By Lily Sommers

5 Overused Logo Trends To Avoid

By Lily Sommers

If you are an aspiring designer looking to delve into logo design, you’ll want to develop your own style instead of simply emulating examples around you. Effective logos are more than just pretty; a well-designed logo is purposeful and unique, which makes following commonplace trends a losing strategy. Avid readers of DesignFestival are probably aware of troublesome colors that have the potential to be an eyesore. This time, we want to focus on a list of overused logo trends that should be avoided if you’re looking to design distinct branding for yourself and your clients.

These design patterns weren’t always trite; but each new addition to the bandwagon (or rather “brandwagon“) dilutes the effectiveness of existing identities with similar visual qualities. As a result, these techniques have lost their appeal over time.

1. A Self-Portrait of the Owner

Unless you’re in the real estate industry, using your own (spokesperson’s) photo on the header of your website should be avoided as part of common sense. Unfortunately, some business owners and executives let pride and ego lead them to poor decisions. It’s far better to visually allude to products and services offered instead of substituting imagery of the people offering them. Besides, leaving a sense of mystery on who the owner is can be advantageous, and ultimately, customers rarely care about who is behind their favorite purchases.

2. Helvetica

You may have considered using the tried-and-true Helvetica font to bear your name. Well, this type of font has served many famous brands well, but it’s become a fairly standard “vanilla” typeface that’s better suited to body copy, not your logo. Although minimalism is popular this year, logos must outlive fleeting design trends. It defeats the idea of what a logo should be like – fun, witty, exciting, different, and creative.

3. Overlapping Letters

The overlapping letter style can be traced back to our grandmother’s era. But for better or worse, this technique is still quite popular, especially for law firms. A series of capital letters side-by-side is about as indistinct as a designer can get. It makes for a pretty generic first impression, which ultimately translates to failure on the part of the designer.

4. Use of Silhouettes

It’s been said earlier that leaving a sense of mystery garners attention, but using silhouettes of your products, people, or paraphernalia can lack clarity and garner more confusion and disinterest than attention. Besides being monotonous, this technique typically uses a lot of black. Using black for the entire logo can be cumbersome if you don’t complement it with a myriad of brighter, bolder colors. Why hide behind the shadows if your goal is to stand out?

5. The Pointy Human Logo

I’m sure some of you have already seen the pointy man wrapped around in colored circles or connected to each other forming a unified loop. This is probably the most used technique by start ups calling for a human face. Surely, the pointy man can be edited and blended with different symbols, but there’s nothing like starting anew with fresh ideas and concepts.

Logo design isn’t just about blending symbols and colors. It’s about you coming up with a brand that represents entrepreneurial vision. Turn on your true creativity and demand distinctive designs from yourself.

Have you grown tired of certain logo trends? Have you made any mistakes of your own that affected the originality and efficacy of your designs?

  • RM

    Really feel that this post loses a lot by not including visual examples…

  • Some examples of each would have been nice.

    No idea what a pointy man is.

    • Sharon

      Thank you, I am baffled by this as well.

  • Jessica

    Some visual examples would of been great as I too don’t know what the pointy man is.

    To address your first point about the headshots, in general I agree. Traditionally, they are for the real estate (as you mention) and entertainment industries. But does placing it in your header (which I agree is a bad idea) mean it is part of your logo. I’m seeing with solopreneurs, like myself, that placing a professional picture (not to be confused with a headshot) of yourself in the bio or about section helps put a face with a name. Clients like to see that—it humanizes the business. Look at LinkedIn profiles, again it puts a face with the name. But you’re right, it shouldn’t be part of your company’s branding.

  • As others have said, examples please. You can’t expect people to learn while not showing.

  • Carolyn

    Re: pointy people, I think she means something like this: http://www.vectorstock.com/royalty-free-vector/family-silhouettes-vector-189453

    If so, I completely agree!

  • Joe

    Examples of the “pointy man” in the first image on a similar blog post from 2011: http://99designs.com/designer-blog/2011/12/09/what-not-to-do-overdone-and-overused-logos/

  • I would not my head on a logo? lol
    Good points. Thanks for sharing.

  • Can we stop with the swooshes?

  • Paulie

    Hi Lily,

    Thanks for the article, very helpful. I’m a noob at logo design so admittedly I also can’t picture in my noggin what the pointy man logo element is… I’m trying, but not getting anywhere, lol. I think this is good, what if we get a client request that we don’t quite understand and have to turn what they see in their head vs what they decribe into a logo? But I digress on this one, pointy man has me stumped. If you could post an example under the article that would be hugely helpful.


  • Amanda Henson

    I agree with the other comments thus far — the article needs examples to better illustrate these vague points.

    Sent you a PM via Google, Lily.

  • I have to disagree with Helvetica, at least Helvetica Neue. It has so many variations that can make your logo design still disctintive. It’s clean, sharp and very legible and if you are a good designer you’ll find the way to make it work without getting it to trendy.

  • Lackluster Designer
  • J
  • Like everyone else said, you need visual examples when talking about logos, come on.
    Also, I really do not agree with this list, maybe the visuals would help, but this list mentions some really basic design techniques that can and still do work in certain contexts, plus an article about graphic design should be written by an experienced graphic designer.

  • Annabel

    I’m with them… what the heck is a “pointy man”?

  • Well, while Helvetica is beautiful font (there is even a movie named “Helvetica” http://www.helveticafilm.com) I agree that today we have more options to play with.

    As far as #3 and #4 concern, I think we can get nice identities playing with the negative space. I recommend studying a bit David Airey (http://www.logodesignlove.com or http://www.davidairey.com/portfolio/) for this matter

  • This article should have visual demo.

  • Yes, I was hoping for visuals. The descriptions don’t help much.

  • Christian

    I was kind of thinking, “Maybe they are intentionally leaving out examples so that a logo designer reading this doesn’t unknowingly draw ‘inspiration’ from some of them.”

  • I’ve got to say this article with or without images is weak. Sorry Lilly. Maybe explaining why you think they are overused may have helped. I don’t wan to be Captain Obvious but logos are visual media. Now let me describe the most beautiful picture I have ever seen.

  • Kyle Ralston

    Come on guys, didn’t you read the article, “…a sense of mystery garners attention…”? Who then needs visuals, after all, we’re talking about the design look of logos?

    I definitely don’t agree with the author (visuals or not) and her comments seem immature at best. I can think of several exceptions to her comments.

    Please explain to me if she is “interested in technology, tennis, mobile working and latest developments from O2, Apple or LG”, what gives her the credentials to be writing about design? Can we please read from professionals in the field?

  • vynsane

    I would also say that having a picture of the business owner as a part of the site design shouldn’t solely be relegated to real estate agents (and why is it somehow justified for them in the first place? Are they selling houses, or themselves? Don’t answer that…)

    Take, for instance, a motivational speaker or life coach. Their product is themselves: Their presence and appearance, as well as their expertise. It would make a great deal of sense to show them front and center.

  • Visuals please.

  • Woody

    This is an excellent example of how to write a bad article. The author left out the most important part, the main subject: LOGOS. As mentioned in every reply, show some examples. A picture is worth a 1000 words and when the subject is logo design, it’s probably worth more. I’m actually very curious why the author felt it was appropriate to leave out examples.

  • Dan

    I’m assuming that ‘pointy human’ is depicted in textbook fashion at: http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-illustration-15927804-abstract-people-icons-groups-and-teamwork.php?st=e171949

  • Jim

    Thanks for the article, Lilly. Do you think there are cases where a logo can use one of the mentioned trends effectively, without losing its appeal?

    I’m thinking specifically of the silhouette. For example if a company were named, say, Black Bird could one effectively use (in your opinion) a silhouette of a bird?

    I’m still a novice designer, so I welcome your input. Thanks again!

  • steve allen

    where do they get these people, this is not the first very weak article

  • Tom K

    One of the “Related Posts” is “Logo Design Typography: Helvetica”, which covers how useful Helvetica is. It does include examples, including “3M”, which consists of overlapping letters.

  • Stuart Rusell


  • Jonathan McRobert


    Thank you for the article!

    Unfortunately, I have to agree with the others…visuals would have really made a point of the points you’re trying to make.

  • George
  • Would I be right in thinking that the Point Man is in fact Leonardo Da vinci’s Vitruvian Man?


    He/it is a relatively famous drawing.

  • Not sure I know what a self portrait logo is. Or a pointy man.

  • Johan

    All of the previous messages underline my thoughts as well.. I was expecting some examples.. (and no idea what the pointy figure is)

  • Kyle Ralston

    I don’t agree with the author at all.

    First of all, she’s not in the field of graphic design, hence, her comments are irrelevant opinions. It’s the client’s opinion that matters in the end and not the author’s.

    Secondly, I can easily find several exceptions to EACH of her proposals. To a novice designer or non-professional, these might seem reasonable on the surface, however, a seasoned veteran can manipulate each of these into a highly polished and professional-looking logo. It’s actually the “know-how” that makes a good design execution and not the “design patterns”.


    [Allow me to point your attentions to df’s own article, “Logo Design Typography-Helvetica” by Jennifer Farley]

  • I hate to pile on here, but I agree with what most of the others have already said. An article about graphics with no illustrations? What is up with that?

    And what is the pointy man? I was hoping someone in the comments would at least answer that question.

  • Judy Turner-Blain

    And the pointy man is…..?

  • Shelly

    Wow, are you all really that unimaginative? Let me help you out…


  • tt

    Good topic, but a highly ironic text-only post. As worthwhile as listening to the audio of a TV show or movie with your eyes closed. Did no one at all want to include example images? DF could have created its own examples if it didn’t want to embarrass others.

  • Steve

    Sorry Lily, but I have to agree with the other comments.

    A poor article.

    Forget technology and stick to tennis, mobile working and latest developments from O2, Apple or LG…

  • Peter Yates

    I think this is a wind up, and there is no such thing as the pointy man. He would make a great character in a children’s novel. He could be the malevolent being who indicates the child in a crowd who is in need of punishment.

    Beware the pointy man with his outstretched arm and his withered bony finger.

  • Nick

    I have never seen a photo of the owner used for a company’s logo. However, I would extend the use of photos to include any business that is personal service whether it is a doctor, a massage therapist, etc. That is, unless you are really weird looking and the image would turn people off.

    I don’t think Helvetica is a fad font–it’s been around too long to be a fad.

    And, I agree with others, what’s a pointy man?

  • James

    I agree with the other messages – I read this example expecting to learn, but with no images it was a complete waste of time… It would also be nice to have some examples of the opposite (ie. if Helvetica is a no-no – show show some logos with a different font which you consider good)

  • i wanna say that these article truly emphasis the need of logo and how to implement it.The above mentioned five points are the base which should be kept in mind when anyone want to make an effective and intellectual logo design.

    Thanks for such a nice help..

  • Christine

    I agree. No idea what a pointy man is. In some situations, all of these examples could probably work. I need to see when they do not to better understand.

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