Best Fonts for Logos: Thoughts On What Makes a Good Logo

best fonts for logosWhen you are working on branding and design, it’s important that you make the right choices when it comes to how you come across. Everything from the colors to the layout of the web pages can make or break your plans for being seen or taken seriously. Things need to be bold and classy, memorable and tasteful. If you go too bold, then it makes the wrong impression. If it is memorable, is it because it was a poor font choice? These are the things that can keep a designer up at night, as they weigh options and explore their choices.

If this is your first endeavor and need some guidance, this class How to Design a Logo, tagged as Beginner’s Course, comes highly rated (five stars!) and covers everything from the beginning brief to how to use basic design tools. If you’re a bit past that point, and just would like some advice, then read on for some font inspiration.

A Logo Gaffe

When it comes to logos, you need to make sure you have a unique look, especially if you are using type exclusively. A few years ago, venerable US clothing brand GAP decided it needed an update to its logo. Here’s the original.

Simply the word GAP on a blue square, it’s easily recognizable and says exactly what the brand’s name is. It’s also conservative and stylish, which describes their clothes perfectly.

Well they got it in their heads to change it up some and tried to modernize it. Here’s the new version.

The internet didn’t take too kindly to the change. Many said it was boring and criticized it as lazy. Why? There are really two reasons here. The first is that GAP’s original logo has been around for more than 20 years. That’s quite a lot of history for brand recognition and makes it instantly recognizable. Secondly, the new design is boring. Even more boring than the original. The font they used is Helvetica, which is probably the most overused font in design.

Because the new logo looked so boring, what was the company trying to convey? They don’t want to stand out? They forgot they were supposed to be stylish? They want you to look like everyone else? Not a good message to send for a clothing brand.

Within days it went back to the former, much loved design.

That’s something to consider when branding your company, that you will build something that will last and represent what you do as a business or service. The class How to Design Your Brand will give you direction in how to approach this task, as well as how to represent yourself on social media and online. Maybe GAP should have taken this class…

Unique but Timeless

Does that mean Helvetica should be avoided if you want a snappy design? No, many very well established brands do. But be aware that it is on a list of the 8 worst fonts as told by designers to Simon Garfield and published in his book Just My Type and as reviewed by Fast Company. Helvetica was consistently pegged as one of the worst by designers, but also highly visible, which explains why its everywhere.

There are a few things to consider when designing a logo. One is what kind of company you are designing the logo for. Is it traditional or does it live online? If it’s meant to be a web-based design, take into consideration that branding needs online can change frequently. Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook, and Google have all changed their logos in the last 10 or so years. If it’s a traditional company, then it needs to be something that can last. Think Coke, McDonald’s, Ford, GE, GAP, Levi’s and so on. Their logos have remained virtually unchanged.

This class, Logo Design Process from Start to Finish, provides a great foundation, establishing from the get go that it’s the client’s goal and vision for their company that will drive this process.

So when it comes to the typeface, that’s the tricky part. Make sure you pick a font that stands out, but is not a novelty. There is a reason Helvetica and Futiger get used so often, because they don’t stand out, they look familiar, and they are easily readable. It’s the same reason that, unless you have a strong design ready that fits what your client needs, you will instantly create a forgettable logo. On the other hand, if you rely on a novelty font that is also instantly recognizable, like Comic Sans, or Brush Script or Papyrus, it will be hard to take your effort seriously.

If you have a serious brand to work with, you need an appropriate typeface. If you have something a bit more creative or trendy, then you can be appropriately creative and trendy. But be careful! Don’t just use something for the sake of using it. Over on bonfx are some great (fictitious) examples for how important your choice of font is, especially when you want to represent a brand or an idea. Ransom for child care? Curlz for a Harley Davidson biker club? No.

Mix Fonts

You can also mix fonts, but make sure it’s done in a way that reinforces what the brand is about. Use a bold, creative font to make the name stand out, but also another clean font to emphasize professionalism.

Also, you can use one font that illustrates the chief concept of the brand and another subdued font for contrast. Folks will remember the name and make a connection between the brand name and its representation.

Another great resource is this list of 25 fonts that have a timeless quality and are useful for any and every designer if you need some more food for thought.

If you already have some experience in design, Advanced Design of Logos and Brand Identity is a class that has a little more meat to it. It is unique in that it gives real world examples of logo development, so you can see some specific examples of how some fonts change, from concept to finished design.

So when you look at possible fonts for logos, make sure you balance not only the tried and true, but also take some risks. Just be sure they aren’t too far out there, and you’re sure to hit the right look and feel with your choices!