The art of the DIY Logo

If one principle of marketing is true for every industry, it is that the simplest logos represent the most successful brands. From Nike’s swoosh to Apple’s apple, from the swirl of Coke’s dynamic ribbon to the bullseye of Target’s target, these brands have a combined market capitalization of $1.45 trillion.

They also have the simplest and most straightforward logos. The logos speak for themselves, without the need for text or a space to fill with needless text. For marketers, my advice is to emulate the best by doing your best to have a logo that 1) aligns with your message, and 2) that is simple enough to duplicate, even if you cannot draw—and that consumers and fans can replicate.

If you cannot do it yourself, think before having others do it for you. If you need a designer to do it, because no one else can come close to drawing it, you have the wrong logo. With the “wrong” logo, consumers will, in turn, draw (if they draw anything) the wrong conclusions about your brand.

Go back to the drawing board, pun very much intended, until you get it right.

How to create a DIY logo

Draw your message without writing it or write it and then draw an image to match it, until the form of the image functions flawlessly. For example, write the first letter of the service you provide, like “H” for hospital, or draw the symbol that best represents what your organization does, like the emblem of the American Red Cross. Write and draw these things, not because they are easy to do, but because they make it easier to simplify your message.

Do not, however, try to create art. Instead, try to achieve an objective that satisfies these points:

  1. The logo itself is accessible, not abstract.
  2. The logo, be it the imprint on a business card or the insignia on a gift card, is identifiable.
  3. What people imagine that logo to be complements what they see, whenever they view it.

What they should see is the result of editing. What they should see must be clear and simple. Getting there is no different than editing a sentence or refining a sketch.

The power you add comes from what you subtract—the extraneous, the superfluous, the repetitive, the extravagant. You do not write paragraphs when a number will suffice. You don’t write paragraphs when three numbers, 911, are the number to call for help. You don’t write paragraphs when a symbol such as an arrow, telling you where to go, says everything without saying a word.

Edit the iconography of your industry, until you have your own icon. For example: If you sell coffee, refine the image of a cup and saucer. Pick the color of the band that wraps around the top and bottom of the cup, the handle of the cup too. Sign your name, in cursive, across the outside of the cup. If your signature is already iconic, all the better, since you may now serve your customers coffee.

To do these things is to do yourself a favor. To do these things is to have a logo that customers favor, which is what every business wants. That’s what your business should achieve by fulfilling the wants of your customers.

Janil Jean is the Director of Overseas Operations for LogoDesign.net. She writes about marketing and branding, in addition to speaking about these issues to entrepreneurs and executives worldwide. Janil also advises companies on best practices, sales, social media, and media relations.

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free e-mail from the ANA on Brand Activation, among SmartBrief's more than 200 industry-focused newsletters.