Because the best logos are simple, you may think that it should be easy to make a logo for your business. But in reality, the process of logo design requires you to make lots of creative connections, and that’s not always a straightforward process.
Whenever I start the logo design process, I begin by looking for inspiration. I look for it everywhere—online and off by connecting ideas and visual images. I fill my mind with tons of ideas, inspiration and images, and then I start drawing little ideas on paper. Then I either scan those or recreate them in the computer to see if the ideas work.
Logos are about reinventing and collaging the visual language we are all familiar with, and creating something new, modern and unique with it.
I’ve learned and honed this process over time. When I first started designing logos, I used to panic. Where do I begin? My then-boyfriend told me to start looking around at other designers, at magazines, at art, etc. I noticed styles, type mockups, and typography I liked. I started learning what other artists did for their process, and then I developed my own.
The process can be learned, and I’m going to explore it in this post by helping you think like a designer, giving you sources for inspiration both on and offline, and helping you understand the process of gathering inspiration without copying other designers. If you are already a designer, many of these will probably be familiar to you. I hope that some of them will be new to you and that you’ll be inspired to add them to your inspiration-gathering phase. If you have alternative ways for looking for inspiration, I would love for you to share them in the comments.
HOW TO THINK LIKE A DESIGNER
To be able to make the leap from broad concepts to a concrete logo, you must learn to think like a designer.
Don’t think in straight lines
The best logos convey the feelings you want without hitting your customers over the head. If you’re a coffee shop, for example, you don’t need a coffee cup in your logo. If you’re a writer, you don’t need a pen in your logo.
Designers move beyond linear connections in order to make something truly different and unique.
Keep your eyes open
As designers go through their days, they are constantly aware of the visual world. They wonder how things work, why they look the way they do, and how they connect to each other. They notice how design choices make them feel.
For example, when I’m in a restaurant, I notice the art they’ve chosen for their walls, the design of the hot sauce bottles, and the way the food is presented. The more aware you are of the visual world, the more inspiration you’ll draw from it.
Trust your intuition
Designers trust their intuition.
This is an important part of making the leap between ideas and visuals. As you look around for logo inspiration, notice what pops out to you. Even if it doesn’t make sense in the moment, trust your intuition and follow your curiosity. Often, the reason you’ve noticed that particular thing will become clear to you later in the design process.
Don’t just look at other logos for inspiration
If you’re trying to design a logo, you might think that you should look mainly at other logos or symbols for inspiration. However, designers know that the best inspiration often comes from expanding your mind and looking elsewhere.
Here are a few places you can look for logo inspiration:
Look at your mood board
As a part of the logo creation process, you should have made a mood board LINK that conveys the feelings and ideas you want associated with your brand. That’s one of the first places you should look for logo inspiration. As you look at your mood board, notice different shapes and images that jump out to you.
Go into nature
You’ll find the most universal shapes in nature. The solidity of a mountain peak, the curve of a leaf, and the stability of a tree can be seen throughout the world. Do things in nature connect to your brand? Take a nature walk and snap photos of things that inspire you. You can also bring a sketchbook with you to sketch out shapes and ideas.
Look at art, architecture, and fashion design
Get inspired by other artists. Go to an art museum, take an architecture walk, or watch a fashion show. Google some of your favorite paintings and pay close attention to how they make you feel and why. When you look at other mediums, you’ll start to make connections you never knew existed.
You may find that once you’ve looked elsewhere for inspiration, you want to look at some other logos to get ideas for typography, as well as to check out what has and hasn’t been done by your competition.
Visit Google Images, Pinterest, and design sites like Dribbble, The Dieline, Logo Gala, Logo Moose, and Behance for ideas. For each site, search for a term related to your brand followed by the word “logo” or “icon.” Save the images into a folder on your desktop or a Pinterest board so that you can refer to them later.
Phone a friend
Sometimes, the best way to come up with great ideas is to collaborate with other people. If you know any designers or creative people, reach out to them and see if they will brainstorm ideas with you. Often, what you come up with together will be far better than what you could have created on your own.
As you look at your mood board and other sources of inspiration, doodle your ideas on a piece of paper. Let yourself get silly and creative like you did when you were a kid doodling in school. Your best logo idea may come from a simple sketch or doodle.
Do something else
If you’re looking for inspiration everywhere, and just aren’t feeling inspired, give yourself a break. Do something else. Go for a run, watch a movie, eat a meal, and let yourself think about other things. The best inspiration often comes when you’re not looking for it.
How to balance getting ideas from other designers and creating your own unique logo
If you’re looking at other logos, pay attention to how they make you feel, why you like them (or not), and how well they fit with the brand they’re representing.
Then use all of the other sources of inspiration and trust your own creativity and intuition to make a logo that’s truly unique. The last thing you want is for your logo to look like other logos — the whole point is to have a mark that is completely your own.
Resources for logo inspiration
- The Logo Brainstorm Book: A Comprehensive Guide for Exploring Design Directions
- How to Design Logos, Symbols & Icons: 24 Internationally Renowned Studios Reveal How They Develop Trademarks for Print and New Media
- Logo Design Love: A guide to creating iconic brand identities
- Logo, Font & Lettering Bible
- Design DNA: Logos
- Masters of Design: Logos & Identity
What are your favorite sources for logo inspiration?
Are you a designer or creative director? What inspires you in your logo design process? I would love to hear from you in the comments!