Guidelines for Logo Design: It’s No Piece of Cake

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Imagine walking into a ballroom of a wedding reception.

Right away you notice the wedding cake.

The elegant three tiers supports a ring of flowers made of colourful fondant that lead to the topping: a small sculpture of the couple watching a movie (their favourite activity).

A lot of work went into creating that cake.

The baker talked to the couple, came up with the concept, gathered ingredients, made the decorations, baked the cake, and then assembled the components.

It’s similar to how we create our clients’ logos.

Each stage of the process serves a purpose that leads to the final product.

We’ve talked about what makes a good logo and why you need a great logo.

Now we invite you behind the curtain to discuss our logo design guidelines.

It starts with coming up with concepts then progresses to gathering the ingredients for your logo.

Finding the Logo’s DNA

Creating a great logo starts with a great brief.

Before we design your logo, we have to know you better so we can deliver the perfect logo for your business.

During this stage, we’ll ask questions like:

  • What are your company’s values?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • What important themes and ideas need to be communicated with the logo?
  • What are the objectives for the logo?
  • What are your “must-haves” for the logo?
In the early stages of the design process for the engineering firm, BMZ (Bryson Markulin Zickmantel Structural Engineering Firm), we learned about their three founding partners.

From there we incorporated three roof structures into their final design to symbolize the three partners.

We’re getting a little ahead of ourselves, but we want to show how early conversations about important themes shape the final design.

We won’t dive into the design right away.

Just like a baker doesn’t run to the store to buy the ingredients.

Not when we still need to make the list of ingredients.

Research Gets the Creative Juices Flowing!

We don’t want to rush out to the store because we know to follow a process.

We know we can’t jump into drawing because we need to expand on the ideas from the brief.

Not sure what a creative brief is?

Have a look at this article: The Creative Brief: 10 Things It Must Include

We need to conduct research to find visual inspiration.

We immerse ourselves in the subject and ask questions like:

What images come to mind when we think about the themes and ideas from the brief?

What story are we trying to tell with the logo?

What ideas do we think of when we think of the business?

Visual inspiration can come from searching images online or in real-life.

It also comes from learning what the competitors are doing.

One of the guidelines for logo design is competition analysis.

This part of the research phase teaches us about the industry landscape.

We study other logos to learn what elements to avoid, what elements are missing, and what opportunities we can take.

While in the research stage, we explore different concepts and ideas, but we always go back to the brief.

Click here to have a look at our creative brief.

It’s important to remain focused on the objectives and main ideas while allowing our creativity run wild.

Sketching Like Jack Dawson on the Titanic


The brief, research, and competitive analysis loads a tonne of ideas in the designer’s head.

At this point, it’s like having the entire grocery store available to you.

The sketch phase is where we experiment.

It allows the designer to flush out ideas to see what works.

Sketching may start off like a brainstorming free-for-all, but it evolves to a focused and thoughtful exercise.

We lean on the brief, remind ourselves of the messages and themes, and go back to the images we collected from the research phase.

Some ideas work. Some don’t.

What’s important is that we work through those ideas – especially the obvious ones.

Only then can we find concepts worthy of pursuit during the design phase.

Identifying Good Ideas: What’s Good and What’s Sh*t

We review our sketches of different concepts before we design fully realized logos.

We go back to the brief and review key themes and think about the objectives once again.

Drawing on experience, we look at which concepts work and which ones don’t. (This step is an article for another time.)

Anything that doesn’t interest or excite gets scrapped.

Designs that don’t communicate important ideas get shown the door.

Ideas that don’t fulfill the objectives are set on fire. Figuratively of course. (Literally if necessary.)

Finally… the Design Stage

Pat yourself on the back!


You made it to the design stage!

By now you can see how much work goes into creating a logo.

And there’s still more work to do!

Our guidelines for logo design may seem tedious, but believe us: each step is necessary.

Now that we’ve figured out what doesn’t work, we can start to build on the ideas that have potential. This involves:

  • Creating Artwork from Scratch – We don’t use clipart to copy and paste illustrations. We use our expertise and training to make sure your logo is a complete original.
  • Developing Simple Icons – We aim for an icon that’s conceptual, clever, and unique.
  • Choosing the Right Fonts – What font best represents your business? Is it script? Serif? Or sans serif?
These primary elements make up the logo.

Here the the 5 logo concepts for BMZ that survived until this stage:

Next comes seeing what combinations make the most striking logo.

Playing (Not-So) Mad Scientist: Refining and Experimentation

When we design logos, we don’t create one icon and choose one font for one concept.

We develop a number of concepts with different fonts and icons before we present to our client.

Take a look at one of the concepts for the BMZ logo.

The client didn’t choose this concept in the end, but notice the variations in fonts, icons, sizes, and colours. Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 16.46.48 Our guidelines for logo design don’t involve throwing things against a wall to see what sticks.

We systematically interchange fonts and icons.

We change sizes, angles, and other design elements to create variations until we find a worthy overall design.

Only then can we have the confidence that we have the best logo design for our client.

Playing Creative Director: Review and Analysis

Once we’ve worked through a few concepts, we need to step back and scrutinize our designs.

We look at each design objectively and ask:

  • Is the design conceptually clever?
  • Are the designs good representations of the ideas from the brief?
  • Are the versions different enough?
  • Is the typography easy to read?
  • Is the design easily understood?
After adjustments are made, we’ll develop a presentation to show the client our creations.

And That’s How a Logo is M— Not quite yet.

After dreaming up of great concepts, crafting icons, choosing fonts, and getting the client’s final approval comes colours.

It may seem like an afterthought, but choosing colours is as rigorous as creating the concepts and working through the other design elements.

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 22.44.35
This step comes close to the end because colours don’t make a good logo. A great concept and precise execution makes a good logo.

And That’s How a Logo is – (We’re sure this time right? Yep.) Made

A great logo uses precise elements to tell a brand’s story.

But you only see and react to the final product.

You don’t see the ideas that didn’t materialize.

You don’t get to go on the long walks that cleared the designer’s head.

You didn’t pull out your hair out of frustration.

In the end you get something that’s so elegant it looks effortless.

But now you know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Justin Chan Tsan Ting
Justin Chan Tsan Ting
My role in this company is to understand our clients' growth obstacles, and to seek efficient and effective solutions to overcome them.
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