Logo Design Basics You Should Know

August 25, 2011 by  Filed under: Advertising 

Things Your Logo Should Never Include

Legal phrases Inc., Corp, LLP or LLC. Some seem to think they need these legal abbreviations in their logos. They just incorporated their business or formed their partnership. They are excited. Their business is now “for real”. And they want everyone to know it. Some lawyers even insist it is included, they are incorrect.

Think about the familiar logos of successful companies you see every day. None of them include these legal terms. Legal abbreviations are for legal documents and disclaimers in small print. They just mess up logos and confuse your customers. It’s best to leave them off.

Tag lines

This one is a little tricky because so many people are used to seeing tag lines used with logos that they assume their logo must include one. The right tag line can help with your marketing if it’s used correctly. But it doesn’t belong in your logo.

Tag lines change. And if you’ve included your tag line in your logo, you’ll need to update signs, business cards, and anything else you’ve printed with your logo any time you change your tag line. Adding elements like tag lines to a logo make them more complex and thus more difficult for your customers to remember. Again, think of the logos you see every day. Do the ones you recall include tag lines? Almost never! Tag lines are for advertisements and marketing materials, not for logos.

Addresses, Phone Numbers, and Websites

You might have just signed to ten-year lease on your location, and you have no plans to change your cell phone provider, but trust me, these things change more than you think. If your logo includes your phone number, you’ll have to update it some day. But more importantly, these elements just add clutter to your logo – and remember, the best logos represent a simple idea associated with your product or business. A logo that includes an icon, a business name, a tag line, a phone number and a web address will look cluttered. The more your customer has to take in when they see your logo, the less they will remember.

Things to Avoid

Avoid using too many colors in your logo. When it comes to helping your customers remember your company and visual identity, simplicity is the key. The best brands choose a single color (in some cases two) to represent their business but most brands also have a version of their logo in black and white that is just as recognizable as the color version.

Over time, colors help customers easily recognize brands. We notice color and shape before we read the information in those shapes, so your brain recognizes a logo before you can even read the name printed on it.

In addition, if you ever need to embroider your logo onto a uniform, promotional give-away, or materials in a retail store or office, having a logo with just one or two colors will help make it possible. Gradients and multiple colors make it far more difficult and in some cases impossible to create these products. The same is true if you need to print your logo in a small area, a simple one color logo will make the job much easier.

Avoid using too many fonts in your logo

How many is too many? In most cases, two fonts would be too many. Once again, it’s all about creating a simple mark and avoiding anything that can make reading it more confusing or complex. Unless you have a very compelling reason to do otherwise, one font should be enough for your logo. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, make your mark as simple as possible. Choose fonts that are easily readable and represent what your company stands for.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule. There are logos that effectively use more than one color and there are logos that effectively use more than one font, but usually one font is the mark, and the second font is a simple descriptor to help give context to the mark.


Experts have written thousands of books and articles about branding and presented hundreds of workshops that detail what it is and how to do it. Want to create an iconic brand? There are several books that can help. Want a legendary brand? There are books for that too. How about a guerrilla brand, a techno-brand, a digital brand, an emotional brand, a simple brand, a primal brand, a luxury brand, or a successful brand? The list is almost endless and there’s a book or seminar telling you how to create all these and more.

If you’re like most small business owners, you simply don’t have the time (or desire) to sort through it all. So if you’re not a branding expert, is branding something you should even worry about?


But probably not in the ways you might expect. In order to explain what that means, let’s answer a few of the most common questions business owners ask about branding.

What is branding?

There is an Indian folk tale about the five blind men who were asked to describe an Indian elephant. One man took hold of the tail and said the elephant was like a rope, frayed at the end. The second man held the elephant’s ear and described it as a thin, leathery fan. The third felt the thick, rough skin of the elephant’s leg and said it was like the trunk of a tree. The men holding the trunk and tusk offered different descriptions of what an elephant was. Of course, they were all right-and all wrong.

Branding experts have offered different descriptions of branding and the best ways to do it. Often they, like the men touching the elephant, are describing the different parts of branding. Designers talk about branding as it relates to the logo and trade dress (the look of the packaging and store). Most advertisers think about branding as it relates to television and radio commercials. An Operations Director, Technology Manager, Customer Service Agent, and Salesperson will all have different opinions of what branding is.

So how do you bring all these parts together into one whole?

Simply put, your business is your brand.

Said another way, your brand includes all of the elements that make up your business. It starts with your product or service, but also includes your logo, your store front, your delivery vehicles, the person who answers your phones, your return policies, your service guarantee, your advertising, your partners… you get the picture.

I have a logo. Isn’t this my brand?

Your logo is the most recognizable element of your brand. Because of this many people use the two terms (logo and brand) interchangeably. There is no doubt that a great logo helps customers remember and recognize your product or service more easily. But your logo is simply a graphic representation of all the other parts of your brand – it is a visual short-cut for all the great things your business does.

The logo is important, critical even. But it isn’t your brand.

Does branding require a big marketing budget?

While money definitely makes it easier, great branding doesn’t require deep pockets. But it does take thought, a bit of creativity, and a willingness to try different things.

When Geek Squad founder, Robert Stephens, started his business, he needed a way to stand out from all the other guys providing a similar service. He did so by buying a distinctive white car, and he focused on delivering one-of-a kind service, including little details like returning calls within a few minutes and taking off his shoes as he entered a home.

There were dozens of other consultants offering similar services, but Stephens stood out and his customers remembered the service, they called him again when they needed him. Today Geek Squad is a big business.

How do I get people talking about my brand?

There are as many answers to this question as there are business ideas. Again, it takes creativity and a little work, but there are literally thousands of ways to do it. What would be the very best way?

Have a great product.

Bear Naked Granola grew their tiny business by using all natural ingredients to create a terrific tasting product. As more people tried and loved their product, its reputation grew by word and mouth.

Starbucks did something similar by creating a unique experience around a cup of coffee yet it wasn’t too long ago that it was a four-store chain simply with a new idea about how coffee should be served.

Of course, you can try things like contests, special offers, and PR events, but gimmicks don’t last long. If your product isn’t better than your competitor’s, or if you don’t offer a service or experience that is different in some way, you will always struggle to get people talking about your brand.

What are the most important things to remember about my brand?

Always remember you are constantly building your brand, whether you do it consciously or not. The decision to hire (or not) a customer service person with bad grammar is more than a service decision, it’s a branding decision.

Choosing to raise or lower prices isn’t just a question about margins, but about branding. How you keep your store, how you treat your customers, the products and services you offer-these are both business and branding decisions.

You are always building your brand.

It does not require stacks of books or attending branding workshops to understand branding. Instead it takes thought, a little creativity, and consistency over time. By thinking about your business decisions as branding decisions, you take a more active approach to your brand. And that will help you attract new customers and stand out from your competition – which ultimately may mean finding real business success.

Noel Dundas is a marketing consultant who has been computing since the late 1960s and has written programs in assembly language, Forth, dBASE and web languages HTML, XHTML, XML, PHP and MySQL.


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