Top Logo Design Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

5 Minute Read

Hey! Come here. Come closer. We’ll let you in on a well-kept industry secret. The trick to designing the perfect logo, every time, regardless of who the client is, how exacting their specifications are, and how tight the timeline is, is to simply make all the right choices, and avoid every possible wrong one. 

It’s really that easy. Where most designers go astray is they create something unappealing instead of designing something attractive. Don’t do that! If you simply design exactly what the client wants, they’ll love the results, without fail.

A liberal application of magic logo dust is also recommended.

Of course, designing a sleek, uncluttered logo that perfectly captures the essence of a brand and communicates its identity clearly and succinctly is a very challenging endeavor. It takes intuition, skill, experience, and a lot of patience. It’s a subtle creative process, and if you aren’t careful it’s easy to find yourself drifting into dangerous design territory and plummeting off the rails into a big vat of garish colors and comic sans.

With that in mind, here are some of the most common logo design pitfalls, and how to avoid falling into them.

Having an Amateur Design Your Logo

You know your way around Photoshop a bit, so you might consider trying to hack something together. Or maybe you have a friend that dabbles in design so you give them a shot. It’s tempting to try and save some money by exploiting free or inexpensive resources, but when it comes to logo design, you almost always get what you pay for.

Good design instincts are honed over years and hundreds of design projects. Just because your neighbor’s daughter is in design school doesn’t mean she’s going to be able to design you a proper logo. It’s far better to find a professional, and spend the money required to be certain that the resulting logo accomplishes what it needs to accomplish. A quality logo adds a lot of value to your brand. Bad design kicks it in the teeth, pulls its underwear up over its head, and steals its lunch money.

Riding Design Trends

Like anything, logo design follows fashion, and trends come and go. In the ‘90s, garish colors and stark geometric shapes were popular. In the early aughts, the ubiquitous swoosh came to prominence. This decade saw the rise of flat design and vintage motifs. 

For designers and clients alike, following design trends can be tempting. Plenty of inspiration exists, and it’s almost certain that the resulting design will seem hip and modern. However, the “go” portion of “trends come and go” is problematic, because when the fad sours, and it will, your logo is instantly dated.

Instead of riding design trends, designers should focus on creating a unique mark that fits the client’s brand on its own terms, regardless of what’s fashionable. If a logo does an excellent job of capturing the essence of a brand, trends can rise and fall without diminishing its appeal.

Using Stock Images

This should never, ever, EVER be done. And yet it happens far more frequently than you’d think. Stock imagery provides a shortcut to a finished logo. The design work is already completed. Just slap your brand name next to a piece of clip art and, insta-logo!

Except that logos, by definition, need to be unique. They need to set your brand apart from every other player in the field. So what happens when a legal practice discovers that a competing firm has a logo using the same stock gavel graphic? Using stock imagery is a self-defeating practice. It’s the antithesis of proper logo design. It’s also against the terms of service for every stock graphic provider.

How can you avoid this pitfall? Just don’t do it. Ever. Problem solved.

Overly Complicated or Abstract Designs

We’ve all seen logos that feel like a Frankenstein construction involving far too many elements, that seem designed by committee. These overly complicated formulations lack clarity and leave their audience scratching their heads over the intended message.

Designers also go wrong sometimes with otherwise good designs that include too many fine, fiddly details. These logos look good when displayed large, but quickly degrade when reduced in size. Overly abstract designs also tend to fail when trying to communicate a brand story.

When it’s not at all clear what message viewers are supposed to pull from a logo, they’ll create their own, robbing the brand of the chance to define itself in consumers’ minds.

Good design includes only what really needs to be there. It pares away the visual fat to achieve a powerful clarity of message. This is why quality logos take time to design. It’s a process of creating, altering, clarifying, and editing, to arrive at a design that neatly captures the core substance of a brand with as little ornamentation as possible.

Bad Typography Choices

Logos may or may not involve imagery or iconography, but they almost always include typography, so avoiding typographical pitfalls is critical. A few of the most common issues people run afoul of are:

Poor Font Selection:
The font you choose should reflect your brand’s personality. You don’t want to use a playful font for an accountancy practice, a heavy, blocky font for a daycare provider, or a conservative, classic font for a modern tech startup. To choose the best font for your purposes, audition as many as possible. Font selection should take a very long time. If it doesn’t, you’re not finished.

Too Many Fonts:
Too many disparate fonts and/or font weights usually result in clunky, unappealing logos. The design ends up cluttered and confused. As a general rule of thumb, two fonts or font weights is the maximum a logo can support.

Overuse of Color:
The Google logo being the exception, typography should use color sparingly. You generally want to avoid having multiple colors scattered across words or characters. Save your colors for your logomark. Keep your typography clean and easy to read.

Using Raster Elements

Logo design should always be done using vector art in programs like Adobe Illustrator. Vector art can be scaled to any size and remain crisp and clear. This works because vector art is, at its base, just math.

Raster art, or bitmapped art, commonly created in programs like Photoshop, degrades badly if blown up larger than its intended size. Raster is a poor choice for logo design because logos need to serve many purposes. You may need them small for the web and large for letterhead, posters, and billboards. Vector art will scale flawlessly to any of these sizes. Raster elements have no place in logo design.

Need a Logo? Hire a Professional

The best way to avoid the raft of design pitfalls waiting to ruin your future logo is to hire a professional design agency. Costello Creative Group knows what it takes to design an effective logo. We’ve successfully paired hundreds of companies with logo designs that echo and amplify their brands and communicate clearly to consumers.

Let us help you with your next branding journey. We can’t compete with your neighbor’s college-age daughter on price, but what we can offer is inestimably more valuable. A compelling logo that perfectly captures your brand.

Want a professional logo?

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