Monday, July 12, 2010

5 Simple Ways to Design a Great Logotype

We’ve all been there, that anxiety-ridden moment when you realize, the day before your client meeting, that you don’t yet have any logo design ideas to show them. Maybe it’s a creative block, or a shortage of manpower or time. Whatever the reason, you’re in a pinch, and you need to come up with something fast.*

First things first, forget about trying to make a custom icon or mark—there’s no time for fine tuning something like that.

The safest bet is to stick with typography, and hey, who doesn’t love typography? But rather than go through the same old exercise of trying out the name of the company in every font on your computer, I’m going to share with you some things I’ve observed in all my “harvesting” for this blog. These are 5 really simple ways to make a great looking logotype.

Holding shapes!

This should come as no surprise to anyone who’s spent any time reading this blog. I have a total weakness for holding shapes. Of course, some thought and effort has to go into just what shape to use, but sometimes all you need is a good clean square or circle (see Osso Buco below).

But, like everything on this list, it can go wrong. Horribly, stomach crampingly wrong:

Arc de triomphe

I’m sure the type purists just sprayed corn flakes all over their iPads, but I can’t help but love the way this looks. Sometimes it even works from the top.

But I’m pretty sure the secret is boxing it in on at least three sides. Don’t get greedy!

Reverse Prismatics

Most of time, you see this sort of thing not as a faux-dimensional effect, but when letters are actually cut into stone. By reversing the effect, the letters appear to project outward. I find it adds some character and weight to the type, without getting into gradients and other such nonsense.

And if the illusion of depth isn’t enough for you, then just go for the real thing:

I have to say, even when it’s bad, it’s still pretty good.

Go Condensed

Regular readers will probably know that I have a certain affection for bold, condensed, sans-serif typefaces. I’m not sure what to attribute this preference to. I grew up drinking orange juice from concentrate, and am still to this day one of those weird people who prefer it that way (it’s certainly less to carry home from the store!). Maybe it’s similar to that.

But just so we’re clear, it ain’t foolproof. Oy vey!

Customize an Apostrophe

Needless to say, this only works when you have an apostrophe in the name. And if you do, it’s a nice, subtle way of giving otherwise unassuming typography an extra layer of meaning and own-ability. (And of course it doesn’t hurt if the type has some character of its own, too.)

Does it always work? Of course not:

* Getting things done quickly is sometimes a necessity, but not one I recommend. I am by NO means giving anyone permission to be lazy. These solutions are simple, but do require some care, thought, and finesse.


  1. The Ram's Bottled Water apostrophe is actually pretty clever.

  2. josh, this is great. would like to see more of these kind of series posts. quite helpful, thanks!

  3. Thanks Dom! I think I might have 5 more to add to this list before too long. As you can imagine, it takes a long time to gather the content for something like this.