Logos hold a strange position in the design world. Some consider them to be the most important part of a brand — after the product. Logos can distill a brand’s message into something trustworthy and familiar.
Others consider them disposable — or just inconsequential. This article is for people in the first camp who may not know how to approach logo design.
Minimalism is a pretty well-embedded and recognizable trend, especially modern minimalism in the geometric sense. Perhaps you’ve seen it on Instagram or from various startups or small businesses. When done well, it can be elegant and representative of a lean, efficient, hip brand.
Now, I won’t say logo design is easy, per se, but there are ways to break it down in order to think about how to approach your own design. This guide will show you how to construct a modern minimalist logo — and give you some thinking tools to create your own.
What Defines Your Brand?
Exploring logo concepts can be a time-consuming, labor-intensive process for a professional designer. Professional designers are trained in exploring every angle of your brand in order to distill it to a small, representational mark — in a way that conveys the spirit of your brand. (This is after hundreds of sketches or thumbnails, in however many iterations or versions they choose.)
But for someone doing their own design, you may be able to identify the essence of your brand with only a little consideration. Here are few questions to ask to narrow down your concept:
- What quality represents my brand?
- What product do we offer?
- If my brand was a shape, what would it be?
From these, you should end up with something rough you can polish. You always need an idea first, no matter what style of logo you intend to create. And with geometric minimalism, a singular object or shape already on the drawing board means you’re halfway there.
When you’ve identified a singular graphic, use this guide to familiarize yourself with the Pen Tool — as well as working with paths. Use this guide to brush up on Shapes, which can reduce the freehand drawing by combining shapes.
For our exercise, we’ll use a made-up natural products company called Botanica. A good way to communicate botany is by using leaf shapes — naturally. So we can create a leaf shape, look at how to make it stylishly minimal, then add a company name in a matching style.
I started by making a simple, single leaf with a black outline but no fill color. Using the Ellipse shape tool, I drew out an oval-shaped ellipse.
Then, with the Anchor Point Tool, I modified two of the anchor points. With the shape active and the anchor points visible, simply click on an anchor point to convert it from a curved vector to one without directional handles (i.e. pointy).
Hit A to activate the Direct Selection Tool. Click on one of the side anchor points, then hold Shift and click on the other one to activate both. Keep Shift held, and drag the anchor points down to form a leaf shape. Holding Shift keeps the movement aligned to the vertical axis when dragging to keep it from becoming crooked.
To duplicate the shape, select the shape, hold the Option key, and drag it to the side. Do this once more, and you’ll have three leaf shapes. Select two of them, hold Shift, and drag a corner of the Bounding Box to reduce the size of both simultaneously.
Select one of the smaller leaves and hit R, then hit Enter/Return to bring up the Rotate window. Click Preview, click in the Angle value field, and use the up/down keys on the keyboard to rotate the leaf to a satisfactory angle. Hit OK, and remember the number.
Select the other small leaf, hit R and Enter/Return, then enter the rotation value from the other leaf, but as a negative. If one leaf is rotated 18°, the other will be -18°. This ensures they will be mirrored.
Now align them by bringing up the Align window, under Window in the screen-top menu. (Read more about the Alignment window here). Select all three leaves, then hit the Vertical Align Bottom button.
To space them evenly, start by eyeballing their placement. Select them all, then hit the Horizontal Distribute Center button. This will make sure they are evenly spaced by using the center of their respective mass.
You should have a minimalist leaf illustration now.
But don’t stop there. It’s pretty plain. I want to add space where the lines meet, which will require some minor surgery using the Pathfinder window.
First, I have to select each shape and go to Object > Expand Appearance. This will turn the black outline into a solid shape. Then I will select all of them and add a white outline at the width I want for the space.
Sorry, one more thing to make these shapes do what we want: select each individual leaf again and go back the Object menu, but hit Expand now.
All right. Now, select all the leaves, make the outline white, and refer to the Stroke window. Click the Align Stroke to Outside button, and click the up arrow next to Weight until the space between the lines is satisfactory.
Cool. Now we can add a name and match it to the design.
Refine a Matching Font
Find a font that is light and airy, with very little serif or decorative qualities — one that lends itself to the minimalist style. You don’t have to choose Futura or Helvetica every time, but also, you can totally do that. They are perfect. Just use the lighter weights.
For this I used Beloved Sans. It has a nice lightweight, symmetrical look, but with a bit of flair that adds organic elegance — without getting in the way.
You’ll want to use the Tracking field in the Character window to expand the space between all the letters equally. Go huge. The airier the better, and it helps the thin lines of the font weight look sort of more substantial on their own.
Finish by applying your brand’s color palette, or set about choosing one. Gradients are popular, as are soft pastels and neon, and they go well with this style.
All of these principles are in the minimalist’s tool kit. There are more directions you can explore, though. For instance, you can go straight-up abstract and create a shape that represents nothing but looks cool.
You can apply these concepts to your individual needs, and with the other guides I mentioned here, you should have a complete kit to create your own modern, minimalist logo.