Typography plays a huge part in the way brands are perceived, and how successful brands become with consumers. A wise choice of type can make a logo more memorable, more aspirational, more trustworthy and more exciting. Minimal typographic logos are simple to achieve, and can often have more impact than a symbolic logo design.
Here, we’ll take a look at how typography can be used successfully across logo design, and break down how you can create effective branding for different sorts of commercial businesses, using very basic typographic tips and tricks.
We’ll explore how simple tweaks to typeface, sizing, case, weight, tracking, alignment, and colour can really lift your typographic designs, and make them industry-appropriate in an instant. If you want to recreate the designs as you read, you will need to have access to Adobe InDesign.
Recreate the Designs Using InDesign
The designs pictured throughout this tutorial have been put together using Adobe InDesign.
To recreate the logos as you read, open InDesign and create a new document for Print. Set the Size to A4, and the orientation to Landscape. Set the No. of Pages to 1 for now; you can add pages as needed. Click OK.
1. Play Up an Ampersand
Many companies are formed through partnerships or collaborations and will have an ‘and’ as part of their company identity, e.g. Smith and Sons, D&G, H&M, Jones & Partners.
Consider emphasising the ‘and’ of the company name by giving prominence to an ampersand, ‘&’, in the brand design. A decorative, ornate ampersand looks elegant and old-fashioned, giving the logo a sophisticated, grown-up appearance. A large ampersand also emphasises the collaborative nature of the company, which reassures the consumer or client that they are being looked after by an expert team.
Formal businesses that provide client services, like law firms or financial consultancies, would suit this sort of brand design, as would educational or academic institutions, like universities and museums.
This example logo design was created using Caslon 540 LT Std, set in Roman and Italic, though any serif font with a nice ampersand design could work just as well. The Italic weight of Caslon has a lovely curling ampersand, which complements the more traditional serif uppercase characters.
You can also set a prominent ampersand in a sans serif typeface. This transforms the look and mood of the logo design. This example design is set in BonvenoCF Light. It might work well for a digital agency or technology firm, or for a modern hospital or health trust.
Create the Logo in InDesign
To recreate this serif ampersand design, hop over to InDesign and open up the document we set up earlier.
Drag a guide down from the top ruler (View > Show Rulers) to provide a baseline to sit your text on.
Open the Layers panel (Window > Layers) and double-click the default Layer 1 title to rename the layer. Rename it as Guides and click OK.
Click the Create New Layer icon at the bottom right of the Layers panel to create a second layer above Guides. Rename this as Black Text. Repeat the process to create another two layers, the first named White, and the top layer named Blue Ampersand.
Click on the Black Text layer to ensure you’re working on that layer. Now select the Type Tool (T) from the Tools panel and drag to create a square text frame.
Type a single letter into the frame and set the Font to Caslon 540 LT Std Roman, Size 150 pt. Sit the bottom of the letter on the baseline, marked out by the guide. Select the text frame and Edit > Copy, Edit > Paste, editing the letter. Sit the second frame to the right of the letter, with about a 20 mm gap between the two letters.
Return to the Layers panel and click on the top layer, Blue Ampersand, to activate it. Create a third text frame and type '&' into it. Set the Font to Caslon 540 LT Std Italic, Size 170 pt. You can pull it out in a bold color for contrast—here I’ve used a strong blue, C=86 M=0 Y=19 K=0.
Lock the Blue Ampersand layer, and hop one layer down, to White. You can apply a touch of white to create the appearance that the far left side of the ‘W’ letter has been erased by the ampersand.
Select the Ellipse Tool (L) and drag to create a small oval to fit in the top right corner of the ampersand. Set the Stroke to [None] and the Fill to [Paper]. Repeat to create a second small oval that sits in the bowl of the ampersand.
And you’re done! An elegant, classic logo design pulled together by a bold ampersand.
2. Frames Can Give Logos a Stamp of Authority
Some brands need to have more than just their name as part of their brand identity. A client might ask you to include a slogan or office location(s) as well.
You can balance out different sections of text by applying an A, B, C rule. A is the company name, and should be the largest heading. B is a sub-heading, for the next largest and next most important piece of information. The C heading is the smallest and least important piece of text.
So in this example, 'The Hotel Company' is A, 'New York London Paris' is B, and 'World-Class Service Since 1952' is C.
All the text is set in Arial Bold and Regular. Increasing the Tracking (the space between all the letters) also increases the legibility of the logo and gives the letters some room to breathe.
That’s all fine and the text looks balanced, but the text still looks, well, just like text. How can we transform it into something that looks more like a logo?
Strokes and frames are really simple to apply to your branding designs, but are sometimes overlooked. Framed by four simple black solid strokes, the text is transformed into an understated, minimal logo.
Put a solid black frame around the text, and the logo appears more like a stamp. This design style would really suit lifestyle brands, or luxury retail.
Create the Logo in InDesign
Return to InDesign and drag a guide down from the top ruler (View > Show Rulers) to create a baseline.
Select the Type Tool (T) and drag to create a long, narrow text frame. Position it centrally on the page. Type the company name, and set the Font to Arial Bold, Size 40 pt and All Caps. Increase the Tracking to 130.
Create a second, narrower text frame, and type in the office location(s). Set the Font to Arial Bold, Size 15 pt, All Caps and up the Tracking to 130. Position this frame centrally above the company name.
Set a third text frame below the company name, setting the Font to Arial Regular, Size 11 pt, All Caps and Tracking to 130, as before.
Select the Line Tool (\) from the Tools panel and, holding down Shift on your keyboard, drag from left to right to create a perfectly straight horizontal line. Position it to the right side of the B heading of the logo, and extend it to line up with the last character of the company name.
Set the Stroke Color to [Black] and the Stroke Weight to 0.3 mm. Open the Stroke Panel (Window > Stroke) and set the Cap to a Round Cap, to soften the end points of the line.
Edit > Copy and Edit > Paste the line, positioning it to the left side of the B heading. Paste two more strokes, positioning them to either side of the C heading, and extending their lengths if needed.
To create a frame around the whole of the text instead, select the Rectangle Tool (M) and drag to create a frame that allows for around a 13 mm margin between the edge of the frame and the text on all sides.
From the Stroke panel, set the Weight to 1 mm and the Type to Thick-Thin.
3. Choose Retro Type for Friendly Branding
Many businesses need a more friendly and accessible brand look than companies in more formal or exclusive sectors. Food brands, cafés, charities and creative agencies need to be approachable, and the typography they use in their brand designs can really help to reinforce this cheerful, open ethos.
Retro-inspired type designs are a great fit for these sorts of businesses. Simultaneously trendy and nostalgic, the right vintage-inspired typeface can make a brand seem warm and inviting.
Fonts that reference 1950s design styles, with their cheery, fun aesthetic, are great for logo designers. Check out this example logo design for a coffee brand. Set against a pastel colored background, the type runs along a curved path. You should keep the design flat (no shadows or gradients) for a modern take on the vintage look, to keep it fresh and relevant.
Create the Logo in InDesign
Return to your InDesign document and create a new page. Open the Swatches panel (Window > Color > Swatches) and click the New Swatch icon at the bottom right of the panel.
Double-click the name of the new swatch to edit it. Set the Mode to CMYK and the values to the following: C=35 M=1 Y=20 K=0. Click OK.
Select the Rectangle Tool (M) from the Tools panel and drag to create a frame 180 mm in Width and 60 mm in Height. Set the Stroke Color to [None] and the Fill Color to your new swatch, C=35 M=1 Y=20 K=0.
Select the Ellipse Tool (L) and drag to create a rough oval, about 195 mm in Width and 100 mm in Height. Position centrally over the colored rectangle, with the top half of the oval sitting in the colored area.
Select the Type on a Path Tool (Shift-T), which you can find on the drop-down menu under the Type Tool (T) in the Tools panel. Hover over the left side of the top edge of the oval until a small ‘+’ icon appears next to your cursor. Click once and the edge of the oval will be transformed into a text path.
Type ‘The Little Coffee Co.’ and set the Font in the free-to-download Grand Hotel. Up the Font Size to 70 pt, and set the Font Color of ‘The’ and ‘Co’ to [Paper]. Set ‘Little Coffee’ in a new CMYK swatch, which you can create from the Swatches panel, C=64 M=55 Y=50 K=50.
If you need to adjust the amount of curve under the type, you can pull the bottom central anchor of the oval shape up (to reduce the depth of the curve) or down (to increase the depth).
Select the Type Tool (T) and drag to create a small, narrow text frame. Sit it centrally below the company name. Type ‘~(space)Est. 2005(space)~’ and set the Font in a thin sans serif type. Here I’ve used BonvenoCF Light, which has a slightly retro look.
Set the Font Size to 20 pt, Font Color to [Paper], All Caps and Align Center.
In this example design, we’ve introduced color to give the logo a more vintage look. However, a great tip for testing the strength and versatility of a logo design, particularly if it’s been designed in color, is to set it in black. If the design looks a little ‘off’ when the color is stripped away, the design probably needs a bit more thought.
You can also set the logo in white and set it in front of a photographic background to further test how it will work across different types of layouts and designs. Will it work equally well standing alone on a print document as it will as part of a webpage design, for example?
4. Make Your Type Designs Iconic
Type logos can be in danger of looking a little bland and boring next to their image-based counterparts. We’ve looked at how adjusting the typeface and size of characters and introducing frames can make a logo more interesting and dynamic. But how can you ensure your logo design is going to be memorable?
Many businesses, particularly in the retail sector, create ‘icons’, as well as logos, to represent their brand. Icons can work just as well as logos at small sizes, and are usually constructed on a square, rather than rectangular, layout. They often contain less information (no subtitles or other extra information) and, as a result, are often more versatile and memorable than logos.
A clothing brand, for example, might choose to use a punchy, memorable icon to print on merchandise. Small, symbolic designs attract attention even at small scale, and can further attract the eye with color application and contrast.
If you’re designing a logo that needs to stand out, and that will look attractive across a diverse range of media, from merchandise to shop windows, consider setting your type within a square or circular layout. Aim to strip out any unnecessary extra information and keep the design striking and minimal.
Take this example logo design, for a fictional clothing and accessories brand, Jodie. The type logo is fine, but not particularly interesting.
The icon version of the design encloses the brand name in a colored circle, and sets the text in white for added contrast. This version looks immediately more modern and memorable.
It’s also a more versatile design—you could simply switch up the color of the icon to give a different identity to the brand’s different ranges (e.g. for women, for men, for children, etc.).
Create the Icon in InDesign
Return to your InDesign document and create a new page if needed (add from the Pages panel [Window > Pages]).
Select the Type Tool (T) and drag to create a text frame 115 mm in Width and 40 mm in Height. Position the frame centrally on the page, and type ‘Jodie’ into the frame.
Set the Font to Callie Hand Regular, set the Size to 122 pt and set the text to Align Center.
Create a second, much smaller, text frame and type ‘TM.’ into the frame. Position to the top right of the first text frame, just above the dot of the ‘i’.
Set the Font to Fira Sans Regular, Size 12 pt and Align Center.
Select the Ellipse Tool (L) from the Tools panel and, holding down Shift, drag to create a perfect circle 91 mm in diameter. Position over the top of the ‘Jodie’ text frame. Right-Click (Windows) or Control-Click (Mac OS) > Arrange > Send to Back.
Set the Stroke Color to [None] and the Fill Color to a new pink CMYK Swatch, C=0 M=51 Y=20 K=0 (select New Color Swatch from the Swatches panel [Window > Color > Swatches]).
Adjust the text color of both text frames to [Paper] from the Character Formatting Controls panel running along the top of the screen or from the Swatches panel.
Designing logos and icons can be incredibly simple when working with typography alone. Keep these tips in mind while designing to make your branding designs effective, memorable and client-appropriate:
- Enhance an ampersand to give style and flair to otherwise conservative, formal logos. Don’t be afraid of overlapping characters or dramatically adjusting tracking or kerning to give your logo a unique and elegant look.
- Frames and lines can be used to pull together multiple lines of text and give a logo an authoritative appearance. Stick to the A, B, C rule for sizing headings to give your design a sense of structure and order.
- To make logo designs more friendly and less formal, adopt retro or hand-drawn fonts for a nostalgic twist. Set type in warm, complementary colors to inject more optimism into the design.
- Consider designing a type-based icon for enhanced memorability and impact. Stick to a minimal design and simple color contrast to maximise the icon’s versatility.
Find out more about choosing fonts for logo and other print design with this fun tutorial from Julie Felton.