13 graphic logo design mistakes and how to avoid them

Having clarified the strategic mistakes in logo design, in this article we come to the graphic mistakes in logo design and how to avoid them. This post is part of the Logo Design Guide post series.

1. Cliparts in the logo

Why is this important? Every company is unique. The logo should be too. Others can also use these graphics because we do not have exclusive rights to use them. So logos become interchangeable and lose communication power.

How can this mistake be avoided? If we do not want to create our own image element for our logo, we should commission a designer. The designer must assure us in writing of the exclusive rights of use.

Note: Prefabricated graphics from clipart catalogs or stock portals have no place in a logo.

2. Graphic Effects

Why is it important? Graphic effects quickly appear playful and come at the expense of the simplicity that characterizes a good logo. Often, the legibility of fonts also suffers from effects such as drop shadows.

How can this mistake be avoided? A good logo usually gets by with a small selection of colors. Color gradients across the entire color spectrum are therefore taboo. The same applies to shadows. If we insert the logo into a presentation or flyer ourselves, then we are well advised to simply ignore the program’s effects palette. Insert logo, scale – that’s it!

Note: There is rarely a good reason to add drop shadows, contour effects or gradients to your logo.

3. Small details

Why is this important? There are scenarios where the logo can only be displayed very small. Small graphics or fonts in the logo then disappear or look blurry, which is why professional logos avoid such details. This becomes really obvious when our logo appears next to other logos on small flyers. Or if we book a very small advertisement for cost reasons, on which we still desperately want to place our logo. It is annoying when we spend a lot of money on the advertising measure and the logo does not come into its own at all. Small graphics or fonts are therefore almost never found in professional logos.

How can this mistake be avoided? We can test the display by printing the logo very small (1 cm-2 cm width) or saving it on a computer in a very small resolution (below 64 pixels) and then opening it. Are all graphic elements easily recognizable? Are the fonts still legible? We should be able to answer “yes” to both questions.

Note: Logos are not paintings. Good logos avoid small detail graphics and small fonts.

4. Use design trends

Why is this important? If a logo design is mainly defined by a design trend, this can lead to problems in the long run. The logo will look stale in the future and may need to be renewed. An example of this is the redesign of many app icons for smartphones. Everything used to be glossy and textured. Many logos picked up on this trend. Suddenly, flat reduced graphics were “in” again. Suddenly, many logos (e.g. Instagram’s logo) looked outdated and had to be redesigned.

How can this mistake be avoided? Good logos are timeless. They achieve this through a simple and clear design language without graphic effects and other bells and whistles. Striking textures, trendy colors or fonts that will be “out” in a few years should therefore be used with caution. The simpler the logo design, the greater the chance that it can be used in the long term.

Note: The design of a good logo is timeless

5. Wrong color choice

Why is this important? Colors touch us on an emotional level and evoke certain feelings in us. If we decide to use a colored logo, we should strengthen the power of communication and take advantage of the effect of colors. However, an indiscriminate choice of colors can have a counterproductive effect.

How can this mistake be avoided? The effect of colors varies culturally. While in the Western world black is associated with mourning, for the Japanese the color white is used to express sadness. The following table shows which colors produce which effects in our culture. We should use this knowledge to find the appropriate color for our own logo.

colorpositive associationsnegative associationsFavorite color in % Women / Men
bluequiet, relaxing, trustful, reliable, authoritarian, strongcold, impersonal, depressive, boring36 / 40
redstrong, brave, passionate, dynamic, active, seductive, warm, vitaldangerous, aggressive, dominant, arrogant, brutal, angry, loud, exciting20 / 20
orangecreative, friendly, warm, inviting, vital, young, cheerfulcheap, unserious, intrusive, loud, restless1 / 0
yellowfriendly, happy, optimisticpushy, poisonous, cowardly, envious4 / 5
greennatural, relaxing, calm, positive, harmonious, restfulimmature, sour, bitter, inexperienced12/ 12
purpleextraordinary, magic, imaginative, fashionable, original, creativeunnatural, uncertain, unobjective, artificial, ambiguous5 / 1
blackprofessional, serious, elegant, classic, neutral, businesslike, modern, functionalgloomy, sad, lonely8 / 8
whitesimple, minimalist, neutral, clean, purecold, sterile, empty3 / 3
graybusinesslike, elegant, professional, formalboring, characterless, dull, depressing0 / 3
brownwarm, earthy, natural, reliable, traditional, security, cozinessheavy, withdrawn, comfortable, old-fashioned, dirty, sad2 / 1
pinksecure, calm, serene, tenderreserved, shy8 / 2

Note: The chosen color must suit us and our company as well as appeal to the target group

6. Color chaos

Why is this important? Some companies can be recognized without a logo just by their original color scheme. Let’s think of Deutsche Telekom, Google or national colors, for example. Just by the color combination we can assign a company or a country. Therefore, when designing a color logo, special importance should be given to the choice of a color scheme, because unclear color schemes can weaken the communication power of our logo.

How to avoid this mistake? In the previous step, we found a suitable main color for the logo. Now we need to find another accent color. The additional color should be as contrasting as possible to the previous color. 

In design theory, there are various contrast possibilities (e.g. warm-cold contrast, complementary contrast, variegated-contrast). Beautiful color combinations can also be found on Adobe® Color (https://color.adobe.com). 

Of course, a good designer can also advise us on this topic if we point it out to him. It is worth putting some effort into a suitable color scheme, because a concise color scheme can significantly increase the communication power of our logo.

Examples of color combinations and associations:

Safety: green, blue, white
Professionalism: black, blue, blue
Trust: Blue, White
Performance: Blue, Gold, Red
Luxury: Gold, Black, Gray, Silver

Note: A simple and concise color scheme strengthens the communicative power of our logo

7. Too much text in the logo

Why is this important? We can usually memorize images much faster than text. This is one reason why a logo should contain as few characters as possible. In addition, smaller representations of a logo can cause problems if it contains too much text. This then quickly becomes illegible.

How can this error be avoided? The product name or company name (abbreviations are useful for long company names) should be the only text elements of your logo. Claims or slogans should not be elements of the logo. Therefore, it is better to put them separately on the website or in the flyer.

Note: Claims and slogans are not part of the logo

8. Photography as a picture element

Why is this important? Photographs are too complex for the representation of a logo. This is problematic for small representations of the logo. In addition, photographs cannot be scaled infinitely (see “Rasterized Logos”).

How can this error be avoided? Instead of being made from photographs, the image element of a logo should always be an illustration (in vector graphics format) with a defined color selection. This ensures a clear shape and color scheme and makes the logo fit for optimal display in various media.

Note: Photos in the company logo are taboo!

9. Diffuse silhouette as a picture element

Why is this important? Complex image elements with diffuse silhouettes are difficult to store in our memory. This is to the detriment of communication power.

How can this mistake be avoided? For symbolism, it is advisable that the picture element is composed of simple geometric shapes. Instead of complex graphics or photographs, good logos consist of a unique, yet simple silhouette. Often, good logos consist of a clever combination of simple geometric shapes (Fig.1). A particularly good way to measure the quality of this silhouette is to color the entire logo black or capture its shadow cast. Cartoon character illustrators also use this technique to create a character with a high recognition effect. If even children can trace the silhouette of the logo, but the shape is still distinctive, then we have found the perfect logo.

Note: The perfect silhouette is simple yet striking

10. Too many fonts

Why is this important? The focus of a logo should be on the image element. Different fonts in the text portion of the logo distract too much from that. Too many fonts also make a logo choppy and too complex.

How can this mistake be avoided? Design-wise, it looks nice when different font styles from one font family are combined. For example, when one part is regular and another part is bold. Alternatively, a strong contrast between fonts is possible by combining serif fonts with sans serif fonts. However, for the simplicity of the logo it is better to reduce the text part and the choice of fonts to the absolute minimum.

Note: The text part of a logo should contain a maximum of two different fonts

11. Thin fonts and lines are typical logo design mistakes

Why is this important? A good logo needs to work in a very small space. Thin fonts or lines are responsible for an unclear typeface in small scaled logos. In particular, thin fonts and lines are a problem when printed in white on a colored background, or when the logo is placed on a website in low resolution.

How can this error be avoided? The selected font weight in the logo should be set to at least “Regular” or “Normal”. Better for the small display is “bold” or “bold”. If dark lines are printed on a light background, the line weight should be at least 0.25 pt (0.09 mm). If light lines are printed on a dark background, the line width should be at least 0.5 pt (0.18 mm). If a thin font is required for communication reasons (e.g. fitness brand that uses a thin font to emphasize the communication in the logo), the above line widths should still not be undercut if scaled appropriately.

Note: Thin fonts compromise logo scalability

12. The wrong font

Why is it important? Inappropriate or unprofessional fonts limit the communication power of the logo and can cause problems in your own corporate design. For example, many free fonts do not include umlauts such as “ä, ü, ö, ß” in the character set, because they contain only American characters. This can become a problem if we want to use the font of the logo also for our business letters and business cards.

How can we avoid this mistake? Before we decide on a font we should definitely try out the special characters “§, $, %, &, € …”. Once all the characters are present, it is still a question of whether the chosen font fits the communication goal. After all, the chosen font should emphasize the message of the logo.

font Familyserif fontssans-Serif fontsplayful fonts
Times New Roman
Marker Felt,

Note: The font for the logo should be chosen carefully

13. Weak contrasts

Why is this important? Light gray or light tones don’t work on every medium. For example, desaturated and low-contrast logos are difficult to perceive on beamer presentations with poor lighting conditions and can therefore lose their meaning.

How can this mistake be avoided? For some companies, there are good reasons to rely on subtle colors and contrasts. However, if the strategic orientation of the logo does not require pastel colors, the logo should feature rich colors and strong contrasts. More subtle colors can also be used in places. However, the basic shape of the logo should have a strong contrast to the respective background.

Note: High contrast logos often work better. Low Contract logos are typical logo design mistakes.

Technical logo design mistakes

In the last part of the series on logo design mistakes i describe the typical mistakes in the technical handling of logo design

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