How to Design a Logo [Step-by-Step Guide]

A great logo is instantly recognizable, memorable, and closely connected to your brand’s core values and ideas. Think of iconic logos like Apple, Coca-Cola, and Nike. Logos like these are simple and elegant yet bold enough to leave a lasting impression.

designer makes a logo sketch on an ipad

When designing your logo, you can make a powerful impact on how your brand is perceived. Designing a timeless logo is challenging, but we’re here to help. To get your logo right, you’ll need to have a firm grasp of your market, buyer personas, and your company’s ethos.

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Read on for logo design best practices, helpful tools, and a step-by-step guide to creating the perfect logo.

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Types of Logos

With millions of logos worldwide, you may be surprised that they all fit into one of seven main categories.

Each logo type has its characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses, so choose the variety that best aligns with your brand values and goals when designing your logo.

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1. Emblems

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An emblem is a traditional type of logo that consists of text integrated within a symbol or icon to create a unified image.

Emblems have an official, formal look that gives off an air of cohesion and strength. They work well for brands like Harvard that wish to communicate their rich history and traditional values.

Pros

  • Forms a unified image that can be strong and impactful
  • Typically perceived as formal or classic

Cons

  • The combination of symbol and text can be difficult to separate for integration into other design assets
  • Complex emblems may not reproduce well at small sizes

2. Pictorial Marks (or Logo Symbols)

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Pictorial marks, or logo symbols, are icon or graphic-based logos. A logo symbol omits text and relies on a single image to represent the brand. These types of logos can be iconic and memorable.

Other examples include Target’s bullseye and Starbucks’ siren.

Pros

  • It can be understood across all languages and cultures
  • Simple and effective

Cons

  • Brand recognition can be more challenging to establish without any text
  • Logo symbols must be chosen wisely and may or may not connect to the brand’s purpose

3. Wordmarks (or Logotypes)

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Wordmarks are text-based logos that use font selection, typography, and color to turn the brand name into a logo. Wordmarks often work well with companies with unique, catchy names, such as Google, Coca-Cola, and Disney.

Pros

  • Simplicity
  • Easy to incorporate into other design assets

Cons

  • It can be challenging to create a unique, memorable logo with only text
  • Not suited for longer or less unique company names

4. Monogram Logos (or Lettermarks)

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Monogram logos, also known as lettermarks, are another typography-based logo.

Unlike wordmarks that use the entire brand name, monograms typically use initials to create a streamlined logo for companies with longer names.

Other examples include HBO (Home Box Office) and IBM (International Business Machines).

Pros

  • Concise and easy to remember
  • Easily scalable

Cons

  • You may need to place the full brand name below it until recognition is achieved
  • It can be confusing if initials match another brand

5. Abstract Logo Marks

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Abstract logos are unique pictorial representations of a brand. What is the Pepsi logo, anyway?

Unlike Apple and Target, whose logos represent real-life things (an apple and a bullseye), Pepsi’s logo is an abstract representation of the brand that doesn’t rely on any specific, real-life image.

Instead, it uses a combination of geometric forms and colors to cultivate the meaning and emotion of the brand.

Pros

  • Inherently unique and challenging to mimic
  • Can communicate complex ideas with simple shapes and colors

Cons

  • Their abstract nature leaves them open to interpretation (and misinterpretation)
  • Logo meaning may be unclear, especially for unestablished brands

6. Mascot Logos

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Mascot logos typically involve an illustrated character to create a fun, cartoonish, and friendly personification of a brand. Brands that choose to go with a mascot logo usually seek a light-hearted and family-friendly image.

Other examples of brand mascots include the Kool-Aid Man, Mr. Peanut, and the Pillsbury Doughboy.

Pros

  • Mascots are inviting and approachable, which helps cultivate a family-friendly brand image
  • Allows for a high level of control over brand storytelling

Cons

  • Not suitable for brands with a serious or corporate image
  • It can be complex from a design perspective, making reproduction at smaller sizes a challenge

7. Combination Marks

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A combination mark is a logo that combines text and an icon. It can be either a wordmark or a lettermark combined with an abstract mark, a pictorial mark, or a mascot.

A combination mark is a versatile choice that allows you to present your brand name for easy recognition while also taking advantage of a memorable icon or image.

Pros

  • Allows for many variations of your logo, such as text-only and image-only
  • The combination of image and text makes the brand message very clear

Cons

  • It can be complex and may not scale down well
  • It can appear overly busy if not thoughtfully designed

How to Design a Logo

Designing a logo that embodies your brand can help you grow better, but doing it right is just as important. Here’s how to design the perfect logo, step-by-step.

  1. Understand your brand.
  2. Brainstorm words that describe your brand.
  3. Sketch ideas based on these words.
  4. Test your top sketches with your buyer persona.
  5. Refine your chosen sketch.
  6. Develop your logo’s layout on a free design platform.
  7. Pick versatile color options.
  8. Choose a font.
  9. Ensure scalability.

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1. Understand your brand.

The first step to designing your logo is understanding your brand. Before you think about opening Canva or starting a sketch, you must pinpoint your brand’s story and the specific values and emotions you want to synthesize in your logo.

This process involves the exploration of your target audience, your buyer personas, and, most importantly, how you want people to feel when they perceive your logo.

“It’s through mistakes that you actually can grow. You have to get bad in order to get good.” – Paula Scher

Graphic design icon Paula Scher hits the nail on the head with the above quote.

Distilling your brand story into a logo will be a challenge, and you should expect mistakes along the way. Don’t be afraid to experiment and explore when conceiving a logo that matches your brand.

2. Brainstorm words that describe your brand.

Use tools like Thesaurus.com to discover synonyms and other words that describe your brand’s central theme. Aim to choose five to ten words that best describe your brand’s ethos and use them to guide your logo design.

For example, if you‘re in the clothing industry, you might simply type in “clothing.” You’d be surprised by how descriptive the synonyms are that appear.

ou can even click these results to start new searches and dig deeper as you zero in on the words that best capture your brand.

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3. Create some sketches.

Now is the time to create some rough sketches. Allow your brand story and keywords to guide you and make some initial logo ideas.

Remember, these are your first drafts. The important thing is to get the ideas out of your head and onto the paper, so trust the process and just let the ideas flow. You’ll have the opportunity to refine your ideas later.

“The beauty of a first draft lies in its imperfections; it’s the starting point for refining ideas and finding the perfect balance.” – David Airey

Logo designer David Airey knows a thing or two about sketching. Embrace the imperfections of your first drafts and let your creativity flow!

As you’re sketching the concepts for your logo, keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep the shape simple. You’re in good shape if you can sketch the most symbolic components in seven seconds or less.
  • Avoid any popular clip-art artwork or generic symbols like a globe, star, or similar icons that people too quickly identify from other places.
  • Be strategic about your use of color. Consider today’s color trends as well as popular colors in your industry. As a general rule, don’t choose more than three colors. Choose a color or group of colors that will make you stand out from your competition, but please, for the love of marketing, don’t use the whole rainbow!

4. Choose a sketch and refine it.

Now that you have some sketches, pick the one that speaks to you most and put on your thinking cap.

“Design is thinking made visual.”Saul Bass

Make a deep effort to reflect on your brainstorming words and brand story and visualize your thoughts. Use your mental efforts to refine your logo sketch into a meaningful, deep, relatable design that ties back to your brand’s core values.

Easier said than done, but this is where the heavy lifting comes in.

5. Develop your logo’s layout on a free design platform.

If you’ve been working on paper until now, now is the time to bring your design to the computer and create a layout. Your logo layout is how individual elements of your logo are organized and positioned in relation to each other.

Here are some free tools you can use to scan your sketch and start creating a layout:

Proper alignment of your logo is the key here. Your logo doesn’t need to be perfectly symmetrical, but it should appear visually balanced.

“Whitespace is like air: it is necessary for design to breathe.” – Wojciech Zieliński

The whitespace between different elements of your logo is the unsung hero of your design and the secret you must uncover in this step of the process.

Strive for a crisp, balanced logo where everything feels like it’s in the right place. If your design looks great in black and white, then you know you have a well-balanced logo.

6. Choose your colors.

The color palette you choose for your logo says a lot about your brand.

For example, blue communicates trustworthiness and maturity, while red shows passion and excitement. Consider your brand story and the keywords you brainstormed earlier when choosing your logo colors.

“When you choose a new color palette, 60% of the palette should be dedicated to one color (usually, it’s a neutral color), another (complementary) color makes up 30% of the palette, and a third color (accent) is used for the remaining 10% of the design.” – Nick Babich

Product designer Nick Babich drops some wisdom about the three-color rule in design. You don’t need to choose multiple colors for your logo, but if you decide to go the multicolor route, keep everything harmonious by following this design principle.

7. Choose a font.

Now it’s time to combine text with imagery.

Consider the typeface this text will carry if your company name ever stands without your logo. If you decide on a wordmark or lettermark logo as opposed to a symbol, your font choice is even more crucial.

Believe it or not, your font choice can say a lot about your business. You can choose a font that’s either serif (with stems on each letter) or sans serif (no stems) — also known as classic or modern, respectively.

Stay away from generic fonts that come standard on every word processor. Some examples of generic fonts are Times New Roman, Lucida Handwriting, and Comic Sans. These fonts will only work against you and your company by making you less memorable.

“Display type is a visual voice. Without reading, it imparts its message.” – Laura Worthington

Designer and typography guru Laura Worthington hits the nail on the head regarding the importance of font selection. Your font choice goes beyond just conveying information as text; it is a crucial aspect of your design.

8. Ensure scalability.

Logos are meant to represent your company on multiple platforms — in print, on your website, on each of your social media business pages, and across the internet as your business grows.

You want a logo that can be blown up super large for a billboard or scaled down for screening onto the side of a pen.

Every part of your logo should be legible, regardless of the logo’s size.

9. Get feedback.

“There are three responses to a piece of design — yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.”Milton Glaser

Once you feel your logo design is ready, consider sharing it with others and seeking constructive feedback.

Of course, you can seek input at any point in the process, but it is precious to get people’s reactions to your realized vision and reiterate from there.

Whew — still with us? We know this might seem a little overwhelming, but take it slow and don’t rush yourself.

It’s better to follow the process through to completion and end with a remarkable logo than to start over a few months later due to a design error or change of heart.

Once you’ve completed your logo, how can you tell if you scored a winner? Easy: Use our Logo Grader to assess the sustainability and effectiveness of your new logo.

Logo Design Best Practices

1. Keep it simple.

Simplicity is key in logo design. Aim for a clean, uncluttered design that communicates your brand identity as straightforwardly as possible. The goal is for viewers to recognize and understand your logo instantly.

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Take Nike’s logo, for example. Its simplicity makes it iconic. There’s a reason they haven’t updated it since 1995.

2. Prioritize versatility.

Your logo should be versatile enough to work across various backgrounds and colors. Test your logo against multiple backgrounds and mediums to ensure legibility and clarity in all possible scenarios.

That means you should have alternate color palettes and logo orientations to suit any situation.

3. Design for your audience.

Your logo design should be consistent with how you perceive your brand and how your customers already perceive it.

You must consider your target audience’s buyer persona by researching their demographics and interests. Only then can you serve their expectations and needs in your design.

4. Be original.

Standing out from the pack is essential. Today, almost every market is saturated with competition and options. The design of your logo is as vital to carving out your niche as creating a unique value proposition.

Avoid generic logo designs and cliché symbols that are easily spotted elsewhere. For example, globe-based logos are a dime a dozen:

5. Be timeless.

Your logo should be iconic and timeless. Easy enough, right? Epochal logos like Coca-Cola’s are as rare as they are significant, but that doesn’t mean you can’t aim for a timeless logo as well.

A timeless logo means that it will never go out of style.

One way to ensure that is to steer clear of today’s hottest design trends (which will go out of style sooner or later). Instead, opt for a simple, classic design that would be comfortable representing your brand for years to come.

Logo Design Tools

1. Canva

Canva is an all-in-one, web-based graphic design tool that you can use to design anything you can think of, including logos. Anybody can use Canva’s intuitive drag-and-drop interface and extensive library of templates and design assets.

Best for: Beginner designers and small business owners who desire a hands-on approach to logo creation.

Pricing: Free plans are available. Canva pro costs $12.99 monthly. Canva teams costs $14.99 monthly for up to five users.

2. Adobe Illustrator

Illustrator is the industry-leading, vector-based graphics software from Adobe, the maker of other popular tools like Photoshop, Lightroom, and InDesign.

Illustrator is a staple for many professional design groups and can be used to create professional logos and limitless other designs.

Illustrator is vector-based, meaning graphics are made of points, lines, shapes, and curves based on mathematical formulas rather than a set amount of pixels.

Accordingly, an Illustrator logo can be scaled up or down while maintaining image quality.

Best for: Experienced design professionals and agencies that require powerful features and ultimate customization and control.

Pricing: Plans start at $20.99 monthly.

3. Hatchful

Hatchful is a fast and easy-to-use logo-maker tool from Shopify. The tool will ask you questions about your company’s industry, preferred visual style, brand name, and where you expect to use the logo (print, digital, etc.).

Using the provided information, Hatchful will automatically generate a slew of logo options, which you can select and further customize.

Best for: Entrepreneurs and small business owners looking to create a high-quality logo with minimal design effort quickly.

Pricing: Free.

4. Squarespace Logo Creator

Squarespace’s logo creator tool lets you quickly generate a clean-looking logo for your business. The logos that this tool empowers you to create are consistent with the modern and minimal aesthetic that Squarespace is known for.

Input your business name, and Squarespace allows you to serve it up in a beautiful font alongside an icon of your choice. The tool has thousands of vectorized icons and a curated selection of high-quality fonts.

Best for: Entrepreneurs and small businesses looking to quickly create a clean, minimal logo.

Pricing: Free.

5. Looka

Anyone can design a logo using Looka’s AI-powered logo creation engine. Input your brand name and industry, select your favorite colors, and pick some example logos that speak to you.

Based on your input data, Looka will generate an AI-curated selection of logos. Choose one and customize it to your heart’s content.

Best for: Entrepreneurs and small business owners without design experience who won’t compromise on the quality of their logo.

Pricing: A basic logo package costs $20 for a one-time purchase. A premium logo package is a $65 one-time purchase

6. CorelDRAW

CorelDRAW is a fully loaded, desktop-based vector design program that runs on Windows and macOS.

CorelDRAW is an alternative to Adobe Illustrator that offers nearly all the same functionality and allows you to transform sketches and ideas into fully-fledged logos.

Since you can purchase CorelDRAW outright instead of as a subscription, it can be a more budget-friendly choice than Adobe.

Best for: Professionals and experienced designers who require a complete design toolkit.

Pricing: Plans cost $19.08 monthly or $464 for a one-time purchase.

7. Affinity Designer

Affinity Designer is another fully-featured desktop alternative to Adobe Illustrator that runs on macOS, Windows, and iPad.

It is considerably more budget-friendly than alternatives. It features a slick, dark UI, fast performance, and all the features a professional designer needs to create logos and other design assets.

Best for: Professional designers and agencies looking for a fully featured, budget-friendly alternative to Adobe.

Pricing: Affinity Designer is a $69.99 one-time payment.

Designing a Logo for Your Brand

Now that you know about the types of logos, the process for creating one, best practices, and some tools you can use, get started crafting the perfect logo for your brand.

Create a logo that captures your audience’s attention, communicates your brand values, and makes you stand out from the crowd.

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