David Airey is an independent graphic designer working with companies of all sizes since 2005.

10 steps to great logo designs

Pencil sketch

  1. Sketch
  2. Sketch again
  3. And again
  4. Don’t worry about mistakes
  5. Sketch with pencils
  6. Try using pens
  7. Sketch indoors…
  8. …and out
  9. Sketch fast
  10. Keep on sketching

“Make lots of rough sketches. You’ll rule out many design ideas quickly this way before wasting time in your page layout program.

“Don’t fret over details. Use thumbnails to establish approximate locations for major elements.

“Don’t try doing these initial rough designs in your software, even if using dummy text and placeholder graphics. You’re apt to get caught up in things like changing the fonts or doing perfectly aligned graphics. Save that step til after you’ve done the initial brainstorming for ideas with thumbnails.”
— JACCI at ABOUT.COM

Do you create thumbnails when starting a design project?

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27 appreciated comments about “10 steps to great logo designs”

  1. 5a) Stop sketching and have a break, refresh the mind?

  2. I apply the same concept when designing websites – though my business partners insist on calling it ‘box drawing’.

  3. Good call, Jamie. My sketch process will normally span over a few days, giving time to sleep on the ideas, too.

    Hi Verne, your box drawings are exactly the type of thing I’d love to see on your creative briefing website. Do you plan on posting any?

  4. Funny, it reminds me of a post at Copyblogger.

  5. Brian’s an inspiration, Mirko, and gave me the idea for this post.

    It’s a simple way to get across the importance of logo sketches, as “The Paper Bull” kindly wrote about.

  6. In my case, there’s sometimes a step of “random doodling” to clear my mind of influences first. I’m not sure if that’d count as step 1, or a step 0.5!

  7. Gotta love that old Brian Clark, he’s an inspiration to a lot of us.

  8. I think its also the same for web as you need to sketch and plan first..

  9. Hi David

    Yep, I absolutely always do some sketches. Most are unrecognisable but it just helps me to get the stuff out of my head and onto some paper. When I give my class design projects I IMPLORE them to draw something first and then get onto the computer. You can do a hell of a lot more rough sketches on paper in 5 mins than anything you could do in Illustrator or Photoshop in 5 minutes.

  10. Jermayn, I completely agree. It’s important to know where web sections are going before you begin with any code.

    Jennifer, I think it’s great that you implore your students to draw first. Thankfully, any design teachers I’ve come across do likewise.

  11. Damien, we’ll put you in there as step 0.5. You deserve it.

  12. Sketching for designers is like stretching for athletes before a game. I sketch before I do any kind of design work, period. I even go as far as making little notes on my sketches like color treatment, potential font choice, design style, etc. Anything that will make the actual sitting in front of the computer part go smoother and more efficient. But of course more than half the time my final piece looks nothing like my initial sketches haha. Sketching is still a must though!

  13. PG, loving the reference to athletes. Makes me think I’m more fit than I actually am. Anything that involves less time in front of the computer is a great way to lessen eye strain.

  14. You’re right about the sketching David for sure. So many times I would just jump straight into Illustrator and go to work when if I had took the time to sketch a little I could have ruled out all the worthless crap I came up with in Illustrator before I even started the program. On that note…I just created a new logo earlier which can be found on my blog. I’d love it if you could give me your thoughts on if it looks good, bad, okay? And what, if anything would you change to improve it?

  15. Hi Deron, you mention on your site that you’ll probably change your logo quite a lot before deciding on a final version. In that case, it’d be great to see the sketches you come up with to see your thought process.

    Much easier to give a critique when there’s more than one option to choose from, and of course I’m more than happy to give you my take on it.

  16. Hi David – Sorry, neglected your question way up above. I’ve got enough box drawings to fill an entire site, and have been anxious to share a few on my site. I’m just waiting to pick out a new scanner! Thanks for re-sparking my motivation to scratch it off my to-do. It’ll be a nice addition to my home office to-be!

  17. Verne, great stuff. Looking forward to those posts, and hopefully we can see some photos of your brand-spanking office!

  18. good tips to remember… I wish I drew more often these days

  19. I could draw more often too, Leon. Practice makes better, as they say.

  20. Your article on google penalization was interesting, so you probably know about keyword stuffing? This article here has a fine example of keyword stuffing! ‘Sketch’ appears 10 times in the first 30 words and has nothing to do with the title. Dodgy ground IMHO …

  21. Hi Richard,

    Thanks for the comment. I wasn’t aware that this article would be on dodgey grounds, not at all.

    I don’t agree that sketching has nothing to do with the title, considering a great logo design requires sketching!

  22. This might be true, but what about those who cannot draw or sketch. I used to draw a house or mountains and the sun rising over them in drawing class always since those were the only things I could come up with all the time. David give some pointers to the non-artists among us, like some software that will automate the process.

  23. Moser,

    Practice improves your ability to sketch, and automation defeats the purpose. If you find yourself unable to come up with new ideas, try brainstorming first.

  24. David,

    I have a question. Would you stay away from letter logo’s? Or creatively using letters in a logo? I have been sketching w/ the letters M M for so long that I am unsure if it’s hokey or if I am over thinking things. (unfortunately my initials are M.O.M which is extremely hokey in the sporting goods industry!)

  25. Molly,

    I enjoy well-crafted monograms. The trick is to find an original idea, which is extremely difficult, as combining initials is often the first route designers take for logos.

  26. Hi David,
    I really enjoy the sketching, doodling. m final yr student of applied art, we always work on the softwares lk illustrator, flash, photoshop. but before every assigment i do write wat is topic about n then print my visualizing brain on the paper through the sketching..saw ur porfolio..liked ur work n process of designing…

    thnks David :)

  27. I’ve learned that sketches are a must for me – so it’s good to see that others agree. I seem to waste a lot of time trying to brainstorm in illustrator!

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