How to design your own logo and five other key design tips

Whether it’s creating your own logo or developing graphic design techniques to help make visually arresting icons, business cards or websites, this guide will give you clear advice on how to become a better designer, no matter what the job.

How to design a logo

Creating your own logo requires plenty of research. First off, spend some time online looking at classic logos and what they have in common. Then, make a mood board, using print outs of logos you like to create a visual reminder of what you hope to achieve. Before you turn on your computer and open your illustration software, spend some time sketching ideas on pen and paper, ensuring you keep even the most basic of doodles – you never know when they might come in handy. If you’re making a logo for a brand, make sure it tallies with its wider identity, from fonts used on websites to how it positions itself in the market.

When it comes to the actual design of your logo, it pays to keep things simple. Remember that the most famous of logos are deceptively basic, making them easier for people to recall. To make it stand out, it’s worth learning how to make custom typefaces, while using colors that draw the eye. If that seems too challenging, you can use online makers to create a simple logo for your personal brand or start–up.

design a letterhead

How to design a letterhead

A simple approach is required when it comes to designing a letterhead. It should take inspiration from a brand’s identity, using the same themes and colors as found on websites and business cards.

It’s important to use vector–based design software tools to make a letterhead. These allow you to scale designs up and down without losing quality. The key graphic design techniques of hierarchy and alignment also come into play – decide whether a letterhead should primarily showcase a logo or company name and place it accordingly.

It’s vital to remember that a letter is meant to communicate a specific message, with the letterhead itself a secondary component, albeit an important one. With that in mind, try not to overuse color and keep clutter at the top of the page to a minimum. Contact details can always be placed at the bottom of the page as a way of maximizing all the space on an A4 page.

design business cards

How to design a business card

Business cards are still a modern essential, even in the digital age. And while it can be tempting to get an online service to make one for you, designing your own will help make you and your brand more eye–catching.

There are some basic rules to keep in mind. Ensure any text is within 5mm of the edge of the card; have a minimum size for typefaces, so details can read easily; and use basic colors to keep things simple. A grid design is a good place to start, meaning hierarchy is easily maintained. Sizing should ideally be the same as a credit card, so a card can be easily slipped into a wallet.

Make sure that once you’ve made your card you speak with the printing service you intend to use about any special techniques that could help it look different. Die cuts, foil finishes or rounded corners all make business cards stand out from the pack.

design websites

How to design a website

Web design is a whole career in itself. But that doesn’t mean you should be put off about learning the basics and trying to build your own site, whether it’s for a client or your own brand.

While web design evolves rapidly, there are some simple rules to follow. Make sure you understand what your website is trying to achieve before you start designing it. That means a clear, simple landing page, with obvious calls to action, especially important if the site is selling something. It also pays to research current web design trends – understanding the vogue for ‘brutalist’ and minimal looks will help you get inspired and decide whether you want your site to look like others or stand out from the crowd.

There is a plethora of online tools to help you build your site, often with templates ready-made to reflect what kind of website you’re building. These are invaluable and are the backbone of any good website. Even with such powerful tools, it pays to understand color theory, as well as design basics such as the ‘F format’. The latter means that a site’s most important information should follow the shape of the letter F, based on how users’ eyes scan the page on a screen.

How to design icons

Icons are made in sets, which means they need to work well together and belong to a group. To do this, it's important to start with simple shapes – an icon should be drawn using circles, triangles or squares before being refined.

Starting designs within a set grid and a dedicated border means that each icon will have the beginnings of a uniform look. Then it’s a case of bringing your paper–based sketches to life using design software. Consistency is key. That means adding a small feature such as corner cut out or curve to each icon so that they are obviously related. It’s worth avoiding hand drawn curves, instead relying on software to add them into designs to ensure they are perfect every time.

Because icons tend to be small, especially on smartphone screens, it’s essential to keep pixels aligned. Any angles on an icon that hasn’t been aligned properly may appear out of shape and poorly put together.

As with all good design, simplicity is essential, even more so with icons. Flourishes and overly illustrated designs will be hard to discern and make icons look overly fussy.

How to create a visual identity

A visual identity should resonate across an entire brand, from its website, business cards, logos, color schemes and fonts. Before settling down to design all of these elements, it’s important to conduct research into the people interacting with a brand, as well as understanding exactly what the brand is trying to achieve. The answers to these questions will ensure you have a good basis for creating a visual identity. They will tell you if the look should be serious or playful, modern to traditional.

It’s vital that a visual identity is consistent. That means using the same colors across all aspects and understanding that different colors can evoke different emotions. If a brand makes apps designed to improve mental health, then a calming blue will be better than a brash red, for example. Fonts should be the same throughout, with no more than two used. These should complement each other and be used consistently for the same calls to action across a website, letterhead or business card.

Make sure that any images used in promotional materials or online are reflective of the brand’s mission and the people who use it. A tightly made visual identity can be easily undermined by imagery that doesn’t fit with the brand as a whole.

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