Think about the worst logo you’ve ever seen—what comes to mind? If you’re having trouble thinking of one, that’s not surprising.
Good logos stick. Bad ones don’t.
That’s what makes designing a logo different from designing other branding materials. Web banners, ads, and social media posts each have their own design objectives, but none are as focused on being remembered as a logo.
Some of the best logos are the least complicated—think of the Nike swoosh or the McDonald’s golden arches. Ted Kaye, of the North American Vexillological Association, says flag designs should be simple enough that a child can draw them from memory. The same is true of logos.
Your logo is not your brand—you build that separately—but it will become the face of your brand. It will appear on your website, your products, your marketing, your in-store signage, and just about any other place where people interact with your brand.
No matter your budget, you deserve a logo you feel good about. In this guide, we’ll walk you through every step of the process to create a business logo from scratch—from choosing a color to hiring a designer.
What is a business logo for?
A logo is a symbol that represents your brand and your brand’s personality through the simplest image possible. Logos embody your brand in the minds of your customers. Without one, they have nothing to latch onto. Here’s why:
Humans learn from visual cues: If there’s something about your brand you want your customers to know, science says images are more effective than words in communicating it.
Logos let you create branded swag: Branded swag can be handed out at trade shows, given as gifts to potential clients, and even sold in-store. Good conversation can be forgotten a lot quicker than the branded pen a client finds at the bottom of their swag bag.
Logos provide a visual base to draw from for graphic design: Brand consistency is a key element in developing a lasting impression. By having a definitive representation of your brand at its most base level, you’ll have something to draw from when designing other marketing elements.
Logos help you stand out from the competition: Certain symbols or icons are associated with certain industries. Think of how many medical supply businesses use variations of a red cross in their logos. When there are a lot of businesses competing for the same market, distinguishing yourself is the key to getting noticed and remembered.
A logo provides many advantages, so it’s not hard to understand why nearly every business has one. Going logo-less looks unprofessional. It comes across as illegitimate, even untrustworthy.
How to design a logo from scratch: A step-by-step guide
Whether you choose to design a logo yourself, hire a designer, or use an online logo maker, the process will involve the same 7 steps:
1. Develop your brand identity
“Brand Identity” is a catch-all term for the visual elements of your brand: everything from your brand colors to your logo to the way elements of your brand are designed. These visual elements work together to distinguish your brand in the minds of your customers.
Before you start sketching designs for your logo, you’ll want to have an idea of your brand’s identity. To start, ask yourself these questions:
Why did you start your business?
What values are important to you as a company?
What sets you apart from the competition?
Your brand’s distinguishing features—what’s most important to you and what will be most recognizable to your customers—lie in the answers to these questions. Before putting your pen to paper, before choosing your colors and aesthetics, ask yourself who you are.
Don’t worry if you can’t answer these questions right away. They’re a step-off point, meant to be pondered. But once you’ve thought about it, you’ll be in a better position to create a logo that effectively sets you apart.
2. Look for design inspiration
Getting started is often the hardest part of any creative endeavor. It’s good if you have an idea, but sometimes the problem is having too many ideas at once.
Analysis paralysis occurs when you have so many ideas you get stuck over-analyzing them and become unable to make a decision.
To avoid analysis paralysis, don’t think about creation as a task of building something from nothing. Instead, think of it as a puzzle: the logo already exists in your mind, you just have to put the pieces together by drawing on established design principles.
Learn to speak the language of logos by viewing as many great logos as you can. Think about what made your favourites so memorable.
If you’re looking for some places to check out great logo designs, here’s a list:
Logoed: Logoed’s simple, single-page scroll lets you browse a frequently updated collection of stunning logos.
Logospire: This vast collection of user-submitted logo designs will help get your creative juices flowing.
Brand New: Brand New is a blog that covers designs and redesigns of new and notable brands across all industries.
Logo Design Love: Graphic designer David Airey curates this design blog reviewing logos and marketing designs from all over the world.
Design-related hashtags: Many social media communities use specific design-related hashtags for showcasing their graphic design work. Instagram is especially good for this, given the visual nature of the site. Next time you’re browsing the ’gram, check out some of the more popular design hashtags: #logo, #logodesigns, #logodesigner, #graphicdesign, #graphicdesigner.
3. Choose colors that reflect your brand
Color is more fundamental to a person’s perception of visual stimuli than many people realize. Studies have even suggested that color can affect your users’ mood, making it crucial to their buying decision.
Your logo’s colors will end up on your website, in-store signage, social media feeds, marketing emails, and every other place where a user interacts with your brand. There’s no color that’s universally “better,” but each color does say something different. You want to make sure you’re saying the right thing.
With that in mind, let’s go over the psychological effects of certain colors:
Brown: An earthy tone, brown is often associated with all-natural ingredients, homemade goods, and freshly baked treats. Given it's the color of tree bark, sticks, autumn leaves, and rich soil, brown can also give an outdoorsy aura to your brand.
Orange: Like a roaring fire, orange radiates warmth, energy, and passion. The color of sunsets, it also tends to invoke summer—especially when paired with lighter blues and soft greens.
Yellow: Orange’s high-saturation sister, yellow, also gives off light, energy, and warmth. But if orange’s warmth is a glowing fireplace, yellow’s is the intense heat of a midday sun radiating over baron dessert. Yellow tends to invoke happy feelings, but use it sparingly. A little yellow can add a touch of optimism to a dependable brand, but a lot can be maniacal.
Green: A color with two personalities, green can invoke an organic aura that brings to mind lush rainforests, eco-awareness, and a sense of calm. And yet green just as easily becomes the color of money, greed, envy, and nausea.
Pink: A softer, gentler color, pink has at different points in history been viewed as both masculine and femine. Though contemporary customers will likely associate pink with femininity, it more broadly brings to mind kindness, romance, and love.
Red: Bold and unforgiving, red tends to stand-out, which is why it’s become such a dependable color in branding. Like pink, red tends to invoke romance. But whereas pink’s romance is tender and gracious, red’s romance is passionate, loud, and carnal.
Purple: The Rasputin of colors, purple is a shadowy, mysterious stranger with an almost magical magnetism. Given that purple dyes historically have had a reputation for being rare and expensive, there’s no mystery how purple has come to be associated with wealth, excess, mysticism, magic, and indulgence.
Blue: The color of a clear sky, blue tends to invoke feelings of trust, ease, and peace. That said, blue has also been shown to be the least appetizing color. Try to avoid it if you’re selling food.
Black, Gray, White: Sometimes the best color for your brand is no color at all. Shades of black, white, and gray tend to invoke a sense of calmness, balance, or clarity.
Using multiple colors
Most logos are monochromatic. Single colors are easier to coordinate with, and using only one color will simplify your brand’s other graphic design elements. Mono logos also can be reimagined in different colors for different purposes.
The more you can simplify your design, the better. Complex designs are harder to remember and less likely to stick in your customer’s heads.
How do you create color combinations to use for your logo?
If you choose to have a multicolored logo, it’s important to be conscious of what colors you use together. While color theory can be quite complex, there are a lot of online tools to help you fast track a color scheme:
Paletton: Paletton’s color wheel lets you create color schemes using easy, interactive sliders.
Coolors: Coolors lets you generate random color harmonies, lock colors you want to hold in you pallette, and adjust other colors collectively to create a fully customizable palette. You can also generate palettes from uploaded images.
Colormind: Colormind is especially good for web designers because it includes an easy-to-use tool for achieving readability and color harmony on web pages by previewing color combinations on the same page in real-time as adjustments to the palette are made.
ColorSpace: ColorSpace is best for developers, as it automatically generates CSS code to include the color palette you’re creating on your web page.
Canva’s color palette generator: Canva generates color schemes randomly or from images. But what makes Canva’s tool unique is its ability to search for color palettes via keywords.
4. Select a typeface
Your logo may not include any text, but much of your graphic design will, including your web copy, signage, and a host of other branded materials. For the sake of consistency, it’s important to consider which typefaces your brand plans on using when designing your logo, even if you’re not using them in the logo itself.
Typeface vs. font
The terms “typeface” and “font” are used interchangeably in most contexts, so it’s common to assume they’re synonyms. However, there’s an important distinction: a typeface is a characteristically distinct set of typographical symbols and characters, often divided into variant sets, like Italic and Bold. Each of these variant sets is a font.
The four basic type styles and when to use them
There are many models for sorting fonts. Some focus on style, some on historical significance, and some on endless splintered sub-categories. The most common system, however, sorts fonts into four basic types.
Serif type styles
The word “serif” describes a small line or stroke attached to the end of a longer stroke in a letter or other character. Serifs are the oldest type style, tracing their roots back to inscriptional lettering used in the Latin alphabet.
Characteristics: Serifs are often associated with history, tradition, and antiquity and are used to invoke wealth, elegance, and authority.
When to use them: Serif fonts can make attractive display type and traditionally are used for body copy in printed matter, like newspapers, books, and magazines. Luxury brands catering to an affluent audience also commonly use serif type styles.
Use in branding: Old-style and transitional serifs tend to feel more “classical”. Modern and “slab” serifs (typefaces with a thicker serif stroke) feel more contemporary, innovative, and creative.
Sans serif type styles
Sans-serif typefaces, sometimes called gothic, do not have serifs at the end of character strokes. Sans-serifs have less line-width variation and tend to be easier to read when backlit, making them most prevalently used in text on computer screens. In print media, they’re most commonly used in headlines, but can sometimes be used in body copy.
Characteristics: Sans-serifs are more commonly associated with simplicity, modernity, and minimalism. Design-wise, they function well with an abundance of negative space and produce a glossy, refined feel.
When to use it: Sans-serif fonts are versatile and good to use for on-screen copy and headlines. Brands typically use sans-serif fonts when trying to convey a sense of contemporary elegant simplicity.
Use in branding: Sans-serif typefaces tend to be more legible on-screen than in print, so they’re more often used in body copy on websites than in magazines and newspapers. Generally speaking, sans-serifs give a more neoteric vibe and are used more often by brands trying to convey a sense of innovation and modernity.
Script typefaces are derived from handwriting or calligraphy. Scripts are more fluid than sans or serif styles and are often used in more whimsical contexts. Script styles are versatile and can be used by both formal and casual brands.
Characteristics: Being derivative of handwriting, scripts have a tendency to “humanize” text. Script typefaces often have a lot of personality, so they’re particularly good at altering the mood of your copy.
When to use it: Scripts should be used sparingly. They’re poorly suited for long, extended body text because they’re generally less legible. However, when paired with a serif or sans-serif typeface, scripts can be a very effective tool for emphasis.
Use in branding: Formal scripts give off a feeling of luxury, romance, and passion. Informal scripts can give your brand a more folksy and unpretentious vibe. Scripts can be better for emphasizing words and short phrases, especially if it’s a word you want your customer to pause at.
Decorative (or display) fonts are difficult to categorize since their defining feature is that they forego typographical conventions. Decorative fonts can convey a wide variety of moods but generally focus on a specific theme, motif, or aesthetic. More recently developed fonts tend to be decorative, oftentimes developed specifically for a particular brand.
Characteristics: Decorative fonts can be very tricky, since they’re stylistically diverse but generally more difficult to read, making them bad for body copy. Titles might look better in a decorative font style, but even here designers should be careful: overuse of nearly any decorative font has a tendency to look tacky. Decorative fonts also become outdated quickly, since they tend to latch on to aesthetic trends.
When to use it: It’s a good idea to avoid any heavy use of decorative fonts. Single characters can be good for adapting or incorporating into logos, but make sure you have the licensing rights to use the character in your logo.
Use in branding: Decorative fonts are endlessly diverse, so it’s impossible to narrow them down to a single use. Decorative fonts generally are used in logos, and it’s common for larger brands to have entire typeface sets created just for its own use. Non-character typefaces (such as emojis) are also commonly used to appeal to younger customers.
What does my typeface say about my brand?
Like color, a subtle difference in typeface can say very different things about your brand. It’s OK to have more than one brand font, but the key is consistency. Switching between drastically different fonts over and over can give your branding an indecisive feeling overall, which tends to morph into customer mistrust over time.
If your brand uses a particular set of typefaces, make sure you have concrete guidelines about when to use which fonts. When font choices switch frequently and at random, they tend to evoke a sense of suspicion and anxiety.
Finding the right font might not happen right away, but you can narrow down your choices by considering a few key factors alongside your brand identity.
Just as it was to color, brand identity is the most important factor to consider when it comes to your typeface. Different font attributes tend to invoke different brand qualities:
1. Lines: thick vs. thin
Bold, thick fonts, like asymmetrical slab serifs, tend to invoke authority and stability. Thinner fonts tend to convey a stronger sense of elegance and progress.
2. Stress: diagonal vs. vertical
Designers refer to a font’s “stress” when describing the angle at which the thinnest parts of a character’s stroke are aligned. Brush scripts and italicized text would be described as sitting on a diagonal axis, while block text would be described as sitting on a vertical axis. Fonts on a vertical axis tend to look more formal and traditional, whereas fonts on a diagonal axis look more casual and inviting.
3. Contrast:low vs. high
When talking about a typeface, “contrast” describes the difference in weight between think and think strokes. Low-contrast typefaces tend to be more legible but less formal looking than mid-range-contrast type. High-contrast fonts tend to look more modern and authoritative.
4. Mood: formal vs. informal, classic vs. modern, dramatic vs. calm
Harder to pinpoint is a typeface’s “mood.” Older serif fonts and scripts are more formal and classic looking, with older scripts feeling more dramatic. Newer sans-serifs tend to convey calm modernity but can be either formal or informal. Decorative fonts can be all of the above but generally feel more dramatic. Ask yourself what qualities you ascribe to your font and if those are the same qualities you’d ascribe to your brand.
5. Create several rough versions
When you design your own logo, you’re likely going to encounter issues like this. Design involves a lot of trial and error. You might spend a whole afternoon experimenting and have nothing to show for it at the end of the day, aside from the knowledge that narrowing down your options means less work tomorrow.
If you’re more comfortable hand-drawing your logo, feel free to take this route. Our personal preference was the pen tool in Photoshop.
6. Get feedback
The creative process is different for everybody. Some may start with sketches, while others might jump right into Adobe Illustrator. The drafting phase involves a lot of trial and error, so don’t get discouraged if things aren’t working.
At a certain point, you’re going to start to feel like you can’t even recognize letters from shapes or good logos from bad. When this happens, it might be time for feedback. Feedback is incredibly important to the creative process, because it’s the only method creators have of “testing” their ideas.
You can get feedback from nearly anyone, just make sure you’re not relying on a single person. It also helps if the people providing feedback are in your brand’s target demographic.
For the best feedback, ask specific questions about how each person perceives your brand based on the logo. Being told your logo is “good” or “bad” won’t be helpful, but knowing how your brand comes across will be.
Here are some ideas for questions to ask when getting feedback:
What’s the first thing that sticks out to you?
How would you characterize my brand?
What do you remember most about the logo?
Is there anything you’re confused by?
If you could remove one aspect of the design what would it be?
It’s hard for someone to be certain of how they’d react to your brand in real life, so avoid questions like, “Would you buy this?” or “Is this interesting?” More specific questions will garner more specific answers and better feedback.
7. Polish your winning design
As you gather feedback, the strength of your designs will begin to become more apparent. You’ll notice parts of your design that might not be sticking like you thought they would. Meanwhile, aspects you didn’t give a second thought to will turn out to be widely successful. Feedback can surprise you.
How much should a logo design cost?
Now that we've covered what the logo design process looks like, the obvious question is: Should you design your own logo or hire a designer?
Designing a logo that’s unique but also simple enough to be remembered isn’t something that’s easy for amateur designers. Do what you’d do in any aspect of your business and hire a professional if you have the budget. But how much should a logo cost?
The cost of a logo design can vary significantly based on the experience level of the designer you hire. Logos can be exceedingly expensive, incredibly cheap, or even free. You can look at a designer’s portfolio, but there’s still no definitive way to know the quality of the logo you’ll receive until it’s been designed. Generally, expensive logos created by design agencies are made by professionals, but not every professionally made logo is necessarily good.
Should you hire a designer or design your own logo?
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you’re considering hiring a designer to create your logo:
Do I have the budget? Logo designs can cost anywhere from nothing, if you’re using a free online logo maker, to tens of thousands of dollars if you’re working with a professional designer or agency. Expect to pay around $50 to $300 at the lower end to hire a reasonably experienced designer.
Can I afford to burn money for a logo I don’t use? When you hire a designer, you’re paying for their time, not the logo itself. Since there’s a chance the end product won’t meet your expectations and gets tossed, designers and business owners typically negotiate a “kill fee”; an amount paid to the designer regardless of whether or not the logo gets used. Keep this in mind when budgeting and make sure to account for any potential kill fees.
How much time can I afford to dedicate to logo design? Designing a logo involves more than sitting around and waiting for a “eureka” moment. The process usually is a collaborative one, with designers presenting you several rough options and relying on your feedback to revise their work.
Do I have a good eye for design? Logo design isn’t easy. If it was, you wouldn’t be considering hiring a designer. Some business owners excel at expressing their brand values in words but have trouble translating those words into an image. Designers, on the other hand, usually excel at translating words to images. If your skills are better suited to management than creativity, hiring a designer is probably the right route to take.
Hiring a designer
If you decide you want to work with a professional, there’s no shortage of websites and online communities where you can find designers to hire for freelance jobs:
Upwork: A global online freelancing platform that connects businesses with freelancers remotely. Upwork includes a collaborative timesheet and live chat, making it easy to monitor your freelancer’s progress.
Freelancer: Freelancer is unique in that potential hirees “bid” for jobs that you post, allowing you to find the best designer at the lowest cost.
Fiverr: A two-sided marketplace to buy and sell a variety of digital services, such as writing, graphic design, video editing, and programming. Fiverr offers fixed prices for services regardless of the work time, making it easier to budget your logo design.
Dribbble: A community for designers to showcase their creative work and connect with employers. Dribble works not only as a place to find a designer but also a place to explore new, creative designs for inspiration if you decide to make your own logo.
Tips on working with a graphic designer for your logo
Recruiting a professional graphic designer can be a huge advantage for business owners in need of a good logo. Having an expert to bounce ideas off of is a great way to revitalize your creative energy and separate ideas that work from the ones that don’t.
But partnering with a designer isn’t always a golden ticket to the perfect logo. It’s important to know what to expect when you hire and how to manage a graphic designer. If you’re looking to hire a pro, here’s some tips on establishing a good working relationship with your designer:
Perform a background check and be mindful of security. The vast majority of users on freelancing websites are great artists looking to make money doing what they love. But in rare cases, fraudulent applicants will answer job postings with the intention of scamming users. Always check the freelancer’s account page for their portfolio and reviews from previous employers to ensure the quality of their work. Always communicate in writing. Never give out any personal financial information or account passwords to your freelancer.
Provide logo examples and as much detail as possible. If there’s a specific look you’d like to emulate, provide a couple of examples. Graphic designers tend to be visual learners, which means it’s going to be easiest to show them what you want as opposed to telling them.
Provide a realistic time frame. Respect the creative process and understand that the final product may take a few drafts and feedback sessions before revealing itself. Giving short time frames will result in a logo that feels rushed and incomplete.
Give feedback that is clear, concise, specific, and honest. The least helpful thing you can say about a draft is that it’s “good” or “bad,” because neither says anything about what works in the design and what doesn’t. Don’t make vague requests like “Can you make it trendier?” or provide abstract goals like “Try to capture the timeless spirit of our brand.” Instead, try to identify what’s most memorable about the design and what can be removed it.
Don’t micromanage your designer. Budget enough time for logo design, feedback, and revisions. There’s no need to check in with your designer in between drafts or monitor them while they’re working. Constantly checking in with a freelancer gives the impression that you don’t trust them to provide quality work or don’t respect their expertise as a designer.
Don’t expect them to do any work for free. Don’t ask freelancers to “apply” with original work if you don’t plan on paying them. Don’t ask for “free samples,” “quick revisions,” or “small favours.” Don’t expect to pay with “exposure,” “experience,” or “the chance to build a great portfolio.” This approach is unethical and will almost always result in low-quality work.
Designing a logo for free (or cheap)
In the startup phase of your business, taking on a new hire, even a freelancer, might not be feasible. When this happens, you’re left with two options: design your own logo or use a free online logo generator.
Top-ranking free logo makers
If you’re short on time and need a professional logo designed ASAP, then a free logo generator is your best bet. There are plenty of adequate logo makers online, but beware—low-quality logo makers generally result in low-quality logos.
Canva: Canva’s free suite of graphic design tools includes lots of logo templates that can be customized using its intuitive drag-and-drop editor. Canva is great for hands-on users, especially ones looking for complete creative freedom. However, the limitless design options can be overwhelming for first-timers. If you have less design experience, a more accessible logo creator from this list might be better.
LogoMakr: LogoMakr has a streamlined, step-by-step logo creation process that’s easy for beginners to pick up. With a database of over a million searchable graphics, a text toolbar, and a simplified, easy-to-arrange layering system akin to the Layers tool in Photoshop and other more complex design software.
Ucraft: Ucraft’s logo maker is great for creating minimalist logos in a time crunch. Ucraft provides three elemental design options—text, icons, and shapes—alongside a drag-and-drop interface for easy-to-adjust logos. While the design options are limited, Ucraft’s simplicity makes it a great tool if you need a logo in a pinch.
MarkMaker: MarkMaker’s logo generator has very limited customization options, but it makes up for this by being one of the easiest logo generators for beginners to use. Its unique process is sort of like having an AI-powered graphic design robot. Markmaker feeds you an endless scroll of instantly generated logos, asks you which logos you like, and then creates more designs based on your preferences.
The logo creators on this list have advantages and disadvantages. We encourage you to try them all to find the best fit for you.
Logo-generation tools are great for creating professional logos at break-neck speed, but any free logo generator comes with limitations, not to mention the fear of encountering strikingly similar logos from competing brands.
For many full-time entrepreneurs, free online logo generators just won’t cut it. Not because of the logos themselves (there’s no doubt you can create a stunning, original, on-brand logo with these tools), but because of the curtailed creation process.
Entrepreneurship tends to attract people that thrive on creative expression and innovative problem-solving. For people like this, the opportunity to round out their skillset and cultivate their branding chops by designing their own logo is just too good to pass up.
Avoiding common logo design mistakes
If there’s one thing to take away from all of this, it’s that you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of your logo.
Logos are subjective. While there’s no right or wrong way to make one, there are common mistakes and useful techniques to be aware of:
DO keep your color scheme simple. Monochromatic logos are more adaptable and having one simplifies the color selection process. The more colors you use, the more complicated adaptation becomes.
DON’T over complicate your design. Don’t pack too many icons into one logo. Simple figures are far easier to convey rather than complex scenes, and are more likely to be remembered. Consider the staying power of Apple’s iconic design or Volkswagen’s symmetrical “VW” logo.
DO create variations of your logo in different sizes and proportions. When you go to add it to everything from websites to pens, you’ll start wishing you planned for different size options.
DON’T create variations that are too different. Avoid re-arranging too many elements and don’t change the design.
DO explore logos and get inspired by other brands, especially ones in your industry.
DON’T imitate logos too closely. Not only is it plagiarism, but it’s also going to impede any chance your logo has to stand out.
DO be contemporary. Even if your brand has a more “classical” character, it will still need to compete in the modern world. Tons of brands draw on classic design attributes, but completely neglecting decades of design theory will be alienating.
DON’T be too trendy. Logos made in an era obsessed with specific colors, designs, or aesthetics quickly become dated.
Create a logo you feel good about
Strong, memorable brands tend to have strong, memorable logos. Going through this process to create a simple image might seem like a lot of work, but considering that the design will be linked to your brand for the long-term, it’s worth it.
Every large brand started off small. You don’t need to sacrifice quality design just because you’re in the startup phase of your business. The idea of designing your own logo may have seemed daunting at first, but now, with a stronger understanding of the principles of design and the steps involved in the process, you’re hopefully better equipped to create yours with confidence.