Creating an identity for a new business is thrilling. Your mind is full of the endless possibilities for crafting the most unique and compelling logo ever, the one that will impress everyone and keep your business full of people. We get it; creating a brand identity from scratch is one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a graphic designer. Stay excited. But that excitement can often lead people to get carried away with the design of their branding. In a rush to come up with the most stunning logo, a business owner may try to pack their branding with every detail, color, texture, and idea they can think of and end up with a logo that gets messy pretty fast and doesn’t work out to be so functional.
Too many ideas will create far more confusion than clarity. Remembering some crucial aspects of brand design will help you harness this energy and make a logo that tells the unique story of your business while being clear, compelling, and functional.
Remember that your logo, like all design, is about communicating with people. Your logo will communicate the story of your brand so that viewers will see it, understand it, and immediately associate it with your business. Make sure any viewers and potential customers will clearly understand your message. You may have an idea for a logo that looks impressive, but if it makes your branding hard to read and understand, it’s not a good option.
Your branding also does not need to convey absolutely every aspect of your business’s story. For example, let’s say you are starting a space-themed coffee shop called Cosmic Cafe that has in-house puppies and only uses fair-trade single-origin beans from Guatemala. You come up with an idea for a logo of a “C” shaped coffee bean holding a puppy, launching off into space with its rocket boosters over a map of Guatemala, next to a fair-trade symbol. While that sounds like a great time, it makes for a busy and confusing logo.
Simplicity is not only essential when considering the story your logo is telling but also in how it tells that story. Good storytellers stick to the point of the story and avoid unnecessary details. Logos do the same. Your branding’s ability to convey your business to customers becomes weak if the logo is full of different textures, colors, fonts, graphics, gradients, and other design elements. Functional simplicity isn’t dull; it focuses on the purpose of the branding and makes sure the message communicates as clearly as possible.
Your business is the unique product of your hard work and passion, so you want your logo to reflect that. Avoid incorporating trendy and unoriginal graphics and clipart into your logo ideas. Your branding always communicates a tone and personality to potential customers; make sure it’s delivering the right ones. Generally, businesses want their branding to evoke a modern and professional attitude, using outdated design features like excessive gradients, 3-D elements, and overelaborate detail can work against that. There can be exceptions to this rule of modern designs, like if your business recreates the look of an 80s record store or adopts a vintage aesthetic, but this must be done thoughtfully.
Cliché can strike with your branding’s typography as well. Steer well and clear of overused, trendy, illegible, trite, ugly, and otherwise inappropriate typefaces like Papyrus, Comic Sans, Apple Chancery, Brush Script, and others.
Think of all the ways that you might use your logo: websites, signs, storefront windows, social media profiles, business cards, letterhead, t-shirts, menus, billboards, embroidery, trade show materials, tags, catalogs, photo overlays, and on and on. Each of these uses often comes with parameters for how your branding can be applied. Your logo with a stunning amount of fine details may look fantastic on a billboard or the side of your building. It might not work so well on a business card.
Some uses, like embroidery or screen-printed shirts, require one or two color logos. Packing your logo with colors and gradients causes it to lose some of its unique identity when converted to one-color. This makes it more difficult to associate with your brand. We offer multiple versions of logos for this reason, and you can request more, but be wary. Splitting your brand identity into too many different versions will ultimately dilute your identity. Determine the most important identifying features of your logo and make sure they come across in all versions and uses; an abundance of details and colors makes this task more difficult.
A very closely related point, think of the size of your logo in every way it might be displayed. The uses we just went over are all different sizes. Some design ideas may look fantastic at large scale. However, they don’t work so well at a smaller size, like on a business card or website header. Let’s say that you base your logo around an illustration. Make sure the design isn’t full of small details. Those elements will get lost entirely or blur together into an indistinguishable mass when displayed in small sizes. Think about how all of the aspects of your logo idea will work when used in small and large formats. Avoid elements that will compromise clarity in either context.
Color theory plays a huge role in branding. It’s something that we like to emphasize from the beginning of each brand development project. When choosing colors to represent your brand, check to ensure that it fits the aesthetic expectations of your audience. For example, it’s common for many banks to use blue or green in their advertising. Those colors represent stability and loyalty, which is something that most people look for in a bank. You want to be sure that you are making a logical choice for your services or products, not just choosing a color because you like it.
A helpful tip to finding the best color choice for your branding is to categorize your brand into keywords that identify the ideas and values that your brand represents. Look for colors that you associate with those keywords. For instance, if you’re looking to create branding for your farmers market, that values organic and local ingredients, then you may want to lean towards natural colors such as greens and earth tones.
What About Black?
Many people want to lean towards black in branding. After all, black goes with everything – right? Not quite. The use of black in branding is rare, specifically from large companies. Black is impersonal, dull, and unwelcoming, which is why we will not propose black in any color palettes when developing your brand. You may think, “Well, no one else is using it, so I’ll stand out!” Consider the reasons why no one else is doing it. Ask your designer for advice on this before insisting on the use of black. It’s hard to read on print marketing, especially billboards and signs.
All in all, color theory can affect your branding in many different ways. Consumers make subconscious associations about branding based on color choices. Understanding what your brand represents and making choices based on those elements is a great start to finding the right colors for your branding.