Designing a logo is a complicated, multi-step process. It’s one of those rare enterprises that combines art with commerce. The logo is the most visible part of a brand. Consequently, quality logo designers are in huge demand and can command hundreds of dollars for their work.
In this tutorial, we will take a look at how the logo design process works and consider some tips and tricks to designing a logo in Photoshop. You can learn more about logo designing in this step-by-step course on the logo design process.
The Design Process
The logo design process is mostly linear: a client relates his requirements, you send over a few initial design ideas, the client okays an idea (or requests more designs), and you create the final design. Of course, depending on the nature of the work, there might be many intermediary steps as well, but for most projects, the logo design process will follow this progression:
Client Brief: The first step in the logo design is the client consultation. This is where the client lays down his requirements. Some clients will have well-formulated, exact requirements (“I want a blue globe with the company name in thin black font”). Some will be vague (“I want something geometric”) and you will have to provide your own inputs. Regardless, your job as a logo designer is to create something that stays as close to the client’s requirements, even if it clashes with your own aesthetic sensibilities. The art, in logo design, must stay subservient to business requirements.
Sketching and Concept Work: Before you jump into Photoshop, it’s a good idea to sketch out your ideas on pen and paper. You have limitless freedom here; think as far outside the box as you can. Come up with a few rough designs that can then be translated into more concrete designs.
Second Consultation: After you have a few rough designs, it’s time for show and tell. This is where you ask the client for his inputs on the rough sketches, whether something piques his fancy, and the direction for future designs. This is an important step in the design process; it helps you learn more about what the client wants, and gives the client more insight into what he wants.
Making the Design: After the second consultation, you will have a fairly good idea of where to run with the design. This is where you fire up Illustrator/Photoshop and hammer out a more concrete design. It’s common to create multiple versions of the same design in different colors and typefaces.
Third Consultation: This is usually the final consultation before delivery. The client now has access to concrete, fully-realized designs and can point out a typeface/color preference or request more revisions.
Delivery: Based on the third consultation, you might have to make a few minor revisions or pack up everything for final delivery. Depending on your policies (and client requirements), you might have to include multiple versions of the same design, along with PSDs and typefaces. This is also the time to upsell the client additional design work – visiting cards, stationery, etc. – before getting paid.
Now that you know what the logo design process looks like, let’s see what different types of logos look like
Types of Logos
All logos can be divided into three categories:
1. Wordmark Logos: A wordmark logo is composed only of text, usually with some stylistic enhancements. Some of the most famous logos in the world fall under this category – Google, Facebook, Disney, IBM, CNN, etc.
2. Iconic Logo: This is a logo that contains a single icon or shape. This is the most common logo-type among the world’s top brands. Disney, Apple, Nike, Adidas, etc. all use versions of iconic logos.
3. Combination Mark Logos: These are logos that combine text with some iconic imagery. A number of famous logos fall under this category, such as Starbucks, AT&T, Sprint, HP, etc.
Now that we know what different types of logos look like, we can proceed with our logo creation process.
Designing the Logo
Unless your client explicitly wants a wordmark type logo, you will have to create some sort of shape or icon for your logo. This can be a creatively challenging exercise, especially in projects where the client isn’t sure of his own requirements. Step #2 outlined above – sketching and conceptualizing – is crucial to creating an effective, relatable icon design.
As we discovered in an earlier blog post on logo design, translating ideas into Photoshop can be a messy affair, especially for more complicated designs (you can learn more about mastering Photoshop in this quick start guide).
On that note, let’s consider a few tricks you can use to make the logo icon design process easier:
One of the easiest ways to make your logos pop is to add some free vectors to the design.
Let’s look at an example: this is a pure typographic logo:
Fairly dull, you would agree. But by adding this simple vector:
Followed by some duplicated shapes and color overlays, we can arrive at something far more workable, like this:
Granted, it won’t win any design awards, but it shows how you can leverage vectors to create logos that are a bit more than ‘meh’.
You can purchase stock vectors from sites like VectorStock.com, or create your own using the pen tool. You can learn how to master the pen tool and other Photoshop features in this course on mastering Photoshop fundamentals.
Use Typefaces Effectively
With the number of free fonts available today, you have no reason to stick to the staid and boring Arial, Georgia and Impact. The design diktat for 2013 is thin, sans-serif fonts – a practice even the design gurus as Apple have embraced with iOS 7. On that note, let’s take a look at some great free thin fonts, courtesy of Google Fonts:
4. Advent Pro
5. Open Sans
Use Color Selectively
The digital medium means you have limitless choices when it comes to picking colors. The truth, however, is that your choice of colors will depend on two factors:
The client brief
How well the color translates to different mediums
Colors don’t have aesthetic value alone; as per color psychology, different colors can have different psychological effects on the viewer. Chiefly:
Red is associated with power, vitality, energy and warmth. It is also the color associated with food (which is why the abundance of red in restaurant logos). It can also be associated with aggression and pain.
Blue is the color of the sky, hence associated with coolness, space and serenity. It is also the color of communication and intellectual pursuits (hence the AT&T, IBM, and HP logos). On the negative side, blue can be associated with aloofness and unfriendliness.
Yellow symbolizes optimism, creativity and friendliness. It is the color of the sun, which is why it is usually associated with positive qualities. Too much yellow, however, can manifest itself as fear and anxiety.
Green is the color of nature, hence, it is typically associated with balance, harmony and a state of mental peace.
Black: Black is both the color of classy tuxedos and grungy heavy metal t-shirts. It can convey class and sophistication as well as aggression, coldness and a feeling of ‘heaviness’. Use black very cautiously in your designs.
Orange, like yellow, is associated with warmth and optimism. It is also the color of a number of fruits (orange, papaya, mango, etc.).
Violet is associated with sensuality, luxury, and superior quality. Too much of it, however, can come across as tacky and cheesy.
At the same time, you must use colors that are pertinent to the client’s industry. Bright, bold colors might be great for a fashion brand for 18-30 year olds, not so great for a B2B startup. You must also take into account where the logo will primarily be used. If it’ll be used on the web, for instance, you can play around with colors. If it’ll be largely used in print, especially black & white prints, then you might want to consider something that translates well in grayscale.
Logo design is a complicated process. This tutorial barely scratches the surface of this art. You can learn more about creating effective logos in this beginner’s guide to designing logos.