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Logo design process

Why read this? : We look at how your logo has to grab the customer’s attention and build your brand identity. Learn how to use the logo design process to create more impactful and distinctive logos. Read this for ideas on how to make your logo stand out from competitors. 

Logo design process

How this guide raises your game :-

1. Learn the 6 key steps in the logo design process.

2. Understand how typography, icons and colours fit into logo designs.

3. Learn how to use your logo to support consistent brand identity and activation.  

Your logo is a visual symbol of your brand, which appears on all your brand activation.

It has to concisely and consistently represent your brand in a way customers will understand, remember and like. Your logo has to be adaptable enough to work in different contexts. On business cards to billboards. Packaging to promotions. And on T-shirts and TV advertising campaigns.

And while doing ALL this, your logo also has to help grow your brand equity and sales.

A tough set of challenges for the logo design process then. Read our guide to learn how to deal with these business, brand and design challenges on your logo. 

Three brains logo, company name and background image of brain dendrites and axons

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The challenge with logo design

Imagine we gave you money to buy a new outfit. Anything you want. The only limit is your imagination. But there’s a catch.

Whatever outfit you choose, it’s the only thing you can wear every day for at least the next 5 years. It’ll have to work in every life situation. From job interview to wild night out with friends. From weddings and funerals to taking out the trash. No opportunity to change it. Quite a challenge, right?

But that’s how logos work in business. They’re the ‘one outfit’ your brand wears all the time. The visual symbol of who you are and what you stand for. Your logo has to work in many different contexts. 

It can be tempting to use quick, “off the shelf” logo development options like Canva or Hatchful. But be warned, they’re not always a good “fit”. So take your time and get your logo right. Think carefully about how to create a logo that makes your brand look consistently great.  

The logo design process

Though different designers will take slightly different approaches, generally, there are 6 main steps in the logo design process :- 

  • You start by defining the business need and the fit back to the brand identity.
  • Then, you decide who’ll create the logo and write a brief.
  • Next, the process of developing the logo itself. The typography, any icons and the brand colour palette.
  • You then set the ‘rules’ for how to use the brand logo as part of your brand guidelines.
  • Then, you push the logo out in all your brand activations.
  • And finally, you do an evaluation. You check that the logo is doing what it’s supposed to, and optimise it if something’s not working. 
Logo design process - 6 key steps for marketing

Step 1 - Define the need

Two main catalysts drive the need for a logo design.

It could be a new business which needs a logo to help customers identify the brand and make it distinctive against competitors. Being distinctive is a key part of building strong brands. Or, it’s an existing business which already has a logo, but feels like it could be improved. From these start points, the logo design process then connects to 2 key areas :-

Brand identity

For new brands, the need for a logo comes out as you’re building the brand identity.

Brand identity is a mix of tangible and intangible assets. These can be mandatory (rules) or optional (playbooks).

Brand marketers and agencies use these assets to define how the brand looks, feels and acts.

Logos are tangible brand assets and are mandatory ‘rules’ for the brand.

These rules help create consistency. Consistent and repeated use of brand assets creates stronger associations in the minds of customers.

Brand identity asset classification examples

They help them identify, recognise and eventually trust the brand via its visual identity. Customers buy brands they ‘know’ and one of the ways they ‘know’ brands is via logos.

Your logo has to be a memorable symbol of your brand identity. Ideally, it should connect to intangible assets like your brand essence, values and personality. For example, if your brand is about trust and authenticity, your brand logo can’t feel fun and flippant. And if your brand identity is stylish and elegant, you don’t want a casual or fun logo. 

Logo development should follow basic design principles. A good knowledge of typography and colours helps too. In particular, an understanding of the psychology of colour and the psychology of typography can help you link the design back to your brand identity.

Brand activation

The other key business need for logos is around your brand activation.

From the overall direction of the marketing plan, you’ll understand the key marketing mix activities you have to do over the next 12 months. Your logo supports the impact of many of these areas.

For example, it’s part of your product offer. You have to work out how and where your logo should appear on packaging and if it needs to appear on the product itself. The logo helps customers find the brand quickly in-store. Plus, it also has practical uses before the product even reaches stores. As per our packaging development guide, packaging helps products move safely and securely through the supply chain. Your logo on the outer packaging helps with this. It makes your products easier to identify in warehouses and when being shipped, for example. 

Your logo also has multiple uses in your communication and sales promotion plans. For example, when you advertise, your logo helps customers connect the advertising message back to your brand identity. On your website, your logo helps reinforce the message that customers are spending time in the brand’s online “home”. And in other activities, like PR events and trade sales promotions, your logo makes your brand more identifiable and distinctive. 

Step 2 - Brief

With those business needs in mind, the next step is to write a brief. You want a single-page document which spells out what the logo design has to do. How detailed you make it depends on your business context, your budget and your relative understanding of the logo design process. 

Ideally, your logo design process brief would follow a similar format to the communication brief format we outline in our brand activation guide. 

Your logo design should connect to key intangible brand assets like the brand vision, essence, personality and values, so include these in the brief. 

Then, it should cover the business opportunity, marketing challenge and growth target. These will come from your marketing plan

What is it you need the logo design process to deliver for your business? 

Marketing Communication brief - blank template

The brief should then cover the communication challenge you identified from your marketing planning. It should include the brand rationale from the segmentation, targeting and positioning process and finish with the project specifications i.e. timing, budget, KPIs and the project leader details. 

Writing a brief helps you organise and structure your thoughts. It makes sure the design will support the brand identity and business need. But you also now have to decide ‘how’ the logo itself will be developed. And importantly ‘who’ will develop it. You’ve 3 options :-  

  • do it yourself with a logo template platform.
  • hire a freelancer to do it.
  • use a specialist marketing agency.

Logo template platforms

For a start-up on a tight budget, the logo design process may not be a high priority.

From a practical point of view, the quickest, cheapest and easiest way to create a logo is to use an “off the shelf” platform like Canva or Hatchful.

On these platforms, you input a few variables. Your brand name. Your key brand message. Then, you choose a “style” from a list of their logo design templates. 

They then generate a list of potential options for logos for your business.

Because these templates are usually based on good design principles, you get a professional-looking logo in just a few minutes. As you can see from these examples from Hatchful, most of the designs look quite professional.

Logo design process - Hatchful three-brains mock-ups

But look a bit closer and some of them don’t make sense. For example, the middle logo has a spaceman. No connection to our brand. The middle right logo has a runner. Again, no connection to Three-Brains.

You can then adjust elements like the background image, the colours and the typography, to make it feel more like “your” design. 

For example, this mock-up for the Sydney Pineapple Pizza Company that we often use as a case study took a few minutes in Canva. 

Seems pretty good, right?

So, now you might be thinking ...

… if it’s quick and cheap / free, why doesn’t everyone just use these services?

Sydney Pineapple Pizza Company mock up company image - says Bondi Beach, has two pineapple icons, a large pizza slice in the background and superimposed on image of a turquoise sea.

Well, many businesses, particularly new and smaller businesses DO use these services. But that’s where the biggest challenge to using these platforms comes from. Because so many businesses use them, their designs don’t stand out. There’s only a limited range of designs and options to choose from.

Plus, they’re set up to be useable by beginners, so have far fewer options than professional graphic design tools like Adobe Illustrator. You can’t finesse or tweak the design very much. This makes it a challenge to create a logo that stands out from the crowd. You risk creating a logo which looks like every other logo out there.

So if you want something more creative and original, you’ll need a professional graphic designer to take your logo to the next level. Two options. Hire a freelancer. Or use an agency. 

Hire a freelance logo designer

A freelance graphic designer can help you create a more original logo design. As per our graphic design for your business guide, you can find them by looking at sites like Fiverr and Upwork. 

The quality of this more original logo should be higher than you’d get using a logo template platform. After all, they’re professionally trained designers. But bear in mind, it’ll cost more and take longer as there are more steps involved. You’ll need to find the designer. Brief them. Review and feedback on their work. And get them to format and send you the final files. The more time the designer spends on it, the more it costs. 

Logo design is a popular niche on freelance sites. Designers like the challenge of it and the high levels of visibility it offers their work. Find a good designer and you’ll get a distinctive logo that connects well with customers.

Agency 

You can also hire a specialist logo design agency, or ask the creative team at one of your existing agencies to create your logo. e.g. your advertising or packaging agency. In theory, this gets you the highest quality and most original logo design. 

If the logo designer already knows your brand well, it gives them a head start on designing your logo. They’ll know your essence, values and personality. So they should be able to come up with a stronger logo to reflect those key parts of your brand identity. They aren’t starting from scratch like a freelancer has to. They’ll also know exactly how and where the logos will appear, so can format the files appropriately. 

But as quality and originality go up, so too does the cost and time to create the logo. The agency will want to come up with multiple ideas. You’ll spend more time finessing the details with them. And more time here means the most cost. Big logo design projects have been known to run to six figures plus. 

The logo design process : Trade-off

When deciding who’s going to create your logo, you make a key trade-off between quality/originality and cost/time.

Logo template platforms work best if you want to keep the costs down and go fast. Many are free and you can create something quickly on your own. 

Using an agency will get you the best quality and originality. But will also cost the most and take the longest time. 

Freelance designers sit somewhere in between. You get more original designs and they’re cheaper and faster than agencies. But you run the risk that they don’t know your brand so well, and may cut corners along the way. 

Logo design process trade-off - graph showing quality/originality vs cost/time

Step 3 - Logo development

So, with business need and brief in hand, how is the logo then actually created? 

There’s no single process everyone follows. But most will follow a variation on these 4 key steps :-

  • typography – the fonts and styles you use to write the name of the company.
  • icon and text combinationsyou test how visuals and words will set together.
  • identify the winning idea.
  • refine the idea to make sure it works in multiple contexts and formats. For example, how it works with different effects, colours and in different dimensions. 
Visual showing 4 steps of logo development for graphic design - 1 Typography options 2 Test icon and text combination ideas 3 Identity a winning idea 4. Refine idea eg effects, colours, dimensions

3.1. Typography

You usually start this part of the logo design process by working on the typography. You’re looking for fonts and styles which reflect key brand assets like the values and personality. Most designers would visit online font resources like fontsquirrel or dafont for inspiration on new and unusual fonts. As per our psychology of typography article, you choose the typography style which creates the mental associations you want customers to have with your brand identity.  

Serif fonts

For example, serif fonts have an old-fashioned but authentic and long-lasting association. This is important for brands wanting to be seen as credible and trusted.

Sans Serif fonts

Sans serif fonts are more modern and minimalist. This is important for brands wanting to create more of a contemporary or future-focussed feel.

Script and special fonts

Script and special fonts can feel more stylish and unusual. They’re often more unusual and distinctive so they can help your brand name stand out more.

The aim is to make sure your typography and brand identity  “fit” together. So, you should look at multiple options. Look at different weights and styles like bold or italic, and in both lower and upper case. Aim to narrow down to a short list of fonts which feel right for your brand. 

As per our example above, we had 14 font options for the Three-Brains logo on our original list. These were mainly sans serif fonts as we wanted a cleaner and contemporary feel. But we also considered a couple of serif options. However, we only took 3 of these forward to test at the next stage.

Of course, typography is more than just font choice. You also have to look at how the letters and characters fit together.

For example, adjusting the kerning (the space between characters horizontally) and leading (the space between characters vertically) to improve the visual impact.

Look at how close together the letters are in this Marvel logo, for example.

Only the “L” stands alone. All the other letters joined together. There’s a clear design choice to keep the letters in the logo looking ‘tight’. 

Red and White Marvel logo on a black background

3.2. Create icons and test combination ideas

The next stage of the logo design process is to start playing around with icons and graphics. The aim is to see how these might work with the typography options you’ve identified. 

In our example above, we looked at graphic options to symbolise the head, the heart and the gut. As per our about us story, those are the three “brains” which gave our business its name. We also tried a character ‘face’ to bring the 3 symbols together. Note, the heart shape of the face, for example. Plus, we explored options which included a T-shirt design in the “T” of Three-Brains as we have a shop that sells Print on Demand t-shirts as part of our e-Commerce expertise. 

Our actual logo symbol though, was based on just 3 circles, with each circle connected by 3 lines. The aim was to symbolise the 3 brains of the head, heart and gut and our focus on the 3 skills of marketing, creative and e-commerce.

For this stage, you’ll need a graphic design tool like Adobe Illustrator or one of its alternatives like Affinity Designer or Inkscape. Once you have a layout that starts to feel right, you can then start to add colour options. 

3.3. Winning ideas and 3.4 refinement

From all these ideas, you aim to identify a final winning ‘idea’ that feels right for your brand identity and is unique and distinctive enough to meet the business need.

But you still have to refine this idea to get to the final design. You have to make the logo stand out, yet still feel consistently “on brand”. To make sure the logo has a meaningful connection for customers. And, you’ll have to check the specifications of the logo fit with your brand activation plans.

Stand out with style and effects

To help with stand-out, you can explore adding stylising and effects to the icon and typography. For example, graphic design tools like Adobe Illustrator and its alternatives offer options to add effects like textures and gradients. You want to pick 1 or 2 strong design elements without overcomplicating the design and making it look busy.

For example, on our logo, we played around with the effects on the font to add a drop curve on it. And we added a triangle underneath, as triangles obviously relate to the “three” in our brand identity.

Then, we also took the 3 circles with 3 lines idea and worked with it further to create a more cohesive and polished single-item logo. 

For example, we added circles at the join point between each of the cut-out circles. And added a zig-zag effect to create what looked like mini “exploding” circles.  

These symbolise the connections in the brain when different neurons connect.

But the 3 circles also form what looks like eyes and a mouth. So overall, the symbol has a sort of sci-fi helmet look.

Which we felt was a good fit back to the ‘brain’ theme. 

The 8 steps used in Adobe Illustrator to build up the Three Brains logo

Meaningful connections

If you can use symbols and shapes to have a meaningful connection to your brand’s story or purpose, it helps create a deeper connection to your brand. 

Take the Mercedes logo, for example. 

Their iconic 3-pointed star logo was intended to symbolise the superiority of Mercedes engines on the land, in the sea and in the air. 

Each point of the star represents one of the original areas of the business. That’s a great connection back to their origins. 

Mercedes logo badge with three pointed start on bonnet of a car

Create consistency with colours

You’ll also have to look at how your brand colour palette works with your logo design. You’ll want to make sure they’re consistent, that you get good contrast on the text, and you use good design principles

Plus, it’s worth remembering, that colours have psychological associations. You can use these when you choose brand colours for your logo to create more connections back to your brand identity.

For example, our brand colours of red, purple and blue play are associated with strength, authority and trust. 

Note though, that your logo may not always appear in colour. Sometimes it may be black and white e.g. newspaper adverts. Or have limited colour options e.g.merchandise printing.

These uses should be in the brief. Your logo designer should make sure the logo still works without colour.

Colour psychology - an applied use of colour in marketing

Check context and dimensions

This sets up the final step to check the logo design works across all your brand activation activities. In particular, how it’ll work in different contexts and space dimensions.

For example, on social media, your profile picture is usually square. But on your website navigation bar, the logo area is rectangular. So, your logo design has to be adaptable to work in these different formats and dimensions.

Logo evaluation - final checks

One of the challenges of the logo design process is you spend so much time working on it, that you can lose objectivity. So, it’s worth building in a final check stage before you go live. Remember, you’ll likely have this logo for a long time, so it’s worth taking extra time now to make sure it’s right. 

Check again that it meets the business needs outlined in the brief. Check again if it’s a good fit to your brand identity and will work across all your different brand activation. If you’ve got the time and money, show it to customers. Get feedback on what they think, so you know it’ll work. 

Do a final design check on it using something like famous designer Paul Rand‘s 7-step logo evaluation criteria. He recommends you score your logo out of 10 for it being distinctive, visible, adaptable, memorable, universal and timeless. And then do a final score out of 15 on simplicity. This will give your logo a total score out of 75. He recommends if you score below 60, you go back and try and refine it even more.

Step 4 - Assets and style guide / brand book

Once you approve the final logo design, you define a set of ‘rules’ for how it should be used. This goes into your brand book. These are brand guidelines covering your whole whole brand identity and brand activation principles. 

These guidelines help create consistency in how and where to use the logo. For example, they define the typography, colours and any allowed and non-allowed variations. 

The guidelines should specify which versions of the logo to use in different space dimensions (e.g. square vs rectangle). They should specify where the logo must appear in full or where only parts of the logo can appear e.g. when it’s OK to just use the icon and omit the text.

Brand identity book contents

Plus, they should outline who approves any changes to the logo design. These brand guidelines can then be given to any designer who will work on the logo or brand identity. 

Your logo has to last a long time. Once your logo appears on your products and in your comms, it’s part of your brand identity. Once embedded with customers, it becomes harder and more expensive to change. So make sure it’s right in the first place. And make sure you use it widely and consistently when it goes live. 

Step 5 - Touchpoint activation and Step 6 - evaluation

The final stages are where you bring your logo to life for your target audience. It’s when the logo starts appearing in your brand activation touchpoints.

For example, it goes onto your packaging. Your advertising. Your website and social media platforms. This is where you see the real value of the logo design process. Because the combined effect of using the logo across all these touchpoints is that customers will start to recognise it as the symbol for your brand. 

You’ll want to do market research to evaluate the impact and effectiveness of your new logo. Usually, this is a quantitative and continuous research project. Track how brand equity changes from before the new logo to after it. Do customers remember and recognise your brand more easily? Do they have stronger associations with your values, Follow a good logo design process, and these are the sorts of benefits your brand logo should deliver. 

Conclusion - logo design process

The world’s biggest brands are easily recognisable through their logo. Be that Starbucks, Nike or Apple, when you see their logo, you don’t even need to see the brand name.

Their logo tells you it’s them. 

That’s really your benchmark for the logo design process. You want a logo that’s distinctive, easily identifiable and meaningful for your customers. 

Check out our role of logos and logo evaluation articles for more on this. Or give us a shout if you need any help with setting up or running your logo design process. 

Half open and lit up apple macbook on a glossy beige table

Three-Brains and Graphic Design

We know a lot about using graphic design in marketing and e-Commerce. We offer coaching and consulting support in this area as part of our overall service. We can help you work out how to best meet your graphic design needs e.g. hiring graphic designers, managing it in-house or building your own graphic design skills to create impactful and effective designs. Get in touch if you’d like to learn more about how we can help.

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