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Logo design ideas and tips for your small business

Logo design ideas and tips for your small business

Looking to create a logo for your small business? It’s a process that is not always easy to get right if you’ve never re-branded your business before. There are plenty of options open to you — from doing it yourself in-house, which can save a lot of money, to going with an outside professional.

Creating something that is effective and iconic takes a lot of thought and planning. Your logo is something that people will use to identify your organisation, so it stands to reason that it should be distinctive and eye-catching, while being synonymous with the products or services that you offer. 

Think of all the competitors in your market and the logos they have chosen to represent them. There are probably a mixture of quality and lesser-quality examples, so you need to make sure that your own design stands out from the crowd and establishes your company’s image as immediately recognisable.

To help you achieve your goals, this guide is intended to point you in the right direction when it comes to the design of your new logo. Let’s get started.

Planning your logo design

Behind the creation of every iconic logo is a period of intricate and detailed planning that lays the foundation for everything else to build upon. The very best designs take time to formulate and are often inspired by something unique. That’s why knowing everything about your brand history is a great place to begin. 

Find a story

BMW Logo


It’s worth delving into the backstory of your brand to see if there is anything there that could be the inspiration for your logo. Does the founding of your company have any particular significance? Is there any product or service that you have unique ties too? Asking yourself questions like this could well lead to the meaningful logo you are looking for.

For some inspiration of how this can work, it’s worth taking a look at vehicle manufacturer BMW’s logo, which is known the world over. It has a very distinguished design which tells the story behind the company — the silver cross on a blue and white background represents their rich history in aviation, which saw them manufacturing plane engines for the German military during World War II. Not only is the design immediately recognisable, but it symbolises BMW’s proud history too.

Carry out some research

GAP Logo


It’s also useful to know just what your company image is before you set about designing your logo. You may think that you already have a good idea, but it can be worth carrying out a survey of your own employees and customers too. Getting a few extra opinions is always helpful, and you might just get a new insight into something about your brand that you want to either emphasise or move away from with the new design.

There is a good example of a firm not doing enough research before launching a re-branded design in the clothing manufacturer GAP. They tried to launch a new design of their classic blue and white image in 2010, only for it to be the subject of thousands of negative social media comments. They subsequently switched back to their old logo, admitting they missed an opportunity to engage with public opinion before green-lighting the change. It just goes to show that a certain design can hold a lot of sway with people, and it is usually worth researching what they think before re-branding yourself.

Look around for inspiration

There is nothing wrong in admitting that you admire another firm’s logo, and it might just give you an idea of your own to work with. If you know of a competitor or another company that has been around for a long time with much success, it’s worth taking a closer look at their brand image and logo to see what they have done right. Likewise, there may be good examples of where something hasn’t worked, which can give you some guidance too.
In saying this, we don’t mean that you should set out to copy any other firms, but there are certainly lessons that can be learned from good and bad logo designs.

Use the right tools to organise your ideas

When the ideas start to flood in, you might find it a little bit difficult to keep everything organised. By using tools such as mind maps and mood boards, you can keep everything pinned down so that you can consider the bigger picture. 

Mind maps are a great technique for fully exploring an idea or topic, and you may find yourself linking concepts that you might never have considered otherwise. Mood boards are a great place to play with a multitude of inspiring items, giving you space to play with keywords, synonyms, colours, images, and much more in a single location. Many a eureka moment has been had while using both of these tools.

You might also want to explore some of the apps and online services that you can utilise in your creative process. Pinterest is essentially an online mood board which can be used to organise digital sources of inspiration for future use. For keeping your notes all in one place where you or your team can access them, Evernote is a good choice. Using this, you can upload ideas to the cloud where they can be accessed from almost any device.

Establish a brief

Once you have decided on which direction you wish to go in with your project, you can then establish a brief for its completion. This should bring together all of the ideas that you have had that you think could inspire the design process. 

Your brief should include:

  • A description of your business: Include details about your industry, your main products or services, your company’s unique selling points, your target market, and values or backstory.
  • Logos that have inspired you: Give some examples of logos you really like and those you don’t. Choose ones that will be relevant to your business.
  • Share any of your own ideas: These can be anything that you feel might inspire your design.
  • The feelings you want your logo to convey.
  • Any colours or fonts that you feel could work for your logo.
  • Any plans you have for using your logo: Include each place that the logo will be used, such as your website, promotional merchandise, signs, and anything else.


If you are looking to hire a designer rather than go in-house, a good brief will play a key role in helping them to understand exactly what it is you are looking for.

What should you consider when choosing a logo designer?

Not every company has the capacity to create a high-quality, professional logo in-house, and that is where you may need to turn to a freelancer or a graphic design company. However, you need to make sure that you opt for someone who will be able to successfully work with your company to produce something that you can proudly use.
There are a few things that you should consider before making your final decision:
  • Their track record: Does the designer you have in mind have a good history of creating quality logos for other companies? Do they have experience of working in your sector?
  • Their portfolio: Take note of the ratio between real and conceptual logos. Does the portfolio feel padded out with mediocre designs? What is the general quality?
  • Testimonials for their work: While many designers will list testimonials on their website, it’s often best to check with their clients to verify them, provided they are not competitors. Their LinkedIn page is also a good place to see who they have worked with in the past.
  • Recognition: Has any of their work been published anywhere of note or won any awards?
  • Time taken: How long will it take them to design your logo? A one- or two-day turnaround is often a sign of a rushed job, while you don’t want the process taking months and months. A good balance to be expected would be one to two weeks.
  • Price: Not a key indicator, but a cheap rate can be a sign of a quick job or someone who is inexperienced and eager for business. 
  • How they carry themselves: Do they respond to queries promptly? Are they professional in their communications? Do they have a clear plan for the design process? These are often indicators of who treats their work seriously.
  • Their level of interest: A good designer will ask questions about your brand to make sure they have covered all of the angles for your design. This is also a sign of their dedication to the project.
Reviewing the above points will give you a good checklist to work through when it comes to choosing a designer to suit your logo design project.

Logo design tips

Below, we’ve set out some of the things that you should consider. Bear in mind that not all of them should be taken as gospel as there are no set rules for logo design. They should, however, give the process some direction and help you to reach your project goal.

Simple designs are often the best

Apple Logo
© Apple
One of the golden rules of good logo design is the KISS methodology, otherwise known as ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’, which is based on the idea that people recognise and remember simple logos more so than those that are complex. 
Branding company Siegel + Gale carried out a study into the topic and discovered that respondents found the most memorable logos to be simple. They also asked people to name and describe the logos that they thought were the most recognisable — the top four were Nike (16%), Apple (15.6%), McDonald’s (11.1%), and Coca-Cola (9.7%), all of which have some of the simplest designs out there. 
Also, it’s fairly common for enduring logos to lose non-essential features as they become more widely recognised — further testament to the power of a simple logo. A great way to rid potential designs of superfluous elements is to employ subtraction, a great technique for paring down ideas to their purest forms. You can employ this by continuously asking yourself whether certain parts of your ideas make sense or match the brief, or if you really need to include them. If the answer is no, then the chances are that they probably don’t need to be there. 
With this in mind, it's often the best decision to go with a logo that you feel represents your company well, without being overly complex or confusing.

Think outside of the box

If you aren’t experienced in coming up with design ideas, there is a chance that you might fall into the trap of using some clichéd and obvious ideas. By this we mean things like logos incorporating globes to represent an international company or speech bubbles to represent messaging services. The problem with these concepts is that, while they represent the company perfectly well, they are used to represent a lot of companies perfectly well. This can make it difficult to mentally distinguish one brand from another, eroding memorability.
This is also a fault that is fairly common with font choices, as generic fonts, like Arial or Times New Roman can make branding seem generic too. Take, for example, the font Helvetica, which in theory is a perfectly good choice for a logo — it’s clean, modern, and can work in a number of situations. This is exactly what organisations like Apple, NASA, and BMW thought when they chose the font as the standard number across their brand. 
However, because of the popularity of these brands, many other smaller companies decided to follow suit and adopt Helvetica as their own too. Because of this, it became overused in too many indistinct logos across too many markets. The strength of the larger brands allowed them to continue using it without a problem, but smaller companies found that its use was too commonplace by too many similar sized businesses around them.
Instead of being trapped by clichés, try to think outside of the box and make some innovative design choices when it comes to your logo. Try out some different images or fonts and you might be surprised with how good they actually look, giving you something unique. If you are determined to work what you fear might be an overused element into your logo, try to incorporate it in a different way to separate yourself from the crowd.

Use colour to enhance your logo

Macdonalds Logo
© McDonald’s
Colours are able to affect our emotions when we look at them, which makes their use in your logo important. Because of this, it is vitally important to get them right to elicit the right response from a potential customer. 
While you might be limited to the brand colours of your company, if you have the freedom of choice, you should choose a scheme that suits the target demographic of your customer base. Consider such factors as the age, gender, or culture of your clientele, as this can affect your final decision. For example, if your business primarily deals with older clients, the bright, zany shades of yellow and orange that might appeal to children probably won’t be suitable.
Also, the products or services that you offer may influence your choice of colour. A company that specialises in recycled goods will probably want to incorporate one or more types of green, while a chain of fast food restaurants might want to use the reds, whites, and gold that is often associated with their industry. 
There is a whole field of colour psychology to explore out there too, based upon the premise that colours make us feel and react in different ways. How much you buy into them is up to you, but there is certainly much to consider if you want to tailor your logo towards these theories.

Make sure your logo is versatile

Nike Logo
© Nike
If you are planning on using your logo across a few different applications, it will need to be versatile so that it looks the part. For example, should you have plans to update the company website, take out a full-page print advert, and have it embroidered on staff uniforms, you will need a logo that is flexible so that it can be adapted to each platform. Different colours and sizing are both variables that your logo will need to deal with at some point or another, so it’s important to take this into account at the design stage.
Additionally, a logo that can be altered easily can save your business money, as you do not have to spend funds on multiple versions or time having to change it yourself.
There are a few of things you can do to make your design as adaptable as possible: 
  • Use a vector format: This will ensure that your logo can be resized without looking stretched or pixelated, which will mean it can be used across a variety of sizes. 
  • Use only black and white: Though this might not be your final goal as you want to use colour, working in monochrome allows you to focus on the concept and shape of the logo early in the design stage. It will also make sure that it looks good when printed in black and white, which can save you money in large print runs.
  • Use negative space efficiently: Getting the balance between white space and the elements of your logo is important, as if it is too narrow it may not translate well to print. On the other hand, too wide of a space can create a disjointed effect, often making it less recognisable.
  • Use gradients sparingly: If you overuse gradients, such as tints, you risk spoiling the effect when your logo is printed. Light tints often don’t show properly, while dark tints can appear too muddy.

Opt for a timeless design over a trend

Coca Cola Logo
© Coca-Cola
Like many fields, logo design is subject to trends that will see many people adopt a particular style for their branding, only to cast it aside when there is a shift in taste a little further down the line. However, some of the most recognisable logos in the world have been at the top of the game for a long time, remaining virtually unchanged for decades with only the slightest modifications to their design. This is a testament to the success of these logos’ designs, proving themselves to be completely timeless in spite of shifting trends in brand image. A great example of one of these logos is the iconic, cursive script Coca-Cola branding, which is as memorable today as it was when it was first developed in 1885.
You can avoid the pitfalls of chasing an on-trend logo by opting for a timeless logo from the outset, which will be a fantastic direction to take for your own project. Even if you don’t quite make it to the hundred-year-old heritage of the Coca-Cola branding, following a similar process as these classics will leave you with a design that shares many of their strong hallmarks. 
Aim for an image that follows many of the guidelines that we’ve mentioned: simple shape, no complex graphical elements, no gradients, and a limited colour palette. Adopt an outlook in which you treat each part of the logo as its own stand-alone piece, where the font, outline, and image can be recognised individually as part of your branding. In doing this, you will end up with something that can be simplified in the future and still maintain its significance for your company.


Creating your new brand with Custom Planet

Here at Custom Planet, we can help you achieve your goals when the time comes to roll out your new logo across your branding. Our expert team of printing and embroidery specialists can work with you to apply your logo to a whole range of quality clothing, accessories, and merchandise once you have finalised your design. 
We’re able to employ the latest digital and screen printing techniques, as well as our high-quality embroidery service, to ensure your logo takes pride of place on any of the clothing items you order. We also have the capacity to add multiple garment finishes, such as neck labels, hem or sleeve tags, and swing tags. So, if you’re looking for branded safetywear, workwear, or hospitality wear for your company, we can help.
We are also your one-stop shop for promotional products featuring your logo, ideal as corporate gifts or event giveaways to get your company name out there. There is a whole variety of merchandise available, including USB memory sticks, pens, and bags. We can also provide you with a choice of custom conference products, ideal if you are exhibiting at a trade show.
We hope that this guide helps you to create a logo that is just right for your brand. If you have any questions or would like more information, don’t hesitate to get in touch or give us a call on 0191 597 2668.