If you think designing a logo is easy, you’re probably not a designer. Even for the most seasoned designers I know, creating a practical logo still poses a tough creative challenge.
It takes a lot of time, research, forethought, and expertise to design a logo that looks practical, inspiring, and professional. But unfortunately, many designers fall into the same traps that make their logos look like amateur hour.
Even the highly skilled run into trouble designing logos — a simple mistake or oversight can ruin the effectiveness of a logo and leave a lasting negative impression.
In this article, I’ll share some common mistakes designers make when designing logos. It helps to know about these mistakes from the get-go, so you can be sure not to make them yourself.
Let’s get started!
10 Common Mistakes Logo Designers Make
Having designed hundreds of logos over the years, we can confidently say we know what a great logo looks like. We’ve also seen all the rookie mistakes designers make when designing logos. Some of these mistakes might seem fairly obvious, but you’d be surprised how many designers still make them.
Mistake #1: Evading the Intuitive Process
Designers often fall into the trap of overthinking their logos. A common mistake is to become enamoured with complex design concepts and forget about what users intuitively expect from a logo.
When designing your logo, take a step back and focus on what makes the logo a logo: the visual representation of your brand’s identity. That’s what your logo should be at its core — a visual representation of your brand.
Remember that to ensure that your logo is effective and fits the needs of your target audience. It helps to focus on creating an intuitive design.
By intuitive, we mean the logo should look how it’s supposed to, without any extraneous information or unnecessary details.
The logo should be able to speak for itself without requiring any explanation from you or your team.
In other words, it should be self-explanatory. And that’s the key to an intuitive design: it doesn’t require any conscious effort from your users to understand what your logo is about.
Mistake #2: Confusing Your Terminology
For the design process to unfold smoothly, everyone in your team should work with the same language. Unfortunately, many companies use different terms to describe the same things (for example, “logo,” “mark,” or even just “symbol”).
It may seem insignificant compared to other logo design elements, but it can significantly impact how you and your team approach the project. You need to know what everyone is talking about to make decisions and move forward with your design process smoothly.
To avoid confusion, sit down with your team and clearly define all terms associated with your logo (for example, colours, typography, and shapes). Be sure you’re all on the same page from the outset, and you won’t have to worry about confusion derailing your design process later.
Here are the terms you want to define:
- Logo: A logo is a visual representation of your brand’s identity, used in multiple contexts. It’s what you’re creating and serves as your brand’s face.
- Logomark: A logomark is the visual representation of your brand’s identity in a single distinct shape or form. Think of it as the “representative” element of your logo, which can appear on its own, accompanied by a logotype.
Example: Amazon’s logomark (a smile)
Nike’s logomark (the iconic swoosh)
Adidas’ logomark (the iconic three-stripe symbol)
- Logotype/wordmark: A logotype is a wordmark associated with your logo — for example, Coca-Cola.
Example of a logotype (Coca-Cola’s curved script wordmark).
Adidas uses its logotype (stacked text) without the iconic three-stripe symbol.
- Brandmark/combination mark: The combination of your logomark and logotype — for example, McDonald’s.
Example of brandmark (is McDonald’s iconic golden arches).
Mistake #3: Ignoring the Rules of Design
Just because you’re designing a logo doesn’t mean design rules don’t apply to your work! In fact, certain design rules are more important than ever when you’re creating a logo.
For example, your logo has to be memorable and recognisable. That means all elements in your logo must complement each other (symmetry is your friend!), and the colours should follow certain guidelines.
When designing your logo, stay within the bounds of the “rules” that make for a successful design. Remember: you’ll be using your logo everywhere, so it needs to stand out in any context.
To ensure that your logo is memorable and recognisable, keep these things in mind as you work:
- Design with symmetry in mind. Symmetry suggests order and balance — two qualities that are associated with successful companies.
- Use colours wisely. Certain colours have certain associations — for example, blue conveys trustworthiness, while red can imply passion or energy (depending on what shade you choose).
Yellow often represents happiness and optimism, while black can be a symbol of elegance or luxury.
Green can suggest growth, abundance, and stability, while purple is often associated with creativity.
Use colour strategically in your logo design to connect with your target audience and evoke the right emotions.
- Use typography wisely. Again, certain fonts convey certain qualities — for example, script or handwritten fonts can be seen as personal and approachable, while san-serif fonts can be seen as modern or futuristic.
- Make sure your logo is scalable. You don’t want to create a logo only to discover that it doesn’t work when you scale it up or down. To avoid this issue, ensure that your logo works in any context — and on any platform.
For example, can it be used as an app icon? How about a favicon for your website? Is it readable in all sizes?
- Put yourself in your audience’s place. If you know who will see your logo — for example, consumers or other businesses — put yourself in their shoes.
How would they feel about your logo? Does it resonate with them on an emotional level? Is it memorable and recognisable enough to stick in their minds?
Mistake #4. Not Doing Research
Every logo project should start with research. After all, you can’t create a compelling logo if you don’t know what your target audience is looking for or what they will respond to.
Even more important, you must figure out how to capture and communicate a brand’s essence through imagery.
You can only achieve this when you deeply understand what you’re trying to communicate or not to communicate. The more you understand the brand and its customers (your target audience), the easier it will be to create a logo that captures their attention and reflects their needs.
Some of the things you’ll need to research before you start designing your logo include:
- The company’s history, identity, and core values.
How did the company come to be? What are its central values? What are its goals?
- The company’s target audience. Who is your target audience, and what do they care about?
- Competition in the industry. How do other companies in your industry design their logos? What elements do they use that you could incorporate into your own logo?
- Graphic trends in the industry. How have other logos in your field evolved over time? Are there certain visual elements that are especially popular right now?
Doing research before you start designing your logo can help ensure that it communicates the right message to your target audience — and stands out from the crowd.
After all, a great logo is more than just an image — it’s an expression of what your company stands for.
Mistake #5. Not Paying Attention to Colour and Fonts
In many cases, a logo designer will create the basic design first and leave the colour selection or font choice to someone else later, if necessary. But this can be a big mistake.
Remember that colour and fonts are crucial to how customers perceive your logo. Colours convey different emotions, communicate different messages and appeal differently to different audiences.
Similarly, font choice can affect the readability of your logo — and even its overall impact. So, you want to consider colours and fonts when designing your logo.
Some tips to keep in mind when it comes to colour and fonts include:
- Choose colours based on the message you want to convey. For example, blue is often seen as trustworthy and stable, while purple is often associated with creativity.
- Don’t use more than three colours in your logo. Too many colours can appear garish and distracting, making it difficult for your logo to stand out.
- Select font styles that are easy to read. Sans serif fonts are often seen as modern or futuristic, while serif fonts can be seen as traditional or classic. Script fonts give a more personal and approachable feel, while playful fonts can help lighten the mood.
- Use your company name as the focus of your logo rather than a slogan or tagline. A motto or slogan may seem like a clever marketing tactic, but it can also make it more difficult for customers to remember your logo.
To create an effective logo that truly captures the essence of your brand, you want to pay close attention to colour and font choices — and involve others in the design process.
Mistake #6. Creating Your Logo Design in Colour (First)
While colour can play an important role in logo design, many people make the mistake of creating their logo in colour first.
A good logo must be able to stand on its own, without depending on colour for impact. So before adding colour to your logo design, ensure the primary logo is strong.
Starting with colour only robs the logo of its flexibility. Your logo should be usable in multiple colour situations and across various media platforms — such as black-and-white or grayscale printing, embroidery, decals, or a simple website.
To create an effective logo that will stand the test of time, start with a strong foundation — then add colour. Remember that a logo is more than just an image — it’s a powerful expression of your brand identity.
We suggest you design the logo in black and white first and then add colour later. That way, you can ensure your logo is effective without relying on colour for impact. And when you’re ready to colour it in, make sure you take into account how different colours can affect the message your logo conveys.
Mistake #7. Using Generic Imagery
It’s sad that we even have to say this, but you shouldn’t use generic imagery in your logo.
Every day, we come across countless logos that feature images like globes, suns, or stars, something that looks like a handshake, or an icon that represents a specific industry or organisation.
While these images may be memorable, they’re also generic and unoriginal — and using them in your logo design will make it appear less professional.
If anything, the whole idea of designing a logo is to find something that represents your brand and your brand alone, not something vague, generic, and unoriginal.
You may still use symbolism, but at least be creative enough to look for something that truly represents your brand and the message you want to convey.
What’s more? Generic imagery in your logo can be detrimental to your branding efforts. After all, how can you build a brand around an image people already associate with another brand or organisation?
Instead of using generic imagery, think carefully about what sets your business apart and find an image that resonates with that message. A simple shape or icon can be just as effective — and memorable — as a generic image.
For example, a square can convey strength and stability, while a circle conveys harmony, wholeness, and unity. A triangle symbolises ambition and determination, while a star represents achievement and success.
You deserve to have a logo that reflects your brand identity — so don’t be afraid to think outside the box when you design it.
Mistake #8. Using Inappropriate Imagery (With You Even Realising It)
Not all images are appropriate for use in logo designs, and the last thing you want to do is choose imagery that will embarrass your company or brand.
Have you ever seen a logo with a scantily clad woman? Or one featuring a product or organisation that’s not family-friendly? If so, you’re probably familiar with how inappropriate imagery can ruin a logo.
When you design your logo, avoid images that could offend people — intentionally or unintentionally.
For example, if you own a family-friendly business like a day care centre, don’t use imagery with sexual connotations in your logo. And if you run an adult-themed store like an adult store or a sex shop, don’t use child-friendly imagery in your logo.
It may seem obvious, but these mistakes are surprisingly common. Make sure you take the time to select images that will be appropriate and professional for your brand — no matter the industry.
Some of these things happen unintentionally, so be sure to double-check your logo before you launch it.
Take the FedEx logo as an example. There is actually a small arrow between the “E” and “x” in the word, but most people don’t even notice it.
That’s because if you look at it carefully, you’ll see that the negative space forms an arrow that points from left to right. The logo is cleverly designed to convey speed and accuracy — two critical qualities for a company that deals in shipping packages.
It may not be something you’d notice at first glance, but it’s worth taking the time to carefully examine your logo before you release it to avoid any unintended messages.
Mistake #9. Designing an Inflexible Logo
People will use your logo in different contexts and on many different platforms, so you must design a flexible logo with plenty of versatility.
A good logo should work in black and white and colour, so be sure to use bold colours with high contrast if you want to create a recognisable version of your brand once the colour is removed.
Similarly, your logo should be scalable without losing its integrity. If you use intricate details in your design, it may not look as good when scaled down or blown up larger — and will likely lose some of its lustre.
Ideally, you want to ensure your logo looks good even when it’s reduced to a tiny size — like in the corner of an app or social media profile.
Design the logo in vector format using Adobe Illustrator or another vector graphics program. That will give you the much-needed flexibility when resizing your logo with no loss in quality.
However, if you don’t have access to a vector graphics editing program, you can still create a scalable design in Photoshop by taking extra care to use good contrast and simple shapes.
You don’t want to be too rigid in your design, as you need to have the flexibility to adapt it in various contexts.
Your logo may appear on business cards and letterheads one day — but perhaps it will also be used on a website, t-shirt, or vehicle wrap at some point down the road.
Designing a logo that looks good on screen and in print will help ensure your brand is memorable and recognisable.
Mistake #10. Not Providing Logo Guidelines
When your logo design is finalised and launched, you’ve just put a lot of time and effort into creating something that will represent your brand.
You don’t want this highly visible asset to be used incorrectly or modified in any way — which is why it’s so important to provide clear logo guidelines when you launch your logo.
That will help ensure your brand is represented properly and consistently across various mediums.
Include specific instructions on the size, colour, spacing, orientation, and other details related to your logo design, so people know exactly how to use it appropriately.
Once you provide these guidelines in writing, it will be much easier to prevent future mishaps or logo misuse.
Remember: Your Visual Identity Goes Far Beyond just the Look of your Logo
When you’re creating your logo design, it’s important to remember that your visual identity goes far beyond just the look of your logo.
In addition to your logo, you should also take the time to develop a style guide that outlines all the other design elements that will make up your visual identity — including fonts, colours, and image styles.
Note that there are other ways to communicate your brand identity:
- First, you have to work on your brand strategy. For the uninitiated, brand strategy is the process of developing a clear, consistent message that accurately reflects your company and its core values. It’s how people perceive you in the market, how they think of your product or service — and how they choose to interact with it
- Next is your visual identity. That is the visual expression of your brand, how you want people to perceive you and your business. It starts with your logo and expands to include colour palettes, typefaces, other graphic elements — and much more.
- Messaging Guidelines are also important. While your logo is a visual representation of your brand, the copy you use to communicate with customers and potential clients will also shape people’s perceptions.
- For this, you should craft messaging guidelines that cover tone, voice, and overall message for internal communication and external marketing materials like ads and websites.
- Brand Storytelling is another critical element of your visual identity. That includes the experiences and stories people have in connection with your brand, whether good, bad or somewhere in between.
Finally, you have your brand identity guidelines. These are the rules that define how all of these elements fit together to create a cohesive visual representation of your company. Designing a well-crafted logo is just one piece of the puzzle.
Creating a cohesive visual identity for your business can take some time and effort — but it’s an important step in building a strong brand that resonates with customers.