Logos are important for any company, and an integral part of its identity. Take the famous yellow and red shell logo. Whether it appears on a letterhead, a business card or a petrol station, it would be hard to see it without thinking of the Shell oil company. The chances are that your company, club or charity will never achieve quite the same worldwide recognition but that’s no reason not to have a good logo to establish a corporate identify among your clients, members, or the local community.

Perhaps you’ve never had a logo or, alternatively, maybe it needs a face-lift. Either way, we’re here to provide some practical advice on how to create one. We'll show you step-by-step how to recreate the arrows logo above, and the principles can be used to design and draw your own logo.

You may already have a graphics package that came bundled with a digital camera and, in addition to photo editing, it probably provides a painting facility. For logos, though, drawing software, sometimes called a vector graphics package, provides a better solution. Let’s look at the differences.

Photo-editing software works with pixels so is often referred to as a bitmapped or rasterised graphics package. If you draw a line the software works out which pixels lie along that line and writes them to your image. That’s fine so long as you always use the image at it original size. However, if you try to expand it so that it appears larger on the page, each of those pixels gets larger and you start to see jagged edges.

If you draw a line using a vector package, all that’s saved to your image are the positions of each end of the line. This is only ever converted to pixels when the image is inserted it into a document and the conversion process will take the size into account so that you always see it at an appropriate resolution. In other words, you’ll see only smooth lines. The same applies to rectangles, circles, text and pretty much anything else you might include in your logo.

Principles of good logo design

Below, we'll show you how easy it is to draw a logo, but half of the battle in creating a new logo is coming up with an idea. The first rule in logo design is: keep it simple. It's a cliché, but less really is more with logos. Uncomplicated designs are easier to remember.

You don’t even have to use much in the way of graphics – the wording alone can be enough, given sufficient imagination, as the BBC logo adequately demonstrates. If you do decide to use more in the way of graphics emblems, though, try to take your inspiration from the name of your organisation. Again, though, keep it simple.

Returning to the Shell logo as an example, the design is stylised rather than being an accurate representation of a scallop shell. The rule of simplicity applies to your choice of colours too. Using just one or two colours not only provides a catching and uncluttered design, it also keeps printing costs down. In fact, if you're going to be using a professional printer, it might also be a good idea to discuss your colour choice with your printer to avoid the cost of four-colour printing that would be necessary to accurately reproduce some shades.

Finally, while we certainly don’t suggest that you copy other organisations’ logos, doing a Google search for "classic logos" should provide some useful inspiration.

We’ll be using Xara Photo and Graphic Designer 7 which includes photo editing and vector graphics in the one package. It costs £69 but you can download a fully functional free trial version from Xara's website. Make sure you’ve installed it before continuing.

Next page: how to create a vector logo

How to create a vector logo

1. Start Xara and close the Getting Started document to leave a blank document called Untitled1 in which we’re going to create our logo. Select ‘Snap to Grid’ from the Windows menu. Now we’re only able to position objects on an invisible grid which helps us to keep lines perfectly straight and our objects evenly spaced. We’ll use the default grid spacing.

Snap to grid

2. From the toolbar at the left, select drawing tools (third down) and then the shape tool (third across) from the fly-out menu. On the blank page, draw a large arrow by clicking on each of its corners. It’ll automatically be filled in when you return to the starting point. If it’s not correct, edit it by dragging the corners, zooming in (bottom of the toolbar) if necessary.

Draw arrow

3. Click on a coloured diamond at the bottom of the screen to change the fill colour and do the same while holding down the shift key to alter the outline colour. We also need the outline to be thicker so, in the Standard control bar (immediately below the menu bar), choose 8pt as line width.

Srtoke and fill

4. With the arrow selected (if it isn’t use the selector tool at the top of the toolbar) select ‘Copy Shape’ and then Paste and ‘Paste Shape’, all from the Edit menu. A second arrow will appear. Click on the Flip Horizontally icon in the Infobar (immediately below the Standard control bar) and then drag it to its correct position relative to the first arrow.

Copy and paste

5. Select the Text tool from the toolbar. Click on the page and type ARROWS. Now use the Selector tool (top of the toolbar) to enlarge the text and drag it into place. Change its colour as before and select a font from Fonts Gallery which is accessible from the vertical bar at the right of the screen. Do the same for the word HAULAGE.

Add text

6. Save the logo in Xara’s proprietary format for subsequent editing but you’ll also need to export it in a standard format for use in a document such as a Word file. This is done using the Export option in the File menu. Commonly you’ll export as a bitmap but use a format with lossless compression (such as PNG) and select a suitable pixel resolution for your document.

 Save image