logo design pitfalls

Underformed Logos & Industry Shortcuts

Not all logo design services are equal. While many are honest and will get you your money's worth, many more will leave you with a logo you won't be able to use on your business cards, or flyer, or sign. That's because anyone can say "I'm a designer" on the internet, even when they don't have the necessary education or experience. And, if you as a buyer don't know what to look for, how will you be able to evaluate their work, and pick a reliable designer to do your logo?

Here we'd like to share some of the more common shortcuts and mistakes that are plaguing our industry. This way you'll know what to avoid, and you'll also understand why there's a big difference in price when it comes to logo design.

Impossible Colors

On screen color is created by light "from within" - when the red, green, and blue LEDs mix together. In the real world, we only see color when light reflects off a surface - like the cyan, magenta, yellow, and black inks used in commercial printing. Because of the different way color is made on screen and in real life, some colors that can be created on screen just cannot be recreated in the real world.

This means designers cannot just, say "choose a blue", but have to choose a blue that can actually be recreated in print. Otherwise the whole feel of the logo will change as the chosen color is replaced with another one on a business card or flyer.

Notice the difference in vibrancy in the RGB Colors above, and the CMYK Colors below

If colors outside a printable range were used, then the vibrant logo you liked and approved when you saw it on screen, will look dull when printed.

Color helps communicate emotions and create associations (e.g. rich green = healthy, yellow = fun), so having a color that communicates one thing online, and something else on a business card is a problem. Certain greens and blues are particularly at risk, and if you want to use them in your logo, you want to be extra careful, so you don't discover this change only after spending money on your new business cards, or truck wrap, etc.

Here are a couple examples to illustrate this change:

Blue as you'll see it on screen
Closest blue you can print
Green as you'll see it on screen
Closest green you can print

Non-Vector Files

There are two types of images; raster graphics - where the image is made out of many individual pixels, and vector graphics - where the image is made out of lines and shapes, and rules on how to fill them with color.

The first you already know - just think of "megapixels" as they describe the power of a camera. The more pixel information an image has, the more detailed it is, and the larger you can print it. What happens when you try to print a large photo from a poor quality source? It becomes blurry. Vector graphics don't have that problem, because there pixels are irrelevant.

For example, the tire in the logo below would be interpreted as a white circle in the center of a black circle, that's 58.5% bigger than the white one. These properties stay the same, whether you print it really small on a business card, or very large on the side of a trailer.

Here's how you'd see the logo
Here are the paths and shapes that a computer would interpret and fill with color

You'll probably want to use your logo in several places - website, email signatures, social media, business cards, flyers, signage, uniforms, car wraps, etc. But, if you don't have the right file formats you just won't be able to do that.

You need a designer experienced with vector graphics so you'd have a vector file (e.g. AI, EPS, PDF) of your logo. If all you have are raster files of your logo (e.g. JPEG, PNG), you won't be able to resize it without it losing quality. This means you wouldn't be able to place your logo on business cards, signage, uniforms, truck wraps, flyers, etc., without it blurring, and that looks unprofessional.

For example, here we enlarged a raster and a vector version of the same logo:

Notice the fuzzy edges of the raster on the left, and the sharp lines of the vector on the right

If your designer only delivers raster graphics you will have to hire another designer to redraw it as a vector - paying twice and losing time.

Sloppy Work

Generally speaking, the above errors are made by logo designers that just don't have the education or experience to know any better. Their prices tend to be lower, and you can avoid those problems. On the other hand, sloppy work is more a product of attitude than of inexperience and can be found at any price point.

Ensuring that everything lines up, that curves are smooth, that horizontal lines are actually horizontal, that spacing is even - it all takes extra time, and is boring non-creative work. Designers that are careless with your business logo think: "It won't be noticeable, so who cares", and most of the time it's true - it won't be noticeable. Until it is...

Check out this logo for example. It looks fine, doesn't it?

But, once you enlarge it (like for a vehicle wrap or signage), you'll see some pretty obvious mistakes.

example-of-sloppy-logo-design-work
example-of-sloppy-logo-design-work
example-of-sloppy-logo-design-work
example-of-sloppy-logo-design-work
example-of-sloppy-logo-design-work
example-of-sloppy-logo-design-work

1) arm should stretch further 2) stray point 3) shadow veers off path 4) curve extends too far 5) uneven spacing between letters 6) text isn't justified

When your logo is small, mistakes are hard to see and your customers generally wouldn't notice them. But, if your logo is large (wall decal, car wrap, store signage, etc), and you see sloppy work like that above, you would be justifiably angry. Especially, if your signage / car wrap guys miss or ignore them, and you only discover them after the sign / car wrap is done.

Then you'd be faced with a choice - give the impression to potential customers that your company doesn't care about small details, or pay for a new sign / car wrap. That's a tough choice for a new business.

Conclusion

It's these three problems that clients most often hire us to fix. But, there are also a lot of other smaller issues we've seen (e.g. fonts changing at print, because they weren't turned to objects, white backgrounds needing to be removed, non-vector effects removed, etc.), and even some larger ones (copied/stolen designs).

Your logo is very important. Your customers will recognize your company and identify with it based on the image it portrays. If your logo looks professional, they'll attribute professionalism to your company. If it looks unprofessional you might be taken less seriously.

A good logo designer should deliver an original design made to your preferences, free from the mistakes mentioned above, and ready for web and print-use, and supply you with all the files you would ever need to use your logo everywhere you want.

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You will be able to use your new logo everywhere you want - on your website, business cards, vehicle wraps, etc. And unlike underformed logos, yours will look sharp and correct in any size, and on all mediums.

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