You need a logo. Where do you begin?

You need a logo. Where do you begin?

A logo is the summary of your business, your visual presentation to the world of what you do, of what you have to offer.

Designing a logo is one of the biggest challenges I face as a graphic designer. On the quest for the perfect logo, where do we start?

When clients come to me for a new logo design I feel a mixture of excitement…and dread. Before I actually get started I often worry: how will I come up with something new, different, original, and perfect? But once I actually start designing, once the creative juices start flowing, then solutions start to emerge. Sometimes I discover an unexpected visual direction. Usually by the time I’m ready to show the client my first round of logo ideas, I can’t wait to get their feedback.

The logo design process takes time, and to ensure success for both client and logo (meaning the client actually likes what I design for them and the logo comes to fruition), I give an assignment to my clients before our first meeting. I’ll use a logo I did for Northland OB/GYN Associates here as an example. (The three logos shown above were design variations I presented to them based on feedback they gave to me about their business, and what they desired in a logo redesign.)

If you do your homework before you meet with your logo designer, I guarantee you’ll end up with a better logo.

—RESEARCH YOUR COMPETITION. The Internet is a great research tool when you’re looking for both information and images. Start your research by searching for similar businesses to your own, looking at their websites, and noting their logos, their colors…and your reaction. Is it appealing? Is it appropriate? Do you like the font used? Do you like the symbol? Does it communicate well on the page?

Make a research “report” of the logo images you find by clicking on them and saving them to your desktop. They’ll likely be in a .gif or .jpeg file format. Once you save them to your desktop, create a new document in a program like Word (any text program will do) and insert them on the page. Create as many pages as you need to accommodate your collected logo image files. Try to size them similarly on the page. Then print the pages. Voila! You have just researched your competition. This is very helpful background information for a designer, especially when you can then talk through what you like on the pages…and why. Your logo report may look something like this:


Your logo designer will really appreciate when you do your homework by researching similar businesses and their logos…and when you’re prepared to discuss what you DO like and DON’T like about the logos you’ve gathered.

A side benefit of doing this research is that you’ve just looked at many competitor websites. Hopefully, you’ve made notes and even printed out pages that offer good ideas you can borrow for your own site.

—BRAINSTORM. What colors fit your business? What kinds of symbols or pictorial elements suit what you do? Is there an idea you’ve always had for what your logo should look like? In your region, are there symbols that are continually overused? If so, steer clear. Here in Duluth, if you were to tell me you must use the shape of Lake Superior or the outline of the Aerial Lift Bridge in your new logo, I would steer you toward something else. Both images are already way overused; you’ll do better by setting yourself apart graphically.

One client brought a Crate and Barrel catalog to our logo meeting. She told me how she loved the bright product colors and clean presentation of the catalog. She told me of her love of everything Marimekko. I immediately understood what she was looking for in her logo design.

—LESS IS ALWAYS MORE. A simple mark or symbol needs to be visible both large and small. Your complicated logo illustration might look great when it’s used large, but what happens when it’s used teeny tiny, in black and white, printed from a not-so-great inkjet printer?

—FLEXIBILITY IS KEY. Will it fit into a small, square space? What if you only have a horizontal space — like imprinting on a pen — for your logo? Will it reproduce well in full color and in black & white? I typically design all my logos with a couple of format versions for flexibility, like square and horizontal versions. This flexibility means my clients always have a logo that works within the space available.


I prefer to create a “flexible” logo system for clients. This ensures they’ll always have a logo that fits, whether it’s a horizontal, square or vertical space. How many times have you seen examples where a very horizontal logo is forced to fit into a square advertising space…and the logo is so small it’s unreadable?

Let’s face it: in advertising, image is everything and first impressions count. Your professionally designed logo will go a long way toward positively branding your business.

Does a logo always need a symbol or picture within the design? Nope. In fact, you may develop a better logo if you stay away from icons. Read my article on typographic logos here.