You know how they say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but you totally do anyway? It’s the same thing with brand logos. They’re your first impression of a company — and no matter how awesome the brand’s offerings, if the logo doesn’t do it for you, the business’s chances of wooing you as a customer are shot before they start.
But while most logos look simple, crafting them is way more complicated than people realize. It’s hard to encompass an entire brand into one single mark.
Like most things we do here, success stems from a tried-and-true but highly personalized creative process — which is what I turned to when I set out to create the logo for our new monthly enewsletter, the D Custom Top 5.
How to Create an Awesome Brand Logo
First things first: Whatever I came up with would need to fit in with our existing style and brand guidelines. The D Custom brand is clean, simple, and impactful, and our enewsletter logo needed to reflect that.
From there, I broke my process into five steps.
Step 1: Go Straight to Your Head
I like to follow my own creativity first, so before I take to the computer to start researching, I grab a pencil and paper to sketch out my initial ideas.
This is not a time for editing or perfectionism. If something comes to your mind, don’t think, just get it on the page. For this project, I came up with about 25 options in this round, but it’s really about sketching out as many as come to mind. Let creativity reign. (You may revisit this sketching phase with more ideas after Step 2.)
Another thing I do here is write out a list of keywords that encompass the brand to answer the questions: What is this brand all about? What is the feeling we want to portray in this mark?
So say, for example, I was creating a logo for Whole Foods. I might jot down:
This exercise is a good way to clear up your mental picture of how the logo should come across.
Step 2: Get Inspired
After exhausting my own concepts, I look to other designers for inspiration. Sifting through other logos and ideas helps expand your initial perspective, and sometimes you find solutions you’d have never thought of that set you out on a new path of thinking.
This is also a good point in the process to brainstorm and get feedback from your team: In these early phases, the more brainpower, the better.
Step 3: Make the Magic Happen
When I begin designing my concepts on the computer, every draft starts in black and white. Pro tip: If the logo doesn’t work monochromatically, it definitely won’t work in color.
Step 4: Sweat the Small Stuff
At this point, you’ll probably have several dozen versions — maybe more — to assess. Pull out your favorites (trust your gut; you can often tell at a glance what works and what doesn’t) and begin incorporating your brand colors and adding final touches.
Even tiny changes in font weight, justification, or color can make a huge difference in the logo design process. Every tweak gives you another version; another option to choose from. And each one is important to the process.
Some of the logos started looking like a news channel logo (D Custom Top 5 at 5 p.m.! … can this be a thing, please?); one ended up resembling the ESPN logo. This is normal: It’s easy for creatives to subconsciously design things that are familiar, often without realizing it. But designs that are too similar to other existing logos are typically scrapped in this step to avoid idea stealing (intentional or not).
Step 5: Put it to a Vote
The best way to find the winner is to poll your team (not just designers — rope in colleagues from other departments, too, to get more perspective).
And the Winner Is …
The ultimate winner closely follows our existing D Custom logo (both font and color match) but plays with scale. It fits nicely within the header of our newly designed newsletter due to its horizontal lockup; it’s easily legible; and most importantly, it plays well with our brand. In the end, it felt like a clear choice — but every iteration of the logo was an essential step to getting there.
I often find that the simplest solutions can be the best solutions. My motto: Trust your gut.