Good logo design means legibility first.

You can find quite a few hints and tips concerning logo design on the branding and graphics sites on the Internet. Many are helpful and worth considering.

But I don’t remember anyone addressing the shape of a logo.

I believe proportion is crucial.

It can really make a difference in legibility, particularly when logos need to be reproduced in a small size. Also, when a group of co-sponsors are listed, either on a web site or a print publication, their logos need to be reproduced with a uniform height and/or width. And so you see some logos that stand out and some you’ll be hard put to read at all. As the sample array demonstrates, square and circular logos don’t lend themselves to the co-op array at all.

 an array of logos

There are four branding elements that need to be considered here: name, font, symbol and tagline. For smaller logo reproduction, I’ll usually recommend the tagline be eliminated since it can’t be read anyway.

In designing logos, you’ll face your first problem if your name is a long, three-word descriptive group of words. Either you compromise the name (probably turning it into three initials) or you stack the words. Neither is a perfect solution.

This brings us to the second element, the font. Quite often a designer will resort to a condensed font if they’re presented with a longer name. But when shrunk, condensed type becomes illegible, particularly if it’s also bold face. Also, many designers are so intrigued with an unusual font “look” they’ll sacrifice legibility for the novel.

Finally, the symbol: legitimately, it might stand-alone in place of the name in logo form. But before that happens, it must become associated with the company and its name. One of the problems with using both a symbol and name together is the placement. If the symbol is placed to the left or right of the name, the entire line becomes too long and doesn’t standout when arranged with other logos. On the other hand, if the symbol is placed atop the name, when reduced to a standard height with other logos, it becomes far too small.

 Four approaches to the problem

So I suggest that when evaluating logo designs you ask the designer to show you how the recommended designs will occupy a one-inch by half-an-inch space. Or indeed, just download the array of logos here and ask her or him to overlay the recommended design on top of one.

Martin Jelsema

5 thoughts on “Good logo design means legibility first.

  1. Martin,

    This is an excellent point. I’ve seen some disastrous logos that seemed fine at 300 pixels, but became blobs when reduced. A great idea to insist on seeing the proposed logo in a range of sizes before making any final decisions!

  2. Teacher Martin, your blog is excellent for learning. Can we exchange our links?
    The name of our link is “Successful Branding”.


  3. Dear Teacher Martin,
    As you can see, my site has a really looooong name. We can’t compromise the wordings here because people have to remember our site name like Can you give us some advise? Have you came across site that has a long name but people remember it well.


  4. Samantha:
    Well, everything is relative.Your domain name,, isn’t really that long. To help memoribility I’d capitalize the “J” in jobs and the “B” in broadway. Other than that, and assuming there’s some relevancy between the name and the site content, I’d just consistantly and repeatedly promote the name. You ask about really long domain names that are successful. Well, in terms of characters, my main site,, has more than, and I’d call mine successful.

    Martin Jelsema

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