Design an on-brand logo

1. Create a mood board that aligns with your brand identity.

The best brand logos communicate a brand’s identity and personality at a glance. For example, Nike’s swoosh communicates forward motion and movement, while the three Adidas stripes are shaped like a mountain to signify embracing physical challenges. Your mood board will determine whether your logo should be classic, modern, minimalist, fun, serious, whimsical, or any other style within your brand essence, promise, personality, and visual style. It uses visual elements like: Photography. Illustrations. Colors. Textured graphics. Descriptive words.

2. Perform an informal analysis of competitive brand logos and research the brand logos for at least 10 of your direct and indirect competitors.

Any design should both communicate your brand identity and visually set it apart from your competition. If time allows, analyze the logos to determine the brand attributes each competitor is looking to communicate. Reference your findings when you look to uniquely position your logo design.

3. Create an inventory of past company logos, if applicable.

An inventory of past versions is helpful if you are looking to evolve a past logo to update, but not reinvent, your brand. Examples of logo evolutions among top brands include:  Adobe kept its recognizable A shape while moving it into a more flexible shape for smaller sizes. Heinz reduced its logo to a simple shape that still honors past designs. Adidas turned from its trefoil to the current three stripes to simplify its message.

4. Choose your logo type based on brand goals.

Different types of logos can accomplish different brand priorities, from awareness to recall and equity. Common logo design types include: Letter marks or monograms center around a single letter or abbreviation. IBM, HBO, NASA, and 3M are common examples. Works best for long brand names relying on quick brand recall.  Word marks center around the business name. Netflix, FedEx, and Google are common examples. Works best for businesses with a recognizable name and when brand awareness is a core goal. Pictorial marks or brand mark are graphic-based logos that show a single, easily recognizable image. Twitter, Apple, and Nike are common examples. Only work when brand awareness is already high enough for the icon to be recognizable on its own. Abstract marks feature a graphic that isn’t immediately recognizable, but distinct to the brand. Only brands with significant equity, like BP and Pepsi, successfully use this logo type. Mascot marks center the logo around an illustrated character. KFC, Wendy’s, and many sports teams are common examples. Works best when building a larger marketing campaign around the featured character. Combination marks combine multiple of the above types. Common examples are Burger King adding a word mark to an abstract graphic, and Lacoste combining a pictorial and word mark. The logo becomes more complex, but can be more nuanced in communicating core brand attributes.

5. Create brand consistency through strategic use of colors and font.

To be considered on-brand, your logo has to match your brand’s visual style. Match brand and logo primary colors, and use any accent colors in roughly equal proportion as other marketing materials. Stay consistent with your brand fonts in combination marks, where wording supplements the graphics. In word and letter marks, where the letters are the primary graphic, you can stylize them to be graphic elements outside your brand typography. Don’t use stylized logo fonts outside your logo.

6. Create 3 logo variations for internal and external evaluation.

Create three variations for potential misinterpretation of your intended design by your audience. Variations can differ in style, but should be developed with your mood board, competitors, past company logos, logo type, and brand colors in mind.

7. Survey your target audience on their feelings, preferences, and attributes evoked by each logo variation.

Segment your target audience into three groups with roughly equivalent demographics. Send each segment a simple survey that asks a few open-ended questions about one of the logo variations: What is your first, subjective impression of this logo? What emotions do you feel when taking a closer look? Which brand attributes or qualities would you expect a company with this logo to have? On a scale of 1-5, how memorable would this logo be if you saw it in relation to a specific product or service?

8. Evaluate your survey results from each audience segment and rank each design variation by how closely audience responses match with your brand identity. Eliminate any variation that doesn't match your brand identify.

9. Insert your most brand-aligned logo into different types of marketing materials to verify real-life applicability.

Mock up a variety of marketing materials with your top-ranked logo. Potential materials include: Your website’s homepage. A social media profile image. The products you sell. A black and white application, such as a print ad. Business cards and stationary. Promotional items, like t-shirts. If the logo doesn’t scale up or down, move to the next variation you still consider applicable. If none of the acceptable choices work, restart the process.