Logo design tips from leading designers

What makes a successful logo these days? The question ‘does it work in black and white?’ will be recognised by identity designers everywhere, and while that’s still mainly true in these colour-saturated days, logo designers now also have to deal with a multitude of media – from giant digital signage to animations on the screen of a smartphone.

“The fundamental principles remain, but with brands seeking to become much more relevant to people’s lives, there’s even more reason to add a richness and depth of character that gives you a greater understanding of who the brand is,” says Clinton Duke, lead designer at GyroHSR (gyro.com).

“Traditionally we were all trained to design clear, simple pieces that could have fallen out of any book on Swiss design,” says Michael Johnson of johnson banks (johnsonbanks.co.uk). “And, of course, those logos look great – but they all look the same. More recently we’re aiming for more unusual solutions.”

The context is as important as the content, according to Stuart Wood, executive creative director at Fitch (fitch.com), who points out that logos rarely appear on their own. “Creating a distinctive colour palette, layout style, and approach to photography and typography tells you as much about the brand as the marquee.”

However the key is to keep it simple, according to Robin Garton, creative director at Maher Bird Associates (mba.co.uk). It’s a view shared by most of the designers in this feature. Robin explains that meaning comes from association with the brand and brand messages over time. “You will never get a logo to say everything you want it to,” he says.

Steven Bonner

Illustrator and typographer

“Keep your ideas relevant. There are going to be occasions when you’ll get carried away with an idea and it’ll start to veer off track into something that might be visually beautiful, but has lost the initial idea that made it representative of your client’s business. Try to regularly step away from the work and be objective about it. Does it still fit your client’s brand or are you indulging yourself? If not, put it to the side, no matter how attractive it is.” stevenbonner.com

London hairdressing salon Charles Carter (2011), by Steven Bonner. The hairdressing shears are unmistakable and are combined with the company’s initials used as handles

Jason Butler

Creative director, Appetite London

“A secondary element, icon or symbol in conjunction with a logotype can lead to a strong visual shorthand and be extended into features of other communications. Look for differentiation and ownership in the design – know the competition. Strong logos are recognisable even without colour and effect: for example Chanel, Virgin, O2 or IBM. Less can mean more; avoid overcomplicated stylised effects – if you need these then the core design is not right.” appetiteuk.com

Adgistics (2010) and Segro (2007), by Appetite London. The Adgistics logo stemmed from the strapline ‘the home for intelligent assets’ and the ‘A’ was designed to symbolise a roof structure

Alun Edwards

Senior designer, Studio Output

“The secret is to capture several ideas in one graphic image. Start by suggesting exactly what the brand does. The best logos combine two ideas (often emotive and descriptive) so when you see them, a switch is turned on to who the identity is for. Then make sure it can be reproduced, scaled, remains legible and can cross media. But it should always come back to an intelligent visual solution to the problem.” studio-output.com

Club 18-30 for Thomas Cook and the Big Splash for BBC Sport/British Swimming, by Studio Output

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