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November 3, 2021

Principles of Good Logo Design: DIY graphic design rules for clothing brands

By: Peter Gregory

One of the first items on any clothing startup’s to-do list is to create a great logo! We’ve seen thousands of logos over the years, and some of the best ones were home-made. A professional graphic designer is worth their weight in gold — there’s no question — but when you’re at the earliest stage of your journey, you have to protect your cash reserves. If you’re just starting out and you’ve got a graphic design budget of £0, then this is the logo design guide for you!

In this guide, we’ll lay out some practical, easy-to-follow tips that will help you come up with a really effective DIY logo for your clothing business. We’ll explain the principles that underpin the world’s most well-known fashion logos. We’ll also share the rough logo design steps that many of our clients followed when they were starting out. If you’re willing to invest some imagination, patience and a little bit of elbow grease, you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve yourself.

Planning A Logo: the ‘five W’ test

The first thing you need to do when designing your own fashion logo is get a clear idea of what that logo needs to do. In other words, you have to define the goal of your logo. One of the simplest and most effective ways to do this is by asking yourself the ‘Five Ws’:

  • Who is this logo for? A logo is not for you, by the way. The logo belongs to your clothing brand, but it exists for your shopper. Think about who your typical or ideal customer is. What do you know about their values, preferences and personal needs and wants? 
  • Where is this logo going to appear? On your woven labels and swing tags? On your website and socials? On shopping bags and packaging materials? Logos have to work at almost any size and resolution, but it’s especially important in the clothing industry, where woven labels have certain limitations you have to work to (see our guide to weave-friendly logo design).
  • Why does this logo exist? What is its purpose? Do you need a logo that attracts attention on a shop rack? Should the logo make your garments feel exclusive and luxurious or hard-wearing and accessible? Are you trying to inspire brand loyalty or set a tone? Get all of your ‘whys’ down on paper — they’ll help guide you through the design process.
  • When will a customer see this logo? A shopper may see your logo when they discover your products for the first time. They may see it when they’re scrolling through their socials. They may see it every time they’re getting changed in or out of the garment. Think about what someone is thinking and feeling at the precise moment in time when they’re looking at your logo.
  • What is this clothing logo going to look & feel like? You’ll probably already have a few ideas, but ask yourself this question again after you’ve asked the who, where, when & why questions. Now that you’ve thought about it critically, you might uncover some new ideas you hadn’t previously considered. It’s all grist for the mill for the next stage of the process: brainstorming!

Brainstorming: creating lots of logo ideas

Brainstorming — where you try to think of as many ideas as possible and jot them down without any judgement — is a vital stage in the creative process. Brainstorming is hard to do on your own, especially when you care so much about your new brand and when you have big ambitious plans for your new business. The trick is to see brainstorming as a two-stage job. The first step is the creative stage, where you try to come up with as many wild ideas as you can. The second step is where you look at all of your ideas with a critical eye, and try to decide which of them are any good. 

Step 1: Creative Brainstorming

Start with some big sheets of paper and a pencil. In this first stage, you need to generate lots of ideas. Don’t worry about the quality of these ideas — just focus on quantity. You want to sketch out as many different shapes and pictures as you possibly can. 

Don’t just sketch out the ideas you’ve already got in mind. Keep going and come up with new ideas, even if they don’t feel solid yet. You can time yourself and draw as many ideas as  you can in one minute, or try to come up with three different designs that match each major shape (circles, squares, triangles and so on). All that matters is that you create lots and lots of different options for the next stage of the process. 

Step 2: Judge and Fine-Tune What You’ve Got

After you’ve drawn out all of your first-draft logo ideas, step away for a time and try to clear your mind. When you come back to the pile of logos you’ve created, you can start getting fussy. 

Look at everything you’ve done with a critical eye. Throw out anything you really don’t like. If there’s a logo idea that you think could be improved, take a moment to come up with a few versions of it. The goal here isn’t to come up with one final finished logo — you’re just winnowing down your options and giving yourself a clear direction. 

As your list of ideas gets smaller, you’ll start to build up a clearer picture of what your brand might look like. Try to come up with a few different layouts of the same idea. For inspiration, take a look at Aaron Draplin’s creative process:

Design A One-Colour Logo First

As soon as you’ve got a good idea of the shape of your logo, try to make a simple black-and-white version of it. You might hate black-and-white — you might finish with a white-on-red logo like UNIQLO or a blue-on-white option like GAP — all that matters is that you can express your logo in two colours. 

This is really important for woven labels, because the more colours you add the thicker the label becomes. The smoothest, softest satin-weave labels are always two-tone labels (usually black text & imagery on white, or vice versa).

Woven Labels - GB Labels UK

As soon as you have something that works really well in one colour, you can build out your colour palette. Feel free to play about with every shade and tone you can imagine — the choices available to you are virtually limitless. 

Think About Textures

In the clothing industry, a logo isn’t just expressed in lines and shapes. The way the logo feels, quite literally, can add a fresh dynamic.

Texture can be expressed with the way a label is woven. Satin weave, for instance, is a soft, high-sheen, high-detail weave that looks great for delicate and luxurious items. We can also set our looms to deliver a damask weave, which is a chunkier, rougher label that works beautifully with home-spun designs and organic cottons. You can learn more about label weave types on our guide here.

It’s not just a woven labels thing. Texture plays a role on specialist label types with bumpy surfaces, too (silicone zipper pulls and jacron labels, for example). Taking your two-tone logo as the template for the embossing or debossing procedure, we can create a specialist tag where you can literally close your eyes and feel the imprint of your logo with your fingertips. Just order a label samples pack to see some examples. 

Check Out The Competition

As soon as you have a reasonably good idea of the direction you want to go in, it’s worth double-checking your own design against other well-known clothing logos. 

The YouGov website has a list of more than 200 of the most popular fashion & clothing brands in the UK. It’s a great starting point if you just want to sense-check your design against what others are doing:

https://yougov.co.uk/ratings/consumer/popularity/fashion-clothing-brands/all

Your Brand, Your Rules!

When you create your own label, you’re coming up with a unique identity. Unique means nobody else is doing it, so don’t be afraid to experiment. You need to go off the beaten track a little if you want to end up with something truly special. If you end up with a logo that feels really good to you, but that doesn’t seem to match other logos in the clothing industry, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. 

Remember that your first DIY logo is just the first public-facing version of your logo. It won’t be the last. It doesn’t matter if you’re a global FTSE 100 business or a solopreneur — logos can, and should, evolve over time. Just do the very best you can. You can change it in a year or two once your business has found its feet. 

If you’ve got an idea and you’re not sure if it’s going to weave well or not, send it through to us. We have specialist software that can convert your graphic design into a weave-friendly format, so we can show you what it will look like. We love fresh, new and exciting ideas so don’t hold back – we want to hear from you! 

Thanks for reading!

Pete

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