By Mihaela Lica

Five Logo Design Tips with David Airey

By Mihaela Lica

Web logosThe logo is the visual heart of a brand. The most memorable quote that can also pass as the most important “tip” for logo design is attributed to Steven Gilliatt: “A logo should look just as good in 15-foot letters on top of company headquarters as it does one sixteenth of an inch tall on company stationery.”

What is true for the real world applies successfully online, but the Internet, with all its dynamic technologies, gives more flexibility when it comes to logo design. The trend for 2009 distances itself from the 3D effects, shines and shadows of the Web 2.0 logos, and goes in a direction where less is more and more is spectacular, breathtaking, unique.

2009 will see logo designs influenced by an escalating technology and innovation. Black and white printing is no longer mandatory, and the new logos no longer need to translate well in grayscale. The Web companies will need bold logos, types of logos that are refreshing and stand out, enhancing brand visibility and user response. But trends come and go, and in the end only the quality stands. Here are five logo design tips from one of the best logo designers in the UK – David Airey.

1. Make it memorable, timeless, scalable and appropriate

Experienced logo designers don’t always agree with the concept of “trend.” They say that good design is not trendy design, and that logos should be iconic and timeless, regardless of if they were produced for the web or for print.

“Regardless of whether a logo is seen online or off, they act as identifiers.”- says David Airey. “They help your target audience associate the product or service with you. A well-designed logo will also express qualities appropriate to the business, such as expense, trustworthiness, a sense of fun, etc.”

2. Make it recognizable across all media

Are “web logos” different than offline logos? We know that the answer is “yes” – the glossy “Web 2.0” trend is the proof, but these are too common now. Will the new logos be dynamic, or will the trend follow the “avatar” and “favicon” concepts and lead to a generation of pictographic logos? So what will make a good Website logo? Designer David Airey answers:

“It depends on the company. Some logos can be designed to allow for a level of animation. This can be shown online, or on TV advertising, but not in print. Ultimately, the logo should be equally recognizable across all media.”

3. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it

Already an industry standard, logos are almost always placed at the top left of a web page. 2009 will probably not change this. “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” as they say.

“Stats would suggest the top left, as this is where most web users look first – unless of course you have a huge flashing image in the middle of your website, which I don’t recommend.” – says Airey. “My logo can be found in the top left corner of my own website, but if someone can suggest a better position, I’m always open to ideas.”

4. Avoid monotony

Good logos are timeless – like Philips, Nike, BMW, etc. But when it comes to how these blend with the colors of the websites they are placed on, there is always an element of surprise. The logo stands by itself, as a powerful identifier, but the design of the site adds colors that appeals to its viewers. People are visual beings, and monotony is categorically not something that triggers positive response.

“You want to keep a level of consistency, so a monotone logo lends itself well to a monotone website, perhaps with a dash of color to accentuate the appeal.”

5. A logo is not a person

Brand enforcement campaigns lead sometimes to desperate measures: companies use logos to create social media profile avatars, they even use brand names to name their social media profile. The last is not so bad, but using a logo for an avatar is cold, impersonal, distant… There’s a time and a place for everything: corporate social profiles should not be created wearing the mask of the brand.

However, where social media is concerned (Twitter, Facebook etc.), my personal preference is to use a photo in your avatar, rather than your logo. This gives an increased sense of personality, and reinforces the fact that you’re actually a human, and not one of the ever-increasing ‘bots’ that spring up.

What about you? Do you have your own logo? Would you consider creating a logo for your name and using this logo to promote yourself as a brand? What trends do you think we will see in 2009? Do you have any tips to add to the list? Come on, let’s talk!

  • Joey

    These are great talking points and who better to talk them over with than David Airey, he is amazing and a great source of inspiration. I think that we are going to see people definitely move away from over the top shiny logos that took over in 2008 and people are going to revert back to a minimalist style. I would definitely agree with the social media thing too. It is by definition social so why not put a human face there instead of a logo.

  • Sueblimely

    I have a logo for my personal blog, which I also use in images for advertising on other blogs and for such sites as Entrecard, because I want to develop and maintain an identity. Because I only use the logo on the web I have a bit more latitude in design – it does not have to be the size of 15 foot letters.

    I use social networking sites for research and information as much as for networking so the use of a non personal, easily identifiable, logo is not an issue for me. Many sites use social networks primarily for promoting their own site or business anyway so using their own logo seems more honest.

  • “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
    My sentiments exactly. Excellent interview! All bases were covered thoroughly, too.
    Thanks, Mig!

  • Chris

    I think the point that greyscale rendering is no longer a must is interesting — assuming you’re doing no printing at all. It occurs to me that the only place my logo exists in print is on a coffee mug.

  • MacNessa

    This is definitely the way of the future. Personal branding is going to be big this year. Self promotion within the corporate world, or as an entrepeneur everybody needs to up their game. With the global credit crunch, people are scrambling for ways to make money, and a personal brand can be a powerful thing.

    Thanks for the great article.

  • glenngould

    Black and white printing is no longer mandatory, and the new logos no longer need to translate well in grayscale.

    I disagree. It’s a misconception that this is only a need for black and white printing.

    Grayscale version of the logo shows the linear effectiveness and ‘clair-obscur’ of the symbol which is the backbone of the design and this is ‘visible’ in the color version also.

    Remember, how grand masters of painting (take Leonardo da Vinci or any other) worked: They first ‘finish’ their work in monochrome using a single color and only then add colors on it using ‘glazes‘.

    A good logo always translates well in grayscale. It’s nothing to do with trends.

  • I agree with glengould. If a logo works in B&W it’s also likely to be more identifiable in full colour, and at small scale.
    One day you may want your logo laser engraved onto a metal keyring and your gradients, drop shadows and transparencies aren’t going to hold up very well then.

  • Mr Concur

    I concur with the black and white sentiments. A strong silhouette creates a strong icon. Logos therefore, should be created in black and white first, to ensure its silhouette is bold and well defined.

    I work on shape and composition first, and black and white allows me to focus on those alone, once these are set i add the colour. Im not saying you cannot do it all at once, but colour has the tendency to get in the way during my shape and composition stage.

  • David Airey

    Thanks very much for deeming me worthy of an interview, Mig. It was a pleasure helping out.

    I agree with Glenn about black and white designs. They keep the focus solely on the form of the logo… the idea.

  • Le Minxxx

    Excellent interview!

    I truly love the minimalistic style! I am glad, that I am not the only one happy to see it come back.

    I agree personal branding is essential + even more so today – but we still need to persoanlize it and not completely lose ourselves in this non-organic media we live in on a daily basis.

  • Andrew Sabatier

    Logos have had their day. The lay population may still think in terms of logos and it may be the quickest means to explain what brand identity designers create but it doesn’t do the expertise justice. If you work with a logo designer you will get a logo, a brand identity designer will, led by a marketing strategy, create a brand.

    Logos vs brandmarks


  • @Joey – the return of the minimalist style is just one of the trends. I saw a few very interesting and colorful designs after I wrote the article – I think at the end of the year an analysis of the trends would make an interesting case study.

  • @ Sue – I actually agree with David about the avatar: it needs to be a person. People are talking to people and not to brands. Usually social media profiles can be customized to have both an avatar and a tailored page design – like twitter for example. When they pages are not customizable there is always a way to “brand” by filling in the “about you” field.

  • @Chris, glenngould, cranial-bore, Mr Concur, David Airey: thank you all for the excellent input on the grayscale issue. I am not a designer and I was wrong in assuming that because color printing is now more than affordable, grayscale is no longer a must. It’s great to have readers from whom you can learn! Thank you again!

  • @MacNessa, Le Minxxx – right! I only I wish I could afford David to make me a “Mihaela Lica” logo. :)

  • Anonymously

    Good logos are timeless

    Good logos are a dime a dozen. Popular logos become just that — popular. Popularity does not equal good. In my opinion, logos should go away all together.

  • logos should go away all together.

    I disagree. Humans are visual beings – the first means of communication were visual – pictographs. Symbols are still very important in non-verbal communication. We could go on and on forever why logos are here to stay.

  • glenngould

    …because color printing is now more than affordable

    which leads designers to use more colors liberally in their designs. I agree with you on this point.

  • I’ve got to say that I also think the logo needs to look good in black and white. It shows that the logo was designed well, not just made with complimentary colors.

  • i would love to add a example to point 4 you mentioned ..its Fedex. my all time favourite

  • @seanansari Oh, yeah! I LOVE purple! :)

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