I’ve made a lot of mistakes during my years as a designer. Here are some logo design tips to hopefully save you from doing likewise.

1. A logo doesn’t need to say what a company does

Restaurant logos don’t need to show food, dentist logos don’t need to show teeth, furniture store logos don’t need to show furniture. Just because it’s relevant, doesn’t mean you can’t do better.

The Mercedes logo isn’t a car. The Virgin Atlantic logo isn’t an aeroplane. The Apple logo isn’t a computer.

2. Not every logo needs a symbol

Sometimes a client just needs a professional wordmark to identify their business. Don’t be afraid to ask what they think.

3. Two-way process

Remember, things might not always pan out as you hope. Your client might request something you disagree with. If that happens, try giving them what they want, then show them what you believe is an improvement, and why. They’re less likely to be so resistant if they already see how their thoughts pan out.

4. Picasso started somewhere

You don’t need to be an artist to realise the benefits of sketching. Ideas can flow much faster between a pen and paper than they can a mouse and monitor.

5. Under-promise, over-deliver

If you’re unsure how long a task will take to complete, estimate longer. Design projects are like construction work — you piece lots of little elements together to form a greater whole, and setbacks can crop up at any time.

6. Leave trends to the fashion industry

Trends come and go, and when you’re talking about changing a pair of jeans, or buying a new dress, that’s fine, but where your brand identity is concerned, longevity is key.

Don’t follow the pack.

Stand out.

7. Work in black first

By leaving colour to the end of the process, you focus on the idea. No amount of gradient or colour will rescue a poorly designed mark.

8. Keep it appropriate

Designing for a lawyer? Ditch the fun approach. Designing for a kid’s TV show? Nothing too serious. I could go on, but you get the picture.

9. A simple logo aids recognition

Keeping the design simple allows for flexibility in size. Ideally, your design should work at a minimum of around one inch without loss of detail. Look at the logos of large corporations like Mitsubishi, Samsung, FedEx, BBC, etc. Their logos look simple and are easier to recognise because of it.

10. One thing to remember

That’s it. Leave your client with just one thing to remember about the design. All strong logos have one single feature to help them stand out.

Not two, three, or four.


Excerpted from the Logo Design Love book. The second edition’s available in thirteen languages. More info here, or head straight to Amazon for a copy.


Wow David, amazing that such a short, to-the-point list could be so useful and clear. It’s like the 10 commandments of logo design!

Stuff like working in black first. It makes perfect sense but I admit I never do it.

Thanks a lot. If this is the type of material the book’s going to be full of I really can’t wait!

Great tips. Thanks for sharing. They are very simple to follow but we so often forget about them. Thanks again.

Amen. This is really helpful. Will use these tips when verbalizing our vision to clients. Especially the comparison with Apple’s logo not showing anything computer-related.

Top stuff David… I would also add “Show only your best concepts”. Do not go “here are ten concepts, pick one” – you are the designer and should know what the best solution is – that’s what the client is paying for. Look forward to the book. :)

Great post, David, I couldn’t agree more with the points.

Having client issues at the moment where they sent me a sketch of what they want on a crumpled piece of paper. I wrote the largest email to them with every point i knew about what makes a good logo but this post will help me out more if the same thing happens again.

Cheers, David.

Smashing article David, re-enforcing common-sensical procedure of course but definitely a good read.

I’ll be buying the Logo Design Love because of this, but I’m after a signed copy of your own when its released ;)

I like the idea of the logo working at a ‘minimum of one inch.’ Reminds me of Abram Games and his ‘maximum meaning, minimum means’ ethos.

Back to the drawing board for my logo then …

Jacob, certainly, too many options makes the decision much more difficult.

Paul, it’d be a pleasure to sign. Contributions from some fantastic designers and studios has been brilliant. Couldn’t have finished it without them.

There’ll be more chances to get involved for those interested. I’ll keep you updated on http://www.davidairey.com.

Euan, I’ve been in similar situations where a client has supplied sketches. Was it a success? Hope so.

Great advice, I agree with all. But #6 has to be one that we preach more to fellow designers.

They agree that trends are short-lived, and that a great logo design is timeless — yet they keep on following trends which sort of contradicts what they know and agree to. I always tell junior designers that:

“Don’t follow trends, *he’s* not a good leader”

This is more crucial when coming to an identity as it’s lifespan is meant to last longer than that of a poster.

Very nice article David! You touched on a lot of good points. I’ll also agree with Jacob’s added tip.

Very useful stuff as always. Thanks.

I disagree with the first one… yes, they don’t have to be literal, but you should have some idea what they are for. And using companies that have millions of dollars in advertising budgets to prove your point doesn’t help! Most companies do not have the money to make their logo memorable using advertising dollars. A good logo wont need millions in advertising to be remembered.

Other than that, great post.

I like it, Euan. Chosen or not, it’ll make a nice portfolio addition.

Kathryn, I chose those companies because they’re well known, but the same principle is seen everywhere. Take your website logo, for instance. Your monogram doesn’t tell me anything about the content. It doesn’t need to.

Mokokoma, Nick, cheers guys.

Great post David. I find we have similar philosophies but I definitely need reminding to stay the course. Now if only clients could also learn more about what makes a good logo…

Oh, and sign me up for a signed copy of your book. ;) I can’t wait to read it!

Matt, I’m pushing for a launch where readers get an all expenses paid trip to Northern Ireland, a copy of the book, and tour of my local for a pint.

Chaitanya, hopefully in time for Christmas, all being well.

Thank you so much for the tips…it’s really helping a beginner like me…

Thank God i found this website, keep the good work!

This is a great list to getting started. I am a programmer, specializing in server side scripting and am just getting into web design. I can honestly say that after attending university for computer science, I have a profound respect for graphic designers. Thanks for sharing this with the rest of us.

One of the best “10 things about…” article I’ve read in quite some time. Very short and straight to the point, and very true. I particularly love #5, which can be applied to mostly every customer relation


Thanks for the great little article. I am going to write down this list and post it on my board as a device to help me remain focused when doing identity work. Thanks! P.s. I got here from someone’s tweet; I love that!

David, nice article, and all true. We still sketch, work in black and white…and listen to our clients (who occasionally make us crazy). But I would add that listening is an essential design skill.

Thanks for your insights for our industry.

My best,

Kim (and I will take you up on that offer of a trip to Northern Ireland…you were serious, weren’t you?)

Great list of things to remember when designing a logo. Designing logos is one of my weak points and this list has certainly helped with some aspects of the design process I take.

Nicely put. I’ve been designing logos for a variety of clients for over 30 years and to add my two cents:

Creating a professional image is one the most crucial steps to obtain new business. Coca-Cola™, IBM™, Microsoft™ and other successful corporations spent millions each year refining their brand. Research has proven that people want to associate themselves with brands that they think represent their own good taste.

Whether it’s for a auto repair shop or a nanotechnology firm in Silicon Valley, a logo design has to consist of several basic qualities:

1. Easy to Remember – The logic is obvious, though common mistakes in Basic Logo Design 101 can result in a image that no one will ever remember.
2. A Shape or Object – An effective logo is a shape or object and is never a typeface. The font used along with the logo design is an integral part, though it’s not the logo.
3. Distinctive Color and Contrast – The color selection is important. Choice of color is dependent on your audience, e.g. Toy Store = Bright and Cheerful, Industrial Supply = Bold and Serious, etc. and when choosing colors keep it to no more than two or three colors that have enough contrast between them that they are appreciable even when reproduced poorly.
4. Visual Symmetry – Depending on the type of business you’re in, most logos should have good weight distribution and visual symmetry.
5. Resize and Reuse – A wonderful design is only good if you can use it. So, keep it simple and avoid complex shapes or intricate lines.
6. Social Feedback – Post your new logo design online. e.g. Flicker. Start a Flicker account, upload your designs, then invite friends to comment.

Above all: keep it simple! When you finally decide on a logo design for your business, test out by creating mock-ups of it in use. For instance, place a copy of it in a newspaper ad design and in any other media examples to see what it will look like in various sizes and colors.

I posted this at my blog:

I find the hard part is when the client has something stuck in their mind that MUST but in the logo. Usually some trend from the 80’s. Getting it out of their head so that you can do a good job is the true work. Logo design would be easy if there weren’t any clients.

good one, straight to the point.

I’d add “logo works without effects, too” … maybe that already part of your tip No. 7 “Work in black first”

Hi stumbled upon your site and enjoy reading your tips about logos. Personally I am finding them to be a big pain in the rear. I have a current client who at first didn’t know what they wanted and after several attempts in designing logo for them they did not like them. And 4 months later they send me a brief what they like now. I must mentioned that I am new at graphic design and don’t work full time in the industry (thats the excuse anyway LOL). So I am learning the hard way with working with clients. I happy for this site and look forward to learning/reading more.

Can someone please explain why logos are circles now and how they look smooth and soft lines etc?

ta, Jo (Sydney, Australia)

Short, precise and practical – that’s how I’d describe these tips. Couldn’t agree more upon point 6. While we scamper after the latest trends, lapping up every photoshop tutorial out there in order to make our logos look like somebody else’s, we forget the importance to be original, to stand out, to be unique. And that’s where most of us fail.

Good article and excellent comments.

Regarding the concept of showing your client too many options:

I couldn’t agree more.

I worked with an Illustrator on one of his beer accounts. The illustrator had about 20 concepts that were hand drawn, and he asked me to submit some vector ideas, as well. I liked all his concepts very much. I came up with about 15 label ideas, and most of them I liked very much. But it turns out the customer picked the worst label. The worst. And this was no small company. This beer is sold at a major big box store.

Customer had about 35 comps to choose from, and they definitely picked the weakest version. I kicked myself for showing them that version.

The lesson I learned from that is do not reveal any work that you are not willing to get behind. Some of the comps not chosen were fantastic. Had the customer never seen the flawed choice, that choice would have disappeared into the empyrean.

Kathryn makes a good point. Many times, new organizations and companies don’t have the branding recognition or power to create said recognition and must rely on brand awareness which includes their name, true? I am a new designer and it’s always a big question mark as to whether an entity’s name should or should not be included in the logo design. It seems that more often than not, it should be when that entity is unkown and/or doesn’t have the budget for an immense marketing campaign.

Yeah, Paul Rand talks about the logo not having to mean anything… but I think it’s a bigger challenge if you can actually depict a product with a logo that the average joe will ‘get’ right away. Why? Because that’s how ‘normal’ people think… they are naturally inclined to try to figure out what such images ‘mean’. For instance if you are designing a logo for an electrician he is going to want to see something depicting electricity in some way. Or a tennis club would certainly want to be seen as a tennis club…

In a way what Rand is saying is a cop-out.

This is a great list of “rules” to go by. I like the one where you say to give the client what they want and what you think is the improvement. Most of the time yours will be chosen.

Knowing your audience is one of the most important things when designing your logo, it is surprising how often this is overlooked. You mustn’t get to carried away with your own art or style.

Great piece David, but if I may, with great respect and apologies.

The Mercedes logo represents a staring wheel. Apple shows an apple. (Had Macintosh been a failure after Steve Jobs left, Nobody would recall a computer company by that name today, and who remembers Next anyway).
Virgin started by offering a low-fare alternative to other airlines at that time.

Nevertheless I agree that one should not get caught in the ‘Depict the business’ trap. Rule 8 says it all.

A great read! I can happily say I did most of this already. I usually tell my clients the colours will be introduced once they are happy with the form. That way their decision making is clear & not because the shade is wrong, etc.

Great article, thanks for the tips. I will definitely use this article to better my logo design process. Thanks!

I’m working on a logo right now and I almost forgot longevity is the key to a successful logo.

Great article. Thanks!

thank you again david
my students can’t seem to grasp the importance of sketching,I put 20% on sketching for every assignment and will not look over any idea done on computer, they are starting to get the jest of it.
i would add n# 11, in the back of the designer’s mind that the logo is going to work on diverse platform, with all this new technology

I will be buying your book! I was wondering one thing though…what are the rules for designing a logo that isn’t a trend?
Should I stick to an iconic logo with no type? What type of fonts should I use to not be following a trend?

That’s great to know you place emphasis on sketching, Mayda. I’m sure your students will come to appreciate it, too.

Terri, thanks very much for the book support. As for trends, if you see everyone else doing it, try something else. Good luck!

Ahhm, this is actually terrible advice. I bet lawyers who have a fun logos ( well not comic sans fun but you know what I mean – a comical outlook with style..) make a ton of more money than those that stick to the stereotype you are advocating.

Contradiction and contrast, the stylishly comical, are far more effective communication tools than a classical approach that is fake in nature. Even more so, does not sticking to the stereotype conflict with the first advice of not having food, forks in resteraunt logos.. etc..?

And also if you ever interact with children sincerely you will notice how serious children can become in just a drop of a second for no reason obvious to you – the idea that children are always fun, fun, fun is true in a sense but kind of a perverted mindset – anyhow most things that you as an adult think are funny to children are to them actually quite uncomofrtable to experience. Think of all clowns in the world who want to amuse children but only frighten them… This happens everyday, you want your logo to actually miscommunicate to the audience but stay true to the prejudice?

I bet the same applies to lawyers or to any other field. Stereotypes rarely capture the essence of the expectations of the real audience, but they are a creative way to be tyrannical I quess towards your subject.

Think about that.

And leaving trends to the fashion industry is just plain dumb. Have you ever heard of the history of typography, even history of art in general? Obviously you have, but are not Trends, Style Periods, name them what you will, a good way to systematically approach different styles of working.

And you are correct, I only said that your advice is dumb and terrible, you can be a fine person for all I know. But, You cannot argue against me, because none of what I say is against reason or only emotional responses limited to myself.

Ah, your advice is good way to make money and marketing recognition for you but not for your readers. People will agree with you just to get approval and think they know the essence of design or what not, based on your words, but nay say I – this artistic trip is much longer and complicated, like it or not.

Anyway, good luck with your book, you are a successful businessman and a marketer of ideas and concepts not a creative person. I am neither, just a simple, sober student of art, design.

Thanks for the luck.

You mentioned that lawyers who have fun logos make a ton more money than those who don’t. Can you share examples?

You say I’m contradicting myself in a couple of points, but just because I believe a lawyer logo should give an air of trust, professionalism, etc., doesn’t mean it needs to show the scales of justice.

Robert, you’re very quick to criticize (even with your self-proclaimed lack of experience). I’m assuming the site you’ve linked to is yours? “Get the Strict Rules and Discipline of Web Design”? It doesn’t even work in IE7. ‘Epic fail’ as they say…

Students talk the talk. We (experienced designers) walk the walk too.


Interesting discussion between Robert and David. It’s brave and elegant on David’s part the way he took criticism. Robert, you are young and bursting with ideas that need direction. You will come to terms with YOUR CREATIVE ENERGY with time. You’ll are a great designer in the making, I am sure. I am not David’s advocate, but his efforts in the service of disseminating knowledge should be appreciated.

Great “to-the-point” list.

I have also found that explaining these ten “guidelines” to the client helps. They feel like they are learning something and are part of the process. They also tend to be more respectful of the craft. Not all the time, but they appreciate me taking the time to explain (and then I can really hit a home run and sell my favorite concept).

Thanks John!

Hi David

Although i am new to the graphics field but am sure your tips will really help me in creating some of the best logos for my clients.
Thanks alot for sharing such a treasure.

I agree with all the tips given except for the first one because I truly believe in the relation between logo and branding. Logo’s function is to create an impact in the audience to become memorable; hence it should convey the company’s purpose

A logo *only* becomes memorable through branding (use and repetition). Simple. You never see a logo once – and a year later you still remember it. No one has yet created such a beast.

Thank you very much about this to-the-point and accurate tips. Actually I was thinking exactly opposite while designing. So nice of you. Thanks again.


I’m surprised at all the people who are so agog over these tips– I think I learned those in the first six months of design school.

I’m sort of “The Emporer Has No Clothes” type of person– I personally don’t fall over dead with admiration over the IBM logo or the Apple logo. Come on people– one is the basic initials of the company (brilliant) in a run of the mill serif font, and the other is (or was) a rainbow apple that depicts the name of the company – Apple. Gosh. I’m staggered. : ).

Here’s the other thing- about trends. Maybe designers shouldn’t follow them, but their clients sure do. Just go to logosauce.com and look at what’s winning– the flashy, throw-every-gradient-you-can-into-it designs are catching the clients eye.

Maybe someone should write a book called “Designing for the Real World”.

Further to that– a lot of Paul Rand’s designs would today be considered too busy, too dull or just plain hokey. So much for not following trends.

Just my thoughts….

Hi David,
I’m not even a designer, just one of those people trying to find their place in the business world, but I really appreciate the sharing of experiences.
I am looking at designing my first real corporate logo for a small firm so I thought of looking around to learn from others.
Wish me luck.
Thanks for the advice.

Thanks for all the tips. Great support! I’m actually designing a logo for my bakery. However, I do not know where to start, can you give me some advice?
Thanks in advance and much appreciated!

These tips are really fantastic. I am currently working on a logo for a the company I work for. They are involved in the ticketing / event industry. They really want the logo to communicate that they sell tickets. Read: they really want me to include a ‘ticket’ in the logo somehow. I will use your advice to backup mine, that we do not need to represent, in literal terms, what we do. That said, I’m not sure that we should exclude the possibility of having a ticket suggestion in the logo somehow since it could be nice.

What I am confused about is complexity:

Those huge firms everyone knows about are ALWAYS mentioned in articles about logo design: Apple, IBM, Mercedes etc.

Yes they are very successful and a small factor in that success may be the logos.

However, if you look at modern brands currently making themselves household names you see a different story… look at ‘Virgin Media’ – their logo is quite complex, featuring textures and reliant on colour…

Look at Relentless… the energy drink from Coca-Cola. It is popular among teenagers and seriously unhealthy office workers… their logo is a highly complex typographic style that I could not read at first. It has become a very well-known and cool brand.

Look at Pizza Express…. their logo is a complex art-nouveau piece and one I really admire actually.

So, I don’t know what I am really saying other-than that I am not sure about this idea that successful logos must be as simple as Mercedes, Apple and the like. Maybe I’m wrong, I just don’t know.


It doesn’t matter how complex, how simple, how good or how bad a logo is… it’s the company’s *use* of the logo in the subsequent branding process that makes it successful. A poor logo will, however, make the branding process so much harder – and often impossible.

Fortunately, most companies choose to have a well-designed logo!

Unfortunately, people are increasingly getting duped into thinking $5 buys good design.

However simple and aloof the logo seems from the company’s actual work, mostly it does have something to say about the work the company does.

Apple logo does have a bite which is actually a byte related to computer.

Nike logo does have similarity to the sole of a sports shoe, etc.

Logo always tells about the brand only sometime they are not as visible as others.

I just discovered this site, very helpful info! I’m a new freelance artist (very new). I read your #9 “Ideally, your design should work at a minimum of around one inch without loss of detail.” and I have a question: What size do you make the original generally (what’s the max size)? I’m assuming vector is always used, but at what size range is it good to start working so that it’s easily scaleable but not too huge of a file? Recommendations? And is it ever okay to do it as raster – what limitations are there for most practical purposes? Do you usually give the company a digital version of the logo to keep or just a printed? Thanks!

Couldn’t agree more with number 1. I designed a logo for these guys who owned a gun store. They HAD to have guns in the logo somewhere. I said that’s too obvious. So I drew a few with guns and one without. Couldn’t believe they liked the one without.

This is a list worth memorizing. Each point you brought out is profitable both for someone just beginning, or even to streamline the workflow of seasoned designers. Thank you, David.

Erm.. i like this article
but i have some question about the no.10
— one thing to remember —
– i don’t really get it what it mean by one thing to remember…
is it a logo which is simple but had 1 focus point that catch consumers eyes ?


You know what? I have sold a few logos by just mentioning the ten tips to the clients. These are so impressive, I’ve had no problem after that. I guess including these tips during the first briefing session gave the client an insight and helped them decide what they want.

Your tips have proved to be relevant and current.

With your permission I’d like to post some logos here.


Hi Jessica,

Robert’s remarks were in 2009, 5 years ago when he was a student. It’d be interesting to ask him now what he thinks or practices (if he has made designing his profession).

About your experience with the Beer label, David’s last tip about ONE thing can be applied to the presentation MO. The fewer choices the better. And never include the one that you yourself don’t want the client to approve.

Nice website. I like your work.

But.. the Apple logo is an apple! Thanks for the tips! And I read the free chapter that you send me! So I’m looking forward to read the entire book!

Thank you for the great tips, I actually will apply them. Is it possible to provide a digital copy of both the old and the new editions? I live in Egypt and it will be hard to get the paperback.

Hello Mina, both editions are available in digital format, from Amazon and from my publisher Peachpit, but I recommend getting only the second edition because it’s cheaper (at the time of typing), more up to date, and holds more content. Thanks a lot for the interest.

Great tips David. I’m a big believer in keeping things simple. I can see your experience shining through your advice. I particularly like how to manage client relationships (no. 3).

Your second piece of advice about how a symbol isn’t always necessary in a logo was interesting to me. I have always assumed that some sort of non-text image would be a key element of a logo, but now that you mention it I can think of a few business I know that only have a professional wordmark. It would be very important for me to know that the designers I was working with were on the same page as me about the vision we had for the company.

Great list indeed. I like Arek’s remark not to shy away from pencil and paper. sketching out a couple ideas first can help save time and spark extra creativity.

Short and straight to the point! Really gets into important points in a logo design. I need to apply that to my brand, but it is hard not to over think in a logo design.

It drives me crazy when a customer goes with the obvious logo that looks just like everyone else’s. You said it! dentist = teeth, restaurant = food…

David, please can you share the software details with which you design, with all other necessary tools you use?

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