22 logo design mistakes you might be guilty of

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I’ve seen my fair share of poorly designed logos. I’ll even admit that in my early days of designing I created a few horrible logos.  The following is a list of common mistakes in logo design. Do you fall in to any of these categories?

UPDATE: If you like this article, check out “14 freelance design mistakes you might be guilty of

1. Unoriginal Design. Your logo should be original to the task at hand. The logo and branding strategy go hand in hand so be sure to create something unique and memorable for your client.

2. Vague. Every logo should convey a message to the viewer.  If potential consumers know nothing about your client after looking at the logo, you have failed.

3. Rasterized. Your logo needs to be scalable so you should design it using Adobe Illustrator, CorelDRAW or some other vector software.

4. Cliché. Steer clear from anything expected. Remember, your logo should be memorable for the customer.  By adding cliché, stock-art style images, your logo will disappear in the design clutter.

5. Too complicated. Many new designers try to complicate their logos by adding lots of detail, too many words, taglines, etc.  Keep it simple. You’ll be more memorable.

6. Too fancy. For the most part, you should avoid excessive bevels, shadows, textures, filters. This will allow your logo to be used across many mediums.

7-11. Typography Issues. There are a number of common mistakes that are frequently made when designing a logo. Consider some below:

  • Spacing. Fonts are built a certain way for a reason. Excessive spacing between letters (or lack thereof) should be used sparingly.
  • Predictable Fonts. everyone knows that Times New Roman, Myriad Pro (although a fairly pretty font), and others are default fonts. Try to use something that isn’t default.
  • Crazy Fonts. Don’t use fonts like Curlz or Papyrus to create your logo. Try using simple, professional, legible fonts. (Unless of course the target audience calls for something different)
  • Ultra-thin fonts. Many extremely lightweight fonts may look nice on the computer screen but they may be difficult to use when trying to print on paper, screen on fabric, or embroider. Lightwieght fonts are also hard to read from far distances.
  • Too many fonts. Try to stick to one font-style (maximum of two) in your logo design. This rule is especially true when you are doing JUST the logo design and not any of the other design work.

12. Asking for too much input. Excessive input from your client, his brother, the secretary, your mom, your uncle, the guy in the coffee shop and anyone else who will give you the time of day is well, excessive. Keep the design pure and clean by only involving those who absolutely need to be involved in the design process. (To avoid burn-out, you may also want to limit the number of revisions your client is allowed to make)

13. Clipart. This is simply taking the easy way out. Create original artwork for your client and they will thank you.

14. Unable to be used in grayscale. One important thing to remember about logos is that they frequently will be used in strictly grayscale circumstances. (Faxes, copies, one-color prints) Make your logo as powerful in both color and black & white.

15. Non-scalable. This is one of the most common tips around for creating logos.  Make sure your client can scale their logo. Most logos (I say most because I know there are always exceptions) should be usable in anything from a giant billboard to a 16px square favicon.

16. Not made for all mediums. After working in a screen printing and embroidery shop, I realized how often people design logos without taking into consideration their future use. Be sure to deign your logos with the intent that they can be used on the internet, in print, on a street sign, embroidered on a backpack, and screen printed on a t-shirt.

17. Inappropriate Inclusions. There is usually no need to include LLC, Co. or Inc. (Most customers don’t actually care).  You should ALWAYS avoid inappropriate innuendos or insinuations. They’re actually not funny- just distasteful.

18. Using time-sensitive imagery. If you use a cassette tape, bottle cap, or bell-bottom pants in your logo, you may be slapping an expiration date on it. Try to find something timeless that will last as long as the company hopes to.

19. Selfish design. Don’t design a logo with the goal in mind that it will make your portfolio look great.  The first, and most important, goal of any logo design should be to help your client reach their target audience more effectively.

20. Too abstract. While an abstract logo can be very professional-looking for a company, what does it really say to the customer? “We weren’t really sure how to visually represent what we do or how you will benefit from our services, so here’s a square with a circle thingy”.

21. Copy Cat Logo. I recently read an article on the attempt of Pepsi to take market share from Coke. They practically copied their logo. It, of course, did not work and they were forced to change their logo.

22. Bad combination of colors. Remember, green tends to reflect eco-friendly companies, red and green means Christmas and pink is almost always for girls. Try to match the colors to your target audience.

What other common mistakes would you add to this list?

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About Preston D Lee

Preston is a web designer, entrepreneur, and the founder of this blog. @prestondlee

Comments

  1. Great list Preston, number 12 is a real danger! This can happen too often if you don’t take control and set the guidelines in the beginning.

    If you ever have a questionable client who doesn’t really know what they want, or seems too dependent upon everyone else’s opinion… either stay clear or be prepared for quite the process!

    I talk from an experience… sad sad experience!

  2. Cool tips!
    thanks!
    -xozan

  3. Nice list here. Seen most of these, but it’s always good to be reminded of these things.

  4. This list should be on every designers desk, good work !

  5. Great tips except for number 2 – many logos do not portray what they do and yet they work fine; HP, Dell, SONY, Logitech, Microsoft, Nestle, etc…
    A great logo does not have to reflect what the product or service is, but should compliment it upon learning of what the product or service is.

    • Amon Jafarbay says:

      Although these examples are hugely successful companies, I would argue that none of them have great logos. I do however, agree with your general point that a logo need not necessarily represent the company’s service in order to be a success, in fact in many instances the idea of representing the product or service is impractical. Memorable = #1.

  6. Good point, Nick T. What I was getting at was that the logo should convey some sort of message. It should match the feel and mission statement of the company. eg. I would never use bright childish colors for a law firm.

    It’s of course debatable.

    What does everyone else think?

    • Robert Santiago says:

      Probably a more solid pronunciation of that maxim would be to make sure the logo doesn’t specifically misrepresent what the company is about? It doesn’t have to “say it all” about what the company does, so long as it doesn’t give a misimpression.

  7. This is true, most of us are all guilty of these at some point, but it’s usually early in a design career and you need to make these mistakes to learn. I agree mostly with the “too fancy” mistake. That is very true. There are so many fun add ons now that it is easy to get carried away, but sometimes simple is better.

  8. Great List Preston…Cheers!

  9. A very thorough list Preston. I think number 5 is where most new logo designers go wrong. Simplicity is key.

    To back up this article your readers may find the article “What makes a good logo?” quite resourceful. I’ve linked to it in my name. Thanks again.

  10. Jacob,
    I agree. Simple is best. Thanks for providing your useful article. (I included the link in the comment for you.)

  11. This list should be on every designers desk, Really good work

  12. your collection is very well.

  13. Nice and informative designing process you informing us keep it up

  14. #22: Whomever rebranded the Bank of America needs to read this article. They use red and blue together, uhg!

    • @Jonathan Patterson, What colors would you have used? Red, white and blue are the colors of the American flag, so since the company is named “Bank of America” it seems the obvious choice, don’t you think? I mean, they wouldn’t have used purple or black and yellow or the logo wouldn’t be doing its job. As a corporate logo, it needs to get the message through as quickly as possible and, while you may not like it, it is successful and doesn’t make any of the mistakes listed above — especially #22. Just MHO.

      • I never understood why banks would use red. I can see it being more appropriate for Bank of America than Wells Fargo. It makes me think of being in debt and “in the red” or a red pen.

        • @Abbey, While I do agree about red having negative connonations in finance, I have to agree with embee regarding the use of red in the BoA logo. Actually, now that I think of it, a number of banks here in Malaysia (most of which I’m sure have international presence) use red (sometimes even primarily or even solely) in their logos. HSBC, Hong Leong, CIMB, to name a few.

          • I think red portrays strength and leadership, especially in Asia (I’m in Hong Kong) – I would say most of the logos for banks in HK are predominantly red. It’s a strong color, in Asia and around the world, and when paired with blue (BofA) or black, I think what it portrays is that element of strength. Of course, there’s a very limited application for red in logos, but I think in the banking industry it’s one that works.

            Interesting discussion, and great article, Preson! I wish I had this list several years ago when I was a newbie at logo design…!

  15. Great points Preston, I’ll send this article to all these people sending a rasterized logo for a billboard (sigh…).

  16. KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) The methods you mentioned should be in designers hand book (If there is any).

  17. Claire Fox says:

    There are rare cases on which we establish the perfect mental connection with a customer: he knows what he wants and we know how to make it better. We make the first drafts, they LOVE us. Our customers deliver the information we need to design their logo on time, we LOVE them when they do that. We meet our deadline with the logotype equivalent of a DaVinci (or, at least, one mean Lautrec) and everything between them and us is pure magic.

  18. Great post. I have to agree with most of your tips except the inclusion of “LLC” or “inc”. I think these are required to be in the name of the business for legal purposes even if your clients don’t care.

  19. I’ve found this article helpful, however it would be also good to avoid violating copyright/trademark laws. For example: Disney and Lego logos and products, Red Cross emblem or Rubik’s cube are protected by copyright. The list goes on, see: http://www.imagecatalog.com/copyright_and_trademark.php

  20. While “keep it simple” is good advice, it’s a bit like saying “make sure your logo is awesome.” Simplicity is not the same as simple-ness. In this context, simplicity is more akin to elegance (which I’ve always defined as ‘expressing the most with the least’). I almost always find that logo design is a brutally reductive process, constantly *shaving away* detail while *adding* meaning.

    So I confess that I *kinda* know what you meant by ‘simple’, but as we know ‘a good logo is simple, but not all simple logos are good.’

  21. wow…just awesome work….love this;)

  22. Chip Logo Design says:

    Hey really inspirational design indeed. I really appreciate the originality of designs in real creativity. I am also working on my new logo project. Thanks for sharing it will surely help me alot.

  23. I WILL BE THE FIRST TO ADMIT TO 19. IT’S BEEN TRUE AFEW TIMES. I HAVE SECRETLY DESIGNED WITH MY PORTFOLIO IN MIND. C’MON, SOMEONE ELSE OWN UP!

    • @Philip, I have done that a time or two. Back in my younger days of course.

      • There’s something to be said about working for your portfolio; it basically means you want to do the best possible job you did so far as that’s what your portfolio should be about… In that sense everything you make should be made for your portfolio. my 2c :)

  24. WOW this is so informative! You summed it all up, seriously. I pretty much “know” all those things, but do I always follow them? no…..

    Could I explain them myself? noooooo….

    Thanks for another good article!

  25. Oh for the visual learners like me (you’re a designer… who ISN’T visual?), here’s a neat article that reinforces what was said above… but in a side-by-side, do-and-don’t layout. It’s very eye-opening!

    http://www.istockphoto.com/article_view.php?ID=721

  26. Thanks for reminding, we often do it, but not realize it.

  27. Keep up the good work, great article!

  28. I agree with a lot of these, except for #3. While rasterized logos definitely lack the scalability of their vectored counterparts, a good rasterized logo (a custom illustration, for example) definitely stands out among the horde of Web 2.0 logos. Also, a high-res rasterized logo should be capable of handling all sizes, unless you intend to enlarge it to billboard-esque proportions, and I don’t think every client will look at that.

    My advice regarding rasterized logos would be to familliarize yourself with their strengths and weaknesses, and use them as necessary.

  29. Various factors that needs to be considered when selecting an identity; the company’s image and target audience are high on the list. Features of a logo design are pensiveness, font type, colors and illustration. Abstract logo designs are good, but overly abstract logos are not suitable for business. Viewers may not associate your company with your services if the identity is too theoretical. Simple, conceptual designs are attractive and they promote your business’ attributes and style.

    A conceptual logo has to be simple, yet complicated. Simplicity of an abstract logo designs makes a logo easy to reproduce and its complicated aspect makes it easy for customers to recognize. Use limited colors in your business identity, avoiding muddy colors and consider contrasts when thinking designing your corporate identity.

    http://www.logoian.com/logoian/logo-design-categories/Abstract_Logos.asp

  30. The business identity image should make a positive impression, be unique, easy to remember and not very complex. An effective law firm logo design can be just about anything from a symbol, brand sign, emblem or icon to a text based illustration or trade mark. Here, we ensure that your customers should be overtaken by the drawing of the corporate identity at first sight.

  31. yeaa… too much input n colour.. its disturbing..

  32. This is a wonderful article. Very useful to always remember these things. Keep it up!

  33. Nice list here. Seen most of these, but it’s always good to be reminded of these things.

  34. nice picture :D

  35. good article.. i can learn from this.. hope i will be better at making a logo

  36. yeah maybe we often forget about this… nice info

  37. i share this article to my tweet.. :D
    thanx :D

  38. Thanks for reminding, we often do it, but not realize it.

  39. thanks for share…
    :)

  40. Great article!

  41. Excellent article, great read and very well implemented through design & layout!

  42. Nice job. Great list. We do logo design all the time and we’ve encountered so many of these stumbling blocks.

  43. Thanks for the informative post. This list should be bookmarked by every designer. Again many thanks.

  44. Great Post, I am agree with most of your tips and really a very helpful article.

  45. I think point 16 is very crucial. Most designers, in my view sometimes should be forgiven since they aren’t very business oriented to begin with, tend to design narrowly. It’s good to foresee that one day the clients you’re designing for might expand into other areas, products and services so that the logo will be able to cater to that. Adequate research and knowing the client’s business in-depth can help avoid this situation.

  46. Number 12 … is so crucial … I know what I am talking about … had a client who was always asking his secretary … the other employees … how can you prevent it? Any good ideas? What do you say to the client! Thanks for your input …

    • blackduck says:

      In these cases, I often offer a (long if necessary) professional explanation of why something works or doesn’t work. I think positioning yourself as the expert and a knowledgeable consultant helps when they weigh options like, Secretary: “I think the green is ugly, you should try blue”, and You: “I chose to use green because your brand and market….”

  47. I have found a few times where I’ve gone the extra mile, created original ideas only to have them crushed by the customer who is quite happy with the standard font and a bit of clip-art on it. So am I just getting caught up in the creation and not seeing what the client wants or am I getting clients that don’t appreciate the extra work? Either way it’s kind of disheartening when it happens

  48. I don’t think I saw this one on the list, but I would add…

    #23 – When presenting the first round of logo options to a client, choose the strongest ideas only. Don’t give the client too many options to choose from. Don’t show every single thing you came up with. Weed out the weak ideas. If you don’t like it that much, don’t put it in. Inevitably, the client will pick the very one you liked the least and now it’s recorded that you designed that weak logo.

    With regards to #12 – In my contract, I have a line item that limits how many proofing cycles I am prepared to do. Some clients will have you going back and forth umpteen times and you end up getting nowhere or not getting paid for the amount of time you put in. Based on the type job it is and how much the client is paying (whether it’s a new entrepreneur opening a small business or a large established company), there are ranges of proofing cycles I will give.

  49. One of the biggest mistakes I always seem to come across, is designers trying to make logos so complex. Clean, simple, non-cluttered is the key to the most effective logos. Great post…

  50. useful tips .. thnx :))

  51. Really agreed with point 12 “excessive inputs”. We have experienced before that a team of 5 from the client’s side giving comments about the logo and the outcome will never turn out. Therefore, always remember to keep the decision make as minimum as possible to make the design happen!

  52. Nice tips! Thanks Preston.

  53. These are all good “tips” that really should be the basics for all designers. If you aren’t thinking this way already you may be in the wrong line of work.

    I will take issue with two however:
    #2: Wrong. So when IBM was created it shouted out “Computers!”? VW parades the feel of cheap transportation? Amazon reeks with online shopping? A a logo cannot tell the story of the business or products. It is simply the graphic devices that is the repository of the goodwill (or bad will) that the company or product builds up from creation to end. Nothing more, nothing less.

    #14: This is sorta good advice but misleading. If you are designing logos in color, then maybe you shouldn’t be in the business. Logo design 101 is that a logo should be strong in *black and white* and PRESENTED in B&W. Color (and grayscale is a color) is and embellishment that is used as circumstances dictate but should not be the basis of a good design. Look around you. The most famous and best remembered logos work just as well in black & white as in color (sometimes better) because they were conceived in black & white The “tip” sort of alludes that grayscale and black & white are the same. They aren’t. Fax a grayscale logo and then fax a B&W logo, that should be proof enough.

    • Oscarphone:

      Thanks for the comment regarding the importance of developing a logo in b&w (not grayscale or color). That was one of my first lessons many years ago, and I was going to make the same point.

  54. blackduck says:

    I really hope faxing isn’t a major consideration still for designing logos. I’m only saying this because we also have to be aware of our ever-changing media landscape. A lot of the old awesome logos were designed in a different landscape.

    #19 is not only for portfolio selfishness, but just generally being trendy, wanting to try some new trick or style without consideration of the client/product/service need is also selfish. I think this is a very newbie thing (I was guilty), and for most, experience and real reward for hitting the mark will cure that.

  55. I am in the process of designing a new logo for my site. Being a 15 year old aspiring web designer, it is safe to say that my original logo was rather awful. However, your blog has really helped me get to grips with the main principles of design, and I hope to start my own business before I leave school as a result!

    Thank you for putting time into this great site! :)

  56. Do professional designers really use clip art? You’ve got to be kidding. I do not use clip art EVER.

    • Depends on the gig. Never using clip-art is akin to never using stock photography. There’s a time and place for everything. The key is knowing when.

  57. Great Article!
    What about Not Researching the company and Not listening to the clients to see exactly how they want to convey their message and find out who their target market is. No one knows the company better than the client and often designers sometimes get rushed to finish the project or have their own vision of how they want it to look and they sometimes don’t list to what the client wants or needs which is a HUGE Mistake.

  58. Very well written. This article should be read by all the designers on sites like 99designs.com,crowdspring.com etc

  59. If you’re a designer you already know these rules, but if you’re just trying to do it yourself the best advice is to hire a professional.

  60. Great and fun list! It’s a shame that Clipart has to be mentioned!

  61. Important article, and worth reading. However, #20 is a limited view of abstraction in logo/trademark design. Abstraction speaks volumes and should be handled with care (even subjective logos are imbued with serious abstract values that require thought). See Kasimir Malevich’s work. The most important reason for using abstraction in logo/trademark design is to greatly increase speed of consumer recognition from seconds to instantaneous. However, to be effective, abstract logos require a lot of exposure. So typically (yet avoiding rules), low exposure requires lower abstraction logos, high exposure permits higher abstraction logos. Some companies have minimal logo exposure (“Bob’s Lawn Service,” or “Industrial Chemical Pipe Linings”), whereas other companies have extensive exposure (Minolta, IBM, Chase Bank).

  62. Oh no.12 is the killer! Nothing can send more shivers down my back than the the words – ‘I showed your designs to some friends over dinner at the weekend’ – in the right context there is nothing wrong with feedback from relevant observers but it always seems the opinion of a half-cut mate over a dinner table carries more weight that a real live potential customer or someone with 25 years experience in designing for the market. I have had clients wives turn up with chillies at my office to show me what colour the logo should be (actually, she was right) but there is a huge danger in taking in too many opinions when going through the process. The key is to have one arbiter of all these opinions and that arbiter has to be neutral, honest and very strong.

  63. Ok…red is the color used for association of wealth, good fortune and power in “most” of asia. Read “The Designer’s Guide to Global Color Combinations”, it really helps if you have international clients. Abstraction is used very powerfully in logo design. Does the big M logo for McDonalds REALLY say hamburger joint by itself? What if your client really wants the clip art? They are paying your bill (keeping the roof over your head as a freelancer) and if they want it and can’t be convinced otherwise….clip art it is! Aren’t we all trying to design that “timeless” piece as designers that people (and our clients) will remember forever? C’mon. If not, we’d give them a photo of a dollar, or copy machine or whatever as a logo. So it’s therefore a bit selfish anyway when we design it, because it should be good enough to BE a portfolio piece. A very narcissistic (sp?) catch 22. If you are designing logos you should STUDY, STUDY, STUDY the rules of typography design anyway. That goes for color theory as well. Sometimes the client really likes ugly colors. If they are paying the bills, sometimes that’s what you deal with. You should design logos in a vector-based drawing program PERIOD. As for the input, not just designers or your client are going to see this logo. Ask the “everyman”. They are going to “Use” it’s services. Just take the common elements from their evaluations. Everyone knows what they DON’T like. And only show your clients three BEST final versions of your logo for critique. Many psychologocal studies show that more than three choices and brain goes into “ugh me no able to decide” mode.

  64. One important question is: what makes a good logo?

  65. Am so guilty of #11, but am still learning.

  66. Great Article, Thank you.

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  17. […] 原文:Preston D Lee 译文出处:伯乐在线 翻译:敏捷翻译 – 顾洁 […]

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