I tend to categorize logos into 3 major groups: typography based (only text), graphic based (only an image or icon) and composite (text and logo combination).
In this post, I just want to focus on typography itself as most logos use text in one form or another.
Where Do I Get Fonts?
For designers, there is an abundance of online font resources. Many are free and some are not. Both offer a wide range of choice and suitability for your project.
For a decent selection of ‘free for commercial use’ fonts, I typically use these two sites:
DaFont (my favourite)
Make sure when you’re searching their respective databases that you double check that you are allowed to use them commercially (work you are being paid to create). It may just mean you need to purchase a licence or credit the designer. Usually font files will be supplied in a .zip file accompanied by a word doc outlining any licence information.
Alternatively, you could even create your own font, however I’ve find it is too time consuming and not very cost effective when you’re trying to run a business.
For some absolutely fantastic paid fonts, I highly recommend these sites:
Font Diner (for quality)
Larabie Fonts (for quantity)
For designers using Adobe Creative Cloud, you have access to Adobe’s font database called TypeKit. It can also be accessed from within most Adobe CC software including Illustrator and Photoshop under Type> Add fonts from TypeKit.
The beauty of using TypeKit is that you automatically have a commercial licence for every font you download and use.
TypeKit is also a powerful tool for web designers and bloggers as it offers kit creation which can be used with almost any site. You can read more about that here.
For those who haven’t worked with font files before, I should explain how to install them.
For Windows users:
- you’ll need to unzip (unpack) the .zip file by right clicking and selecting Extract All.
This will create a folder in whichever directory you specified during the unzipping process. It should be named the exact same as the .zip folder (unless you’ve specified otherwise).
Inside this folder you’ll find the font file(s) and usually a text document licence as well.
- Right click on the font file and select Install. You should immediately see it in your drop down font list in any Adobe product. If for some reason it doesn’t appear, restart your Adobe software. For other software, you may have to add it manually. For your reference fonts are installed in this directory: C:\Windows\Fonts
For Mac users:
- Drag and drop the unzipped fonts into the Fonts folder in your user’s Library folder found here: /Users/Your_Username_Here/Library/Fonts.
Note: As of OS Lion, the library folder is hidden from users unless you hold down the [Alt/Option] key while clicking on the Go menu in Finder.
Optional for Mac OS X 10.3 or higher:
- Double click the font file and Fontbook will open a preview of the font.
- Click Install Font at the bottom of the preview.
Fonts In Logo Design
This is obviously a more subjective and complex topic but I’ll try to cover the basics (as far as I see them).
Choosing a Theme
Fonts have particular themes or personalities. They can be:
(to name a few)
You should use this to your advantage when choosing fonts to work with. E.g. a bold, quirky happy looking font might not suit a funeral service provider but could work well for a game company or a kids clothing company. Likewise, a moody gothic looking font will not typically suit a gardening store or a daycare center.
When starting out, try to avoid using the generic fonts supplied with Windows and Adobe software. They are better for layouts and body text. Amateur designers and people who design their own logos tend to use them way too much because they either don’t know any better or are too lazy to look online for something better.
Shape and Balance
Typically I will type the text I need and cycle through fonts (while the text is selected) to find one I like. I often do this a number of times until I reduce my choices down to no more than three.
To narrow the choices further I’ll experiment with the shapes of the letters including the negative space around and between them. I usually make a copy of the text and then outline it (in Illustrator it’s Shift + Ctrl + O or Type > Create Outlines).
Here’s a perfect example of a logo that utilizes the negative space around the letter ‘H’:
Most of the time a good font won’t require any drastic changes, but I find creative uses of letters and shapes is a powerful and effective way to start designing a unique and impacting logo.
Keeping your design balanced also requires you to observe alignment, that is, how the vertical and horizontal lines of letters and words line up with one another.