10 logo commandments from Australian designers

Published:  September 1, 2014

We have contacted friends in the industry to help put together a list of ten unbreakable rules to be followed when designing logos. From some of the most notable studios in the branding and identity field, the list defines a collection of ideas that apply throughout the ideation process — from managing client expectation, to considering the future context the logo will exist in. We have also included a bonus set of rules from Motherbird‘s Jack Mussett…

Shorthand Studio

1. Scott Kirkman — “Sketch first, vector later.”

Using a pencil and paper to get as many ideas out of my head as possible, before moving onto the computer to develop them further, is critical to my process. Beginning in a program like Illustrator puts far too much emphasis on style before any real thinking has had the chance to take place, resulting in shallow work. If you ever find yourself aimlessly pushing vector shapes around an artboard and haphazardly modifying typefaces hoping for something to finally click, it’s time to head back to your sketchbook.



2. Rhys Gorgol — “It’s never just a logo.

Logo marques are funny things – some clients think it’s all they need. It’s the first thing the general public thinks when they hear ‘graphic design’, and they’re often the first element that’s pulled out and championed across design blogs and magazines. But the reality is, they are just one small part of a bigger brand picture. It’s for this reason that our one rule when it comes to designing logos is: “they don’t exist in a vacuum”. 

What we’re getting at is; a brand is made of many different complimentary parts that all work in combination to communicate to an audience, with the logo being just one part. From colour palette to paper choice; typography to tone of voice; illustration style to animation approach: each of these elements help to reveal the brand story to the audience. If we let the brief become ‘just a logo’ and remove the rest of the brand elements from the picture, the inevitable outcome is a marque that is more akin to an eight-armed Hindu god than a successful logo marque.



3. Patrick Guerrera — “The logo is not the starting point.

Designing the logo is the signature of the brand, not the starting point. Any great brand starts with formidable insight – delivering a comprehensive brand identity that is future proofed, channel agnostic and focused on delivering marketing ROI. So a logo is a brand’s signature – the unique, yet expressive identifier of an organisation that marries insight with the organising idea.

But it is only one of a multitude of strategic design assets, required to deliver a remarkable brand to market.


Spencer Harrison

4. Spencer Harrison — “A logo doesn’t need to say everything about the company.”

One rule I try and keep in mind is the old ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid’ (K.I.S.S).  Pick one or two of the key ideas and represent those in the logo. Take the time at the beginning to discuss with the client and find that core idea you want to represent. If you end up trying to say everything you end up saying nothing and people get confused. 



5. Andrew Moffitt — “Break a Commandment.”

In most of my work, I follow a few familiar principles and basic practices under the broad banner of design. Sometimes these principles or rules can be very liberating as they represent a checklist or path that safely guides you to the correct destination. Unfortunately, continually arriving at the same creative destination is a problem in itself – it’s the antithesis of good design, which is supposed to push boundaries, ignite wonder and inspire change. 

It’s sad to realise, but the older we get the more predisposed we are to eliminating risk. When you eliminate risk you lose your ability to evolve. At Moffitt.Moffitt. we try to use what we call ‘intelligent rebellion’ — a process focused on learning the rules, then attempting to bend (or even break) them. It’s only when we can fully understand something we can begin to redefine it.


Grosz Co.Lab

6. Laura Camilleri — “Don’t be trend driven.

Logos can have significant cultural impact. In order for a logo to identify, connect, motivate and be relevant now and in the future, it must not be trend driven. Rather than this week’s typeface or treatment a logo needs to transcend trend in order to retain longevity and connect beyond today. Logos that simply reflect a moment in time have their place, however, if you think of logos that effectively represent an organisation today as successfully as they did decades or centuries ago, they’ve dispensed with trend in favour of intent, effectiveness and substance more so than style — and they stand the test of time.


Le Sphinx

7. Kitty St. Clair — “Thou shalt not lie to the audience!”

People can sniff inauthenticity from a mile off. We start every branding project by investigating what the heart of a business or organisation is. We strive to communicate an essence or archetype — to create a visual narrative that’s based on truth. 


Liquorice Studio

8. Shane Loorham — “A logo without an idea is a ship without a captain.”

When designing logos, or any piece of design where you seek a memorable connection with your audience, concept is king. A strong idea is a critical foundation, it will help to guide all subsequent design decisions. Don’t get me wrong — styling is important as it provides a tone of voice, but it must never be at odds with the core idea, all detail should help to reinforce the concept. By stripping away noise, elements which don’t support the core idea can be dispensed with, leading to a pure piece of communication and something which lingers in people’s minds. 


Gatsby Studio

9. Andrew Murray — “Reinvent the wheel.”

I drive a Ford Falcon. It’s everything it should be, except on one particular summer, the door wouldn’t lock and the local mechanic couldn’t solve it. He tried everything he knew, but the locks to these newer machines were computer operated and too tricky to be solved without a specialist Ford expert. 

How many times do we get stuck when designing logos? It happens to me quite often. Like the mechanic, I get nowhere, struggling to forge new ground. Is this because I don’t know what I’m doing, or not specialised? No. It’s because I keep asking the same questions, and keep trying everything I know. Designing a brand requires a beginner’s mind. Expecting that the same process will work again and again is folly, because the chances are, the job is different every time. These things aren’t static. They morph and change size and get printed on different things, and get rendered on different screens. They are all experienced on a case by case scenario. So treat them on their own merit, and start again.


Principle Design

10. Peter Borg — “Consider the context.”

A logo cannot simply exist in a vacuum, it needs to exist in many iterations and contexts and has the onerous task of encapsulating a brand message. From signage and wayfinding right down to a business card. When approaching a brief at Principle Design, we always consider the context a logo will exist in. Where will the logo be seen? What design elements will we use with the logo to help express that brand message? We think it’s integral to ask these questions and consider the broader picture a logo will live in.



Bonus: Jack Mussett — “The 8 rules of Logo Club.”

1st RULE: You do not talk about Logo Club. 

2nd RULE: You DO NOT talk about Logo Club. 

3rd RULE: If the client says “stop”, goes missing, or taps out, the project is over. 

4th RULE: Only two colours to a logo. 

5th RULE: One concept at a time. 

6th RULE: No bevels, no shadows. 

7th RULE: Logos will go on as long as they have to. 

8th RULE: If this is your first time at Logo Club, you HAVE to design a logo.


What would you like to see picked apart by the pros, next time?

2 Responses

  1. Great article!

    Definitely agree with the sentiment that the ‘logo’ is a very small part of the brand and should be an outcome of deep exploration of what the brand represents and then conceptualising that. At my studio we do not design logos unless we perform brand workshops and research with the client first to crystallise the central idea of the brand.

  2. I agree 100% with #1. I’ve found myself many times stuck looking at the screen. Sketching is essential in my work process.
    Great article!

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