When you’re designing a logo for the first time, it’s easy to go overboard with design flourishes in the hopes of creating something “not boring.”
Symbol? Yeah! Gradient? Sure thing! Flashy font? Let’s do it!
If there’s no one to rein you in, it can be hard to rein yourself in. But reining yourself in is one of the best things you can do because simplicity is the key to a great logo design. Why?
- Simple logos are easier for people to remember (and you want people to remember you, obviously)
- Simple logos look good at different sizes and on different applications — in particular, they’re easier to view at small sizes and on screens
- Simple logos look good in black and white (which is good, because your logo won’t always appear in full-color)
- Simple logos tend to be longer lasting, as they aren’t overly trendy
- Simple logos look more professional — they’re not screaming for attention, but they can still make a statement
The famous graphic designer Paula Scher sums it up nicely: “I prefer simple logos because you can do complicated things with them. Keep it simple. Make it smart.”
All this sounds great in theory right? But what does “simple” look like in practice? How simple is TOO simple? What’s the difference between adding a design flourish for impact and adding one that makes a design too complicated? How do you make a logo that’s simple but NOT boring?
Follow these loosely-held “rules” to stay on the right track.
Rule #1: Keep it flat
Let’s start with an easy one! Most logos these days are flat, and online logo makers (including My Free Logo Maker) only generate flat logos. But it’s worth mentioning because there’s been a trend toward flat logos for a reason — they translate well across screens, and they tend to look more modern.
A flat logo is a logo designed in a two-dimensional style, so it appears more “graphic-like” than a 3D image or drawing. There aren’t any fancy effects like texture, bevels, or drop-shadows — instead, a flat design relies on strong typography, simple shapes, and color to stand out.
Flat design has become the go-to for many company logos, in part because of the 2013 iOS update that made all app icons on phones appear flattened. You need only think of some major logo redesigns of the last few years to see that flat is the industry standard.
Rule #2: Design with your company name in mind
The length of your company name plays a big role in what kind of logo you end up with. The longer your company name, the more you have to think about fitting letters into a small space and sharing them with other design elements, like a symbol or monogram.
The shorter the company name, the easier time you’ll have designing a simple logo.
Start with the text arrangement. Does your company name look okay one one line, or does it take up too much horizontal space? Is stacked text an option, especially if your name has multiple words?
But if your company name IS on the longer side, don’t fret. Just remember:
- Long company names shouldn’t be contained in shapes, like a circle, because they then take up too much horizontal space and are harder to read
- If your company name is long, consider stacking the text to keep your logo more compact and scalable
- If your company name is longer, aim for a simpler font so it’s easier to read
A slogan adds another layer of complexity to a logo. If you’re set on using a slogan, make sure it’s short and can scale well with your logo.
Rule #3: One flourish only
This rule is a tough one, especially if you’re striving for a super unique style. But it’s probably the most important rule when designing a simple logo.
By limiting yourself to one bold/fancy/extra thing while keeping the rest of your logo stripped-down, you’ll nail that “memorability” factor and ensure your design isn’t boring.
A “flourish” could include:
- A bold color or gradient
- A standout symbol
- A distinct font
- A shape/container
Look at these “one flourish only” logos for inspiration:
Kickstarter – a super bubbly and memorable font stands on its own; there’s no need for a symbol, shape, or lines
Airbnb – a simple-but-memorable symbol and bright color is enough to make this logo stand out
Tinder – a gradient in the symbol adds visual interest, with everything else kept flat and simple
Old Navy – a classic oval shape is memorable on its own, without any symbol or secondary colors
Rule #4: Keep it to 2 colors (3 max)
Yes, there are cases of multicolor logos that look really cool. But in most cases, two colors work well for a logo, with one of those colors being black or white.
Choosing one or two colors also means you can focus on making those colors great and super on-point for your brand. A good tip is to brighten up your core color — while muted colors definitely work for more serious brands, many logos look better with a bolder, more saturated color (look at the Loom and Glassdoor rebrands for recent examples).
It’s also good to remember that you’ll often need to use your logo on a white or transparent background, which means your brand color needs to pop on a white background.
Rule #5: Know when to break the rules
You can, of course, make a more fanciful logo that breaks some of the above rules. But it really depends on the industry you’re in and the applications you’ll be using your logo for.
In general, the more creative the industry the wilder you can go. Logos for bands, festivals, video games, children’s toys can all go a little more creative, particularly with fonts and colors. Here are a few examples of logos that use multiple colors and more complex fonts without totally sacrificing simplicity:
A simple logo can take a lot of time to get right — which is why some famous graphic designers get paid the big bucks.
But you can take simple design principles into your own hands when making a logo, even if you’re not a design expert.
Remember the key characteristics of simple logos: easy-to-read fonts, clean lines, space to “breathe.” And don’t add something just for the sake of adding it!
To start applying these principles, jump into My Free Logo Maker to explore variations and find a logo that’s right for your business.