First, let us clarify that if you don’t have the design or software skills necessary to do this on your own, you’re going to be much better off hiring a professional to help you make your logo.
This post is merely a guide of the logo-making process from start to finish. It should give you a better idea of what it actually takes to build and produce a logo. Whether you decide to go at it alone or not is a whole other story.
What You’ll Need:
- Camera or Scanner
- Vector Software (Required)
For the purpose of this tutorial, one of our talented designers mocked up a logo for a made-up organization, while documenting the process. The organization’s name is Panda Global and the design brief calls for a panda bear logo.
Step 1: Research
What’s your industry? Who are your competitors? Who are your customers? These questions may sound familiar. They show up time after time in all things related to branding. As you begin to develop your mark (logo), you’ll want to keep these things in mind.
For your research, in this case, instead of sifting through scholarly articles or textbooks, you get to look for visual information. Capture screenshots or save images of design elements that speak to you and your business. Have fun and don’t limit yourself.
Look at logos but also capture visual information from things like photographs, patterns, textures, etc. Also, begin to study and select the best fonts appropriate for your brand. By the end of this step, you should have a nice full bucket of inspiration to pull from. You can go all out by turning this collection of imagery into a collage or an idea board.
Step 2: Brainstorming
Assuming you have a business name already, and possibly even a slogan, it’s time to start brainstorming. More of a design aspect than a technical aspect, this is one of the most valuable steps during the production of a logo or any other kind of brand material.
Start with a blank sheet of paper. It can be line graph paper, dot graph paper, notebook paper, printer paper, etc. You could technically do this on a restaurant napkin. The point is, you have a blank canvas, and it’s time to start manifesting your ideas.
Pull from your bucket of inspiration that we made in step one, and use those elements to help you engage your creative side. You can write down words and sketch out shapes. In this step, you are only limited by the pencil and the paper. We won’t incorporate color into the equation just yet, so feel safe exploring the different possibilities of black-and-white design, such as the use of negative space.
Step 3: Sketch to Scan
Once you’ve sketched out multiple variations or you think you’ve found your mark, it’s time to take it to the digital world. This step isn’t necessarily required, but it’s recommended for beginners. The goal of this step is to create a final sketch that is clear and symmetrical.
It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the closer it is to perfect the better. You will be scanning this sketch into your vector platform, to be used as a template for your final vector design.
It’s important to create a sharp contrast between your mark and the paper it’s on. To do this, you can outline and shade in your sketch with a dark pen. If you don’t have a scanner, don’t worry. Just take a picture of your sketch with your smartphone and adjust the levels to black-and-white. This file will be the template or “blueprint” of the final logo.
Step 4: Vector Work
The most exciting step of this process is turning your sketch into crisp shapes and vectors. It can also be the most challenging. Depending on the software you are using, there are multiple ways to build and edit vector shapes. We use Adobe Illustrator for most of our design work.
Import the file of your black-and-white sketch into your vector program. The size of your layout doesn’t really matter (vectors can be scaled up or down without issues), so pick something you’re comfortable with. You still want a lot of space to try out different variations and revisions.
Bring the opacity of your sketch layer down to where it is still visible, but not getting in the way. This allows you to build shapes while using the sketch layer as a template.
Our designer used a series of circles and effects to build the general shapes created in the original sketch. Then they selected an appropriate font (Futura PT Extra Bold, Futura PT Medium) for the logo. Design decisions like this can be influenced by the research done in step one.
It’s very important to try out different variations and to save all of your work. Get in the habit of copying and pasting your vectors, even for small changes. This gives you a visual path of the development of your design.
Try inverting the black-and-white logo to see what happens. Does it work in white-and-black or just black-and-white?
This is also a good time to start experimenting with different color schemes (if the logo requires it). What kinds of colors are being used in your industry, by your competitors? Do you want to imitate that or do you want to try something different? A good rule of thumb is to keep your color count low.
Start by choosing a primary color, just one. Experiment with that color until you’re ready to add a complimentary color. There are also many color palette inspirations available online, if you’re having trouble choosing one.
In this case, the panda logo will stay black-and-white as a design decision. But if your logo calls for a little color, go back and reference your research for some inspiration.
Step 5: Finalize for Use
Once you have your vectors grouped and your logo design finalized, it’s time to export it into a useable file. If this was for a client, the deliverables would include the original vector file and varying-sized transparent PNG files.
This can change depending on the client or the package being purchased. But in general, the final logo file will be a PNG. It’s good practice to label all your PNG files with their matching size.
For example, a file of 500×500 pixels could be named logo_500.png. Depending on you or your client’s needs, you should have 3-4 different sizes in different variations.
And just like that, you’ve got yourself a logo.
How to Make Your Own Logo
If you have the software skills and are looking to create your own logo, try following these steps. Design can be difficult to learn so it’s really up to you as a business owner to make that decision. You can invest the time and money to learn it yourself, or you can outsource the work to a freelancer or digital marketing agency.
Take the time to sit down and study your industry and the design elements incorporated. Notice the colors, fonts, shapes, and patterns being used. Explore magazine spreads and promotional materials related to your industry for some extra insights. Study your competition and the history of your industry as it relates to branding.
Put your ideas down on paper. Don’t limit yourself — write and draw whatever comes to mind. Use your research as inspiration. Nothing has to be perfect here. It’s more about you letting your ideas flow with just the restriction of a pencil and paper. This is the creative process and can be very difficult for most people. So, just remember to have fun with it.
Sketch to Scan
Choose your final sketch to take into the computer. You may want to redraw it a few times until it’s close to perfect. Darken your shapes and outlines with a pen to increase the contrast. Photograph or scan your sketch, adjusting the levels to black and white. Import this image file into your vector design software.
Bring the opacity of your sketch layer down. Use your vector software tools to build the shapes required of your sketched design. Add your font and experiment with different variations and revisions. Remember to copy and paste new work, so you don’t lose the foundations of your design. Add color to your logo, if needed.
Finalize for Use
Export your vector file into a useable PNG file. Make multiple sizes and variations of the logo for different uses. Have all of your logo files labeled and organized in an easily accessible folder. Explore different mock-ups to see how your logo will look on business cards, t-shirts, posters, emails, etc.
This, by no means, is the only way to make a logo. There are many different ways of going about it. The key is to find a process, refine it over time and make it your own.
Was this helpful? Let us know in the comments if we missed anything crucial when it comes to designing and making your own logo. If you’ve got experience making your own logo, good or bad, we’d love to hear from you!