An awesome logo design could cost
thousands of dollars. If you choose to do it yourself, it is
possible. But it will take some time, tinkering, planning, and a
willingness to go back to the drawing board. This article is a
good first base of essential logo how-to.
Disclaimer: The information following is only a brief and general
tutorial. Every trademark case is fact dependent. You should seek the
advice of an attorney licensed to practice trademark law for your
businesses intellectual property needs concerning trademarks.
Note: Advice Watch found that
certain information about “Logo” found in Wikipedia** as of 02/04/ 2011
(though not exactly false) is not explained correctly, unclear and/or
potentially confusing, such being:
- “Logos are either purely graphic (symbols/icons) or are composed
of the name of the organization (a logotype or wordmark).”
The clarification by AW is: A logo is not to be confused with a
trademark. A logo can be trademarked. A word or
words depending on the circumstances can also be trademarked. A word can
be a logo by its typeset or artistic design of how the word is presented, but the word itself
is not a logo. Also, a word or words can be part of a
logo (See Fig. 1).
This is mentioned because no good tutorial about logo design can be
made without addressing some basics or background about trademarks. This
information should be considered before anything else when designing a
logo. When designing a logo for your business, you need to know
some basics about trademarks for several reasons including but not
- Even if you do not plan on registering your trademark, your logo
can be considered a trademark whether it is registered or not.
- Your logo may violate another businesses intellectual property by
being too much like their logo, or by being suggestive of their logo
What you need to know about trademarks before designing a logo:
- You do not need to register a trademark in order for it to be a
legal trademark. The mark becomes your business property as soon as
you begin using the mark in commerce (to help you sell or advertise
your product or service); and as long as another similar business
was not using it first. Also generally, the mark must not be an
obvious representation of what you sell. --However, registering a
trademark has benefits including but not limited to serving as a
great form of evidence that you were using the mark by a certain
date, should a dispute with another business ever arise about who
was using the mark first. Also, registering a mark serves as a
viable warning to other businesses that you are using the mark and
intend on defending it vigorously.
- In a technical sense, a trademark refers to marks wherein a
product or products are sold, whereas a service mark is for
businesses that provide a service. But the “TM” warning is
acceptable on service marks, and the term “trademark” is now
considered inclusive of service marks.
- A logo of an image of what you do or sell in your business is
hard to get trademark protection, and possibly may not be able to be
a registered trademark. If you were able to obtain registered status
for such a logo, it would probably be a weak trademark. For example,
if you sell Christmas trees, a logo of a Christmas or pine tree is
probably not able to be trademarked for that business. It is too
descriptive or generic. But if you used a pine tree in your logo,
and your business is about something completely different, say
selling computers, it could have strong trademark protection.
Generally, the more describing a word, name, or image is of what you
do or sell, the harder it is to obtain trademark protection. But
perhaps a better place to use a pine tree in a logo is for a paper
manufacturer. Most people know that paper at least conventionally,
is ultimately made from trees. So it is suggestive, but not
describing, and therefore can still have strong trademark
protection. So, if you wanted to use a pine tree in your logo and
sell Christmas trees, you most likely would have to add an element
or uniqueness to the tree. For example, if the image showed a
lightning bolt going through the tree, it could probably get
suitable trademark protection.
- You should have a rough draft of your logo, and then do a
trademark search at:
http://www.uspto.gov/trademarks/index.jsp to have a good sense of whether another similar
businesses may be using a similar mark before you waste any more
time designing a mark that may be in use. However, just because you
do not find a mark does not mean that the mark is not being used.
Note: You must first use the
Code Manual to look up the relevant Design Codes @
http://tess2.uspto.gov/tmdb/dscm/index.htm to get a sense on how
to search trademarks.
- This article is not about words or names, but a good analogy for
logo design in consideration for trademark protection is considering
some business names as they relate to trademarks… …Some of the best
names that have strong trademark protection yet are easy to
remember, perhaps ironically are completely made up words that do
not mean anything or translate to anything. For example, words/names
like Exxon**, Tylenol**, Kodak**, Maalox**, and Reebok** never meant
anything or even suggested anything until they were used in
commerce. So the point is the same thing for your logo; your design
need not necessarily mean anything or convey an image of anything…
It can still be a powerful design. And the great thing about such a
design is that it can most likely have very strong trademark
Now let’s get on with more
of the actual design aspects of logo design…
First know that
a logo can be viewed as the face of your business, and is often the
first impression customers, partners, and the general public sees of of
your business. But this is an excellent starting point for
designing a logo... Here is the key to logo design: Try to envision that you are designing a face for
your business in the form of a drawing (A logo is not simply a
drawing, but this is where you'll start
with a series of sketches).
Of the most important aspects
about your logo... It must differentiate your business from the
mass of similar businesses.
all graphic designers agree on everything about logo design, but there
are some common traits which we find among the greater majority of
- The majority of graphic designers agree that nearly always a logo
should be simple, for a simple design is easily recognized and
memorable. Simplicity is usually what even the largest of corporations
want in a logo. More often than not, logos in a design stage need to be
scaled back rather than features being added to it. (See Fig. 3).
- It should
be appropriate for the business
and or items sold from the business. (You don't want an image
of a clown in a wedding planning business).
- It should
be effective without color.
(Described further later).
- It should
be memorable. There should
be something about your logo that sticks. But referring back
to #1, simplicity often does this trick.
- It should
be describable. And this
is important for trademark purposes as well. For example, as
in Fig. 2., if the business owner wanted to trademark the image as a
logo, the description for the logo might be: "A silhouetted
image of one man applying a jumping knee strike to the head of an
opponent." Describable also often relates to simplicity.
- It should
be scalable. That is to
say it still looks good and conveys the same impression from large
to small print or publishing's. The Advice Watch logo is not
the best example for this but if we lived in a perfect world,
perhaps we would all have the Nike** logo.
Not all graphic
designers agree on some of the following:
- A logo should be
^ It depends on what kind of business it is, and what may be sold.
- Many designers disagree or have conflicting viewpoints on the issue
of whether a logo should be timeless (lasting over the years
effectively). ^Indeed, many companies have effectively changed their
logo, and even moved on to entirely different logos. So this is
generally not of a top concern in designing a logo. As technology
progresses, a simple logo may not be so simple. For all anyone can
guess, it may come to the point 10-15 years from now that conventional
logos are displayed in 3-D. Even the simplest technology of what we
currently know as “paper” may be digitized and allow for 3-D on all
aspects. Technology changes things, and has always been a game changer
in any field. Nonetheless, timelessness should be
considered and at least attempted in the design. You
don't want to have to change your logo 2 years from now.
We don’t know what the future holds, but we know what the state of
the art is today. What is important today is that a logo needs to
preferably be attractive and effective without color, even if the logo
is ultimately a colored design. Certain printing jobs can not be done
from a practical stance in color or full color. Furthermore, to save
money you may opt for black and white copy or less color for certain
printing jobs or advertisements. Also to be considered is if you may
ever choose to do foil embossing of your logo, which generally is only
done in gold or silver color.
Consider all the things that your logo will possibly ever be
displayed on. This is the area of logo design where size matters. Not
just too small, but believe it or not a logo can easily be too big to be
effective. Take the Advice Watch logo for example: We made a “big”
mistake once by designing our logo to be too big on a T-shirt design
(see Fig. 5). We
noticed that because the words “Advice” and “Watch” were separated a
fairly great distance within the logo, many people with a quick glance
only saw the word “Advice”. So having a smaller area printed on the
T-shirt, perhaps in the upper left hand corner would have been better
One of the best things to do is simply
look at as many logos as possible. Check out the logos of the
major corporations. What are they doing with their logos?
What are your competitors logos looking like? Don't be like them.
Above all, don't stop here. Get different
perspectives of logo design. In fact, it is the plan of Advice
Watch to have a top list of logo design sites and pages in the near
future. Please let us know of any good ones that you may come
A video about companies getting logo makeovers.
(Provided by CNN at rr.com)
The above design is an example of a
design wherein the name of the business is also suggested in the
logo, and conveys a message. Also, this may be a case as
pointed out in the article wherein words may be trademarked as a
logo because the typesetting is unique by the words "The
Missing" and "Peace" in different typesets. Of course, words can
always be part of a logo wherein a picture is present.
mentioned in the article,
"[a] logo of an image of what you do or sell in your business is
hard to get trademark protection"... But a martial arts school
owner could possibly get mediocre trademark protection on the
above logo if he was the first to use a silhouette image of
− in this case a
jumping knee strike to the head of an opponent.
The above image is from the initial
design stages and rough draft for designing the Advice Watch
logo. As mentioned in the article, a common tendency is to
overdo a logo. We had to scale back the logo. It
could possibly convey too many things.
The name "Advice Watch"
was hard to fit proportionately on the logo to match the other
proportionate aspects of the logo. Rather than placing
words left-to-right which is the conventional way to display a
name, we decided to place 1 above the other. But this
posed some problems. Because the words are so far apart,
we needed to be sure the public connected them as one name, so
we put hyphens or dashes... They don't mean anything, they are
just there to make the visual connection to the words.
Believe it or not,
bigger is not always better when printing or displaying a logo
on something. We found that many people from a quick
glance, only noticed the "Advice" word and didn't catch the word
"Watch" either by not reading or not catching it altogether.
It would have been better to display a smaller logo in an upper
The Subaru** logo is
pretty interesting. The Subaru in Japanese language refers
to the 7 Sisters star constellation. It may have been
difficult for a telescope manufacturer to have strong trademark
protection for this logo. But beautiful and protectable
for a vehicle manufacturer.
-Subaru logo published with
by Subaru of America, Inc.