designs.

“Ask to see a portfolio,” she adds. “Designers have areas of expertise just like every other industry.”

Finally, once you’ve selected a designer, trust them.

“They know what they’re doing and, believe it or not, really do have your best interests in mind,” Hackley says.