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Back to Basics - Theory of Logo Design by Paolo Pace

You know what? There is actually no easy answer to this question. It isn't something you can just slap together and it can't be read out of any one book- the information on how to create a great logo comes from research.

The research that is necessary to create an effective brand starts with your design savvy. Next you must investigate the company for which you've been commissioned to design for. Let me make clear that learning about a company cannot be done by simply nosing about for an hour to see how it ticks, rather it must be thoroughly understood from the perspective of its clients. What do they want? What are they looking for and what do they see when they look at your client's business? By speaking with employees, owners, partners and clients, mingling these interviews with solid facts about that particular industry you end up with solid clues that will help guide you to the beginnings of a successful business.

Where one logo succeeds for a restaurant, the same likely will not be true if used for Wall Street, simply because the needs of the clients are different. People looking for a place to eat may be looking for good food, a comfortable environment, and all for a modest price. A logo that communicates this feeling will draw new clients, while one that appears too rigid and all business might turn them away.

If a logo meets the need of the company and keeps the target market in mind, is visually striking and illustrious, can be easily reproduced, uses a limited number of colors (for reasons of reproduction costs), and still looks first-rate when scaled down, then you have yourself a winning brand.

Your logo must also be emotionally charged as it is often the very first thing a prospect client sees of a company and will likely make their impressions based on it from there. If stability is what you wish to convey then you will need to work the logo so that it instills that kind of an emotional reaction from the viewer.

Some basics

A basic starting point is to choose your fonts (serif or sans serif) and set your color scheme. If you have already determined the emotional goal of your logo then font and color choice will be more about fine-tuning rather than any kind of struggle. It is essential to have a basic understanding of color otherwise you may convey the wrong message with poor color choice, so take the time to update your knowledge base on the subject whenever you can.

Consider your shapes carefully. Rounded edges versus sharp corners can mean the difference between aggressive and passive messages. If the company you are designing the logo for wish to convey action and excitement then using smooth, curving shapes may not be the proper solution.

There are basic tricks to use during the process of designing a logo to ensure that it is not only aesthetically pleasing but also balanced. Try simply turning your design upside down to test the shape of your design and then look at it in a mirror. If the paper is thin enough I also put it up against a window, image-side down, in order to see through the sheet. Without realizing it we sometimes load our shapes and text too much on one side and by using these tests you can help prevent such occurrences.

One of the strongest methods of breaking down a logo to find its finer points is to get opinions. Approach your peers and have them analyze your work. Often they will see things you have overlooked and advise solutions. Although you should prepare yourself for the critique as it is never easy to take and in the wrong frame of mind you might take the wrong advice. By keeping an open mind and being confident in the parts of your design that work you will avoid feeling defeated and instead will flourish with the new ideas and advice.

Copyright 2000-2002, Paolo Pace All Rights Reserved

This article was published on Wednesday 15 November, 2006.
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