the graphic design blog that speaks the truth

Way back in June 2009 I wrote a certain article for Smashing Magazine and it got both positive and negative reviews. The article was in fact edited and included words which I would never dream of using. Some have said that that this list is aimed at beginners rather than experienced designers, which suggests that have missed the purpose of this article and more importantly the title. This is a compilation of the most “common” mistakes in the field I see being made every day, it is not a guide on how to create a logo. For anyone that is interested, here is the original raw article from start to finish:

Such is the power of the internet, with more eyes watcing than ever, it’s important for a business to communicate their unique message clearly. The easiest way to visually recognise and differentiate companies is via their respective logos.

Below we detail 10 common logo design mistakes you should avoid to create a successful and professional logo.

1. Designed By An Amateur

Avoid websites offering ridiculously cheap logo packages. You get what you pay for

A professional business should look professional. New business owners can often invest large amounts of time and money on premises and equipment, but when it comes to investing in a suitable logo the effort is not always matched.

The most common reasons why a logo has been designed by an amateur are:

  • the business owner sought to save money by designing a quick logo themselves
  • a friend or relative who claims to know a little about graphic design did it as a favour
  • the wrong people were commissioned. A local printers are not likely to be proficient in logo design
  • the business outsourced the job to a design competition website, which are in the main populated by amateur designers
  • the job was given to a website that offers really cheap logos

All of the above can result in a disastrous outcome. If your logo looks amateur, then so does your business. It’s important for a business to know where to look when seeking a new logo. David Airey offers a great insight on how to choose the right logo designer for your requirements.

The advantages of hiring an established and professional logo designer are:

  • your logo will be unique and memorable
  • there will be no problems further down the line for reproduction
  • your logo will have a longer lifespan and will not need to be redesigned every couple of years
  • your logo will represent your business in a professional manner

2. Using Raster Images

An example of how raster graphics can limit reproduction

The standard practice when designing a logo is to use Vector Graphics software, such as Adobe Illustrator or Corel Draw. A Vector Graphic is made up of mathematically precise points, which provides visual consistency at multiple sizes. The alternative of course is use to Raster Graphics software such as Photoshop.
A Raster Graphic, or Bitmap as they’re commonly called, consists of pixels.

The use of raster images in logos is frowned upon as it can cause problems for reproduction. Whilst you are still able to create a logo at high resolution in Photoshop, you will never know for sure how large it will need to be reproduced. If you zoom in on a raster graphic, it will eventually appear pixelated, rendering it inpractial. It’s essential for a logo to look the same at all sizes to maintain visual recognition.

The main advantages of using vector graphics in logo design are:

  • the logo can be scaled at any size without losing quality
  • it makes editing the logo at a later stage a much easier process
  • vector graphics can be applied to other design mediums easier than raster images

3. Using Stock Art

Using stock vector graphics in a logo can put your client at risk

This mistake is often made by business owners attempting to design their own logo or by amateur designers who are not clued up on the laws of copyright. Downloading stock vector imagery from sites such as VectorStock is not a crime, but it can get you into a lot of trouble if you decide to implement it into a logo.

A logo should be unique and original with the license agreement being exclusive to the client, using stock art breaks all of these rules. Chances are if you use a stock vector it is being used someone else in the world, so if used in a logo it no langer makes the business unique. You can spot a stock vector in a logo as they are normally familiar shapes such as globes or silhouettes.

4. Designing For Yourself Rather Than The Client

You should never input your own personality into client work

You can normally spot this logo design sin a mile off, and is usually the result of the designer having an enormous ego. If there is a cool new font that you love and just can’t wait to use it in your design, well, don’t. Is it really appropriate for the nature of the business your designing for? Your idea for a great modern typographic solution is unlikely to be suitable for a serious business such as a sollicitors.

Some designers also make the mistake of including their "recognisable style" in their work. Whilst it’s fair to say that you should be proud of your work it’s wrong to input your own personality into a logo. Stay focused on the clients requirements by sticking to the brief.

5. Relying On Trends

Focusing on current logo trends is like putting a sell by date on a logo

Trends come and go, swooshes, glows, bevels, which ultimately end up as cliches. A well designed logo should be timeless and this can be achieved by ignoring the latest design trick or gimmick. The most common cliche in logo design is the dreaded "corporate swoosh" which is the ultimate way to play it safe. As a logo designer, it is your job to create a unique identity for your client, so it is best practice to completely ignore logo design trends.

Logolounge have a great section on their website which details current logo design trends which is updated every year. It’s important as a designer that you are aware of the latest craze, mostly so that you can avoid it at all costs.

6. Over Complexity

Highly detailed designs are unlikely to scale well when printed or viewed at smaller sizes

Designers should be familiar with thumbnail images, so what better way to explain this common mistake than to refer to a finger print. If you take a look at your finger you will notice that you can only see the detail of your fingerprint when it is really close to your face, if you move your finger away the fingerprint is no longer visible. The same applies to highly detailed logo designs.

When printed, a complex design will lose detail at smaller sizes, and in some cases can look just like a smudge, or a mistake. The more detail in a logo means there is more information for the viewer to acknowledge. A great logo should be memorable and the best way to achieve this is to keep things simple. Take a look at the corporate identities of Nike, McDonald’s & Apple. Each company owns a very simple icon which is easily reproduced at any size.

7. Relying On Color

In the absence of colour your great design might lose it’s identity

This is a very common mistake to make. Some designers cannot wait to start adding colour to a design, and some logos even rely on it completely. Choosing colour should be the last decision, so it is best to start work in black and white.

There will come a time when a logo will need to be reproduced in one colour, so it’s important for a logo designer to test if this effects the identity. If colour helps to identify certain elements of the design then it will look completely diffferent in one tone.

8. Poor Choice Of Font

Deciding upon a font can make or break a great logo

When it comes to executing a logo concept, choosing the right font is the most important decision a designer can make. More often than not, a logo will be let down by a poor font choice (in our example the popular Comic Sans).

How to find the perfect font for your design is all about matching the style of the icon, but this can be tricky. If the match is too good the mark and font compete with each other for visual attention, if it’s completely opposite then the viewer will not know where to focus. The key is achieveing the right balance, somewhere in the middle. Each typeface has a personality, if the font you have chosen does not reflect the characteristics of the mark then the whole brand message will be miscommunicated.

The mistake of poor font choice is often made when not taking the decision seriously enough. Some designers simply throw the type in as an after thought. Professional font foundries such as MyFonts & FontFont offer great typefaces which are a better option than over-used free downloads.

9. Using Too Many Fonts

A logo works best with a maximum of two fonts

Using too many fonts is like trying to show someone a whole photo album all at once. Each typeface looks different, and the viewer needs time to recognise each face, seeing too many all at once can cause confusion.

It is standard practice to use a maximum of two fonts or differing weights. Restricting the amount of fonts in a logo design can greatly improve the legibility and increase brand recognition.

10. Copying Others

This is the biggest logo design mistake of all, and unfortunately is becoming more and more common. As has been said already in this article, the main purpose of a logo is to identify a business, if it looks the same as someone else, it fails. Copying others does nobody any favours, including the client and the designer.



  1. 09/03/10
    11:16 am
    I think this article is great. Why do business owners consider their brand last? I would put it before most things when budgeting for a new business.
  2. 15/03/10
    7:40 pm
    Great! Never seen anyone else write about the same specific points. Especially like the part about not using stock vectors in your logo. At our site,, people ask us all the time if they can use images from our site in a logo but they cannot legally...The only site that allows you to do so is and I wouldn't recommend it! You will have the same logo as 300,000 other people as shown in your illustration!
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