Logo Creation for the Hopelessly Artistically Challenged

Businessman stressed with the brain in smoke

By MJ Plaster

What if, like me, you’re beyond artistically challenged, and you need a logo for your business? Where do you start, and how do you go about getting the perfect logo for your company? Logos look simple and easy to design, but they’re anything but. We’ll walk you through the steps to finding and working with a designer after we set the stage by exploring current logo trends.

Your Business Defines Your Logo

Your website or business card is often the first introduction a potential buyer has to your business. And, just as when you meet someone for the first time, you’ve got one chance to get it right and make a lasting, positive impression.

Some think that a logo defines the business, but a business defines the logo. That’s an important distinction. A logo doesn’t make a business or even a brand, but it’s an important part of your brand, so it’s vital that you strike the right note with your logo.

Logo Trends vs. Trendy Logos

Unless you’re a tech startup or the new, trendy kid on the block, you can’t go wrong with a classic (read classy) logo. For the sake of exploring options, let’s look at seven of the hottest current trends.

1. Vintage

There’s nothing new under the sun. Vintage logos are here to stay. They’ve never gone out of style, and they’ll be around 50 years from now. They’re the mainstay of vintage businesses.



2. Gradients

At the other end of the continuum, you’ll find gradient colors often combined with an abstract design. You’ll see gradient logos most often used for bleeding-edge companies that disrupt the “old order.”

The logo below combines gradients with the abstract, lowercase letter “k.”



3. Polygon

A distant cousin of the gradient logo is the polygon logo. Math.com defines a polygon as, “A closed plane figure made up of several line segments that are joined together. The sides do not cross each other. Exactly two sides meet at every vertex [intersection].” The design can have the look and feel of banded gradients without using them. Like the gradient logo, the polygon design is best suited for cutting-edge businesses.



4. Signature

Personalized businesses often use logos with a signature design. Signature designs range from bold to delicate and elegant. Note the difference in the two signature logos below.

Signature 1      Signature 2

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The second signature design combines the signature element with the next trend—metallic.

5. Metallic

Most often you’ll see metal used in “heavy” logos that resemble emblems, crests, etc., but metal can be applied to many types of logo design.

Metallic 1   Metallic 2

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6. Negative space and subliminal messages

The absence of color in a logo to create the design is called “negative space.” The design can also incorporate the background color if it’s other than white. Note the use of white space to create the cat’s head in the design below.

Negative space   FedEx


Do you see the arrow in the FedEx logo above? If you look at the white space between the “E” and the “x,” negative space creates an arrow, indicating speed. Many recognizable brands use subliminal messages, and not necessarily with negative space.

7. Line art

Line art lends a crisp, modern look to a logo.

Line 1                  Line 2

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But, But, But, I Have No Idea What I Want

Not a problem. That’s why you’re not an artist. Welcome to the 99 percent. You can recognize logos that “speak to you,” that immediately put you at ease as well as those that you find off-putting or uncomfortable to look at.

While it’s important to get it right from the beginning, don’t be disheartened if it takes a few tries and a few designers until you hit on the perfect logo to convey your company’s image. Each failed design brings you closer to perfection. I can tell you from experience to live with a logo for a few days before deciding, “It’s the one!” If you rush the process, buyer’s remorse won’t be far behind.

Tips for Finding a Designer

I’ve worked with designers on three company logos. The first two took two weeks, start to finish and cost an arm and a leg, but they lasted as long as the businesses—10 years and five years, respectively. For those designs, I had a precise idea of the concept for the logos. The third logo took just as long because I went through two designers and four logos until I hit on the perfect logo for my business. I lucked out on the fourth design, and the whole process cost under

$100 on Fiverr. Time was more precious than money, which led me to Fiverr, and my experience was a good one. I didn’t have the first idea of a concept for the logo, but I did have a firm grasp of the business. The second designer took my notes and read my mind. Those are my experience, but your mileage may vary. Consider the following:

  1. Price is not the only indicator of a good designer.
  2. Portfolio – Do the designer’s logos jump out and grab you? If not—next!
  3. Recommendations – For my money, nothing beats word-of-mouth recommendations and testimonials.
  4. Awards are swell, but they’re subjective.
  5. Communication is just as important as talent.
  6. Timeframe – It’s best not to rush the designer.

If I had to pick the most important consideration, it would be communication. A good designer will communicate effectively and keep you out of trouble. He or she will know what is appropriate for your line of business and what’s not appropriate. For example, you might love Comic Sans font, but unless you’re appealing to the toddler market (and their parents), the font doesn’t convey professionalism.

Tips for Working With a Designer

Please disabuse yourself of the notion that you can use one of those free online logo sites to whip up a logo. It’s time to call in the pros. Have you ever seen homemade clothes by someone who doesn’t have the first clue about sewing? Contrast that with a designer original. That’s the difference between a logo concocted by the artistically challenged on a freebie site and a professionally designed logo.

  1. Communication is paramount. Your designer can’t read your mind. Communicate early and often, but allow the designer space to design.
  2. Have a rock-solid vision for your company, its mission and how it will fulfill its mission. What is your unique selling proposition? For example, when FedEx started (as Federal Express), they were the only game in town to offer overnight service. Clearly define your target market?
  3. Research your industry to see what works and what doesn’t work. Find logos you like and logos you don’t like. Note: Don’t try to copy another company’s concept, look and feel. Even if you fall within legal boundaries, you don’t want your business to be perceived as a copycat business.
  4. Document steps 2 and 3 precisely and concisely. Your designer doesn’t want to read through a tome.
  5. Your designer will compose a design brief from a series of questions that you answer. In addition to the interview (written or verbal), send the designer your documentation from step 2.
  6. Let the designer know how involved you want to be in the design process. Do you have a design concept in mind, or would you rather let the designer come up with the concept? I have done it both ways, with equally successful results. If you have no concept in mind, it might take a little longer as the concept takes form. The better the rapport between you and the designer, the quicker you’ll land on your perfect design.
  7. Work with your designer to tweak the logo.

Note: If you plan to use a black and white version of your logo, tell your designer up front. They usually design in black and white first and add color later.

The object of this game is to find a logo that serves you well for the long haul. If you change your logo too often, you confuse your customers, and you disrupt your brand.

Finally, once you find a designer that you can work with, hang on for dear life. During the course of your business run, you’ll need graphics for your website and collateral materials. A good designer with whom you communicate well is worth his or her weight in gold.

We’d love to hear your comments on working with a designer—what worked and what didn’t. We’ve only scratched the surface, and we’re interested in hearing your experiences.