Because there should be a few rules….

Designing a great logo is obviously no easy endeavor. We’re talking about designing the visual representation of a business’s brand after all. It’s like designing a symbol for your friend. How would you design it? What would that symbol look like to show your friend’s personality? This is ultimately what logo design is: creating a symbol that visually represents the personality of the business to the world.

Now, to some people, that may sound like finding a font they like or a picture they prefer and that’s all there is to it, but there’s so much more to it than that. To make this topic interesting, instead of looking at all of the to-do’s, today we’re going to look at the do nots (no, not doughnuts). So, let’s dig in the technical ways of how not to design a logo.

Too much

One of the first things you might notice in some logos is having too much of one thing or another.

Too many colors – although it might work for some brands, most of the time, having more than two colors in a logo doesn’t work. It will lack an established color palette for the visual identity which could have been used in other collateral (letterhead, envelopes, business cards, etc.) and would have made it easy to recognize as being part of a cohesive package.

Too complex – one of the main goals for a logo is to be easily memorable and thus recognizable when seen out in the world. If the logo is too complex, the audience has to remember a lot to recognize it later. Another issue is that it won’t scale down well. As the logo is used at smaller sizes (which is quite frequently in the digital realm), the details will get blurred and unrecognizable.

Too simple

Just the opposite of designing a logo with too much, you can also have a logo that’s too simple. Using generic shapes like a circle or a square on its own isn’t going to work. The logo needs to be unique and the way to for a logo to be unique, is by having more than just a generic shape.
I remember when the new logo for USA Today came out, there were mixed feelings because it was literally a colored circle. It isn’t very unique, so it only works without the word mark in their publication or website. When they want to use the logo outside of their platforms, they have to include the words “USA Today” otherwise you wouldn’t know what the circle was for.


An unbalanced logo will just feel off. You can tell that if you had a physical version of the logo and were to set it on a table, it would fall over. This creates a tension in the overall design and makes the viewer uncomfortable.
It could either be that its lopsided with one side having more weight than the other or top heavy where most of the weight is above some smaller graphic elements.

Doesn’t work in black and white

Logos are used in many applications some of them include being limited to only black and white or using a single color. If a logo doesn’t work in black and white, it will limit the number of ways your client can use their logo.
For example, if you have designed a logo using three overlapping colors, how exactly can you turn that into a simple one-color logo? If you didn’t consider it working in black and white, it is going to be extremely difficult.


Designing a successful logo for your client is very difficult. There is a lot to consider to create one that is memorable and will work in all of the applications your client will need. This also means considering things that shouldn’t be done including:

  • Don’t use many colors. Having too many colors will make the logo lack an established color palette (an element that helps build a cohesive visual identity).
  • Don’t make the logo too complex. This will make the logo harder to memorize and doesn’t work at smaller sizes.
  • Don’t make the logo too simple. A logo that isn’t unique won’t be memorable or identifiable.
  • Don’t design the logo to be unbalanced. If the logo looks like it’s going to topple over if it was a physical object, it creates tension in the overall design.
  • Don’t design the logo to not work in black and white. If you don’t design the logo to work in black and white, it limits the number of ways the logo can be used and won’t work in every application your client may need.

Obviously, there are exceptions to this list, so it really comes down to the goals of the project and what your client’s needs are. To get more into that topic, check back next week when I cover the theoretical do nots of how to design a logo.

Have you found yourself doing any of these things on this list of things you shouldn’t do when designing a logo?

Tell me about it!

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