Designing Logos for Print

Throw a virtual rock and you’ll hit a dozen logo design businesses on the internet. Many of these businesses are making beautiful, luminous things happen with logos. Unfortunately, most of these things are happening online, where logos that spin, sparkle, scale effortlessly, and positively glow in RGB are the norm.

But where does that leave print logo design?

To work in print, a logo has to mesh with a variety of print materials, from business cards and flyers, to posters and banners. The problem is that logos are often designed in RGB, for website and email collateral, without in-depth consideration of how it will transfer to print.


The first thing that any good designer will do when creating a logo is make sure that it is scaleable. This means the logo can be made any size without compromising the integrity of the design. All finished logos should be SVGs, or “scaleable vector graphics.” These can be created in Adobe Illustrator, Macromedia Fireworks, or Corel Draw.

But even an SVG can have scale problems if the logo is overly complex. At its smallest – like when it goes on business cards, event tickets, and that tiny tattoo you make all your employees get – a logo should still look its best.

There’s some debate in the industry today over how much detail is too much. After all, a good business card printer can convey incredible detail on a small card. Many logos we’ve seen come out in the last year incorporate 3-D, tiny creatures, and intricate leaves and flowers or other grunge elements. These can all add to logo coolness on any scale, as long as the logo as a whole is done properly, meaning:

  • All lettering is legible at any size.
  • It is easily recognizable.
  • The overall shape is well defined and memorable, without depending on the tiny details.

Placing Logos in Print Design

Once your logo looks good small, odds are, it will look good big, on brochure printing, poster printing, and banner printing. But as important as the design of your logo is, it’s also important to know how to place it and size it when designing in print. A large design space doesn’t necessarily mean a large version of the logo is needed.

Logos should always receive pride of place on a print promotion. For example, on an event poster, the logo of the company presenting the event should be either on the top or the bottom of the page, at the center.

Conversely, a poster promoting a product or service offered by a particular company should be designed with the company logo offset to the upper right or left hand corner. Like the name of an author in a book, the logo is important, but not central to what is happening on the page.

It’s for this same reason that a logo should never take up a quarter or even an eight of the design space on a large print design, unless that design space is purely a promotional tool for the company itself. In this case, go ahead, make your logo eight feet high and do brand recognition for the sake of brand recognition. It certainly doesn’t hurt.

Size vs. Space

But when you’re designing something like a newsletter, a letterhead, or a brochure, you want to size that logo more carefully, so that it doesn’t overwhelm the rest of the information on your document.

For those that truly love their logo, or consider it necessary to brand power, a better way to focus attention on the logo is to surround it in a generous amount of white space. Even a small-sized logo will stand out in a busy print design when surrounded by or offset within empty space on the page.

Choosing Logo Color(s)

Besides the issue of size, the other area of contention in logo design comes down to use of color. Many designers from the old school will tell you that a logo needs to be colored so that it translates well in black and white.

The same black and white printing situations that designers are warning about in this case – faxes, phone books, newsprint – will also be less than amenable to transparency when it comes to the inner-lit effects that are so popular this year. For some reason, that inner glow just doesn’t come out in B&W.

So do you have to design for black and white? The choice is yours. Try making two lists covering the pros and cons of designing for black and white. You may find that for all the times you’re going to be sending a fax, you prefer to look better in your email sig, and for every time you want your logo to catch someone’s eye in the yellow pages, you’d rather catch someone’s eye with your website.

Logo Design for a Full Color World

Are web design and black and white print design mortal enemies? That’s debatable, but what’s not debatable is the fact that we’re living in a full color world. At Hotcards, two-sided full color printing is the same low price as black and white or any other single color printing, and the entire industry isn’t far behind.

With the internet swiftly replacing phone books and newspapers, the days of black and white print as a necessity rather than a novelty may soon be over.