Creating A Logo: A Step-by-Step

No.14—The Creative Process Issue


Authored by: Gwen O'Brien

When you start a new business, you start with a name and a logo. Gwen helps you start at the most important moment: the beginning.
— -Editors Side Note

Creating a logo is no easy task.

Especially if you’re creating it for yourself—which is the most challenging project of all. As with many well-designed things, it’s beauty lies in its simplicity. A logo needs to communicate exactly what your brand is all about—within a few seconds—and needs staying power so it doesn’t look too trendy.


Many designers have their own process when it comes to logo design, but it really comes down to a few simple steps.


  1. Know your brand. What are the key characteristics of your brand? What makes it unique and different (or the same as others)? If your brand were a person, what would they be like? Where will the logo be used? The new logo needs to work beautifully in a variety of sizes—from large to small.
  2. Research and inspiration. Check out your competitive landscape and take note of what’s working—and not working. I like to capture logos and stylistic elements that have the feeling of my brand—whether they are in the same business or not. Save what moves and inspires you. I like to collect images that I come across in a folder on my desktop and print them out. I’ll put them up around me while on working on a new design to help keep me focused on the feeling and vibe I’m going for. Sometimes, before I’ll get started on a logo, I like to immerse myself in brand thinking—I love Alina Wheeler’s book Designing Brand Identity and Debbie Millman’s Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits. For current examples what’s hot, I always go to the web and scour Brand New, Designspiration, and LogoDesignLove. If all else fails, check out this clip by Aaron Draplin—he will Saul Bass the sh*t out of anything—he’s a master of logo design.
  3. Sketch. Once your creative juices are flowing, grab your sketchpad and pencil—start by writing down the name of the company. Write it in uppercase, lowercase, all caps—let letterforms start speaking to you—you’ll start to see different ideas take shape in no time. You’ll also start thinking about colors and texture now too.
  4. Illustrator. Take your sketches to the computer. I like to use Adobe Illustrator (check out the talented designer Timothy Goodman, he’s a vector inspiration)—it’s easy to make lots of changes to shapes and typefaces, so you can create multiple iterations quickly. While you’re designing, make sure you look at it in context (as an Instagram icon, on a t-shirt, business card, tote bag—it should start coming alive at this point). 
  5. Keep going. Once you have the roughs worked out, print them out, and put your work up. We have a rail in our studio where we do all of our critiques. It’s good to get other peoples (the right people, of course) thoughts at this point. They may see something that you don’t. Remember you’re looking for clarity in expressing the brand. And give it some time. I like to let the work sit for a day or two—it’s good to come back to the project with a fresh set of eyes.
  6. Refine and finalize. Take the work that moves you and refine it. Really get in there and finesse the typography, weight, and color (if you’re using color at this point). Make it sing!
  7. Logo files. So, now you have your logo! At this point, I like to create a variety of logo files so I have it ready to go for all possible applications (your social channels, a vector version that can be used anywhere, one that can be used really big like on a truck or billboard—you get the picture.) Enjoy seeing your brand new l
Chelsea Matthews