The 12 rules of logo design

Logo design is a tricky business, but there are some rules all the best logos adhere to. We asked leading logo designers to tell us what they are.

They may look simple but don't be fooled into thinking logo design is an easy task. As these leading designers explain, there's a lot you need to take into account in order to design the perfect logo...

01. Logos need to scale

NME logo

The simplicity of the new logo for NME magazine helps it scale well

"A great logo has a subtle but interesting visual hook, accompanied by considered typography. And most of all, it should be equally compelling whether it's scaled to 10mm or 10 metres." - Paula Benson, founding partner, Form

02. Think about the context

"A logo encapsulates a brand, and reflects what it stands for. But it doesn't live on its own. It's encompassed by a coherent identity system, and flanked by other design elements, such as typography, colour, photography and tone of voice. For me, that's the main difference between identification and identity." - Gabor Schreier, executive creative director, Saffron Consultants

03. Ditch the tricks

"The right blend of timeless simplicity is key to the longevity of any design. As a rule, the more wrapped up a design is in tricks and stylistic trappings, the shorter its expiration date will be." - Bill Gardner, LogoLounge

04. Keep it simple

"A great logo must be unique, with a clear and simple message. It should have personality, and create a reaction in the viewer. If you can't say it in a simple way, it's better not to say it." - Ariel de Lisio, graphic designer, Negro Nouveau

05. Try bespoke typography

Cadbury logo

The distinctive type of the Cadbury logo is instantly recognisable and memorable

"Bespoke type is a really great way to establish a tone of voice, becasue no-one else can use that type. Yes, it's expensive, but not as expensive as it used to be." - Michael Johnson, creative director and principle, johnson banks

06. It's a personal affair

"A perfect logo can't exist without great content. A logo can only reach perfection if its audience has a strong enough relationship with the brand's content, personality or voice. If that relationship between consumer and brand is strong enough, the logo is either celebrated and encouraged, or is so subtle and confident that it's rarely seen." - Bob Sanderson, founder, Sanderson Bob

07. Go vector

"Keep it simple. Too much detail will make a logo feel cluttered and vague. If it's not easily remembered, the whole point of the logo is lost. And always create it as a vector – that way size will never be a problem." - Anneli Olander, freelance illustrator

08. Personality counts

ITV logo

Whatever you think of it, you can't deny the ITV logo has personality

"Some key ingredients are obvious: great type, scalability, agility across various situations, and of course relevance to the brand that it represents. We also adore logos with personality, that have a certain 'a-ha' moment: something that's clever, surprising and ties all the rest of it together." - Nathan Strandberg and Katie Kirk, EightHourDay

09. Versatility wins

"The perfect logo is versatile. It reads in seconds, and is memorable. It's equally comfortable on a business card or a billboard, and reads in black-and-white even if a colour version is primarily used. The best logos can also show two separate ideas or symbols simultaneously." - Ronald J. Cala II, creative director, CMYK Magazine

10. Be incisive and innovative

"I really don't think there's an ultimate answer to this question. A logo should be incisive and innovative; remarkable, unique and surprising. With this as a starting point, almost everything is allowed. There are no particular rules. To be perfect, it just has to communicate the things you want to say in the best possible way. Unfortunately, that's always the hardest part." - Till Wiedeck, HelloMe

11. Anything goes...

"Received wisdom is that the perfect logo is square or slightly rectangular, and works in black and white. But I think the rules have been broken now, and it's virtually anything goes. TV companies understood that logos didn't have to be static way back in the 1980s: Channel 4's logo literally blew itself apart in its first iteration." - Michael Johnson, creative director and principle, johnson banks

12. ... but learn the rules

"When I was a college student in the early 80s I called up the great Saul Bass one day and asked if I could pay him a visit. He kindly agreed to see me, and I sat there in awe of this man, bombarding him with questions on what the secret of design was, what magic formulae he used to create all of his great work. After a while he stopped me mid-flow and yelled 'Bill, there are no secrets! You just got to learn how to do it'. That's my attitude to logo design. There are no secrets and no tricks – it's about learning how to do it properly." - Bill Gardner, LogoLounge

Thanks to Leandro Castelao via Dutch Uncle for the illustration, as seen in Computer Arts Projects issue 135.

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