If you think logo design is easy, you’re probably not a designer. Even for seasoned pros, designing a beautiful and practical logo is a tough creative challenge. It’s a tedious process that requires a ton of research, expertise, and forethought. (That’s why we can guarantee that outsourcing the job to an intern or CEO’s nephew pretty much never turns out well.)
But even a highly skilled designer can run into trouble. Small mistakes and simple oversights can easily sabotage the logo design process—and the final design—without you even realizing it. That’s why it’s important to know what to avoid from the get-go.
The 7 Biggest Mistakes in Logo Design
We’ve had plenty of experience designing logos, so we know what makes a designer’s life easier. To help you avoid those rookie mistakes, here’s everything that can derail your design, plus our best tips and tricks to get you through the process.
1) Confusing Your Terminology
Whether you’re a brand or a designer, if you want any creative project to go smoothly, you need everyone to be on the same page and speak the same language. Thus, it’s important to use the right terminology. The word “logo” has become a catch-all term for any image related to a brand, but in logo design, there are specific definitions for a logomark, wordmark, or combination mark.
Logomark: The image that represents a brand (e.g., Nike’s swoosh or Apple’s apple). For Column Five, it’s this:
Logotype/wordmark: A brand name in a styled font (e.g., Coca-Cola’s elaborate script or Gucci’s clean font).
Combination mark: Both the image and the styled brand name together (e.g., Puma).
For the sake of flexibility and versatility, it’s more common for companies to have all three. Oftentimes, when people refer to logo, they mean a combination mark. When you craft your creative brief, make sure these elements are clearly specified.
2) Not Doing Enough Research
This is the first misstep in any logo design project. Logo design is fundamentally a communication challenge. How do you capture and communicate a brand’s essence through imagery? To do this well, you need to have a deep understanding of exactly what it is you’re trying to communicate (or avoid communicating). The more knowledge you have, the better you can do this.
Rookie designers (or impatient brands) will sometimes dive into the brainstorm stage without the proper brand education. This always results in a weak logo that doesn’t accurately represent or reflect the brand.
To make sure you have as much knowledge as possible, conduct a brand audit survey that clearly details your brand goals and objectives. Once you have this info, you can write a strong creative brief that will keep your team on the same page.
3) Using the Same Typography for Your Wordmark and Brand Content
If your brand is keeping it simple and designing just a wordmark, the instinct is to keep it simple and clean. That makes sense, but you don’t want to use an untouched typeface for your wordmark (e.g, Arial, 12 point). Why? Because your wordmark should be distinctive, unique, and a representation of your brand’s visual language.
Sure, you can use a typeface as the basic inspiration (and the typeface you choose for your brand should complement your wordmark well), but it should be customized in some way. (For more tips on selecting typography for your brand, check out this guide.)
4) Making an Inflexible Logo
Your logo will be used in many ways, in many mediums. It should work well in print, online, and at different sizes (e.g., your website favicon). If your logo is too complicated, it won’t render well at smaller sizes. If it’s too generic, it won’t be distinctive enough to grab attention.
A good logo is future-proof, meaning that it will grow with your brand and work for as many use cases as necessary.
5) Including Inappropriate Imagery (You Didn’t Even Know Was There)
The devil is in the details, especially when it comes to design. Some brands do this well, using things like symbols in white space to reinforce their brand message. The subtle arrow in the FedEx logo is a great example (you can see it in the white space between the E and X):
However, this can backfire. While these things are usually unintentional, keep an eye out for issues like overly phallic shapes, inappropriate or inoffensive symbols in white space, etc.
Note: When you’re so immersed in a project, it can be hard to see any issue. That’s why we always recommend a sanity check from someone with fresh eyes.
6) Falling Victim to Hivemind
You want your logo to be unique and distinctive. Still, it’s easy to get sidetracked by design trends or even industry standards. This has become especially true in recent years, as entire industries have started to homogenize.
For example, type designer James Edmonson of Oh No Type Co points out the similarities in these popular brand logos:
EVERYBODY FALL IN LINE! pic.twitter.com/B9JU5nvpMu
— OH no Type Co (@OHnoTypeCo) February 13, 2018
Remember that you’re trying to solve a communication problem. Your designers should be able to justify why every element and aesthetic choice supports your brand goals.
7) Not Following an Intuitive Process
If you tell your team to just start brainstorming some ideas, you might end up with 3 or 300 ideas. If you tell your team to choose one (with no guidelines, rubric, or reasoning), it may be impossible for your team to narrow it down. The result? You go into endless rounds of fruitless iteration.
To save everyone’s sanity, from project manager to designer, it’s imperative to have a clear, intuitive process that helps you create a strong logo that works for you. Not sure where to start? Follow our step-by-step guide to create a logo with less stress.
Remember: Your Visual Identity Is More Than Your Logo
While your logo may be the most recognizable element of your visual identity, there are many other ways to communicate who you are and what you’re about. From your brand colors to typography, make sure you have a fully fleshed out visual identity.