Logo design principles and rules

The 6 key principles of logo design

The goal of a logo is to perfectly represent your brand to an audience, while also differentiating you from others out there. When someone looks at your logo they should be able to determine two things: if they desire the product and if they want to buy it from your company. The principles of logo design will help you do that.

Learning how to design a logo can seem overwhelming. Where do you begin? That’s where the logo rules below come in handy.

Logo design is a process that gets easier when you approach it with knowledge, experience and a solid plan. If you want to create something great it’s important to know the principles of graphic design and learn some graphic design basics. Then determine who your customer is and what it is that you want to tell them. Your logo design choices will make a big difference in helping you communicate your message to your customer.

The logo design principles below are the rules you need to follow if you want to create an effective and successful logo.

The 6 key principles of logo design to know about:

  1. Simplicity
  2. Originality
  3. Versatility
  4. Scalability
  5. Balance & proportion
  6. Timelessness
  7. Applying these logo principles

1. Simplicity

Simplicity is what helps a logo stand up against challenges of time and what makes it replicable and easy to work with.

three lines exclamo logo

The three lines that make out the “E” make the logo simply expressive by matacurut via 99designs by Vista.

You want your logo to be as clear and visible as possible while reflecting your aesthetics and conveying your philosophy. Take the Nike logo—nothing more than a monochrome swoosh. It doesn’t get simpler than that.

Wise choices in typeface, color options and graphics are crucial to this step. Is your logo made up of several overlapping shadings, images, fonts, letters? Choose just a few active elements for your design—a good logo is not overcrowded with elements. And don’t forget the white space! Simplicity requires excellent use of spacing. The elements that make up your logo need to breathe so that your logo stands out and speaks clearly to your audience.

2. Originality

black and white geometric line art fox logo

An original and memorable logo design by svart ink via 99designs by Vista.

Your logo needs to be different enough to attract attention and memorable enough to remain in people’s minds.

Think of all the unforgettable logos stashed in your memory: Starbucks, UPS and Apple are at the top of the list. Maybe we remember them because we see them non-stop, but perhaps it’s also because they’re original and unforgettable. Successful logos stand out from the crowd by being different, original and memorable. Your logo must attract a first glance that people will remember and then express trust and reliability upon repeat interactions.

A unique logo design calls for a unique design concept. This is the point in logo design where artistry meets great ideas and a firm grasp of consumer design. A skilled graphic designer can respond to your logo goals, with all these considerations in mind and create something truly original.

3. Versatility

Your logo has a big job. It will adorn all of your products, shop signage, digital ads and much more (think t-shirts and bumper stickers!). So, your logo needs to be versatile and adaptable to land anywhere. Think of all the places you’ll want to use your logo and make sure it looks good in every single one of them.

bungalow light bulb logo

Different logo variations help to make a logo versatile. Design by C1k.

Having a simple, easily recognizable logo can help with versatility. Another great way to achieve versatility is with a responsive logo. Responsive logos are adaptive and have different variations of size, complexity or even color to accommodate and adapt to wherever they are placed.

The rule of thumb is that your logo should also be able to work with any color or background. That means it needs to look good in black and white with no effects. This is your logo’s most bare bones form. Is it still unique and memorable? Does it still carry your company’s voice?

4. Scalability

minimal leaf logo design

A clever minimalistic logo that is easily scalable. Design by artsigma via 99designs by Vista.

Similarly, your logo should be able to adapt to any size. Can it go on a giant billboard and a tiny pen? Going back to the adaptability principle, we know that your logo ought to be scalable to represent your brand anywhere.

A scalable logo needs to make sense, look good and remain legible at any size—whether it is printed on a tiny business card or on a huge poster. If you include too much detail in your logo it will make it harder to scale down to a small size.

To achieve scalability in your logo, the designer will create your logo in vector format. Vector files are created with rescaling in mind, so your logo looks just as sharp when it’s blown up to a large size.

5. Balance & proportion

Humans recognize balanced designs as beautiful. A well-proportioned design will strike a balance between the various elements that make up your logo.

symmetrical watercolor two fish logo

A well-balanced logo design by olimpio via 99designs by Vista.

Proportion refers to the weight of each of the elements that make up your logo. From a practical perspective, the right proportions will make your logo whole and help it to make sense.

Symmetrical logos are balanced through equally weighted elements aligned on either side of a center line. On the other hand, asymmetrical logos can be balanced too, using opposite weights to create a composition that is not even, but still has equilibrium.

6. Timelessness

A timeless logo looks just as good in ten year as it looks today. Avoid giving in to short-lived fads when designing your logo and go for a classic look. Psychedelic 70s-inspired logos might be all the rage for your industry today, but they might be played out in a year.

Epic logos stand the test of time because they pay attention to logo principles and rules that last, rather than what everyone else is doing right now.

As your company grows and changes, a logo that holds your fundamental goals and ideals will remain current. Something that may seem quirky or timely in the current cultural sphere might help your brand gain attention at the moment but it might lose that meaning in the future. Something that speaks to you and speaks for you will stay by your side for the duration.

One way to test out this logo design principle is imagining the following scenario: Think of yourself explaining the thought behind your logo over and over again for years to come. Would your explanation still feel valid 5 or 10 years from now?

Apply these logo principles to get an outstanding result

giant holding flower logo

This design elegantly embodies logo design rules and principles. Logo by Rom@n via 99designs by Vista.

Your logo reflects your brand’s voice and face. It carries a lot of responsibility on your behalf and therefore you carry a lot of responsibility to create it as thoughtfully as possible.

To learn how you can apply these principles for your own logo design, take a look at the video above. Here, we talk through how to write your logo design brief, and how you can review your design drafts using the key principles principles of logo design. By using these principles as a guide, you’ll be able to see what works and spot any flaws in your logo design.

Whether it’s your first logo or hundredth logo creation and whether you’re designing a logo yourself or working with a graphic designer, make sure to do it with logo design principles in mind.

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Author: Zeynep Lokmanoglu