6 tips for using grids in logo design

Niall O'Loughlin from 99designs shares his best-practice tips for using logo grids.

Logo grid systems, construction guides and circles can be very powerful techniques for creating a logo design in 2015.

A logo grid is a geometric design technique that isn't necessary for every design project – but when executed correctly in your logo design, it can transform company's visual identity from branding zero to branding hero. Here, Niall O'Loughlin from 99designs shares his biggest dos and don'ts of using logo grids in the year ahead...

01. Use relevant grid systems and geometric shapes from day one

A great example of a logo grid system that turns a logo design into a great success is Sagmeister & Walsh's identity design for the Jewish Museum in New York.

S & W created the entire brand identity based on the grid system of the Star of David symbol, and the result was a unified and striking visual identity.

Jewish Museum logo from Sagmeister & Walsh

By using a logo construction guide, their designs evoked the past and introduced a fresh, modern look to the museum's brand.

Following relevant grid systems and geometric shapes from inception worked well in this case and is a great lesson for us to remember when conceptualising a logo design in 2015.

02. Don't over-rationalize your logo with 'mathematical' grids, empty metrics or imaginary geometry

In creating Yahoo's 2013 logo rebrand, CEO Marissa Mayer and their in-house design team used a 'mathematical' blueprint as a logo construction guide. They also released a video to explain their precise design process, and to point out "some of what was cool/mathematical" in the design.

When it came to the exclamation point, Mayer states that "our last move was to tilt the exclamation point by nine degrees, just to add a bit of whimsy".

The Yahoo logo redesign was a controversial one

These mathematical explanations weren't convincing to some, and the design was widely criticized. Many in the design industry questioned its 'mathematical' qualities.

This is a great example of over rationalizing a logo design and how using 'mathematical consistency' doesn't necessarily result in a better design.

03. Use a grid as a guide to create a timeless logo

When Raymond Loewy sat down to design Shell Oil's logo design, he used a logo construction guide as a guide to create an iconic design that hasn't changed much since 1971.

Not every line of the logo matches the grid exactly, but the grid is clearly an integral part of the design, which was more powerful and recognizable than the previous logo designs.

Shell's logo has evolved over the years but still sticks to the same fundamental design principles

We learned a lot about the fundamental concepts of art and design as well as the process behind the Shell logo in Design Basics, a great read from David A. Lauer & Stephen Pentak.

04. Don't apply mathematical ratios to a logo where they don't exist

This widely circulated logo construction guide was not used to create the Apple logo, but has been used by some to explain the timeless appeal of the design.

Apple logo construction guide and red debunking diagrams

This graphic claims that the Apple logo is a good design because it's composed of perfect circles and follows the Fibonacci sequence and golden ratio.

However, this claim has been soundly debunked by several mathematicians and designers, and if you look closely you can see that the lines of the apple do not adhere to strict geometry, and that the numbers do no add up to the golden ratio.

It's only natural to want to quantify good design down to geometry and numbers, and it would be awesome if there was a magical mathematical formula we could use to create perfect logo designs. But perfect geometry doesn't always appeal to the human eye, and one could argue that the apple logo is successful because it's not geometrically precise.

05. Use grids and geometric shapes to add polish and symmetry to your design

The elegant logo design shown below uses a construction guide to great effect, and was a finalist in this September's Top 9 Logo Designs at 99designs. To create their design for the "All Day Ruckoff" logo contest, designer Kaelgrafi used a construction guide to achieve symmetry and maintain consistent spatial relationships between each line and curve of his design.

This Ruckoff logo was finalist in 99designs' Top 9 Logo Designs last September

Perfect circles were used to create the corners of each shape, and it's clear that the designer made a refined sketch of the design beforehand and polished it up in a vector program.

This is a successful example of using a grid and basic geometric shapes to create a compelling and professional-looking design.

06. Start every design project with a layout grid (no exceptions)

The latest Bing redesign wasn't as different as you might have thought

As you can see in the breakdown above, when Microsoft last redesigned its Bing logo, it ensured it would be consistent their other product logos by using the same angles and grid-based design.


Learning to integrate your logo design to the grid is crucial for visual and long-lasting success. A layout grid is the invisible force that gives the visible its structure and holds everything in its proper place.

Like anything that lacks structure or a strong foundation, your concepts will be visually inconsistent from one product to another and will always be a struggle to produce.

Choosing a construction guide in your logo design process, allows you to not only make sure that it maintains its visual meaning and structure, but also enhances your design by maintaining focus instead of distracting from it. Tell us about your logo and if you applied a grid to it in the comments below!

Words: Niall O'Loughlin

Niall O'Loughlin is marketing manager for 99designs, an online graphic design marketplace that enables customers to quickly source graphic design work.

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