Are you designing your own logo? It’s an exciting process, and I hope you’re enjoying it! Logo design is a complex process, and it’s easy to want to take shortcuts. However, those so-called shortcuts will leave you with a poorly designed logo. You want your logo to be simple, memorable, unique, timeless, and versatile. That means avoiding the following beginner mistakes.
Mistake #1: Using stock art or clip art in your logo
Using stock art or clip art may seem like a quick and easy way to create a simple logo, but it’s one of the worst things you can do.
You want your logo to be completely unique to you and your company so that when someone sees it, they immediately make positive associations with your brand. When you incorporate clip art into your logo, your piece of visual identity is no longer unique. Clip art that is available in the public domain can be used by anyone, which means your logo will end up looking a lot like other businesses’.
Use clip art to get ideas for your logo instead.
You can use clip art in your logo design process, but it should be used as inspiration rather than incorporated into your logo itself. If you find yourself gravitating toward a piece of clip art, use it as a starting point in developing your own custom design.
Mistake #2: Using photographs in your logo
Photographic images are great for other parts of your branding, like your website, brochures, etc. However, stay away from them when designing your logo.
The best logos are simple and can be used on a variety of mediums. Photographs are complex, involving a myriad of different color values and shapes. When you use a photograph in your logo, you lose the purpose of a logo — to simply and elegantly represent you and your brand.
If you’re thinking about rasterizing or tracing a photograph for your logo, that’s also a bad idea. A traced version of a photograph is, at the very least, a derivative of a copyrighted image. That’s illegal, and could end up forcing you to change your logo and pay reparations in the future. It’s also a common practice on logo design contest sites, so be careful when using them.
The other issue with using photographs in your logo is that they don’t scale. You want your logo to look good no matter what size it is, which is another good reason to stay away from using photographs in your logo.
Photographs belong on your brand mood board, not in your logo.
As with stock art and clip art, you can use photographs for inspiration for your logo. Include them on your brand mood board and to create an idea of how you want your logo and brand to feel, but stay away from including them in your logo itself.
Mistake #3: Creating your logo on websites like Instalogo, Logomaker, Logoyes, and LogoSnap.
Websites that “help you” create your own logo won’t allow you to generate the logo you actually want.
They use unoriginal clip art, basic fonts, and don’t allow the customization you want to create a truly unique logo. Even if you end up with a logo that looks good, it will probably look similar to hundreds of other logos made by other people using the same website.
Beware of using a site like 99Designs or Fiverr to get a logo as well.
When using these sites, often, you’ll come away with a poorly designed logo, or worse, a logo that’s been copied from another design. You may think that because you’re paying a “professional” designer, you’ll come away with a completely unique logo, but, as with everything in life, you get what you pay for. You can use these sites to get ideas for a logo, but don’t expect to come away with a logo you can take as is and use as your own. It’s not worth the legal risk. (Check out this article that describes what happened when a designer went on Fiverr to get a new logo for a fake brand.)
Note: Even if you do get a unique logo, it won’t be part of a thoughtful branding process, so you won’t get a logo that truly represents you and your brand. Design competitions offer limited communication between you and the designers, so they won’t be able to get a full picture of your brand values, story, and goals.
Mistake #4: Copying, borrowing, or stealing someone else’s logo design
While it’s now easier than ever to look at logos from companies all over the world, it’s never a good idea to find a logo you like and then replicate it.
In the past, it was unlikely that a small company in one part of the world would find out that a design doppelgänger in another part of the world even existed. Not anymore…now it’s easy to search for copycats.
When you copy someone else’s logo, you are setting yourself up for a legal battle in the future. You’re also missing the point of your logo — to be a mark that represents you and your business, and no one else.
Use other logos to give you ideas for your own.
I’m not saying not to look at other logos at all — just see them as design inspiration, like the clip art and photographs I mentioned earlier. If you see a logo design you like, ask yourself what you like about it. Then get creative with incorporating those elements into your own unique logo.
Mistake #5: Following logo trends
As with anything else in the design world, there will always be trends in logo design. The problem with following a trend is that you’ll end up with a logo that looks dated in a few years.
You want your logo to stand the test of time. While you may go through different logo iterations as your brand grows and develops, it’s important that your logo maintains its essential elements over time.
Create a logo that represents your business, regardless of current trends.
Instead of following trends, stay focused on your business and brand. Design your logo so that it truly conveys the ideas and emotions of your business, rather than whatever happens to be trendy right now.
Mistake #6: Making your logo cliché or overly literal
Don’t make the mistake of using a lightbulb for an idea or a globe for an international business. These symbols are overused, which means they’re not going to make for an interesting or unique logo.
Move beyond your first ideas.
When you first start thinking of ideas for your logo, your mind will naturally settle on symbols and pictures that are commonly used in your niche. That’s because you see them everywhere, so your brain is trained to bring them up automatically.
Push yourself to go beyond your first ideas. Keep your intentions for your logo in your mind, and then go on an inspiration hunt. <link> Get inspired by everything from nature to architecture. Let your mind make unusual associations and trust whatever comes up.
Mistake #7: Trying to communicate too much with your logo
Many people want their logo to convey everything about their brand. This is a big mistake. When you try to put too much into a logo, it will become cluttered and confusing.
A logo is meant to be simple, because simple = memorable.
Remember, your logo will be seen with all your marketing materials. Let your marketing materials support it with additional visuals and informational about your brand. Trust your logo to convey the main emotions and ideas you want it to without being overly complex.
Simplify your logo as much as possible
Once you finish your logo, ask yourself it there is something you can take away to simplify it even more. The more you can pare your logo down to its basic elements, the stronger your design will be.
Mistake #8: Making a logo that’s similar to your competitors’ logos
You need to make yourself stand out by choosing unique colors, shapes, icons and fonts. The bigger the difference between your logo and those of your competitors, the easier it’ll be for your logo to stand out.
Before designing your logo, check out the competition.
To ensure your logo design is different from your competitors’, do an inventory of their logos before you sit down to design your own. Notice trends, including common symbols, shapes, fonts, and colors. Then go in a different direction with your logo.
Mistake #9: Choosing your logo colors without doing adequate research first
Before settling on your logo colors, learn about color psychology <link> and go through a thoughtful process of choosing colors that make sense for your brand. Choosing your colors arbitrarily may leave you with colors that are too similar to your competition, that don’t convey the ideas and feelings you want, or that cause cultural confusion.
Also, don’t rely on color to make your logo work – your logo needs to work in black and white. Design in black and white first and then explore color.
Mistake #10: Making poor font choices in your logo
Many common fonts are overused and won’t give a unique logo design. Also, using handwritten fonts will make your logo hard to read. Make sure you choose unique fonts that are easily legible.
Here are a few of the fonts I would stay away from in your logo design: Chauncery Script, Papyrus, Impact, Arial, Comic Sans, Bradley Hand (and other “Handwritten” Fonts), Brush Script, Curlz, Trajan, Courier, Lucida Handwriting, and Lucida Handwriting
Don’t use too many fonts, either.
Use a maximum of two fonts of different weights in your logo. Restricting the number of fonts to this number greatly improves the legibility of a logo design and improves brand recognition.
Pay attention to kerning.
Kerning changes the space between the letters in your logo. When you type out a word, very often the spacing is not ideal between certain letters because it is auto-kerned.
Often the kerning is better with paid professional fonts versus free fonts. I’ve seen many logos with a massive space between two letters, and that makes it awkward to read. When your kerning is done right, your logo will be more comfortable to read and will look more well designed.
Once you’ve chosen your font(s), take the time to kern your logo so that it looks good.
Bonus mistake: Creating your logo in Photoshop
Your logo needs to look good in any size. When you create it in photoshop, it won’t be scalable. If you blow it up, it will have pixels and that will look unprofessional. Instead, create it in Illustrator and save it as an EPS file so that it can be enlarged without losing any details.
Beware: changing your logo later is much more costly than doing it right the first time.
Many of these mistakes come from not wanting to spend the time or money to design a truly original, well thought out logo. You might be tempted to go ahead and do them anyway, and then change your logo once you have more time or money to invest.
However, by doing that, you’ll end up paying far more in the future. Consider all the money you’ll be paying designers to incorporate your logo into your marketing materials. If you change your logo by choice to make it look better, or worse, are forced to change it due to a cease and desist letter, you’ll have to pay designers to redo your marketing materials or products as well. You’ll also incur expenses for reprinting new business cards, brochures, and/or products with your new logo on them.
If you’re a beginner logo designer, I hope you’ll avoid these mistakes to come out with the best logo possible. If you’re a seasoned designer, what mistakes did you make when you first started designing logos? I would love to hear from you in the comments!