Logos for beginners

Deanna deBara
Deanna deBara

Your logo is the face of your company—and when it comes to designing such an important piece of your brand identity, you want to put your best foot forward and create something people will remember. But how, exactly, do you do that? We spoke with Jessica Koffman, Creative Director of Finch Brands (and the design talent behind the Baskin Robbins’ iconic 31 logo), to get her insights into how to design a logo that will get you noticed.

When it comes to branding, there’s no design asset more important than your logo. Your logo is the most visible asset in your business; it goes on your website, on your business cards, on your product packaging. There’s not much in your business that won’t have your logo tacked onto it.

Because your logo is so visible, it has a hefty job—to communicate who you are as a brand to your clients and customers. “Your logo must work in service of your brand,” says Jessica Koffman. “Unlike fashion or fine art, logo design does not simply decorate. Its job is to communicate.”

In a nutshell, your logo design is important—which is why it’s so important to get it right. But how, exactly, do you do that? How do you design a logo that stands out from the competition, communicates who you are as a brand, drives brand recognition, and connects with your ideal customers?

First things first: do your research

The first step to designing your logo starts well before you start the actual design process—and that step is research, research, research.

“Study what’s out there in your industry. If you want to make an impression, you need to know what is repeatedly occurring on your audience’s radar and how your brand will register in that context,” says Koffman. “Research the industry, analogous industries, the competition, and beyond. Be careful to track those you don’t like as well as the ones you do. Research to the point of saturation, until you feel that you are absolutely fluent and visually literate within your industry.”

Exploring what other brands are doing in your space will help you keep your finger on the pulse of what’s working and what’s not working. It will also help you identify trends that you want to stay away from and ways you can set yourself apart from the competition. You can then use the information you gather during your nose-to-the-grindstone research stage to help drive your design process.

“[After your research,] round up trends and similarities into visual groupings so that it can inform your process. Do this so that you can distinguish yourself from the pack,” says Koffman.

Look for inspiration everywhere

You’ll definitely find inspiration for your logo design during your research process. But don’t let it stop there!

There’s no rule that says you need to find inspiration for your logo design by looking at other logos. The truth is, you can find inspiration anywhere—and if you keep your eyes open, you’ll probably find inspiration in some pretty unexpected places.

“Going through the logo design process is a lot like listening to the radio when you’re either falling in love or going through a breakup. Suddenly, every song that comes on somehow seems like it’s about you. Suddenly, you’ll hear a lyric you never noticed before that seems like it was undeniably written about your very own relationship. And you will marvel,” says Koffman.

“In other words, if you’re immersed in your logo design process, the inspiration will find you. Trucks will drive by with color combinations that make you say, ‘Aha!’ Billboards will all be somehow scream new typographic avenues to you. The color of a really amazing sunset will find its way into your design palette. Just keep your eyes as open as your mind, and let it all take shape.”

Establish your point of difference

Another step you’ll want to take before you start designing? Getting crystal clear on your point of difference (POD).

Your POD is what makes you special, different, and unique. It’s what sets you apart from your competition. It’s the thing that’s going to make your ideal customers want to work with you over the thousands of other options they have in the market—and it needs to come across in your logo design.

“Your logo should be an authentic expression of what differentiates you and what makes the way your brand approaches things unique both to your internal and external audiences,” says Koffman.

If you’re not sure what your POD is, that’s ok! That just means it’s time to do a little detective work. Ask yourself questions like:

  • What does our brand do better than anyone else on the market?
  • What’s our biggest strength?
  • What’s the best compliment we’ve ever gotten from a client or customer?
  • If I could describe our brand in three words, what would they be?
  • What does our team like best about working here?
  • What accomplishment are we most proud of as a brand?

The clearer you get on what it is that makes you unique, the better you’ll be able to communicate that through your logo design. “Design is not your differentiator. Design is what communicates your differentiators,” says Koffman. “Good logo design does that successfully, intuitively, and clearly.”

Understanding the elements of a logo

Before we dive into actually designing your logo, let’s take a look at the different elements of a logo you’ll want to consider before starting the design process:

Logo style

The first element you’ll want to consider is what kind of logo style feels like the right match for your brand, company, and aesthetic. Does a cool, vintage-style logo feel like the right fit or does a more modern, minimalist approach feel more on-brand? Knowing the style you’re going for will help guide your decisions on the other elements of your design.

There's something for you on Canva, whether you're going for a modern or rustic feel. Check out the White Simple Home Furnishing Logo and Rustic Mountain Logo

Logo type

The next thing you’ll want to consider is the type of logo you want. There are five main categories of logos to choose from:

Symbol: A logo that uses a single symbol or icon

While these logos have the names of the brands, the symbols and icons will remain recognizable even without the text.

Wordmark: A logo that uses just text to spell out the brand’s name

Lettermark: A logo that uses text, typically a brand’s initials or the first letter of the brand’s name, to create a symbol or icon.

The House of Chanel is well known in the fashion and beauty industry

Combination mark: A logo that combines the symbol and wordmark logo types.

Emblem: A logo design that resembles a seal or crest and features the company name within the design.

Color palette

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Next up, color. When it comes to incorporating color into your logo, less is more. Trying to splash the whole rainbow across your logo design can feel visually overwhelming; a good rule of thumb is to stick to four colors or less.

You also want to choose your colors strategically. People have extremely strong associations with colors, and you can use those associations to your advantage. Do you own a financial consultancy? Try using green (which people associate with money) and blue (which is associated with trustworthiness) in your logo design. Launching a luxury perfume brand? Try black (the most sophisticated of colors) or purple (which is tied to royalty).

For a full explanation of how to use color to influence your audience, check out this helpful guide to color psychology and branding. You can also look at this article, Color meaning and symbolism: How to use the power of color in your branding

Graphics

Another element you may want to consider is graphics. Do you want to incorporate a symbol into your logo? How about a company mascot? Whatever it is, you’ll want to think about if and how you’re going to incorporate graphics into your logo before you start putting the different elements together.

Typography

Anatomy of typography

If you’re going yo have text in your logo, you need to consider the font/type you’re going to use—your typography.

There are four main types of fonts:

Serif: These fonts have an anchor at the end of each letter and are more traditional than other font types. A popular example of this is Times New Roman.

Sans Serif: These fonts have a smoother appearance and don’t have the anchors on each letter that you see with Serif fonts, which is where this category gets its title. Sans Serif fonts have a more modern feel, like Helvetica or Arial.

Script: Script fonts mirror cursive handwriting, like Pacifico or Brusher.

Display: These fonts vary but are defined by a unique characteristic or effect, such as Black Casper.

The design elements you choose to incorporate into your logo will say a lot about your brand, so choose wisely.

“Everything about your logo, including color, choice of typography, icon, overall style, and illustrative elements has meaning,” says Koffman.

How to design a logo in Canva

Once you’ve done your homework and have some solid ideas of how you’d like your logo to come together, it’s time to start designing.

Here’s the step-by-step process for designing your logo in Canva:

Step 1: Browse layouts

Before you start the design process, you’ll definitely want to take a few minutes to browse through the logo layouts. You can find the logo templates by choosing the Logo option under “Create a Design.” The existing layouts will automatically show up on the left sidebar. You can also visit the templates page and click on 'Logos'.

Canva offers hundreds of logo templates that you can use to create your own

If there’s an existing design layout that’s close to what you have in mind, you can save yourself a ton of time just customizing the layout (by changing fonts, images, and colors) instead of designing your logo from scratch.

If you don’t find a layout that feels like quite the right fit, then it’s time to get your hands dirty and start building your logo from the ground up.

Step 2: Choose your color palette

A good place to start when designing your logo is by creating a color palette. On the left sidebar, select the Elements > Bkground. From there, you can either choose colors from the default color palette or create your own custom palette by selecting the “+” next to Document Colors and selecting any color from the color wheel (every time you choose a color, Canva will automatically provide the color code so you can incorporate the same shades into the rest of your branding). When you find a color you want to include in your palette, just click the “+” again.

Once you’ve selected your colors, you’ll want to set a background color (if it’s anything other than white) before you start adding any other elements to the logo. To set the background color for your logo, just select the appropriate color from your palette.

Step 3: Choose your font

Once you’ve got your background color locked in, it’s time to add text (if you’re incorporating text into your logo).

When it comes to text, you’ve got two options. You can either manually add and choose your fonts using the “add heading,” “add subheading,” and/or “add a little bit of text” features, or you can browse the existing font layouts and choose one to customize—both options are in the left sidebar.

If you choose the manual option, the first step is adding text to your design using the “add” feature. Once you’ve added a heading, subheading, or other text, you can change the font, size, color, and style by using the menu options above your design.

If you choose a pre-designed font layout, you can still change the color, size, and style using the menu bar.

Step 4: Add additional style elements

Once you’ve got your text laid out, it’s time to add the other elements. These extra style touches—like lines, shapes, illustrations, and icons—can all be found on the left sidebar.

You can easily switch the color of any or all of these style elements by clicking the color square in the top left menu bar.

Step 5: Finish and save

Once you’ve got the right combination of color, text, and graphics, voila! Your logo is ready to roll. Make sure to save a copy of your logo (you don’t want all that hard work to go to waste!) by clicking the “Download” button on the top right side of the page.

Create multiple versions of your logo

Once you’ve locked in your design elements and pulled them together into a logo design, you’re going to want to think of all the ways you’re going to use your logo—and make sure you have a version of your logo that will work in each situation.

“Developing a family of logos–with a variety of color complexity, typographic elements, layout lockups, and spatial orientations—will give you the ability to extend your iconic brand to a variety of use case scenarios without losing the opportunity to continuously build brand equity,” says Koffman.

So, for example, your primary logo might be in color, but if you do a lot of print work, you’d also want to create a black-and-white version. Or maybe your primary logo is a combination mark that incorporates text and graphics, but you may want to create a symbol logo to use as an icon on your website.

There’s no universal rule for how many versions of your logo you should have; instead, think of how and where you might need a different version of your logo and create those versions to suit your needs.

“There is no set number of iterations that works for every brand,” says Koffman. “However, your logo should be as flexible as your communication channels.”

Final tips for designing your logo

We’ve gone through a TON of information in this post, so before we wrap things up, let’s go over a few final tips for designing a standout logo that will connect with your audience:

Don’t get wrapped up in trends. Trends come and go, which is why if you want your logo to stand the test of time, you should avoid them at all costs. “Successful logos do not follow trends. Your logo must be timeless. It must be true,” says Koffman. “If you follow design trends, you will follow them quickly to their decline, too.”

When you’re designing your logo, keep the end goal in mind. “Ultimately your logo is your visual elevator pitch, so make sure it strikes the right mood, tone, and vibe,” says Koffman. “You will be seeing a lot of it, so make sure you can do the storytelling behind it. It should open doors for you. It should create a clear sense of connection with your visitors, your employees, and your customers/constituents.”

Substance > Style. Having the right style for your logo is important. But having the substance to back it up? Even more so. “Substance beats style on every branding frontier,” says Koffman. “If you’re all style, it leads your audience to presume you have no substance. Nothing deeper or more significant to discuss.” Make sure your logo has more to it than just “looking good”—and is an accurate representation of your brand.

Ready to get started? Explore our collection of logo templates to help you bring your logo design to life!