If you’re an entrepreneur and small business owner without professional design experience, it can be really intimidating to think about how to design a logo for yourself. Where do you start? What tools do you need? How do you make it look professional? I get it, it’s scary. But it’s also completely teachable, I promise.
Learning how to design a logo lets you say a lot in a small space. A custom logo makes you look more established and trustworthy. Customers feel like they can depend on you to stick around and continue to provide support to them because you took the time to create a solid brand for your business.
Another perk to having a custom logo is that it acts as a sort of visual shorthand for your business.
Anytime customers and website visitors see your content online or receive a letter embossed with your logo, they know it’s yours. And since they trust you already, this just further reinforces that trust, which results in more sales and more sharing about you with their network (which results in even MORE sales).
It’s a win all around.
There will come a point in your business life when you’re ready to hire this out to a pro, but if you’re just getting started or have a small budget, then learning how to design a custom logo yourself is worth the effort. All you need are some step-by-step instructions and examples.
How to design a logo in 12 steps
- Learn some custom logo design best practices.
- Pre-work brainstorm.
- Choose a design tool.
- Pick a font for your custom logo.
- Purchase some premium graphic elements (optional).
- Get your file set up.
- Stack logo text creatively (in black and white).
- Play with graphics and icons.
- Try different arrangements and stacking.
- Add a border or background.
- Rearrange and test at different dimensions.
- Mock up your logo for different formats and sizes.
Finally, we’ll go over some custom logo design tips for success.
To help get you started, we’re going to practice with custom design for a fake company. Teresa is opening up a wedding photography business in her hometown in Seattle, Wash. She’ll be using her logo on her website, business cards and flyers, as well as on custom printed swag that she’ll gift to her clients.
She’s in the wedding industry right now but wants the ability to branch out into other types of photography in future. The name of her business is Engaging Photography.
Ready to help design Teresa’s custom logo? We’ll do a little pre-work and then walk through this process using her fictitious logo as an example. Feel free to follow along at home.
1. Learn some custom logo design best practices
Before we dig into actual design, it’s important to learn some custom logo design best practices. When you see how some of the big brands handle this, it will likely spark some ideas for your project, too.
Try it with just text
One of the most helpful things to keep in mind when designing a logo is simplicity. This is true for professional designers and non-designers alike.
No fancy icons or illustrations. Start learning how to design a logo with a font that makes sense.
There are more nuances and decisions that go into adding illustrations or graphics to your design so if you dip into that idea too soon, you run the risk of having an amateur-looking logo.
One inspirational example of a logo made entirely from words is Coca-Cola. They probably tweaked this logo when they created it but it’s essentially just a fancy swirly font. You can get this kind of effect with your logo design easily.
I strongly suggest you stick to one or two fonts maximum if you go this route.
I prefer to pick one font family that has several thicknesses to choose from so I can combine two styles of the same font into a single, cohesive logo with a naturally stylish look.
Create in black and white to start (no color)
Playing with color in your logo is super fun, but I want you to hold off on this in the beginning.
The truth is that when you actually are using your logo out in the wild, you’re sometimes going to be stuck with a grayscale version. Either for cost reasons (color is expensive) or because your logo was snagged to be shared on social media and your colors were altered.
Another reason to start in black and white is because you want to focus on your shape and concept first. If you dive into color too soon it can be very distracting and actually makes it harder to hone in on a strong logo design because you’re depending on color too much.
You don’t want color to do all the heavy lifting. You want your logo to be rock-solid first, then add color later. Or if your brand is light on color, maybe it stays black, white or gray.
The point is, you want a recognizable brand whether color is there or not.
Just like with the Apple logo. You’ve seen this a million times I’m sure, and you never wonder what company it represents. No matter the color, this is clearly the Apple logo every time.
Keep it scalable and versatile
Your logo needs to look amazing whether it’s blown up huge on a billboard, or printed onto small flyers. If you use a ton of text in your design or overwhelm it with patterns and layers of imagery, that’s all going to become a muddy, unrecognizable mess when it’s shrunk to the size of a business card.
If you design your logo with variations of text and no text, then you can strip out the nonessentials for smaller usage, like when you need to turn your logo into the “favicon” that shows up in the tab of your internet browser.
Be sure to resize your logo and test it out at different dimensions to make sure it still looks great.
One example of a well-known logo that works whether it has text or not (and at different sizes) is the Taco Bell logo. You recognize this easily whether it’s big or small.
Watch your balance and alignment
One major thing to focus on when you learn how to design a logo is balance. If things are off balance in your design, then people feel subconsciously uneasy, and have trouble trusting you.
Portraying that balanced feeling is subtle but has a lot of impact — so it’s worth it to pay attention to this with your custom logo design.
One tip for keeping things balanced is to make sure you are aligning portions of your design properly. If you’re using Photoshop, turn on the smart guides and use the Align Panel to help with this. You don’t want to guess about where the center is on your design; use these tools to do it perfectly, easily.
You also want to make sure your fonts work well together, size-wise. Use all the same size, or at a contrast that looks nice.
The basic idea is to get every part of the logo to flow well together. Nothing way taller or wider, too loud or too quiet, or the balance will be thrown off.
An example of a nicely balanced logo is the Twitter bird. Note how all the curves are the same angle as one another. It has perfect symmetry with pleasing proportions and alignments.
Use your words (or not)
Many of the most famous logos in our lives, like Nike and McDonalds, are recognizable even without words included. So it’s easy to drop all the words for uses where only a small image can fit. You may be wondering how to do this if you’ve designed your logo entirely out of text.
Sometimes for long business names, you can just use the initials as the logo or a decorative piece that accompanies it.
Take a look at your design in the early stages and ask yourself what happens to your logo if you take away an element like the tagline. Does it still work? If so, maybe you don’t need it there at all.
As you learn how to design a logo, remember every piece should be intentional and deliberate.
One example of a design that works well with words and without them is the Adidas logo. See how it’s effective either way?
2. Pre-work brainstorm
It’s important to take 20 to 30 minutes before you get started and set a really solid foundation for learning how to design a logo. Ask yourself these questions:
What image are you trying to convey?
When you sit down to pick a symbol that represents your company, you have to be very clear on what image you’re trying to put out into the world.
What’s your brand personality?
- If you are in a more serious field like accounting or financial services, then a cartoon character doesn’t make sense.
- If you sell children’s toys, however, then a cartoon character is a perfect fit.
Custom logo design is like choosing how to dress. You head to the office in your business casual clothing, not a clown costume … unless you’re a clown. Take a few moments to think about how your business would dress itself.
How can you represent your image, visually?
Now that you’re clear on the image you want to convey, think about what kind of visual best represents that.
If you run a yoga studio, then a lotus flower or bubbling brook might fit the bill for the relaxing feel you’re creating. If you’re a landscaper, maybe you want to use a leaf or a lawnmower in your design.
There’s no need to get too clever with this. Obvious works. And don’t feel like you have to reinvent the wheel, either. Take a look at what other businesses in your industry are using to visually represent their brands.
Inspiration is everywhere.
What parts of your name and tagline are critical?
Look closely at your business name. Is it really long plus an accompanying tagline — or is it short? Since logos aren’t just used on websites, you need to plan for occasions when the area it fits into are constrained. Like the pocket of a T-shirt, for example, or the back of a baseball cap.
If your logo name is long, it’s essentially becoming a wide but short rectangle. What if you need it to fit into a square space?
Consider some variations of your design where wording is stacked so it fits well into these applications. I’ll show you how to do this with Teresa’s logo in the tutorial section below.
Where will you be displaying your logo?
You need to be super practical here. Is your logo going to be on a billboard? Or lapel pins? Or both?
Keep your logo as simple as possible so it’s recognizable from a distance or up close. Big or small.
And if wording needs to be included, make sure the font is readable at all sizes. Display fonts like fancy scripts are sometimes hard to read at small sizes.
3. Choose a design tool
The next thing you want to do is choose a design tool to work in. Your best options on the market right now for custom logo design tools are:
Professional designers would likely use Adobe Illustrator, but it’s very advanced so I don’t recommend it for beginners. Canva, PicMonkey and WordSwag are excellent for beginners.
For purposes of this article, I’ll be showing you the steps in Photoshop screenshots.
Just make sure that whatever design tool you end up choosing can create crisp designs and has the ability to save out transparent .png files. And if the tool also gives you the ability to use high-quality fonts you’ve purchased, that’s even better.
As we learn how to design a logo, let’s look at these four design tools in some detail.
Photoshop is a “raster” image-editing tool. This means it uses pixels (tiny squares) to create images. This has advantages and disadvantages.
It’s great because it gives you incredible control over every aspect of your design. The disadvantage of using a pixel-based tool is the risk your design will look blurry.
Sometimes working with a large file to start with will help offset this issue. When learning how to design a logo in Photoshop, you’ll want to save it out as a transparent PNG file. This ensures the custom logo stays crisp and doesn’t look blurry in the final version.
That’s the advantage Illustrator has over Photoshop. Illustrator is a “vector” based tool (no pixels) so lines stay sharp and focused at any size.
Like I said above, it’s pretty complex so not the best tool for non-designers, but your end results will look more polished and professional once you’ve mastered this tool.
Canva, on the other hand, does work with vectors. So it’s a great choice for your custom logo creation because you can feel confident that your final exported logo will be crisp. No pixelation worries here.
Note that Canva comes with some fonts of its own, but if you want to use custom ones you’ve purchased, then you’ll need to upgrade to the paid version of Canva.
PicMonkey is a paid program, and a popular alternative to Photoshop. It’s a photo editing and graphic design program aimed at beginners.
You can edit your photos, and create new items ranging from collages to social media posts and logos. There is a free tier but to get full use from the program, including the ability to use your own fonts, you’ll need the paid version.
WordSwag is an excellent mobile application option. Since it’s a phone application, (available on iOS and Android) you can create your logo from anywhere — no laptop required.
The advantage of this app is that it is built to arrange words beautifully, and that’s what you want when you’re making your custom logo design. However, since the built-in fonts and layouts are limited, there is some risk that your logo will look similar to someone else’s. I wouldn’t worry too much about this, though, as your business name is unique so chances are slim someone would mimic you exactly.
When you use WordSwag to create a logo, be sure you head to the “free photos” section because there’s an option for a transparent background there. You’ll need to pick that first, then add in your logo text. That way when you save the final file, it’s on a transparent background — a MUST for logo creation.
Again, I’ll be designing our practice photography business logo in Photoshop.
4. Pick a font for your custom logo
When you decide to create a unique one-of-a-kind custom logo for yourself, but it’s simple and text based, invest in a paid font. If you use a font that’s easily accessed by everyone else for free, there’s more risk that someone else’s logo will look too much like yours.
High-quality fonts used to be hundreds of dollars, but these days you can find nice options for less than $30.
One of the best places to buy your font is on Creative Market. And the great thing about this site is that when you are looking at a particular font, you can actually preview how it will look before buying.
Just type your business name in the box, testing uppercase and lowercase letters.
Let’s look at Stay Classy, a beautiful font duo option. A “duo” means it includes two versions of the font. In this case, it has a serif as well as a script version included in the package. And it’s only $22 for the standard license so it’s very affordable.
If you scroll down the page a little bit, you’ll find the box where you can type in your business. Let’s try it with Teresa’s logo. Type “Engaging Photography” into the box and it will show you a little preview of your text in both the serif and the script version.
Try this out on a few fonts and then download and install your favorite.
5. Purchase some premium graphic elements (optional)
While you’re on Creative Market, take a look through the icons and illustrations. There might be something perfect to add to your logo design.
I know we were focusing on keeping our logo simple and text only to start, but I found this camera icon and since it’s only $3 there’s pretty much no risk in snagging it to try out.
Important: Make sure to always check the licensing requirements before you buy any icons or fonts for your logo.
6. Get your file set up
To help get you started we’re going to open up a new Photoshop file. If you’re learning how to design a logo at home, make it 8.5 inches wide by 11 inches tall (letter paper size) and 300dpi or higher. You’re probably not going to use the logo at this size, but it’s great for starting the design process.
If you are using a vector program, the size doesn’t matter because you can make it bigger later (huge … like the billboard I mentioned earlier) and you won’t lose quality at all. But it’s completely cool to work with a smaller file now for your first DIY custom logo design early in your business. You probably won’t be making billboards anytime soon.
Designing to printer paper dimensions makes it easier for you to print out some proofs of your design as you go along.
The idea is to make it simple for you to print out at home because it’s easier to look at a design objectively when it’s printed on paper, compared with on your screen.
7. Stack logo text creatively (in black and white)
Next we’ll try arranging the words in different ways to find the best layout.
When you’re in this step, think creatively about how to arrange the words and accompanying graphics, if applicable.
If you put the pieces on different layers, you can move things around easily to see what looks best.
You can also experiment with altering the text itself. You could try:
- Thin and thick versions of the font
- Bold or italic versions of the font
- Outlines (called “stroke”)
- Stacking words creatively
- Overlapping letters
- Staggering letters
- Spacing out the letters
- Pushing letters very close together
- Combining items so they share a common letter or line
Start simple, then slowly introduce a new treatment if it feels like you need it to emphasize or de-emphasize certain words in your design.
One company that’s leveraging the “Combining items so they share a common letter or line” method (last bullet from above) is CNN. The CNN logo has combined the two “Ns” together so they share a common line. Fonts aren’t designed to do this naturally, so you know it was an intentional decision.
Now let’s tackle this with Teresa’s logo.
The first thing I did was to type out her business name in a script font (Madina Script) that I had on hand. My thinking here is, it’s simple, and script fonts seem to fit in well with the wedding industry.
But I’m a bit worried it won’t be readable at different sizes.
So I’m going to switch to a simpler, sans-serif font (Brandon Grotesque) instead, and try it out in all caps.
8. Play with graphics and icons
The last version looks nice but is pretty plain. I think we need to add a graphic to spice it up. Let’s pull out our camera icon and add it to the design.
This looks much better. We could add a wedding ring shape to the circle on the camera lens, but we’re going to leave that off so Teresa isn’t stuck in the wedding niche with this design.
The thickness of the lines on the camera are very close to the thickness of the lines on “Engaging Photography” and that’s good — it keeps it cohesive. But the overall layout is really wide.
9. Try different arrangements and stacking
I think if we keep it to more of a square or skinnier rectangle shape, it will be more versatile and easier to use in tight spaces. So let’s try stacking the name.
That’s looking really good. This design could fit well when centered on a page.
But I know from experience that logos often get placed in the upper left corner of your page — either on your website or in a document. And this wouldn’t look good pressed up to a left edge. So we need an alternate version.
Nice. This side-by-side version is a great alternative for upper left placement needs.
However, I’m not in love with the empty space above the “PHY” on “Photography”. So how can we fix this? It’s pretty easy if we play with the size of the words.
Let’s make “Engaging” wider so it is the exact same length as “Photography”.
Then we can resize and rebalance all the pieces to fit together better and have edges line up to one another.
Perfect. This is going to look great centered or aligned to a left or right edge.
10. Add a border or background
Let’s start exploring borders and backgrounds in our quest to learn how to design a logo.
If you want your custom logo design to be more interesting and feel more contained, you can use a border, background or shape, around it.
You could use a rectangle, square, circle or add a thick or thin border.
For example, Baskin Robbins has added a circle around their logo. (Fun fact about this logo: The pink portion of the “BR” looks like the number 31, which is the number of ice cream flavors that they offer.)
We’re going to skip this step on Teresa’s logo because it’s looking great as is. We want to stick closely to our plan of keeping this design as simple as possible. A rectangle or box could easily be added later, though.
I’m also not going to add color to Teresa’s logo because her brand is going to be very classic — black and white. Like a tuxedo, with a minimalist flair. She wants all the color to be expressed in the photographs with nothing to distract the viewer’s eye from her photos.
But when you’re exploring color with your logo, there are some tips that might help.
Most logos are three colors or less. There are always exceptions (like the NBC peacock) but for the most part, brands tend to use fewer colors. This is even more true in recent years, with trends toward flat and minimalist design. Think about the logos you see on a regular basis — Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. … They’re all a single color (blue is the most popular).
Many of the food logos we see in our daily travels use the three primary colors: red, yellow and blue. See how these play out in the Pizza Hut, Burger King, Domino’s and other restaurant logos below?
There is plenty to know about color theory in design, but you don’t need to worry much about that right now. There’s time to dig deep on that after you figure out how to design a logo, when your business is more established.
For now, I’d say just go with what fits your industry and subject matter and your personal preferences. If it’s a personal brand, look in your closet. Your favorite colors are likely on display there.
11. Rearrange and test at different dimensions
We looked at arrangements and dimensions in the graphics and icons step. But let’s think a little deeper on that now. There are occasions where we might need a very abbreviated version of your custom logo design, like in the browser tab.
You know the spot in your tabs in Chrome or Safari where there’s a tiny icon showing? That’s called a favicon.
Usually, it doesn’t make sense to shrink down your entire logo and shove it in that spot. The text would be unreadable. What can we do with our custom logo design? We can just show the camera.
Just open up a Photoshop doc at 16x16px or 32×32 px, 72dpi. And put your camera in there. Save it out with a transparent background, and then upload it to your website building platform.
It couldn’t be easier.
If we hadn’t used the camera icon in our design, we could just use the initials “EP” instead. Maybe inside a circle or rectangle.
12. Mock up your logo for different formats and sizes
Now that you’ve learned how to design a logo for your business, it’s time for some fun. Grab some ready-made mockups from Creative Market (or look on Google for some free ones) to put your logo on and visualize it in real-world settings. Look for mockups of business cards, stationery, T-shirts with logo pockets, water bottles, store signage. And yes, even billboards.
Custom logo design tips for success
If you follow the above steps for how to design a logo, you’ll be off to a great start. But there are a few important custom logo design tips that I want to share with you to ensure your success.
You’re going to use your logo across many marketing channels, probably in print as well as digitally. So take the time to show off your brand in a consistent manner, using the same messaging, style of imagery, fonts and colors.
This will inspire trust in your customers, and help with brand recognition.
If you get lax with this and start mixing in different colors or odd font treatments, it dilutes your brand and makes you look unprofessional. So keep it consistent.
Create a design that can evolve easily
Remember keeping things simple? This holds true for logo evolutions as well. If it’s too complex, it will be a pain to change later. So try to keep just a few important elements intact like the primary color and font. Then if you need to upgrade it later, it can be done with just a few small tweaks and the main identifying features remain intact.
That’s why we didn’t add a wedding ring to the circular shape on the camera icon.
Teresa wants to be able to pivot her business focus and not be limited to just weddings in the future. By keeping the icon ring-free, she can easily use it in a new photography business without editing the logo at all.
Order some swag with your logo printed on it
There’s nothing that makes your new logo seem more real than custom printed swag. Seeing your logo printed on Nalgene bottles, notebooks, T-shirts etc., really makes you feel like a legitimate business.
So take a minute and order yourself some goodies.
And grab extras so you can hand them out around town. Giving clients, and potential clients a custom water bottle with your logo on it keeps it top of mind way better than yet another business card in their overstuffed wallet. I consider this the celebratory and most fun step of the logo design process.
Ready to design your custom logo?
Now that we’ve walked through the steps for designing a simple custom logo, I hope it seems more approachable and accessible. If you want to DIY your custom logo design, follow these steps and walk away with a well-planned logo that works beautifully for multiple platforms and uses.
But if you go through the tutorial and still feel unsure, don’t be shy about hiring a designer.
Many people are nervous about talking with designers. They don’t know how designers work … it all seems to come together as if by magic. And there’s usually some worry about cost. But you can absolutely find an affordable solution and approachable, helpful designers to guide you.
So how are you feeling so far? Ready to fire up Photoshop or need a little help with custom logo design? If it’s the latter, check out GoDaddy’s Logo Design Service for an affordable logo by talented, professional designers.