Expert tips for creating on-brand logos that inform and captivate

Sarah Robinson
Sarah Robinson

Logo design is one of the most important aspects of launching a business’s brand. It’s the face of the company, and graphic designers are tasked with creating logos that are both captivating to potential customers, as well as informative of the business. Here, three leading graphic design companies discuss their experiences creating logos for local and national businesses.

Graphic designers work on a broad range of marketing campaigns for businesses. But perhaps the most high stakes part of a designer’s job is creating logos for their client. A good logo will represent their brand, captivate potential clients, and communicate the business’s goals. That’s a lot of impact from one little image.

The importance of a well-designed logo

“Logos are the basis for a message well conveyed,” says Eliel de Oliveira, graphic designer, web developer, and co-founder of OA Branding, LLC, a design firm based out of Altamonte Springs, Florida. “There are plenty of cheap services that will create logos for companies that look like every other logo on the market already, but a good graphic designer will take into account what the client wants, what the business is, and then create a unique logo based on those factors.”

A good logo does a lot of work. And a good designer ensures they design with the business in mind.

“Excellent branding remains the cornerstone of any good marketing strategy,” says Clare Richards, Creative Services Manager at Leighton Interactive, a marketing agency operating out of St. Cloud, Minnesota.

“A great brand is built from many components, of which the logo is a vital piece. Creating a unique, easily identified logo is key to building a strong brand.”

Logos are the key to any brand strategy, and designers are tasked with finding the perfect foundation for a company’s marketing campaign. “You need a logo that gives as much information as possible through a visual aid. A potential customer should be able to look at a logo and find it appealing, not distracting,” says Cassy Roop, owner of Pink Ink Designs.

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Most importantly, the logo needs to successfully stand on its own on every platform, including websites, social media, print material, and more. However, it still needs to be a cohesive part of the brand strategy as a whole, working with other components of the marketing done by the business. “It needs to be powerful enough to stand on its own but work well within other brand pieces,” says Richards.

So how, exactly, can you create a logo that incorporates all those needs?

Communicating visually

A logo’s most important task is communicating the business—its purpose and its personality. Matching a logo design to the type of business it’s for is an important task for any designer.

Oliveira gives the example of a logo designed for his local gym. “The logo and colors were vividly applied, transmitting energy, power, and movement,” he says. The importance of matching the elements of the business to the elements in the design allow for this cohesion. “The use of colors needs to be carefully studied in preparation for designing logos,” he continues. “People automatically connect colors and shapes to ideas and messages. What message do you want to convey?”

Recognition is a key component in a visual aid.

“A logo should be automatically associated with that brand when seen by potential customers, recognized by it even,” Roop says. Building a design around factors that capture a customer’s eye will not only help the business gain customers, but help the designer sell the logo to the client.

DC Branding Palette by Pink Ink Designs
Branding palette for Double-Clutch Proofreading and Copyediting by Pink Ink Designs

The colors and stylistic elements used in a logo need to capture the client’s desires, the business type, and the target audience. Making the correct decisions on color, typography, shape, and more can be the make-it or break-it components to a design.

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4 simple steps to creating an on-brand logo

Every designer and design firm has their own unique process for how they design a logo. But evem factoring in all those differences, it breaks down into four simple categories: Listening, Gathering, Designing, and Editing.

Step 1: Listening to the client

Understanding the business is the most essential part to the design process when it comes to creating on-brand logos. “It is difficult to sell the idea of a logo to a company when all the logo represents is a vague idea, or just a random combination of shapes, fonts, and colors,” says Oliveira.

Richards agrees. “Our design process for logo creation changes based on client need, but always starts with foundational digging.” She explains this involves an in-depth discovery session to uncover what the client wants to achieve, what resonates with the client’s target audience, and specifically understanding what the business is about.

Leighton Interactive - Logo Examples
Logos designed by Leighton Interactive

It’s entirely possible that the customer won’t be able to answer these questions. “Some clients don’t know what they want and therefore give me free reign,” Roop says. “I get to be as creative as I want to be then and make a few mock ups to give the client a variety of ideas that we can start to narrow down.”

She also clarifies that in these scenarios, a designer can learn what a client needs through other avenues as well. “I will look through a client’s website and social media to get an idea of their likes and dislikes. I look at their products and then the design will pair with the theme of who they are.” This particularly makes sense with clients who struggle to verbalize their needs. Their online presence is another way to gain insights about their personal style; it’s another way of listening to what the client wants.

But whether the client has a strong concept in place ready to go, or they’re completely unsure of what they’d like, the designer needs to be able to listen to their needs and the needs of the client’s customers to be able to determine the best direction.

Step 2: Gathering the research

Once the designer understands the business and the client’s needs, it’s time to do the research! “This phase is very important because customers want their logos to be unique, and to stand out from other logos representing the same area of business,” Oliveira says. “Stay away from overused design elements, or cliché ideas. It needs to be fresh and unique.”

If designing for an industrial organization, try to avoid abstract designs that convey a more artistic vibe, or vice versa. The style of the logo needs to match the theme and the field of the business, while still being unique to that particular business. “When someone looks to hire a lawyer, they are looking for someone organized, professional and upstanding,” Roop says. “They most likely wouldn’t hire a lawyer whose business card looks like it represents a kindergarten.”

Richards explains Leighton Interactive’s process: they start with in-depth competitor research to identify the current market, then determine how they can differentiate the client’s brand from what’s already out there. “Research and data gathering in the form of online digging, market research, customer interviews, and employee interviews are key to foundational gathering,” Richards says. “Don’t go straight into designing. Do some research, see what their competitors are doing, and base your concept on data.”

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Not only is it important to research what’s already out there, but it’s important in this phase to gather inspiration. “All ideas are welcome,” Oliveira describes the brainstorming part of his design process as one of the most important. He goes on to describe it as a team-wide collaboration that utilizes the best ideas from each member and combines it into an amazing end result.

Inspiration isn’t all research, either: it can be found in everyday places. Roop finds inspiration in music, movies, quotes, and other images. “It would be easier to list things that don’t inspire me,” she says. She also emphasizes the importance of combing through the client’s personal and professional websites and social media to be ‘inspired’ by who the client is and what their tastes are.

Step 3: Designing the logo

Fully prepared with the market research and a comprehensive understanding of the client’s wants, it’s finally time to actually create the product, or, more accurately, products. Designers often prepare several logo options to present to the client, which can be similar with small variations, or vastly different concepts.

These final options are what is narrowed down after the dozens of original options that the designer begins with on their own. “Sometimes of hundreds of small variations to drill down on the best possible solution. This is where extreme attention to detail is needed,” Richards says. “Small tweaks in the typography or logo mark can make the difference between a subpar or great logo.”

It’s also important while designing to lean heavily on the first two steps—the needs of the client and the research found—while also turning to focus groups and client samples to evaluate the design. “Sometimes we take the logos to the street and ask strangers to evaluate the effectiveness of our logo and give feedback,” Oliveira says. “Having an unbiased set of eyes can be a great tool.”

OA Branding Logo Examples
Logos designed by OA Branding

Stylistic elements, like color, wording, and visual appeal are also incredibly important aspects of logo design. “Our brains automatically connect a color to ideas or feelings,” Oliveira says. “That can add a lot to the company’s branding, or it can do the complete opposite. The use of colors needs to be carefully studied during the preparation of a logo.”

Richards describes color as a variable part of the design that can be represented in the final proofs. “Include variations of the logo to showcase—one color, two colors, black and white, etc.,” she says. Showing these examples to the client can help them imagine what their logo will look like in several different scenarios.

“Many companies leave the logo to the tagline, but it is important to make sure that whatever wording is used can be easily connected to the main logo and its graphic elements,” Oliveira says. “The perfect marriage between logo elements is simple, easy to read, and easily applied to any application or collateral materials.”

Step 4: Editing the final product

Armed with the perfect designs and a lot of market research to fall back on, the designer’s last and final step is to present their ideas to the client and then make the edits requested. This part of the process can be a hit to a designer’s ego if they are more emotionally tied to their creation than to the client’s happiness. Editing and receiving feedback is a necessary part of the process and is what will finally narrow down the options to the final logo that that client will utilize going forward to represent their brand and business.

“The final step is presenting the logo and receiving feedback. While we’ve had to revamp logos before, clients are often satisfied with our logos because they are based on data and research,” Richards says. She continues to detail that if the first steps in the process are followed, then it’s less likely that there will be a lot of revisions after the fact.

Sometimes it’s not just about the final product, but also how the designer presents it to the client. “We carefully create a presentation that will detail every part of the creative process, from understanding the business to the final design, so our customers can travel through the process with us,” Oliveira says. Making the client feel valued and understand why each decision was made can create a comfort and confidence every client needs to feel in their logo design.

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Design tips from branding companies

“Listen, learn, plan, and then over deliver,” Oliveira recommends to any new designers. Going above and beyond for every client, making them feel heard, and doing the research needed to execute an on-brand logo design is always going to be the way to deliver a design that will make your client thrilled.

Richards has other advice for new designers. “Be conscientious of what the company intends to do with the logo. Will the logo often be seen in a very small format? Will it typically be printed, or featured on a variety of materials? These factors will guide your design decisions on sizing, colors, fonts, etc.”

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The most important part of any design is the relationship between a designer and their client. When this breaks down, that is when mistakes are made. “It’s a learning process,” Roop says. “Miscommunication is a big factor in making mistakes.” Picking up from those mishaps, learning from them, and repairing the problem is what can keep a client from going to another designer.

Utilizing these design tips and the comprehensive four step process to designing logos will enable graphic designers to create the perfect logo for any client.