There are many crucial aspects to branding, but because it’s meant to appear on practically every business asset, the logo certainly plays a central role. However, depicting the essence of a company in one simple image is a whole art in itself. Before starting your bumpy ride to the perfect logo, make sure you have a clear understanding of who the brand is that you’re designing for. Get to know their language inside out, as well as checking who their competitors are. Once you’re over the initial hurdle, you can get to designing the actual logo. Here are 11 tips that will take your skills to the next level, from the first steps of the process, to the finishing touches that will ensure you end up mastering the art of how to design a successful logo:

1. Grab a piece of paper and a pen

These days, computers are pretty much an indispensable part of any designers’ workflow. And we thank the developers of the world for inventing them. But we do need to know when to part from them for a few moments – and the beginning of the logo design process is a great time to do just that. Begin the project by sketching out your initial ideas on paper. This will help you draw more freely and will open up your creativity. Even if your sketches don’t look pixel-perfect from the start, this method will eventually lead to better results. When your work process starts in front of the computer, your natural instincts are to get caught up in aligning everything and obsessing over small details. Ultimately, this will just damage the creative process at this stage.

2. Check the uniqueness of your logo

Starting to form an idea of what your logo should look like? Hold up! Before sharing your design with the world, double-check that it really is unique, as it’s easy to get subconsciously overly influenced by the beautiful things we see around us. Make sure to conduct some thorough research into your competitors’ logos at the beginning of the process, and keep your findings in mind while working. This way, you can avoid going for the same color scheme as a big competitor, or for a style that people will immediately relate to the other brand. A handy (and underestimated) tool for clarifying the uniqueness of your logo is Google reverse image search – enter an image of your logo (or part of it) to see if it comes up with any matches. You can also search for various brands’ logos on databases, such as Crunchbase, by entering keywords that are also relevant to the brand you’re designing for.

3. Keep it simple

When it comes to logo design, less is often more. It’s more about “espresso”, and less about “lukewarm matcha latte with almond milk and, oh… the foam on the side, please”. Keep it minimal to create clear designs that stick to one concept. How can you distill all of your ideas into one perfect design? Once you have an initial draft, try removing certain elements from the logo. Then, check that it’s still in line with the brand’s tone and message, and works aesthetically. The more simple a logo, the more recognizable and easy to recall it will be for your audience. After all, which beverage example from above do you remember better?

4. Start designing in black and white

Still concerned that you’ll end up creating something overly elaborate that won’t work well as a logo? If so, this one’s for you. It’s true that life may not be as simple as black and white, but as already mentioned, your logo really should be. Starting off by designing your logo in just two tones (you got it – black and white) is a great method to ensure a clean look. By doing so, you know that you’re not relying on color to separate between the logo’s different elements. We all love playing around with various shades and finding beautiful combinations, but in this situation, color is best introduced at a later stage. It also helps you take one step at a time, which is always good practice.

5. Take scalability into account

Who said that size doesn’t matter? In this case, it really does. Your logo has to look great in every situation, whether it be on the side of a bus, a business card, or even printed on a canvas bag. If you over-complicate the design, it probably won’t work well on mobile screens. This is the point at which you’ll be glad you listened to the point above and kept it simple. How can you ensure your logo stays super sharp at every size? Vectors. Use a vector-based program, as opposed to pixel-based, so that you can easily adapt your logo to any required size.

6. Use a grid for precise composition

Even if math isn’t your best friend (we totally get you), sometimes it’s worth implementing a bit of basic geometry into your workflow, to ensure a well proportioned, successful design. This shouldn’t get in the way of your creative freedom, so once you have an idea of your logo’s general look, see how your design can fit into some sort of a grid. You can do this in a number of ways: create your own grid out of basic geometric shapes, use the rule of thirds, or implement the unbeatable golden ratio. Integrate your design into them, so that (at least some of) the lines of your logo touch the grid’s lines, helping to maintain equal spatial relationships between parts. These construction guides also add structure to your design, making sure that every detail is aligned and resulting in a more visually appealing look.

7. Break the rules with typography

We all know about the main font categories (serif, sans serif, script and display), but in logo design, going a little wild with typography is more than welcomed. Instead of just choosing a font that suits the brand’s character, you can play around with different variables. Have a go at kerning, adjusting the spacing up to the point of completely removing the gap between letters. You can overlap letters and layer them on top of each other to form abstract shapes. Experiment with placing letters at different levels and spreading them out, or even break the letters themselves by removing certain parts in strategic places. This can result in interesting aesthetics, while still being legible. Other than these options, you can also go for a bespoke typeface, like Coca-Cola, making the font the centerpiece.

8. Keep your logo responsive

Your logo should be a bit like a chameleon. Not in the sense that it should have a long tongue and live in sub-Saharan Africa, but rather that it should adapt according to its surroundings. In a world dominated by screens of different sizes, designing one static logo is no longer enough. Your logo should be responsive, with a different version for each device (mobile, desktop, tablet etc). On small screens, you could feature just a certain part of the logo, removing more elaborate details like the text, or leaving just the first letter of the word. As well as working well on different digital contexts, also consider your logo’s versatility on various materials. Will it look good printed on a canvas bag, or a cardboard box?

9. Understand the psychology of colors

There’s more to color than meets the eye. In fact, different shades can have a strong impact on our emotions, whether it be conscious or subconscious. Other than picking a palette that aligns with your brand, don’t forget to take color psychology into account. Feelings towards colors can be individual, influenced by culture or surroundings. Nevertheless, most people will make specific connections, relating blue to a sense of trust and professionalism, yellow to optimism and vitality, and red to urgency or youthfulness. Let’s not forget our beloved Millennial Pink that pretty much works anywhere these days. When deciding, think about some of the most well-known logos whose colors come to mind immediately and analyze their choices. What vibe does Facebook’s blue logo give off? Or how do Google’s colorful hues make you feel? Choose a color palette that compliments your brand, using color psychology as a guide. But remember, guidelines aren’t rules, so give yourself the freedom to be bold when picking your shades, going for even the most trendy, saturated tones.

10. Consider layers and opacity

Speaking of breaking the rules – although your logo should be simple, you can still shake it up so that it doesn’t fall into the “boring” category. Staying on the ball with design trends is an inherent part of our roles as creatives, which means you’ve probably noticed the recent use of layers in web design, with overlapping images, text and blocks of color. The same idea can be implemented in logo design; play around with layering simplified shapes and letters on top of one another, using different colors and opacities to differentiate between them. You can go for a more subtle look by layering with gradients and color fadings that will add a sense of depth. This can result in interesting compositions and aesthetics, while still remaining simple.

11. Make your logo come alive with motion

If you really want to stay on top of the trend game, consider how you can animate your logo for use in digital applications, from social media to company videos. This growing trend offers an up-to-date and dynamic way of presenting a brand and can also help stand out against other competitors. A small, minimal movement can do wonders in adding some extra character to your logo (and therefore brand). Some designers even go for short video presentations of up to ten seconds. These can help intrigue viewers, and maybe even put a smile on their faces. In fact, even the most discrete animations can evoke emotion from whoever’s watching, while providing a real sense of the company’s nature.