These professional logos were all designed by the legendary Saul Bass.
These professional logos were all designed by the legendary Saul Bass.

It’s safe to assume that if your logo utilizes the font “Comic Sans”, you’re probably not going to be taken seriously. This font faux pas is just one of many that one learns as a designer, especially when it comes to logo considerations and branding direction.

A logo can make or break your business, so it’s best not to get caught in the “I’ll make my logo in Microsoft Word Art and call it a day” frame of mind. In this article, we break down some fundamentals when it comes to establishing your logo and branding design.

1. Research your brand and your audience

Who ARE you?

No, really. Make sure you understand your brand and your target audience. This is going to dictate the direction of your branding and everything that comes along with it: Your design, your color, your typography. Everything. It’s best to spend the extra time to really brainstorm this so you’re not kicking yourself later for attracting the wrong crowd (or no crowd at all).

2. Image is (almost) everything

When designing the image for your logo, it’s important to remember that a good logo doesn’t always have to convey what a company does. Think Starbucks, Target, and Apple. Starbucks isn’t a fishing company that sells mermaids. Target won’t help your aim and Apple is certainly not a fruit stand. It’s about designing something that can be adapted to whatever direction the company takes.

Creating a flat design is key for logos. If you use elements like gradients or drop shadows, they tend to look wacky when made really small or really large. Make sure you can scale your logo; it’s got to look just as good on a billboard as it does on a business card.

3. Color: Choose Wisely

The color of your logo should be a secondary thought. Just make sure it reads well against light and dark backgrounds. In most cases, logo designs start off as black and white anyway. Colors can always be changed later on, but it’s the form of your logo that will always remain the same.

Having said that, color can have a large impact on your logo and branding. Try to limit the amount of colors in your logo to three or less. In 2011, 95% of the world’s top brands had logos that were only one or two colors. The “keep it simple, stupid” rule holds true here. Logos with less colors can also help save money on printing costs as well. Cha ching.

And what about your choice of color? Red? Blue? Lavender? Chartreuse? (It’s not just a drink, people). Color has its own language when it comes to design, and it differs from culture to culture (research your audience!). For example, don’t use purple if you’re going for an organic look (the color purple is NOT found in nature, and therefore denotes something synthetic).(Update: It’s not the color purple, but rather the color blue that should be avoided, especially when dealing with organic foods. Blue is a color that RARELY occurs naturally in foods). Using the color red for a bridal shop? Unheard of, unless you’re in China, where brides wear red and it is considered the color of good luck. See? it’s important to know your audience and brush up on your color psychology.

4. Never use Comic Sans.

Typography plays a crucial role in brand identity. Make sure you choose your typography wisely, or your image won’t mean squat. If you’re trying to convey precision and professionalism, don’t choose Comic Sans. Trying to attract a hip, modern crowd? Don’t choose Comic Sans.

In all seriousness, a poor choice of typography can turn a decent logo into a pile of dreck.

5. Make it Unique

When all is said and done, your logo should be able to hold its own against those in the same market space. This could mean choosing a color scheme that others in your field haven’t tried yet (think Starbucks) or using an image with a visual double entendre (Amazon, anyone?).

These are just a few guidelines to follow when developing your logo and overall branding. Make sure you allow yourself time to brainstorm and doodle, don’t forget to do your research, and remember this above all: friends don’t let friends use comic sans.