Checklists are magic. To some, they might appear restrictive or officious. But when you start a logo design project, using a logo checklist means you don’t have to worry about what you might be forgetting. As a designer this allows you to focus on executing your skills and creatively solving the problem. As a client, this logo checklist will help you understand the logo design process, ensure you aren’t missing anything and help you communicate clearly and confidently with your designer.
Before you start
Understand the purpose of a logo
Why do you need a logo? Visual design can help you stand out from the competition by presenting a credible and appealing face for your business. But remember that logos themselves exist for one major reason: to help customers identify your brand, business and product or service. It doesn’t have to express every possible thing about your business or contain seven hidden meanings. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to tell the story of your brand so don’t expect a logo to do all of that for you.
Of course, your logo needs to be aesthetically pleasing and technically correct. Beyond that, logos should be simple, appropriate and distinctive. We’ll review the logo at the first draft stage according to these criteria. But first, make sure you have a clear brief…
Prepare a clear brief
The logo design process should be an enjoyable one for both designer and client. This requires good communication and a solid brief. The brief will outline the project, goals and inspiration so both you and your designer are on the same page. You should include things like a concise description of the organization, explain what you do and who your customers are, list your products, services, or activities and add a little about your particular brand attributes. You want to answer questions like how would you describe your personality as a company? What are your business goals?
The first draft stage is where you check the direction and concept of your logo design against your brief to make sure you are on track. You should check the following criteria:
Is it appropriate?
Does it reflect your brand’s personality? Will it appeal to our target audience? Do the fonts, colors and general style match the feeling that we want to evoke? Color psychology suggests that blues are calming, red is passionate, yellow is optimistic, etc.
Fonts too have their own personalities. Serif typefaces (like Georgia or Times New Roman) are more traditional. Sans-serif typefaces (like Arial or Helvetica) are more modern. Keep in mind these two points: there are infinite variations and don’t assume things like a serif font equates with “old.” Invite your designer to explain their type choices in response to the brief.
Sometimes instead of thinking if your logo design is appropriate, it might be more helpful to ask if your design is not appropriate. A children’s Nursery shouldn’t appear dangerous. A sleep aid shouldn’t give off a loud look and feel.
Is it simple?
Ask yourself if the logo is trying to do too much. A poorly designed logo will make you look unprofessional but a great logo alone won’t handle your entire communication strategy. So don’t ask it to. Don’t shoehorn in unnecessary elements. Make sure you have the essential parts of a logo for your brand.
Simple logos look professional and last longer. They leave room for creative expression with other visual elements and are more flexible in applications. If your logo is simple enough, you will be able to answer yes to the following questions: Does it still look good when scaled to a small size? Will it pair well with photography, illustration, patterns, and other elements in layouts? Does it work in black and white? Logos should be designed in black and white first, then color can be added.
Naturalistic illustrations are usually not a flexible solution. Detail is lost at small sizes and they cannot always be replicated in different media. The most enduring logos are beautifully simple.
You can update your brand’s visual design over time but the logo itself should be timeless. So it’s wise to avoid trends since they can date quickly.
Is it distinctive?
How does it look amongst your competitors? You want to be distinctive within your industry whilst still remaining appropriate for your brand. Remember that appropriate doesn’t mean cliché so steer clear of common tropes like nondescript swooshes and abstract people.
Don’t feel the need to visually communicate what you do. A bakery logo doesn’t need to be brown and features a loaf of bread, cupcake, or chef’s hat in order to be appropriate.
Never steal or directly copy someone else’s design. It’s (usually) illegal, unethical, and can damage your reputation. And if possible, avoid buying a premade logo or stock logos. It’s the best way to avoid being unoriginal and potentially buying the same one as a competitor. Not to mention that they take no account of the nuance of your brand. Hire a professional designer if you want to create a distinctive brand identity.
If the design is distinctive enough you will be able to trademark it. Just make sure to look up the relevant trademark association for your country if you want this legal protection.
Now it’s time for the more technical things. This is when getting help from a professional designer can really help take your logo design to the next level. These are some more technical things that are harder to articulate but are things that you should check. A designer will be able to explain how your logo meets these criteria or work with you to fix it.
- Legibility—is it legible? Can the name be read clearly? Are there any elements that would cause certain characters to be misread?
- Fonts—have the letters been carefully typeset and kerned (spacing between the letters)? Have we used a high-quality font? Have we purchased an appropriate license for the font?
- Technical drawing—has the logo been designed as a vector? Are the lines sharp and smooth?
- Composition—is the logo nicely balanced? Are the proportions correct?
- Application—will it work at very small sizes? Will it work for our specific applications? What happens when it is placed on a dark or patterned background?
Once everyone is happy with the logo, the next (and last) step is to ensure the handover goes smoothly. You’ll want to make sure you have the answers to the following questions:
- Do you have all the appropriate files? These should include files in both vector format (which can be scaled to any size with no loss of quality) and raster (optimized for the screen).
- Do you have the color references? Your designer should provide the codes for any colors used in the logo. These should include at least RGB values, HEX references (for the screen), CMYK values (for print), and possibly Pantone references (universal color matching system) if applicable.
- Do we know how to use it? Large-scale branding design projects will produce a style guide to ensure consistent application throughout the campaign. For a simple logo design, speak with your designer about how the logo should appear on light, dark, or patterned backgrounds, at small sizes and for different orientations.
Whether you’re a client or a designer, hopefully, you now feel more confident about the logo design process.
Armed with this checklist you can focus on creating an enduringly simple and distinctive logo that is appropriate to your brand’s personality and that you are proud to share with the world.
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About the author
Matt Brunton is a Brand Strategist, Identity Designer, and Online Educator. When Matt’s not helping purpose-driven start-ups or working on his new YouTube channel you’ll find him enjoying life with his wife and their three sons in the North of England. You can see more of his work at https://www.mattbruntondesign.com