A logo is an essential element of your company’s brand. Not only is a good logo easily recognizable, but it also helps inspire confidence and loyalty on the part of the consumer while distinguishing your business from the competition. Understanding the characteristics of a successful logo can help you choose the most effective design to represent your company’s specific brand identity.

What Makes a Logo Effective?

Consistency

The most important attribute of a good logo is that it is consistent with your company’s tone and purpose. For example, a brightly colored logo with a playful font is likely more suitable for a party-supply company than a doctor’s office. The Target logo—a simple, bright red bullseye—indicates that Target is just the place to find what you need. Your logo is saying something about your business, and you want to make sure the message is appropriate.

Simplicity

Another way to ensure your company’s logo stands the test of time is to keep your design simple and to the point. Not only are the simplest logos the most identifiable—just think of the McDonald’s arches or the Nike swoosh— but they also enable your logo to work in multiple forms and media (and leave room for your business to pivot and change direction). A good rule of thumb is to make sure you can describe your logo easily to someone else. Logos that are hard to conceptualize may also be hard for your customers to remember.

Versatility

Additionally, effective logos are also highly versatile. When evaluating potential logos, consider how the design will look in different colors, sizes and styles (for example, there are countless variations of the Twitter bird, but it’s still recognizable). You want to create a logo that will look great in a variety of media, from websites to billboards.

For this reason, you should avoid creating the logo as a raster image, as this format can cause your picture to appear stretched out and distorted when you increase the size. Logos are most commonly vector images (which can be created in Adobe Illustrator), since they can be expanded or shrunk to any size without becoming pixelated.

Another potential element of versatility is creating a visual graphic or mascot. For example, Twitter has a trademarked company name that is depicted in a specific font and blue/white color scheme, but it also has as a mascot, the little blue bird we mentioned earlier. A mascot can be used to represent the entire brand in a single image, or it can be used alongside the logo. Companies choose to create mascots (such as these) to add an element of fun, to add a face to their brand and to trigger visual recognition outside of just their name. While a mascot may not be appropriate for all brands, a visual graphic (such as the red Target bullseye) can also go a long way to increase brand awareness.

Online Tools for Creating Your Company’s Logo

These days, there are a number of helpful online tools for creating your business logo. One of the more popular free design tools available, LogoYes gives companies access to more than 20,000 professional design elements and lets you send different versions of the logo to poll friends.

A number of sophisticated paid builders exist as well. HP-created Logoworks offers three logo design packages with various numbers of versions and revisions provided in just three days. Another paid service, BusinessLogo.net features logo packages from just $99 and sends company questionnaires to ensure the designers understand your business.

Want to take a shot at designing your own logo? Aspiring designers can enjoy access to a number of resources, including databases of public domain and paid stock images. If you choose to use stock images for inspiration, remember to modify the logo enough that you make it your own.

Not a design superstar? You can always hire a graphic designer to create a memorable logo to represent your company’s brand. For affordability, consider an option like 99designs, which provides you with multiple logo design options to choose from for a flat rate. If price is less of a concern, visit a site like Core77 Design to browse the work of various designers and choose your favorite.

No matter who you choose to build your logo, be sure to familiarize the designer with your business’ goals and values, and provide samples of similar logos and aesthetics that match your company’s style. Don’t be afraid to negotiate a price that is within your budget, and remember to determine the terms of payment before you begin (e.g. will the designer be paid a flat fee, and will it cost money to redesign the logo more than once?). Don’t ever feel the need to “settle” for a logo that doesn’t feel right.

Avoiding Logo Pitfalls

Whether you’re creating your own logo or seeking the help of a professional graphic designer, it’s important to avoid some common logo design pitfalls.

Poorly designed logos often feature too much information about the company, which can make them appear jumbled and hard to read. Keep your wording simple and to-the-point to create a clear and memorable identity for your brand.

Be careful about font. While an unusual and unreadable font can confuse customers, you should also avoid overly common fonts like Times New Roman or Comic Sans. Your font should represent your business just as much as your choice of wording; it should be unique and tied into the identity of your business (e.g. a clean and simple font for an accounting service, or a colorful and playful font for a children’s daycare).

Just as it’s a mistake to clutter a logo with too much wording or designs, you should avoid overusing special effects or color. Experts advise starting with a simple black-and-white logo to keep the focus on the concept, then go back and add color once the design is set.

Finishing Touches

These days, a company has to compete in multiple spaces. From print advertising to billboards, e-commerce sites to social media, a simple, clean and unique logo can help translate your company’s brand across multiple forms of media. The best logos are simple, original and accurate representations of your brand’s identity. Take the time to come up with a distinct logo that will stick in your clients’ minds for years to come.