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How to Design a Logo on a Budget - Schnell Creative

KayLea Schnell is the owner and brand designer of Schnell Creative that I had the pleasure of working with at my previous full-time job in a marketing agency. As a specialist in brand design for small businesses, she's worked with plenty of startups at different stages of their journey and is here to her brand design expertise!

Often times, people attempt at designing their own logo for budget reasons, and end up approaching a brand designer when their business is at a more mature stage. However, it's often done poorly so I've invited KayLea to teach us how to design a logo on a budget, to get through the early stages of startup.

*A quick disclaimer before we begin: To effectively scale your business and snag those dream clients/customers consistently, it is highly important that you make the initial investment in hiring a brand strategist and designer if you have no experience in marketing. However, we understand that not everyone can afford it, so this is a temporary solution.

As a reminder of the branding process I've outlined, logo development is one of the final steps in creating a brand identity. Don't forget to develop your brand strategy first!

Now handing it over to KayLea ⬇️


The common approach people use to design a logo is to pick a business name, choose a font, maybe draw a little icon. This is not right.. or wrong. Logos can be designed in a couple of hours, but it can also take weeks depending on the strategy and skills put into it.

For the purpose of this blog post, I’ve made the logo design process DIY friendly, but I’ve included some strategy behind it as well. I hope this ‘how-to’ provides insight on the importance brand visuals built with strategy.

OK. Ready to make a logo? Here's a quick rundown of the steps:

Step 1: Dig deep, and define your brand.

Step 2: Industry analysis.

Step 3: Gather visual inspiration.

Step 4: Go to the drawing board.

Step 5: Save out your files in a final logo folder.

BONUS Tip: Common things to avoid when creating a logo.

I'd say this process takes a week (in your spare time) if you're doing it yourself, so slot in some time to get into 'designer mode’. If you hire a designer, you can expect the branding or logo development process to be somewhat similar.

Step 1: Dig deep, and define your brand.

This is an important step. It's important to identify your brand personality before you dive into creating visuals. Think of it like dressing someone for a big event without knowing their personality or how they want to come across - their final look needs to reflect their personality and the individual statement they want to make. Ask yourself these types of questions:

  • What is the primary purpose of my business? What am I offering and why?

  • What is it about the business that is unique and sets me apart?

  • What are my business's buzz words? E.g., friendly, upbeat, educational OR holistic, grounded, supportive, etc.

Step 2: Industry analysis.

Lock yourself into study mode and research. The more, the better. There are a few things you want to look for during your research:

  • What do my competitor brands look like? Do all your competitors have a similar vibe? Is there a niche that could be filled by you?

  • What works/doesn't work about competitor brands?

  • Who is your target audience? (Demographic, interests, what they buy, what they need, where they go for products/services now)

Step 3: Gather visual inspiration.

This is when the fun side of design comes into play, and where you'll start discovering the visual style of your logo. It's essential to do this step after the first two steps. It's easy to make decisions for your brand solely based on how it looks looks nice or fits your personal taste. However, the visual aspect of a successful logo is more strategic than aesthetic (the strategy informs the aesthetic).

  • Create a moodboard (use Pinterest, Google, your own photos) that includes fonts, graphics and photography.

  • Hone in on the style. E.g., airy and whimsical or bold and graphic.

  • Shortlist to less than 10 of the most fitting visuals

Step 4: Go to the drawing board.

As a designer, this is where I would begin sketching original logo ideas. This consists of hundreds of iterations and ideas (which is why logo design can be an investment and take some time). This step is meant to be messy and explorative. You never know what little sketch might hit the mark!

  • If you're DIY-ing, this is where you could use Canva or similar programs, but I'd recommend pen and paper first until you have your winning sketch.

  • Pick the strongest sketch and finesse it until it's final. That means fine-tuning spacing, colours, orientation, and final sizes.

  • Check that the logo is legible in every application you intend to use (printed, on social, on your website, etc.).

  • After you've developed your primary logo, this is when you'd create secondary logos and sub marks for uses in smaller places.

Step 5: Save your files in a final logo folder

  • I recommend saving your logo in the following formats: png, jpg, and pdf. A standard 500px width is safe for digital applications. If you're printing, ensure to test print for resolution or check with your printer on format requirements.

  • Depending on usage, it's also handy to have a dark version and a light version so you can use your logo on various backgrounds and images.

That's the final step! These steps are meant to encourage strategic thinking, so your final design has weight behind it. The bonus of using strategic thinking in design is that you're much more likely to create something visually unique.

Tips: What to avoid when designing a logo

As I mentioned in the beginning, there are many ways to tackle creating a logo but regardless of how you design your logo, keep the following tips in mind:

  1. Beware of trends. It's easy to get sucked into making something that looks like everything else. It's ok to be conscious of trends, but if you create something really trendy, you risk being lost in a sea of similar brands.

  2. Don't go with the first idea. For example, if you have a yoga brand, you might list typical industry visuals, like a lotus flower, someone meditating, or a standard yoga pose. The first ideas you come up with are likely the same first ideas 50 other yoga brands came up with. My suggestion is to dig deeper to avoid cliches (particularly if your logo has an icon and isn't just the business name).

  3. When in doubt, less is more. There are examples of beautiful logos that are incredibly complex and still successful, but simplifying your logo is safer. It's more likely to be legible, scalable, and versatile if it's simple.

Here's an example of a complex logo and a simple logo:

As you can see, Starbucks has been simplifying its logo over the years. The more complex versions were successful, but all those details aren’t necessary anymore. When Starbucks started simplifying its logo, it didn't lose brand recognition or the overall design concept but it's a more versatile logo with work with.

Amazon’s logo is simple, with the name (in a custom font) and a simple mark (the arrow). Even though it's simple, it is very clever (the arrow points from ‘a-z’). A lot can be achieved with few, simple graphic elements, it just takes a bit of time and creativity to discover those kinds of design solutions.

Lastly, if you're in a place with your business where you are ready to work on your brand, do your research and be prepared to invest some dollars into it. You can find cheap logo services online, but you risk buying something generic that doesn't drive home your overall brand personality and strategy.

I hope this was helpful, wherever you are in your business and/or design journey. Happy branding! --------

Did you find this helpful? Send me a message if you are ready to invest in your brand with KayLea and I, and follow me on Instagram for more tips!


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