Top 5 logo design mistakes that can paralyze your brand. The last one will surprise you!

As a brand designer, I know very well how confusing and frustrating the logo design process can be. Yes, even after 5+ years of experience and tons of successful projects behind me, I can still sometimes get stuck on deciding what the right direction for the logo could be. 

Most often, this happens when clients think they want something, and it turns out they want it for the wrong reason. It’s the reason I spend hours discussing the brand strategy with them, asking many different questions and trying to pinpoint what they need.

But when DIYing your new logo, you hardly have someone to hold your hand and ask the right questions. This is why we make a ton of mistakes, which won’t probably become evident until you start using your logo. 

No, I am not talking about the logo colors, fonts, the program you use to create it, or cliche symbols you want to use for your logo. All these things (and more) are super important for the proper functionality of the logo, but there are mistakes that run much deeper and can throw your brand off course for long

These 5 very important and probably unexpected mistakes you can make with your logo can have a big impact on your business in the long run are:

  1. Trying to be too different for the sake of being different
  2. Making decisions based on your personal preferences or trends
  3. Trying to be too specific or try to capture all your services in the logo
  4. Thinking that logo design alone will make your brand memorable
  5. Focusing too much on looks and not enough on strategy

1. Trying to be too different

Have you ever wondered why most travel logos look similar, with shades of green or blue color and most likely an airplane icon? Or how about design studios and creative people in general – have you noticed how most design logos either use an icon of a pencil/pen or a brushstroke? How about financial institutions with blue symbols?

Is that a coincidence? Is there nothing else they could use?
Did nobody tell them you should stand out from the crowd?

Frankly, most likely than not it was an intent.

And here’s why.

Our brain speaks in symbols.

Some symbols evoke certain things, as well as some colors, create specific feelings. So does that mean you’re destined to stay within your niche standards? Or could it be better to stand out from the rest? How do you figure out what’s the best way to proceed with your logo?

You need to know yourself and your vision first. How much do you want to distinguish yourself from the crowd? Being a rebel that goes against the stream makes you visible, brave, and unique in the eyes of others. But it has disadvantages as well. Being seen also means being judged more than usual.

Not everyone is ready for that. Not only that, but sometimes it makes more sense to stay within the outlined zone. Sometimes, there is a genuine reason why everyone uses the same colors or fonts. Sometimes, the research proved this is the smartest choice to be made. Being different is not always a good choice, precisely why this should be an educated decision instead of a wild guess.

You can also be different in so many other ways than with logo design. Our world is changing, and mass marketing is slowly transforming into relationship marketing. Being different these days doesn’t necessarily mean being a visual rebel. It may simply mean being honest with your audience. 

Being genuine. Authentic. Vulnerable. You know, being human.

Consider this simple yet so effective logo from the brand “Target.” It focuses on sustainable, inclusive, and quality products, all at incredible Target prices. What’s better than using a target symbol for the brand “Target.” It’s the perfect example of how the brain speaks in symbols. The circles here are used to convey the brand values- trust and community.

2. Making decisions based on your personal preferences or trends

Are you giving your logo a peachy look because that’s the color you like, or is it because pastels are trending? 

Umm, you are making a mistake here if you’re creating your logo for your own tastes. You’re not buying shoes for the season; you’re designing a brand that should live longer than the current trend or your personal preferences. 

For example, a few years ago, back when I was not including brand clarity in my process and was relying only on the information the client provided, I created a logo my client wanted.

They loved the trendy, clever, thought-provoking, negative space using logos that will stand out among 50 others from the same industry that was old school to say the least. And so I worked on exactly that. And they LOVED the result. It was exactly what they asked for and then some. But once the initial excitement faded, they realized it didn’t FEEL right. 

After several rounds of revisions and some in-depth conversations digging deeper into their needs and visions, we figured out that what they thought they wanted and what they in fact needed were basically opposite things. Because their industry was a bit old school still, and certain expectations from the look & feel of the brand were needed, the perfect logo for them was the one that will end up overlooked among 50 others from the industry.

But for them and their audience, it felt right. 

This may happen if you try to create something that is not aligned with your vision

It can also happen when you try to be on trend instead of creating something targeted to YOUR audience. Because you can have a perfect logo but if you don’t know what your brand is about, it won’t work. But if you have a strong brand all you need is to find people who believe in the same things you believe. No matter the logo you have.

Get inspired by trends but do not follow them blindly. When designing your logo, select colors based on the brand’s vision and your audience’s psychology. That’s what will make you stand out from the crowd.

Here’s how Apple’s logo evolved from a rainbow pattern into shiny chrome and then flat color.

The first color display computer inspired the rainbow pattern, and the logo you see today demonstrates sleekness and sophistication, beautifully describing Apple’s style.

The logo is unique because it coincides with the brand vision and not the designer’s personal preferences.

3. Trying to be too specific about your services

Are you trying to make your logo communicate everything about your services? 

A picture may be worth 1000 words, but you still need words. When you try to make your logo say everything for you, the message could easily get lost.

You want your logo to represent everything your brand is. And I support that. Just not in the literal sense. Take this from a person who designed more logos than she can remember, the idea of designing something that describes the business properly is my ultimate goal. But it’s rare that the images of the tool or service featured in a logo are the ones the business actually uses.

More often than not, I use metaphors or hidden meanings. But even then, you need to be careful not to complicate.

Like here with my client Victoria, who came to me with her old logo that was trying to show the services she was providing (financial advice & analytics during divorce) while using metaphors and various combinations of symbols.

I believe she had the logo created by her father’s friend, and it was supposed to include:
– the wisdom she provides (owl)
– divorce (she choose the most used law symbol out there which probably confused the hell out of people since she is not a lawyer)
– the goddess Athena for strategy, courage, (there is an arrow in the middle)

The result?

A logo that was cartoonish, too descriptive, confusing, and unreadable in small sizes.

So what about the new logo you ask?

We stripped the old logo down to one important fact – in the overly masculine niche she operates in but working mostly with women, we knew we’re walking a thin line between strong but approachable, feminine but not too subtle.

We wanted to use a strong yet feminine font and to give the logo a friendly element, we created a little mascot. We chose to keep the owl as it truly is the most known symbol for wisdom, in a way also inspired by Victoria herself.

Its beak is shaped as a heart which represents the emotions involved in divorce negotiations, as well as the relationships between the parties she’s helping to preserve. And while this mascot is always present (same as Victoria always supports her clients), it’s not there to attract too much attention. It sits next to the name, overlooking everything while being a tight part of the whole name.

Do you need more examples?

How about this symbol? Do you recognize it??

Of course, you do! Who doesn’t? 

The $35 Nike Swoosh logo doesn’t specify what the brand sells. It’s a simple design with a hidden meaning that generates curiosity. Speaking of being curious, did you know that the original Nike logo cost just $35 to create (about 50 years ago)?

The Nike symbol is shaped as a very minimalistic wing of the Greek goddess of Victory, Nike. It also symbolizes the sound of speed, movement, power, and motivation. It doesn’t draw out the details but indeed depicts the brand’s values and purpose. 

So, it’s okay if your logo doesn’t describe what you do. Let them guess and find out. Make them intrigued instead of confused. Tease your audience a bit and allow them to discover your purposeful brand.

5. Focusing too much on looks and not enough on strategy

You’re a perfectionist, I know. Welcome to the club. You want your logo to be just right and spend hours and hours making it look like every logo dream you’ve ever had. 

I feel you. I do that too sometimes. (actually, all the time 🙂 ) 

You want your logo to look attractive with the perfect color palette, but forgot to define your brand’s core values?? I’ll be the first one to admit that the perfect aesthetics are appealing, but not at the cost of missing out on your brand vision. 

You can have a “perfect” logo, but it won’t do the job you expect it to do if you don’t know what your brand is about. (and maybe then it isn’t..ahem…perfect.) Because your logo actually doesn’t matter as much as you think when it comes to spreading the message, finding the right customers/clients, or selling your products. It won’t do the job FOR YOU. But if you have a strong brand, all you need is to find people who believe in the same things as you. No matter what curves or colors you have in your logo. Your audience will recognize you for what you stand for.

It’s easy to overcomplicate your logo with colors and different aesthetics. But sometimes and especially when DYI-ing your logo) it’s better to focus on the bare essentials and let them shine.  

Consider these three simple logos, which we know have a strong strategy behind them.

You can use minimalism to create maximum effectiveness for your logo. This is how you can elevate your brand with even straightforward typography mixed with a good understanding of color psychology and fonts beautifully depicting values and the company’s culture.

5. Thinking that logo design alone will make your brand memorable

As a brand designer, I understand the importance of the perfect logo, but is that all your brand needs?

There are surely other things required to make your brand memorable. A website that goes beyond pretty pictures and certainly, on-brand content that should be recognizable and consistent across all social media platforms. It includes the look and feel of your brand, templates, presentation slides, E-books, email templates and much more.

Oh! Don’t worry. I know it can be a bit overwhelming at the beginning. I never said that you need to have all that immediately. Take baby steps and you’ll reach there. 

I believe in you 🙂

I know that you want to build a brand that’s more than just a pretty shell, a brand with a purpose. Creating a memorable brand takes much more than just a logo. Give yourself the clarity, direction & confidence that you need to share your brand with the world.

Wrapping up

Being confident in your brand is the first step to a successful business, rather than having a logo. There are many things to stress about while starting a business or pivoting an old one. Building a logo should not be one of them.

Before you jump into designing a logo, think about the overall strategy behind the brand. When you feel clear and confident about what the brand needs to communicate, play with different colors and fonts, put in all your creativity but don’t blur out the vision behind your aesthetic elements. 

Let the creative juices flow and come up with numerous beautiful logo designs that represent your purposeful brand. Make sure you avoid these 5 mistakes if you DIY your brand logo.  

So, are you ready to show your brand logo to the world? Because we sure are super excited to see it. 

For more tips on building a personality-driven brand that you’re dying to share with others, follow me on Instagram.

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Top 5 logo design mistakes that can paralyze your brand. The last one will surprise you!

Zuzana Zapletal

Brand Strategist, Creative Designer & Recovering Perfectionist on a mission to help you become more confident about your brand.

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