These Common Logo Design Oversights May Be Making Your Business Look Amateur

Perhaps you’re in the process of getting a new logo designed. Or maybe you’re thinking about getting one done for your new venture. A logo is one of the most important investments a business can make, but many do this step poorly. If your logo looks amateurish, so does your business.

The best thing to do is to hire a proper designer or agency. Real professionals know how to design a logo that is readable, memorable, flexible, scalable, and have enduring value. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of poor logo design work being done by inexperienced designers. What’s worse, is that a lot of the time the client (possibly you!) is oblivious to these red flags. Here’s what to look out for.

I’m going to illustrate some common design oversights using logo options for anon-existent company, MyShop. For some business context, MyShop is an e-commerce platform that enables retail businesses to sell their products online (think Shopify).

1) The logo is too busy

The most common feedback I give when evaluating logos is there’s too much going on. This is understandable, because simplicity is actually difficult to achieve, even for experienced designers.

Let’s look at Logo A above, which is trying to convey several things:

  • Since MyShop’s primary consumers are retail businesses, it uses a storefront icon as its main symbol
  • The name’s initials are explicitly written inside the symbol
  • The digital + e-commerce aspect of the business is hinted with a computer mouse in the “O”

The reasoning for including all these elements in the logo are sound. However, its too many ideas in one lockup. Although tempting, you don’t need to have every single concept represented in your logo. My general rule of thumb is to show 2 ideas max per variation. Also, I avoid combining a logo with strong visual elements in the typeface (computer mouse in the “O”) with a logomark (the “symbol” part of the logo).

So let’s split these logos up:

Already looking less busy! But still not aesthetically pleasing, so let’s keep on improving it.

2) The logo does not scale or print well

The more complex your logo is, the more likely it wont scale well on print or smaller digital sizes. Logos that use fine lines in close proximity will begin to blur together on smaller sizes. In addition, closed shapes that don’t have much negative space (empty space) don’t scale down well.

Above, I’ve made some more changes to the MyShop logo. First, I eliminated the fine line above the awning. Next, I reduced the number of sections on the awning from 6 to 4. Lastly, I removed the “MS” from the logo to create some more negative space and eliminate redundancy in the letters. The scaling, although not perfect, is already much better.

3) The logo is not compactible

It’s 2017 so by now I’m sure you understand the importance of social media to your business. Your logo needs to look good on these platforms as well! Think about how the logo looks on Facebook’s square profile photos, or on Twitter’s circle ones. If your logo is rectangular, is there a single element you can take from it to make a simple display image?

4) The logo does not use an appropriate font

The logo’s font is just as important as the symbol. And for logos that only use text (these are called wordmarks), the font is everything! There’s several things to consider when choosing a font, but for simplicity I’ll mention just two. First, does the font match the overall brand? For example if you’re a tech company, I’d recommend a nice Sans Serif font rather than Serif because it gives a more modern look. Next, does the font match the logomark? I can tell you now that the current MyShop font does not match, so let’s fix that.

See how changing the font changes the overall feel of the logo? Now, MyShop is starting to look more like an approachable company.

5) The logo is not unique

I’ll admit the MyShop logo still looks pretty boring. It’s not that memorable and the symbol looks like it belongs in an icon set. Let’s modify it some more…

I changed the color to something more vibrant and made the symbol a little more interesting by extending the awning down. The symbol still looks like a storefront, although more abstract.

Simple logos can be memorable in a few ways. One way is exceptional brand marketing by the company (Nike). Another, is for the logo to have an ah-ha factor or hidden meaning (FedEx, Amazon). For MyShop, I opted for the ah-ha design. The awnings actually form the letter “m” for MyShop and while many people won’t notice it, those who do will remember it.

6) The logo does not work as part of an identity system

Understand that your logo should serve as the backbone of your company’s visual identity system. It supports your digital presence, your iconography, your marketing collateral, your signage, and much more. Well-designed logos can serve as building blocks that inspire the designs of an entire identity system. A great example is Pentagram’s rebranding of MIT Media Lab. What seems like such a simple logo, translates beautifully across so many different mediums. Does your logo have the potential for this kind of flexibility?

7) The logo does not suit your brand

Remember that your logo is just one piece of your business’ brand. You can have a beautiful logo that avoids all the red flags above, but it can still have a negative impact on your business if it is off-brand.

Closing

Know that there are plenty of great logos in the wild that are unconventionally designed. They don’t necessarily follow these best practices and that’s okay. These logos are usually done by professionals. But for those of you without the budget to hire a proper designer or agency, I hope this post is helpful in making sure your logo design decision is well-informed.

If you know anyone who will find this post useful, please share it with them! Thanks for reading.

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Jason Li is a Partner at TomYum, a product design and branding agency.
TomYum is a Toronto-based Digital Product Design and Branding Company. Get in touch with us to discuss your next project. Follow our work on Dribbble.