If you want to learn logo design there are heaps of premium books and training resources out there that you can invest in, but if you want to learn on a budget thankfully there’s plenty of free resources out there too, but it can be quite overwhelming to know where to start and what to trust.
To help you on your journey to becoming a logo designer, below is an overview of some of the best free logo design resources online that will help you become a master without spending a single penny.
This resource is broken down into the following sections, which will cover pretty much everything you need to know to get started:
- What is a logo and why do they matter
- How to create a logo design brief
- Using a logo design process
- Research before you start
- Sketching ideas
- Learning Adobe Illustrator
- Getting feedback from others
- Presenting your logo designs
- Dealing with client feedback
- Preparing logo files
- Learning more
What is a logo and why do they matter?
I remember the first book I read on logo design had a section titled “what is a logo”. Honestly that felt quite patronising… is it not obvious what a logo is? But I learned that there’s more to a logo than I had realised, so as a starting point I recommend reading the blog I wrote titled “What’s the purpose of a logo and why do they matter” which will be a good primer.
The below video is also incredible. It features one of the greatest logo designers in the industry, Michael Beirut of Pentagram where he explains what makes a great logo. Seriously one video worth watching!
Create a design brief
Before you start working on idea generation you need to understand the goals of the logo. You need to understand who the business is, what they do, who their competition are and the people they will be targeting. To know this information you need to ask questions. I personally create goals, which form a tick list of objectives that the logo should meet. You can find out how I do that, and see the questions I ask too in my blog post: A designers guide to creating a logo design brief
If you just want to practice (which is advisable if you’re just starting out), the below sites are useful for finding fictional logo design briefs:
If you don’t want to do that, as a practice exercise to learn the tools it’s beneficial to find logos and try to recreate them. If you want to create something entirely new, find a logo that needs a redesign, and work through the below steps to improve the logo. There’s plenty of bad design out there… just make sure to follow the process below, rather than designing ‘a pretty picture’ – logo design is a strategic business tool, so the sooner you realise that the better.
Use a logo design process
As I’ve learned from interviewing other logo designers on the logo geek podcast, there no single set-in-stone logo design process.
Every designer works in their own way, so as you learn and improve you’ll find what approach works for you. The ultimate goal is to end with a logo, so how you reach that end point is up to you. I personally run though a very basic 5 step logo design process, and as a starting point I recommend you take the same approach. The 5 steps are as follows:
- Create goals
- Idea Generation & Design
- Presentation & Amends
- Creation of Logo Files
If you want to get a feel for the different types of processes out there, take a look at these infographics collected by Creative Market.
Do your Research…
Before you can start designing anything you need to have a good understanding of the business and its competition. To know this you’ll need to do some research. Most of this can be done by asking questions, but it’s always worth doing your own digging too. This blog I created for Creative Bloq a few years back will be a helpful primer: 5 things to research before designing a logo.
Not many designers like doing research, but it’s an essential step. The more you understand about the business, the better the final solution will be… the better you can present the design… and the greater the likelihood that work will get approved first time will be too as you can demonstrate a clear understanding of the problem faced.
Sketch Ideas on Paper
It’s always good to start on paper. Everyones favourite designer, Aaron Draplin made the strongest argument for sketchbook work when he contributed the below tip to the free 50 logo design tips from the pros eBook I compiled a few years back, which you’ll also enjoy.
“Always start on paper. There’s something liberating about the freedom, wobbliness and humanity of a pencil sketch. There’s a speed to it. An unpredictability. Accidents happen. You can get to the magic that much faster on paper, than on some cold screen. Be it a stick in the dirt, charcoal on a cave wall or a pencil in you memo book, you are tapping into the time-tested method of communication, formulating and invention. And remember to do it in your Field Notes for maximum performance and durability.”
And to expand on his quote, the below video is worthy viewing… and is possibly one of my favourite videos. It briefly runs through Aarons sketchbook work, and how he then takes that into illustrator to create the finished piece. Aaron kindly admitted in the interview I did with him that he always spends more time on sketching than he did in this video, so make sure you do the same.
This video from my friend Vincent Burkhead is also a fantastic watch, and focuses completely on sketching logo ideas.
…and this video from Von Glitchka is great too! Sketching is where the magic happens.
When coming up with ideas, it’s useful to look at some of the best logo designs out there for reference. One of my favourite inspiration books is Trademarks and Symbols, but as it’s now out of print, old and rare it’s sadly really expensive… Thankfully you can view it completely free online here.
Learn Adobe Illustrator
Once you have your ideas down on paper you’ll now want to make digital versions of them. As a logo needs to work at a range of sizes, from buttons right up to shop signs and billboards, the file type you’ll need to create is vector format which is a type of image built up from mathematical points rather than pixels, meaning it can be scaled indefinitely with no loss of quality. To create vector images, you’ll need Adobe Illustrator.
There’s also a couple of free software packages that will allow you to create vector files which are listed in the post ‘The Tools Needed to be a Logo Designer‘, however as Adobe Illustrator is the industry standard software, the below resources focus on that.
Below is a real quick start guide to the basic tools of Adobe Illustrator.
The Pen tool is one tool that you really need to master. This video from Chris Do is a useful one to watch to help you draw perfect Bezier curves! It’s also a useful study of type, so a win-win. To learn more about the business of design, I highly recommend following Chris and watching more of his videos on the Futur channel.
There’s obviously way more you can learn in Adobe Illustrator… this is just a taste to get you started, but you can find a list of great free tutorials in this blog from Creative Bloq: 75 best Adobe Illustrator tutorials.
For more premium educational content, I recommend both SkillShare and Lynda Learning – both of which have free trials. You do need to enter your card details to sign up, but if you unsubscribe before the trial ends it’s totally free.
Using fonts is an integral part of logo design. Most fonts require a commercial licence to be used within a logo, however there are some sites out there that make it easy to find free fonts for commercial use. The first site is Font Squirrel, and the second Google Fonts. Although I’m confident both sites provide free fonts for commercial use, do make sure to check a specific fonts licence yourself to be 100% sure.
When using fonts, one of the biggest mistakes new designers make is incorrect kerning, which is the term used to describe the spacing between each letter. The below video from Sean McCabe beautifully explains how to properly kern letters. To practice and perfect your skills, I recommend playing this kerning game – just keep playing until you get 100% every time.
Get feedback from other designers
Once you have vectorised your logos, I recommend getting feedback from a trusted designer friend before going any further. One of the best places to find other designers who can become friends and mentors, or to ask for honest feedback on your work I recommend joining the Logo Geek Community on Facebook. It’s totally free to join, and has some of the best logo designers in the world all in one place who can help you learn and improve. Post your work, get feedback and ask for help. That’s what it’s there for.
Presenting your logo designs
When you have completed a number of logo designs that effectively solve the brief, you’ll want to then present those designs to your client (or if you’re working on a fictional project it’s still good to present the work to others as you would a client… especially in the Logo Geek community – I love context!).
This video from Ben Burns at The Futur is a great overview on how you properly present logos to clients.
Dealing with client feedback
If you’re working for a client, you can expect to get feedback. This can either make or break the design, so how you handle this is a skill in it’s own right.
This video from Nesha Woolery is a useful resource to help you get the best feedback.
Preparing the logo design files
Once the logo is complete and agreed you’ll need to finalise the artwork and prepare the final files. Firstly you’ll want to refine and finesse the artwork to make sure everything is perfect. This guide will help you to do that: 5 tips for refining, perfecting & finessing a logo.
You’ll also need to prepare a number of file formats. So you know what these should be I recommend reading through ‘a designers guide to creating logo files‘.
There’s always more to learn about logo design, so here’s a few free ways you can keep learning:
- Keep practicing. Logo design is a skill. You only get better by doing.
- Study the best designers and agencies. Work by agencies such as Pentagram, Design Studio and Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv always inspire me, as well as designers such as Paul Rand and George Bokhua. Follow them on Instragram, and keep an eye on their work. Sites like Brand New and Design Week are also useful ways to see and appreciate the latest design work.
- Network with other designers. Ask for feedback and advice. The best place to do that online is the Logo Geek Community, but also keep an eye out for out local design events near you.
- Listen to the Logo Geek Podcast to learn from other designers. You can also see a list of other great free design podcasts on the resources page which I’m always adding to.
- If you’re ready, and want to find real clients check out this guide: Where to Find High Quality Logo Design Clients
Hopefully this has been a useful guide to get you started, but if you have any other questions do not hesitate to contact me, or post in the Facebook community.