How to NOT design a logo (common mistakes and how to avoid them)


Logo is one of the most important elements when it comes to creating a brand – whether it’s a personal website or a big business that makes millions. Today, many people decide to start a personal company or write a blog and they come to the point, when they really need a logo. If you’re at this stage or thinking of creating a brand, you probably also thought of designing logo by yourself – I mean, who knows what would you like better than you yourself, right? Although in a long run it really pays off to hire a professional designer to do the job, it’s also fine if you create it yourself, as long as you won’t make these horrible mistakes.

1.    It’s complicated

Complicated logo, same as such relationship status on Facebook usually means it’s not good and you should stay away from that design (and this type of relationships for that matter ;) ). Too complicated logo means there is way too many elements in it and whoever is looking at it doesn’t know where to focus. It’s a type of logo which you’ll forget 15 seconds after you’ve seen it, because your brain couldn’t make sense out of it (or  you’ll remember it forever, because it was THAT bad). Example? Here, I made one for you:



Do you know where to look? Or what the hell is it? I made it mild, used just two colors and I still cringe looking at it. And even if somehow you manage to make your complicated logo look good on the website, imagine how BAD it would be when scaled down to 1cm x 1cm on your business card. Which brings us to the next mistake:

2.    It’s not readable

Or becomes impossible to read when scaled down. This happens with extra-thin fonts and lines. It also happens, when you’ve got a symbol that becomes a blob of color when scaled down. And the worst of all – the font is so elaborate that you seriously can’t read it. The prime example – metal bands – these guys are masters of unreadable logos. Sample I made:
It supposed to read “Unreadable”, but it’s so unreadable that probably you can’t read it (now repeat that sentence fast 10 times :D).

3.    Wrong type of font

The font you use to create your logo doesn’t only carry a name of your brand. It also inspires certain emotions. Choosing a right font for your brand is very, very important. It has to speak to your audience and it has to speak the right things. Example:

Which one would you trust more if you needed a lawyer? I bet you chose one to the right.
And it’s the same with your brand – your customers will choose a brand that makes them feel specific, expected and desired things. If you’re making DIY toys, you should choose a friendly, playful font. If you’re a beauty blogger – all these nice handwritten, elegant fonts will work for you etc.

4.    Too many fonts

So let’s say you’re now searching for a perfect font to use in your logo. And you like this one and that one, ooooh and this one is pretty too and you want them all! Stop it right there. More than 2-3 fonts and you’ll create a chaos. Choose one main font to represent your brand and another one for signature if needed. Don’t overdo it and remember to combine fonts contrasting with each other or complementing each other, never conflicting. What does it mean? Either choose two fonts that are very different or come from the same family of fonts. Samples:
From the left: first set of fonts shows contrasting fonts – we’ve got a thick, handwritten main font and a simple, non-serif signature. The middle example is a set of complementary fonts – looks good too. Third example is BAD – two script fonts that are conflicting – too similar to create contrast, yet too different to complement each other.

5.    Too many colors

Yep, there are exceptions, but in general you shouldn’t use more than 2-3 colors in your logo. This is first of all to make it more memorable for your customers, but also has very practical connotations – the more colors, the more expensive it can get in printing (especially for some techniques). Plus there is one very important thing – your logo should look great in black, white and grayscale as well, too many colors will make it hard to recognize. When I was studying, they told us to start logo design in black (and pen & paper, not any software ;) ). Forget the colors, make it achromatic first, so you know it will look stunning even without them. After many years in design business I still keep that rule in mind and so should you. There are cases, when logo will never exist as achromatic version (I made few like this as well), but these are rather rare or specifically requested to be designed in such a way. Here’s an example of logo I made.


Now you might ask: “Why would I ever need an achromatic logo?” Well, maybe you never will. But if you’re planning to expand your business and maybe, just maybe make promotional gadgets like pens or engraved items, you’ll need it. Also imagine if someone, be your customer or potential business partner prints anything that contains your logo in black (to save money or whatever) and it just doesn’t look good anymore. You don't want that, right?

6.    Gradients

They were cool and fancy in 90. And this is where they should stay. Using gradients not only will make your logo look outdated, but also can cause problems in printing. Of course if you’re planning to use your logo only on web, then a subtle gradient is fine, but don’t overdo it and plan ahead – if there is a chance you’ll be printing your logo in the future, it’s safer to stay away from them. Take an example from big guys out there like Google or Microsoft – they all simplified their logos.

Source: Google (how unexpected!)

7.    You don’t think big.

And this time it’s not a psychological mambo-jambo. Literally, you don’t think that one day you might need your logo really BIG. Think billboard size. Ok, this may never happen, but a flyer or poster is pretty much possible, right? Ideally, to avoid quality loss while scaling your logo up, you should make it as a vector based graphic. Since most likely you don’t have a software to make such graphics, make sure you’re designing it in high resolution – 300dpi (dots per inch) and big in size – I suggest A3 dimensions (420mm x 297mm), to cover most of the future printing needs. Scaling it down is never a problem and for web use save your logo smaller, with 72dpi resolution and preferably as .png with transparent background – this is perfect for screens, no need to load your website up with heavy files and it will look good even if your website background is not white.


The  picture above shows what happens when we’re scaling vector and bitmap (raster) graphics – both scaled “K” are made from the original one. As you can see, when you scale vector based graphic it stays sharp and nice, while scaling bitmap makes it blurry and pixelated.

8.    It’s not “you”

This is probably the most important thing. Your logo should represent you, your personality, key values of your brand and you have to love it. After all, if you don’t like your logo, why other people would? Not only that – if your logo is not unique, how your potential customers will recognize your brand among plenty of others similarly looking? This means you should NEVER use one of these websites that offer stock logos. Just don’t. Yep, they’re cheap, you’ll have your company’s name on it, but so will other 100 companies who bought it. And you don’t want this to happen, trust me. If you’re not planning to hire a professional to design your PERSONALISED logo, it’s better if you sit down, draw it yourself, fix it in GIMP or other free program and use that, than paying 5$  (or any money) for a logo that is not unique.

Also – it’s ok to look for inspiration on google images – actually, you should do a little research! But it’s not cool at all to copy somebody’s design. How would you feel if someone else used your carefully designed, polished and beloved logo as their own?

That’s all folks! These are the mistakes you should avoid! I hope you’ll find it helpful when you'll decide to create your own logo :)

However if:

You’re not feeling like creating one yourself, but you need it

You’ve got an idea but no time to do it

You simply want me to design it

Feel free to contact me and I’ll be more than happy to help you!


And remember - rules are meant to be broken, but it's good to know them first! :)

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About Katarzyna Wójcik

I'm a passionate blogger and freelance graphic designer. When I'm not working, I'm either reading, researching, learning new stuff, playing games or writing about cool findings. Oh, and I cook too! If you'd like to get in touch - whether it's about a collaboration, your awesome project, feedback, or you just want to exchange views - drop me a line!
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51 comments:

  1. Having a solid logo is a big part of branding. It's something I struggled with for quite some time. I'm not completely sold on what I'm using but it's better than my initial one.

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    1. Sometimes it's a work in progress, look how Pepsi logo has changed over the years ;)

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  2. These are some really key points to hit for logo creation. I appreciate the examples because as a visual learner, it really helps to see the logo designs to understand what worked and what didn't.

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    1. Thank you, visual examples work great, as a "picture is worth a thousand words"! Which is also why logo design is more than it looks at the first sight :)

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  3. Wow this is actually super interesting ! I loved reading the parts about font ... So true . Haha especially the lawyer example. On point. This is helpful, I've been playing with my blog logo so I needed to read this !
    Danielle | AccordingtoD.com

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    1. Thank you! I'm happy you find it helpful :) Fonts are super-important, I've seen pretty good logos ruined by the use of a bad font.

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  4. You've shared some great advice here. My biggest pet peeve is using too many colors. Maybe it's my eyes but it tends to be overwhelming for me.

    Thanks for sharing this. :)

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    1. I get a similar impression from too many colors in a logo, hence mine is black :D

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  5. Excellent post. I see some of the same errors on Authors' book covers. Swirly, curly fonts that make it impossible to read the book title when it is on Amazon in thumbnail view.

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    1. I've seen that too! Horrible - they say not to judge the book by the cover (literally this time), but sometimes it's simply impossible not to ;)

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  6. Hahahaha I love this article. It's really good on the pointers and the ending is awesome.

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  7. I struggle with making headers and logos all of the time - thanks for these great tips!

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  8. Hey this is so cool and timely. I am thinking of having my own logo on my blog too. I had not talked to anyone because I figured I should populate mine with content first so that when the time comes, the logo can be designed factoring in the kinds of posts I make.

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    1. That's a good approach - you need to know who is your target audience and what is your brand about before creating a logo. When working with a designer, you'd be asked this kind of things in order to create brief and then make a logo that tells the right story to the right people :)

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  9. Great post, and formatted in a way that was actually interesting to read! I will be taking some of these tips on board for sure.

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    1. Thanks! I wanted to make it fun, technical details and rules tend to be boring :D

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  10. Great post! The logo is soooo important! I am constantly trying (and failing) to perfect mine!

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    1. It is, it makes you stand out from the crowd! I know the struggle, designing for myself is always the hardest thing for me. If you'd ever need help with your logo, let me know :)

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  11. What a great post! very informative... this will help me out quite a bit... I tweeted it to make sure I have a copy and can share it with others, thank you!

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    1. Thank you for spreading the word! :) Good luck with creating your logo!

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  12. Those are really great tips! I'm not 'graphically gifted', so this is really helpful information.

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  13. Thank you for sharing this post it was something that I have been looking for information wise and you really helped thank you so much.

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    1. I'm very happy to hear that you find it helpful!

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  14. These are all such great suggestions and I agree logo is one of the most important and visible elements when it comes to creating a brand of your business. I know it’s not an easy task to create your own logo and you have to be a graphic designer to make it professionally. As for me I created my logo with Illustrator at course of Advertising and Graphic at my University. My prof helped me a lot. lol

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    1. I like your logo's simplicity and how it combines your initials :) And designing for yourself is never easy!

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  15. Think I'll be coming back here for any logo advice! Keep it up!

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  16. Ive been thinking hard about getting a logo for my blog and this post is really helpful. Thank you so much for the great information!

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    1. I'm glad to hear that! Whether you decide to do it on your own, or you'll hire a designer, you'll know what to pay attention to :)

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  17. I have no clue about design and how to create logos but this article is awesome. I have two or more things about making logos and I appreciate it. Nice piece.

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  18. very helpful tutorial, now I understand all the mistakes I made trying to design mine.pinned

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    1. Thanks for pinning :) You can do it, don't give up!

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  19. Thanks for the tips, will keep this in mind when designing my own :)!

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  20. My logo is actually a photo which is completely wrong but works for me! Great tips :)

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    1. Hahah, if it works, it works! ;) But if one day you'll need to change it, you'll know what to avoid :D

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  21. I am poor at making my own logos, but headers are never a problem for me. So I end up just converting my current header into a logo. I know! That's really bad practice. These are accurate tips, really. Very true and effective.

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    1. Header can be great as a logo - and it can always be fixed for printing later (with more or less effort, depends ;)) I checked your profile, looks like we have a lot of common interests :D

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  22. these are so simple and yet so necessary. great post!

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  23. What a helpful post... I created my own logo and I was really in love with it but now I am really questioning if it is good or not :/

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    1. You're in love with it, it's unique and your own - that's an important thing! :)

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  24. Great tips. Logo design is not that easy. This is why you have to leave it to professionals (like the owner of this blog) to do it.

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    1. Well...I'd be shooting myself in the foot if I disagreed ;) But I've seen great logos made by creative individuals who are not designers and bad ones made by "professionals", so it's not always true :D

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  25. Thanks for your helpful tips. I've never tried to design my own logo before but I'd like to learn how to.

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    1. First step is to get a cup of coffee (or tea, or whatever you like), get a pen and paper and let your creativity out! Technicalities come later :)

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  26. Great post! As a virtual marketing agency owner, I explain this to my clients who want over the top logos that won't translate well from their concept to reality.

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    1. I understand, to represent the vision and brand values with a simple picture (or just typography) is what makes logo design challenging sometimes - and that's what I love about it!

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  27. I have been looking into designing a logo for my blog recently and these tips are very helpful! Thanks for the share!

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    1. You're welcome, I'm happy you find them useful!

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  28. I love creating logos but I lack inspiration! I created my logo myself and it is just plain and simple. Glad to know about these tips! Thanks!

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  29. It was so hard when i designed my logo. There are so many different options to think about. It was a really fun process.

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  30. I went through so many logos in my first business. I made so many of the mistakes you listed.

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  31. Omg so much yes!!!! It's crazy how sometimes the most simplest of thing is the way to go. I feel clean looking logos work the best!

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