Creating Great Logos

A Top 10+1 List
contributed by Sarah Spencer

Sarah Spencer earned her BFA from Rochester Institute of Technology in 1993. She worked for award-winning graphic design firms for eight years before starting her own design business. After developing many successful identities and product brands for clients, Sarah established 26 Letters ( based in Phoenix, Arizona, to express her own ideas and provide an outlet for her illustrating and writing talents.

To aid you in creating your own logo, Sarah generously passes along the following top 10+1 tips for designing great logos:

checkbox Gather ideas. Take some concentrated time, be it an hour or several hours spread over days, to write down thoughts about your company. If you've chosen a name, consider images that can accompany the name and clarify the purpose of the business. Don't reject any ideas at this point.
checkbox Refine your thoughts. Reexamine the ideas from your brainstorming session and consider how each image might affect customers. If your customers are conservative, eliminate off-the-wall suggestions. If your customers expect whiz-bang, get rid of the ideas that seem old or stodgy.
checkbox Set the direction. Once you narrow down the names and images to accurately represent your company's ideals and products or services, make a list of the items for reference. Use this list as a guide to stay on track with decisions made about the logo.
checkbox Keep it simple. The golden rule for an effective logo is to keep the design simple. Choose a limited color palette and steer away from intricate shapes, patterns, and typefaces.
checkbox Choose a logo type. When choosing a typeface (or font) to represent your company, consider what your company does. If your product or service is for the corporate sector, a more formal typeface will project a sense of responsibility and longevity. If your company provides personal products or services, you have more flexibility to use a font with some flair.
checkbox Design a logo mark. Not every corporate identity has a logo mark (a graphic representation of the corporate identity), but having one often helps define what the company does and provides instant recognition that transcends language barriers. The most important aspect of a logo mark is that is should be relevant to the core business. Second, it should be designed simply so that it's memorable, like the Nike swoosh or MSN butterfly.
checkbox Pick logo colors. The fewer the colors, the greater the impact. The colors you use depend on the desired image of your company. Financial institutions might need subdued colors to represent trustworthiness, while technology companies (often working at the cutting edge of their industry) might want bright colors that represent movement and newness.
checkbox Select orientation, vertical vs. horizontal. Ideally, you should design a logo so that it's just slightly horizontal, keeping the height and width in close proportion. If your company name is long, consider stacking the words. If you have a logo mark, place it where it balances the logo type.
checkbox Strengthen your brand with collateral. Consider logo applications to media other than business cards and Web sites, such as T-shirts, brochures, banners, vehicles, and so forth. Remember that your business's colors, those chosen for your logo, should be the first used on your collateral. All additional colors should not overpower, either by amount or hue, your business's colors.
checkbox Trademark your logo. Once you design your logo, protect it by attaching a small TM to indicate a trademark. Often this appears in the upper right-hand corner of the logo. For detailed legal information about trademarks visit the United States Patent and Trademark Office Web site at
checkbox Plus 1: Tear it apart. To get great impact on a Web site, tear the logo to sheds (figuratively) and incorporate the lines, dots, curves, and so forth in other areas of the site. For instance, a bar along the left side of the page might resemble a curve found in one of the logo letters, or the background pattern might be a portion of the logo mark. Get creative!