1

Learn the Basics of Logo Design

Logo designers need to have an eye for creative and attention-grabbing design. They also need a firm understanding of the image or brand that the logo needs to convey, alongside an understanding of how various demographics respond to some of the most iconic and popular logos ever created. 

A logo designer is responsible for conveying numerous (often complex) ideas in a simple, and frequently non-verbal package. The best logos create an immediate and visceral impact on whoever sees it and logo designers are responsible for creating exactly that response. More technically, a logo designer should be familiar and comfortable with both graphic design and the software used to create it. Typically, this means a strong working knowledge of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, Coral Draw, Jeta Logo Designer, Apple Motion, and other graphic /logo software. Along with this technical knowledge is a close attention to detail — far greater than in most other professions. 

A logo designer must also understand social, cultural, and industry trends — and avoid them at all costs. That's because logos usually need to be timeless, lasting far longer than whatever trends are popular at the time. Understanding these trends will be particularly important because logo designers also need to be visionary — at least to some extent. That's because a logo designer's clients often won't actually know exactly what they're looking for. It is the responsibility of the logo designer to explain their vision for the client and to do so in a way that helps the client understand the vision and be excited about it. 

The field of logo design can be a challenging one, and it is certainly not for everyone. Among the various directions that a graphic designer can take, logo design can be highly competitive and requires a great deal of original and creative thought, as well as confidence in one's abilities. This means having a true passion, as well as the ability to learn throughout one's career.

2

Learn Formal Concepts, Methods, Theory & Technique

Logo design is a challenging field, and some will be more naturally inclined towards it than others. Passion is essential for this career field, particularly because you will sometimes be forced to butt heads with the very clients you're trying to serve. Of course, talent and passion will only get you so far. At some point, formal credentials will become increasingly essential. 

In terms of hard credentials, a degree in graphic design will go a long way in ensuring success for a logo designer. In addition, a robust knowledge and proficiency with graphic design software, like Adobe Illustrator is absolutely essential. Other skills that will be highly useful include an understanding an appreciation for typography, as well as the ability to consistently think outside the box, while still being relevant to the current and developing zeitgeist. 

A degree in business or communication can be very useful as well, since you'll need to understand your clients and their position in the market. Perhaps the most important "credential," however, is an impressive portfolio that showcases your abilities through your accomplishments. 

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects about one-percent job growth for all graphic designers (which includes those who specialize in logo design) through 2024 and an average median pay of $47,000 (2015).  Graphic designers are expected to face strong competition for jobs through 2024, so earning a degree and gaining work experience through internships, will play a part in getting you hired and may determine how much you will earn.

3

Build a Strong Portfolio & Develop Your Brand

After you've earned a degree, creating a strong portfolio is the single most important way to build a career as a logo designer. A strong portfolio proves that you are capable of getting things done, and have, in fact, done so for (presumably satisfied) clients. Early on, it can be difficult to build a robust portfolio, but it is still worth spending time on this important step. Building a portfolio while gaining formal credentials is a great, and efficient, strategy. 

It's also important to build a personal brand. Like your portfolio, your personal brand will help give you the confidence when interacting with potential or existing clients; to share the vision you have for their brand. A personal brand works much like a corporate brand in the sense that it gives you more legitimacy in the eyes of your clients or prospective clients. 

Finally, remember to network! Industry connections are important in many industries, but for logo designers, this is particularly the case. There are plenty of opportunities to network as well — from your college graphic design program to entry-level jobs, internships, and even attending industry events. Networking is also a great way to build your portfolio since you can offer to create a logo for free to a family member or friend with a small business or other organization they are a part of. The key is to be creative and to think outside the box — skills you'll need anyway if you want to make it as a logo designer. 

Get to Know Our Experts

Colleen Conger

  • Title:
    Digital Photo and Design
  • Company:
    Self-Employed
  • Where:
    Aberdeen, MS
  • Experience:
    20 years in the industry
  • Understanding My Career Path

    • When I graduated from high school in the late 80s, the idea of being a logo designer was not even on my radar. Surprisingly, both my mother and grandmother were gifted artists so naturally, I thought I would inherit some type of artistic DNA. That was not the case. My sole desire was to be a professional secretary.
    • It wasn’t until the mid 90s, during my job as office manager of a small landscaping company in North Carolina, when I was asked to design a logo for my boss’ invoices and letterhead to make his company look professional.
    • Since the Internet was still fairly young and I couldn’t manually draw a stick figure to save my life, I relied on drawing programs such as Microsoft Paintbrush to digitally sketch out logo designs on the computer.
    • The more practice I put into drawing in Paintbrush, the more confident I became, and before long, I had amassed a small portfolio of logo designs.
    • As the Internet grew, so did my access to online tutorials in both written (blog posts) and video format (YouTube).
    • Year after year, I updated the graphic programs I used from Microsoft Paintbrush to Jasc Paint Shop Pro. Then I eventually taught myself how to use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
    • I sought out portfolio websites where I could upload my logo designs. I also created my own website to showcase my logo portfolio in addition to providing a way for potential clients to contact me.
    • I joined online groups and forums to learn more about logo design, primarily foundational principles, to fill in the holes.
    • While in those groups and forums, I connected with other designers in my field in addition to making connections with design agencies and businesses looking for logo designers.
    • I’ve since expanded my logo design expertise into my graphic and web design business to offer branding and marketing services.

    Recommended Organizations

    • The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) is one of the industry’s oldest and largest professional membership organizations for design. Their community includes designers from around the world who come together, to not only support each other, but to learn and inspire one another.
    • The Graphic Artists Guild is another organization that encompasses all graphics artists, including logo designers. Like the AIGA, their doors are open to designers at all skill levels.

    Advice

    On whether or not she recommends a formal education

    If you have the time and creative inclination to learn on your own, you can become a successful logo designer. Speaking from my own experience of not pursuing a formal education, I assumed that I would never get accepted into any type of design school or program because I didn’t know how to draw freehand. I used to be embarrassed to tell people (clients too) that I didn’t have a degree in art or design, but I realize that my portfolio of work speaks for itself and that I’m a successful logo designer without having a degree.

    Create a portfolio of your logo designs

    You can use existing client work or create your own designs for a fictitious company or brand. Don’t use every single design. Select your absolutely best work. Take those logo designs and showcase them on your own website as well as other portfolio websites like Behance and Dribbble.

    Grow a thick skin to take constructive criticism

    Design in itself is highly subjective. You might create a logo that, in your eyes, is the most extraordinary design on the planet. Your client, however, might think it’s the ugliest thing they have seen in their life. Constructive criticism is just that – the use of both positive and negative comments and opinions to improve the outcome for all parties involved.

    It’s not what you know, it’s who you know

    It’s an overused cliché, but when you’re an up and coming logo designer, it’s smart to introduce yourself and make friends with not only other logo designers, but influencers in your field. Join Facebook and LinkedIn groups; participate in discussions; and offer helpful insights and solutions. Comment on blog posts and/or YouTube videos that have helped solve a particular problem or issue. Become an authority on logo design, and use that to help others.

    Have online presence

    Be everywhere. Create a website to showcase your logo designs. Better yet, explain what you did for your clients and how you solved a particular problem they were having in relation to their logo. Be sure to get a strong testimonial from them to add to your website. Also, display your work on other portfolio sites such as CarbonmadeDribbbleBehanceDeviantArt and Coroflot.

    Stay away from spec work

    Basically, with spec work, you’re just giving away your talent and design in exchange for the promise of compensation, future employment, etc. Instead, invest your time in building your logo design portfolio and getting your name and fantabulous work out into the universe.

    Lisa Sipe

  • Title:
    Designer & Co-Founder
  • Company:
    Binary Star Systems
  • Where:
    Bend, OR
  • Experience:
    17 years in the industry
  • Understanding My Career Path

    • I studied Fashion Design at my community college for 2 years. I received a small scholarship from Finn’s Fabric House for one of my wearable art designs and competed in the Fashion Group Competition of Chicago placing as a finalist in the Wearable Art Category. By the end of my second year of college I realized I didn’t like to sew and didn’t like the unrealistic standards of beauty required by women in fashion. I decided to become a Graphic Designer.
    • I applied to design schools in warm states to escape the cold of Chicago and was accepted into the graphic design program at Arizona State University. At ASU I participated in the Graphic Design Student Association and joined the American Institute of Graphic Arts as a student member. I had my design work accepted into the College of Design Juried Exhibition Poster Design and I received a Leadership Award in Graphic Design.
    • In between my junior and senior years, I was a graphic design intern at Design Tower.
    • My first job after graduation was in the corporate world as a Junior Designer for Fender Musical Instruments. I stayed there for a little over a year.
    • I decided to switch jobs because I wanted to see what life was like in a studio environment. At Catapult I had the opportunity to work with a wider variety of clients on a broader range of projects.
    • After those first two professional jobs, I continued to make choices based on my interests in the field. I briefly went back to Fender Musical Instruments because I had the opportunity to work in web design, then I switched to a small tech start-up so I could work more in user interface design. Eventually, the culmination of all those experiences inspired me to start my own design business.

    Recommended Organizations

    • AIGA – the professional association for design. AIGA is excellent because they have groups specifically for students with access to jobs and internships, the ability to get exposure with an online portfolio and the ability to network at local and national events.
    • Graphic Artists Guild – This organization writes the industry Bible for design and illustration professionals, Handbook: Pricing & Ethical Guidelines. This book has invaluable business information for young designers, including how to price your work and when and how to use a contract. In addition to receiving a copy of the book as a member, you get access to professional webinars, online portfolios, access to health insurance and tons more!

    Advice

    On whether or not she recommends a formal education

    In the design industry, if you have a strong portfolio and skills, employers won’t care if you have a design education. Even with that reality, I still recommend a formal education. I think it is important to get a solid foundation in the fundamentals of design, as well as receive feedback on your work.

    Do an internship

    Do a couple of internships if you have time in your schedule and work for different types of companies. There are so many benefits to being an intern: experience with real projects and deadlines; the possibility it could turn into full-time employment; having professional references and real work for your portfolio.

    Study and be inspired by art

    Watch documentaries on art; learn the history of art; take as many hands-on art classes as you can. Those early art classes will teach you so much about color, balance and design.

    Get involved

    Participate in logo design organizations or meetups. A lot can be learned by hanging out with people in the industry. They can offer great career advice, help you network and are usually more than happy to share their experiences.

    Mitch Dowell

  • Title:
    Owner
  • Company:
    Branding Experiences
  • Where:
    Baltimore, MD
  • Experience:
    17 years in the industry
  • Understanding My Career Path

    • I was actually pursuing a career in the recording industry in the early/mid 90s, where I got a lot of practice developing and designing press kits, flyers, brochures and a variety of other visual marketing materials.
    • After 8 years in the recording industry, I finally threw in the towel to pursue a “real” job. The late 90’s were prime for creative marketing professionals as the dot-com era was in full swing. However, the only “marketable” business skills that I had to lead with revolved around my graphic design and visual marketing work, and with such a healthy job market at the time, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
    • I spent 13 years working in small, high-tech start-up environments doing a lot of design-heavy marketing work. I intentionally chose companies that had limited marketing budgets and were unable to outsource their design work to agencies. That way my in-house design skills would actually become part of the marketing strategies themselves, which provided more opportunity for me to rapidly advance my skills and experience.
    • I had a lot of superiors and mentors throughout my career encourage me to strike out on my own and start my own design business, but I rejected the notion numerous times. It wasn’t until a layoff during the Great Recession when not only was the timing right, but the new “project-based” economy was dominating. So in 2010 my company, Branding Experiences, was launched.
    • Over the past 5 years, I’ve done design work for 52 clients, across 3 different time zones, in both the U.S. and Canada. My work has been split about 60/40 between print design and web design, and about 60% of the print work involves logo design.

    Recommended Organizations

    • AIGA – a good place to start for new logo designers or those interested in the career field. They have a lot of career and educational resources that are often very sought after, and their networking events tend to be high-quality.
    • ADC – another worthwhile organization for aspiring logo designers to keep an eye on. They have many award program opportunities for younger designers, as well as many educational and professional programs to leverage.
    • Meetup – I’ve made a lot of valuable business and career-field connections through networking resources like these, and I highly recommend them for any aspiring designers looking to meet others in the field.

    Advice

    On whether or not he recommends a formal education

    I don’t have a design degree, and have never felt a strong desire or need throughout my career to pursue one. But perhaps there was a bit of luck and perfect timing on my side that may not have been needed had I chosen to pursue a design degree. It’s hard to say, it’s all rather hypothetical at this point.

    So, if you have an opportunity to pursue a design degree, I actually say go for it. It takes a unique individual and personality to break the “rules of education” and still make a living in their chosen field. What a design professional may “lack” in terms of formal education, they are going to have to make up for in other ways until their design chops reach a truly competitive level.

    Explore psychology behind logo design

    Learn why certain colors and shapes evoke certain emotions and moods. Learn why certain industries tend to use specific color palettes or styles. Look for any recognizable “patterns” in some of the most well-known logos, and try to make the psychological connection as to why they make a connection and resonate with target audiences.

    Get good at accurately reading people

    Specifically, when trying to communicate and convey creative concepts. For example, adjectives play a big role when communicating creative concepts, but the same adjective may not have the same meaning or deliver the same emotion for all parties involved.

    Become a master at time management

    As fun and creative as logo design work is, you will always be on a deadline. Learn how to balance the joy of creativity with the pressure of a hard deadline. Learn how to watch the clock without losing your creative focus. It’s not easy.

    Network to get into the industry

    When going to networking events, I recommend to avoid falling into the trap of only hanging out with the creative crowd. Although that may be where the “pixel-level” conversations are, that may not necessarily be where the work is at. Make sure you have a healthy mix of non-creative networking events on your calendar as well. A logo is one of the first things that a company needs created. Find your way into those early moments of a brand by mingling where entrepreneurs and company starters often gather.

    Logo Designer Infographic