Logo Design Tips for Beginners

Editor’s note: This post is written by Vlad Shvets for Hongkiat.com. Vlad works for Vectr mentioned in the content.

Every company, freelancer, or independent professional needs a logo. Once you decide that it is time to start a company, the logo design question comes up immediately. Some of us would use the services of a professional designer, however, others who are just getting their feet wet with the business surely wouldn’t be able to afford it.

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As we all face it sooner or later, we have to design a logo ourselves. And, then we panic. Of course, it couldn’t be that hard, but where to start? Do I need to buy any expensive software? How to match the colors?

At Vectr‘s customer support team, we have talked to hundreds of graphic design amateurs working on their logos and know well their struggles. In this article, we will share some universal advice on how to approach logo design if it is the first important graphic design piece you are ever creating.

Structure your work

First of all, structure your work and don’t start doing everything at once. It’s a great idea to do some benchmarking research. Identify the leaders in your industry and check if their logos have something in common.

Then, you have an important choice to make at the beginning, precisely, whether your logo will be iconic, logotype, or a combination of both.

Iconic logos, as the name suggests, are drawn around an icon. You can download some royalty-free icons from directories such as Iconfinder or Flaticon, then modify them into something unique.

If you are aiming for a logotype logo the most important thing is typography. There are multiple pros and cons of serif and sans-serif fonts for logotypes. You can surely choose what fits you the best by playing around with different fonts.

Create a vector logo

You definitely should create your logo in vectors to make sure that it would look good in different sizes. If you were to create your logo in a raster graphics editor don’t forget that it most likely would look distorted and unclear, so it’s definitely not a good idea.

Vector graphics
IMAGE: Wikipedia

Pick the right software

There are some great free and paid vector graphics tools available. One mistake many beginners make is downloading a pirated version of Adobe Illustrator and trying to learn it on the go. That is probably the hardest way to do that.

There are some great free tools such as Inkscape or Vectr with which you can accomplish the same things and are much easier to use.

Don’t use photos

Forget about photos. Photos are pixelated and converting them into vectors would be a wasted effort, as the resulting logo surely wouldn’t look good.

Understand the color wheel

If you want to design a great logo you should be well-equipped with some solid industry research and a vector graphics tool to work with. Before you mess around with some icons and text, make sure you understand how to use colors right.

In the RYB color model, red, yellow, and blue are considered the primary colors. The three secondary colors are green, orange, and purple. They are created by mixing two primary colors. Another six tertiary colors are formed by mixing primary and secondary colors.

Color wheel
IMAGE: Will Kemp Art School
Complementary color schemes

Colors located opposite to each other on the color wheel are called complementary colors. For example, think of red vs. green or blue vs. orange. The high contrast of complementary colors creates a bright and vibrant look, especially at full saturation.

Complementary colors are not very good for text but are good for most logos. For instance, the logotype of Visa is one of these successful logo designs. The design uses blue and (orangish) yellow as complementary colors. Blue and yellow both symbolize wealth, stability, and trust.

Visa logo
Analogous color schemes

Analogous color schemes use colors that are right next to each other on the color wheel. They usually match really well and create natural and good-looking designs. However, be sure to have enough of contrast when using analogous colors.

The logo of McDonald’s is one of the most famous examples for using an analogous color scheme. Red, orange, and light-yellow match really well here. And, it’s a proven fact that the red color makes people hungry—a definitely smart choice from McDonald’s.

McDonald's logo
Triadic color schemes

A triadic color scheme includes colors that are evenly spaced around the color wheel. For example, imagine purple, green, and orange. Triadic color schemes tend to be quite bright, even if you use somewhat pale colors. It can also be a good idea to let one color dominate and use the other two for accent.

For instance, 7-Eleven has a logo with a triadic color scheme. Green is used as the main color and red and orange are for contrast. As a result, the logo is well-balanced and dynamic. Triadic logos work especially well for retail brands.

7eleven logo

Master grids and structure

When designing a logo, always use a grid and pay attention to details. Make sure that the individual parts of your logo, such as letters and icons, are aligned proportionally. Then, your logo would look great in different sizes and compositions.

On the screenshot below, you can see the grid that comes with Vectr.

Grid in Vectr

Strip it back to the basics

Keep it simple. Fancy and complicated logos may look great and meaningful for designers, however for the majority, they may seem confusing and cluttered. What you want to achieve is the instant recognition of your logo by your customers and business partners. Therefore, it’s better to focus on making your logo minimalistic and straightforward.

The famous example of a simple minimalistic logo that made history is Nike. Created by a young designer, Carolyn Davidson in 1971, the image resembles a wing which is a hint for the brand name, Nike, named after the Greek goddess of victory. The logo later evolved into various formats but the core element has always remained same.

Nike logo

Use negative space wisely

Negative space can be both your best friend and worst enemy. Some fonts and shapes create more negative space than others; make sure you balance them wisely.

You can also use negative space very creatively. For instance, FedEx is famous for an almost hidden arrow sign in its logo. Looks good, right?

Fedex logo
IMAGE: The Logo Factory

Last words

Logos design can seem confusing at first but once you understand the basic theory concepts and put enough time into practice, it gets fun pretty quickly. The most important thing is not to be afraid to experiment and to stay curious about new fonts, shapes, and compositions you can use.

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