Effective Logo Design Part 1 Technical Demands of Good Design

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logo design

I’ve worked with a lot of logos over the years, some were really well done, others….well….were less than impressive. In this two part post I’ll go over what makes  good logo design and things every business owner should avoid. In this part we’ll look at the technical side of logo design, including formats, colors, and preparing the logo for use on everything from your website, to embroidering it on a shirt. Hopefully you realize that your logo was done correctly, if not, get in touch with me to learn about our effective logo design.

Your Computer Savvy Nephew vs A Graphic Designer

You may know someone who is really good on a  computer, they may know how to use Photoshop or other graphics programs, they may even be an artist. Many business owners want to save some money, or give their friend or relative their first break, so they contract with an amateur for their logo design. If you decide to go that route, believe me when I tell you, that every business professional will know you went with an amateur the moment they see your logo. Your company will be seen as being just as amateur as your designer. You don’t want that.

There are several things that reveal the designer as an amateur. One thing I see lot of is a hand drawn logo that has been scanned in and slapped on a business card without any pre-production work being done. A logo designed this way will not scale properly, so if you try to print it at a size that is larger than the original drawing it will become distorted and blurry. Later I’ll write about why this happens. Line drawings are fairly easy to “read” when you see them in pencil on a sheet of paper, but they loose their impact on other background colors or at different sizes. A professional designer knows this and will design a logo that works on most backgrounds and at all sizes.

Another logo design mistake I see is someone using too many colors or gradients, without providing a simplified version of the logo. At first thought, this doesn’t sound like a big issue, but it will come back to bite you later. For example, let’s assume that one day you want to make t-shirts for your employees to wear. For each color on your logo, you will have to pay extra. And many screen printers and embroiderers won’t even try to do gradients at all. This same principle applies to many promotional products and even for packaging for shipping. If you want a logo with a lot of colors, that’s great! Just make sure that the designer also creates both one and two color versions of your logo too. While they’re at it, they should also designing a logo in horizontal, vertical and square layouts.

Vector vs Raster Logo Design

This is one of those things that is a little hard for many people to understand, a professional and experienced graphic designer will be keenly aware of the principle which I’m about to explain. There are basically two kinds of electronic formats: vector and raster. The short takeaway is that every logo should be designed in vector, no exceptions, no excuses, If a potential designer tells you that they are going to design your logo in Photoshop, DO NOT GIVE THEM THE JOB. Photoshop does not produce vectors, it produces raster images. A professional and experienced logo designer will not use photoshop for a logo design, just like a carpenter would never use a screwdriver to drive a nail. Next I’ll explain why this is so important.

Vector art is created by designating areas using coordinates and then filling that whole area with a color, or a gradient. To expand or contract the image, each area’s outer edge coordinates are changed and the color fills in the newly sized section. Vectors can therefore be expanded infinitely and be taken down to a tiny size without any loss of quality to the image. The borders stay sharp and the colors stay true. The vector format is perfect for printing.

Raster art is created by designating a color for each individual pixel, this works well for photographs but not logo design. When you scale the image down, the program has to decide which pixels data will be erased permanently. The program will often try to choose an average color between several pixels then delete those pixels and replace them with the color it chose. When you expand a raster image the program has to decide which pixels will be duplicated, it will also try to smooth out transitions by inventing new pixels that are an average of the original existing pixels and then insert those into the image where it thinks they should go. Those techniques result in an image looking pixelated. Raster file formats include JPG, PNG, TIFF, and PSD.

Compare the images below. The first is the original, the next was a raster image that I scaled up and the last is a vector that I scaled up.


camera picture


Raster Version

vector camera


Vector Version

vector camera


I’m sure you can see the difference between the raster and vector. Of course, you will want your logo to look crisp not fuzzy and pixelated. The most common file formats that vectors are saved as are: EPS, AI, SWF and PDF (although a raster image can be embedded in any of these, so going by file extension isn’t a sure thing)

What You Should Get from Your Logo Designer

So far I’ve mentioned several things that a good designer will do and provide. Let me summarize them here. Once you have approved the logo design, you should get a collection of files from your designer. They will design the logo as a vector in a program like Adobe Illustrator, and then save it into all the formats that you may need, which should include the following: EPS, PDF, one large TIFF, one small Tiff, one large JPG, one small JPG, one large PNG, and one small PNG. You should have those files for each iteration of your logo, which should include a full color version , a two color version , a one color version, a vertical version, a horizontal version and a square version. A really good graphic designer will also include a small text file with the PMS color values for all of the colors in your logo. Most graphic designers will not include your logo in a format ready for embroidery, that is something that should be done by someone who specializes in it.

“My Logo Needs Some Work”

If your logo needs some work, Tetravive can help. I can convert your logo to a vector format so it can be sent off to printers. I can design a one or two color version of your logo, or design a brand new logo for you company. Or any other logo design you may need. Get in touch with me a free logo design consultation.