Logo Design Trends. What works. What doesn't

Hello fellow designers. I have a question about logo design. I was taught traditional graphic design before computers and have tried to keep up online over the following years (decades). Anyone else with similar experience (or not) I would appreciate some insight or discussion on logo design. In general I have believed that the simpler the logo the better and while colour is very important, if a logo does not look good in black and white it will not be effective when it is transferred to colour, or work as well ie; too much detail, multitones, gradients, halftones, illustrations, etc are not scalable and much gets lost in certain applications. While they may be fine for online viewing, if reduced to a mark for certain print, clothing or packaging options, the logo will lose integrity. However, I have just read an article by a designer showing the latest trends:

Logo design trends 2019 are:

  1. bright colors,
  2. multi-color gradients,
  3. metallic logos,
  4. geometric shapes,
  5. minimalist illustrations,
  6. minimalist typography,
  7. creative logotypes,
  8. illustration substitutes for a letter,
  9. artistic logos and illustrations.

I have a young client that is starting a new business and will have packaging, watermarks, etc and am trying to appease this person’s desire for more detail, while trying to build a foundation that will work in the longterm and is scalable from a half inch mark to billboard size. So what do you think? Am I stuck in the old?

You’ve brought up a subject that’s been discussed here every now and again.

Here’s my take on it.

Logos should be simple because sometimes they need to be reproduced in ways that can’t handle detail, like being cut in vinyl, pad printed on a pen barrel, etched into glass, watermarks, etc. For similar reasons, logos should also work in B&W (which is different from grayscale).

That said, technology has changed. Most logos are reproduced in full color most of the time. We no longer live in a world where things like B&W phone books, newspapers, copiers, laser printers and FAX machines are the primary limiting consideration. So with that being the case, I think that several versions of a logo are often warranted — a simple, B&W version; a spot color variant; a full-color version; and for those companies where it seems appropriate, a blinged out version for the increasingly common times when color and detail aren’t issues.

With relatively cheap and ubiquitous digital printing, large format work, high-definition video and other means of reproduction, I’ll even go one step further in the whole logo argument. A stand-alone logo that can be plugged into an empty space is still needed, but there’s an opportunity to do a whole lot more with unique and memorable branding. Even though every company in the world thinks they need a logo and even though a whole crowdsourcing industry has sprung up around them, I think their worth has been eclipsed by the opportunities for other kinds of consistent and interesting visual branding that extend beyond traditional logos.

As for logo trends. Styles change over time, but fashion trends should largely be ignored. Designers should be trendsetters, not followers. In other words, it shouldn’t matter to a good designer what someone declared as being a logo trend for 2019 or 2020.

Another thing that constantly changes, but shouldn’t be ignored, is technology and what it makes possible. Looking back over the years, much of what was popular in graphic design during any given decade was the result of the technical limitations of the time. As I mentioned, technology has made the possibilities for good branding extend considerably beyond traditional one-color logos. So even though these kinds of logos are still needed, I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’re necessarily the main starting point any longer.

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Thank you for taking the time to write a comprehensive reply. You have really helped me to think this through. I am excited about the opportunities that the new technology has brought and continues to bring to design.While we have so much available to us now, in my opinion, I still feel there is a need for a simple design as the basic foundation for a logo and that a good logo is timeless (ignoring fashion trends, as you said) and will last the life of an enterprise. However, I think we can take that basic foundation and expand on it by creating colour versions, animations and video graphics that ‘bend’ with the changing opportunities while remaining true and consistent to the main message of the logo.

Thank you again for your time and consideration on this topic.

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The traditional way to approach logo design is to start in B&W with an eye toward adding color. In today’s world, it might be more appropriate to think in terms of them being equally important. Sometimes, it might even be more appropriate to think of color first with an eye toward a simpler B&W fall-back mark.

Logos are called upon to perform in broader settings than 10 or 20 years ago. Taking that expanded role into consideration at the start of a branding project might warrant a paradigm shift in the way they’re approached. The end results might be the same in many instances. In others, maybe not.

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In addition, for me, simplicity in logo design is not only about the limitations of reproduction, it is about distilling often complex ideas into a simple, memorable visual mnemonic that becomes imbued with emotional capital over time. There are exceptions, obviously, but in the main the most successful brands have simple, readily-recognisable logos, because the point of them is as a quick, effective identifier for everything the recipient knows about that company or organisation.

There is a reason that so many of the world’s national flags are just a couple of stripes of different colours and little else. You need an effective, quick way to rally emotional patriotism and loyalty – originally on the battlefield. Battles are won and lost on emotional attachment and loyalty. The same is true, though of course the stakes aren’t quite so high, for selling stuff to people or eliciting a response from a given audience.

We are simple creatures (or maybe that’s just me) and our subconscious responds to simple shapes and colours at a pretty base emotional level.


We were taught to have a logo that works completely at postage stamp size.

One way to do that is to sketch in tiny boxes (like 2"x3") to get a geometric design element that’s pleasing. Then make a big one (like 8x12") and print it out a few times. Then sketch on it to see where you can add detail fro larger versions.

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