How to Create A Logo From Scratch
Look, in an ideal world, this article wouldn’t be necessary – the rules for creating your business logo would just be: “Step One: Hire a logo designer. Step Two: All done!”
But let’s be basic here: unless you have outside funding, almost no one has the budget for a professional brand designer when they’re just starting out. Hell, a lot of people can’t even afford a web designer, and frankly, it’s a lot easier to DIY a logo than an entire website.
So while countless designers will tell you that you should never, ever, under any circumstances, attempt the DIY design route (although I do take this advice with a pinch of salt when it comes from “The Logo Company”) the fact remains that for most of us, there is no viable alternative.
Think of this as a short-term solution
I really wanted to make this point clear: I don’t think your DIY logo is necessarily going to stay with you long-term. And I don’t offer brand design myself, so I really have no ulterior motive in persuading you of the value of professional logo design – this is purely based on my experience.
As a web designer, I DIY-ed my own logos for years, until earlier this year when I hired a brand designer to create my new logo. And my DIY logos didn’t look bad at all – but since the rebrand, new clients are instantly getting what I’m “about”, which is great because my leads and new enquiries are way more focused and suited to me than they used to be.
That is the value of a professional – they take a very abstract concept like “everything your business does and stands for” and distill this down into a simple visual icon. That is not easy, which is why a good brand designer can easily charge thousands for their work – and why it’s probably a good investment when you can afford it.
DIY doesn’t have to mean “terrible”
However, just because you don’t have the budget to hire a professional yet, doesn’t mean you should resign yourself to an absolute travesty of design like these classic examples.
With a little time and effort, it is possible to create a reasonably good DIY logo, at least one that’s good enough for you to begin building your brand around. So with that in mind, let’s jump into some simple Do’s and Dont’s for logo design.
DO recognise your limitations
First things first, be honest about how good an eye for visuals you have. I know plenty of creative professionals that, while not professional designers themselves, are still capable of throwing together simple, good-looking designs.
However, others are the design equivalent of being completely tone-deaf (design blind, shall we say) – even my husband, who as a talented photographer you might expect to have a good eye for what looks good and what doesn’t – will freely admit he has zero aptitudes for design.
So if you’re in that latter category, recognise that a 100% DIY logo may not be your best bet. That’s ok though, there are still options out there for you. Except…
DON’T crowdsource your logo
In theory, cheap crowd-sourced design platforms like 99designs or Fiverr sound great – you simply create a brief, set your budget, and then sit back and take your pick from the hundreds of professional logo submissions that will come rolling in.
Honestly though, to my mind, this is basically the worst of both worlds – firstly, while I won’t say every single designer on these platforms is a complete amateur, I’m also not going to pretend that the design standards are particularly high.
Plus, you still have to invest time and money into this. I genuinely don’t see the point when the end result usually looks like something you could have DIY-ed anyway - hideous clip art, drop shadows everywhere, text that is literally unreadable… you get the idea.
Even when you find someone who clearly has an eye for design, it still doesn’t make them a professional brand designer. I don’t think it’s fair to start singling out individuals, so I’m not going to name names, but I saw one guy specialising in these incredibly detailed watercolor style logo designs.
Now, at postcard size, they were very beautiful, so I’m not saying he had no artistic talent. The problem is, they were so detailed that at thumbnail size you couldn’t make out what they were supposed to say or represent at all.
And guess what? That means they are basically useless as logos since that is the size that most people will first view your logo – as the little thumbnail that shows up on social media profiles and on your site.
So when the “professionals” on these sites are failing logo design 101, I honestly believe you’re better off making your own.
DO keep it simple
As the previous example highlighted, your logo has to be legible at a range of different sizes, so the more complex the design, the harder it will be to make out at smaller sizes. So, avoid detailed graphics, and try and stick to just one or two colors max.
In fact, I’d recommend you focus on creating a simple text logo – literally, just the name of your business can work absolutely fine as your logo (think of Coca-Cola, for example).
The key here is finding a font that suits your brand – for example, I recently started working on a demonstration store for Shopify, as I’ll be running a workshop soon to show store owners how to set up their own Shopify store.
So I created a made up stationery store called “The Blank Sheet”. Because it’s a demo store, I kept my logo ultra simple and neutral:
The sans-serif font (Opens Sans Condensed) gives it a minimalist, modern appearance, but doesn’t really say much – which suits my purposes just fine (and if you were setting out to create a modern or minimalist type brand, I’d very much recommend exploring sans-serif typefaces for this.)
But let’s say I’d wanted my fictional stationery store to have something more of a traditional vibe, like walking into an old bookstore or library – then a serif font like Crimson Text would probably suit my needs better.
Finally, for those of you with more creative type brands, who need a logo with a bit of flair, or that’s a little more individualistic, a handwritten signature style font can be a good bet – just make sure you use something legible, like the example below (Holland font, if you’re interested!)
If you’re looking for a step-by-step walkthrough on how to DIY a simple, professional looking logo like these examples (and maybe get a little bit fancier than I’ve shown above), then I can highly recommend this article by The Better Branding studio.
DO consider a logo builder, but DON’T reinvent the wheel
If a simple text logo just isn’t cutting for you, then I’d recommend you look into a logo builder or template solution. For those of you with zero design skills, and no access to software like Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, then an online logo generator is your best bet.
Website Builder Expert has created an excellent overview of the different options out there for logo makers and shows you how you can test multiple different logo builders without spending a cent.
This is a great way of maximising your options, as one of the drawbacks of these generators is that of course, you are limited to whatever icon/font options they have.
However, for those of you who do have basic design skills, then I can highly recommend checking out Creative Market’s collection of template logos. With tens of thousands of options to choose from, it’s a pretty safe bet you’ll find one that works for you, no matter what your industry or niche is.
Regardless of whether you opt for a logo generator or template solution, I have a crucial tip here: don’t start reinventing the wheel. What I mean is, the more you tinker with the template, and start adding or removing details, the less likely it is you’ll wind up with a good-looking result at the end of it.
So take the time to find a design that will accommodate your business name already, rather than trying to adjust the template to fit your business name.
DO test, preview, and get feedback
Like I said at the start of this article, DIY doesn’t necessarily have to look DIY. When you’re creating your logo, take the time to make a few different versions, and test variations of fonts and color.
This is actually something you can do really quickly in both Google Fonts (which are all free), and Creative Market (these are usually premium fonts, but relatively inexpensive) – you don’t even have to waste time purchasing or downloading all these fonts to get started, as both of them will allow you to preview your chosen text right in your web browser.
Simply choose a bunch of fonts that seem appropriate, then screenshot the results. Don’t worry that you can’t add color just yet, because actually, you’ll need your logo to look good in black and white as well, in cases where you won’t have the option to include color.
With your shortlist of logo options in hand, now is the time to start getting some feedback! While of course friends and family are a quick easy way to get feedback, I don’t recommend making this your only source of feedback.
That’s because people who love you tend to be less keen to tell you things like “hey, you know your logo looks kind of like a penis, right?”
(And if you think that sounds unlikely, then you clearly didn’t click the bad logo design link above.)
So, try and get opinions from complete strangers as well, and this doesn’t have to be as hard as you might think. I’ve found Facebook groups to be an excellent way to get lots of objective outside feedback, and most importantly, by choosing the right groups I can get the feedback directly from my target audience – and of course, their opinion is the most valuable of all.