Your logo is the first thing people see when they come in contact with your brand. Ideally, a logo is a visually memorable reflection of your brand identity, one that serves as a touchstone for your target customer to reference. With all that at stake, it’s no wonder big companies often spend big money on their logo design. Fortunately, you don’t need to hire an expensive professional designer to create a good logo.
Need proof? In 1971, Nike co-founder Phil Knight — then an accounting instructor at Portland State University — hired to a graphic design student who was looking for extra cash to create the company’s official logo. The student, Carolyn Davidson, designed the famed Swoosh by drawing inspiration from Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. Knight ultimately paid her 35 dollars.
So channel your inner Carolyn Davidson and use this helpful guide to learn how to create a logo for your brand. Who knows? You might just end up creating one of the most iconic logos in the world.
7 tips for creating a professional logo from scratch
Whether you need a logo for your new podcast, your YouTube channel, or any other creative endeavor, you don’t want to just throw something together willy-nilly. We’ve got you covered with useful tips to help you approach the logo design process thoroughly and thoughtfully.
- Define your brand’s purpose. Before you dive into design work, take some time to unpack what makes your brand special and what differentiates you from your competitors. Make a list of words that describe your brand and how you want people to feel when they encounter it. If you’re stuck, try to think about what inspired you to create your brand in the first place. In addition to jotting down words that describe what your brand is, it’s equally helpful to describe what your brand is not. Once you have a good grasp of your brand’s purpose, use that to inform your design process.
- Create a mood board. Begin brainstorming logo ideas with a completely open mind. Try generating ideas using a mood board, which may consist of specific visual elements like photos and font styles, plus more ambiguous elements like color combinations and shapes. Write down every idea that comes to mind, even concepts that don’t speak to you initially — a mediocre idea can inspire a brilliant one. Plus, you never know if your opinion might shift; Knight said he wasn’t in love with the Swoosh design at first, and look at how that story ended.
- Look to other logos for inspiration. There’s no better way to spark your imagination than by taking a look at as many different types of logos as you can, including those of your competition. First, take note of what you like and dislike. Then, think about ways you can use your brand identity as a filter to put your own spin on styles that speak to you. For instance, say you’re creating a logo for a podcast about LGBTQ+ characters in cinema. You could reference a bunch of logos for movie-themed podcasts, discover what elements make those logos successful, and then ponder how you can put an LGBTQ+ spin on those elements to develop something distinctive.
- Find a design platform that works for you. If you’re working with a limited budget, there are plenty of free online logo makers to explore — from platforms that specialize in logo templates like Looka, to generic graphic design platforms like Canva. If you already have some graphic design skills (and a bigger budget), you might benefit from using more advanced software like Adobe Illustrator.
- Create alternate versions of your logo. Once you’ve created your primary design, draft a few different versions of your logo in other layouts and color combinations. This makes your logo much more versatile. Going back to the earlier example of a podcast logo, you might think you only need a square logo since that’s the shape of cover art on all the major podcasting platforms. However, you’ll need logo files sized for other purposes as well, including profile and banner images for different social media platforms. If you plan to sell merch with your logo on it, you might want to create design variations that work on both light and dark backgrounds. This could be as easy as changing your color font, or you may need to design a logo with a totally different color palette.
- Choose distinctive typography. If you plan to use text in your logo, choose a font that matches your brand. In general, serif fonts have a more dignified and old-timey feel, while sans serif fonts give off a more modern and sleek impression. You can even think outside the box and incorporate a deeper meaning into your typography. For example, Baskin-Robbins cleverly hid the number 31 (the number of ice cream flavors they originally offered) into their current “BR” logo.
- Ask for feedback. You may think you’ve designed a brilliant logo, but you can’t be sure until you’ve done some market research. Whether you ask a group of friends or coworkers for their opinions or go out into the wider world to gather feedback from strangers is up to you. Just make sure you look for a diverse mix of perspectives so you don’t miss any potential faults. Poll your feedback group about what they like and dislike about the logo’s design elements, and ask them to describe how they’d perceive a brand with that logo. If their perceptions don’t match your brand identity, you may need to take their feedback and go back to the drawing board.
Now that you’ve created a professional logo, it’s time to show it off. Look for all the areas of your brand where you can put it to good use — your website, social media pages, business cards, email signature, etc. And remember, it’s okay to reevaluate your logo over time. If your brand identity ever changes, you likely want to consider changing your logo as well.
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