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We’ve written numerous times before about the importance of logos. From Britain’s favourites to minimalistic gems. And, for the most part, we’ve focussed on the good side of logo design, looking at creative, imaginative, and outside-the-box examples. But one avenue we haven’t explored in any great depth is what makes an out-and-out terrible logo. 

According to a study, 46% of people think that a logo is “the most enduring aspect of a brand”. So it’s important to get it right. And one way of getting it right is to be aware of all the things can make it wrong.

That said, here are 10 telltale signs of a terrible logo. Each one is, pretty much, resoundingly characteristic of poor logo design in general. So watch out, and make sure your own logo doesn’t fall victim to any of these design pitfalls. . . .

Traditionally, the purpose of a drop shadow is to give the impression that it’s sitting on top of the page. But this is a novel aesthetic that only needs to come out once in a while. The best approach is to simply have your logo embossed on whatever documents/business cards you’d like it to stand out on. Just don’t incorporate the effect into the logo itself.

Unfortunately, the use of drop shadows in logos is, in the vast majority of cases, special effects for the sake of special effects.

First of all, just avoid this at all costs, especially if you’re a printer. Any company that actually deals with ink should probably never, under any circumstances, use the runny ink effect.

Case in point, if you sent off for some new business cards and they came back smudged, with the ink running, you’d probably want a refund.

There’s actually another lesson in here: don’t render negative visualisations in a logo. For example, if you’re a paediatrician, it would be more than a little off-putting if your logo was an image of a scabby foot. 

Runny ink is, nearly always, a negative visualisation, which is probably why it’s proved so successful in the horror genre.

Just don’t.


In terms of logo design, emojis are the modern equivalent of clip art. The problem with using anything like this in a professional logo is that it’s not unique. There’s probably tens of thousands of businesses out there using smiley faces in their logos. Don’t be one of them.

Just remember that any emoji (or clip art, for that matter) you put into a logo is being used elsewhere. That said, there are context-specific situations in which emojis will be necessary as part of a design. But these do tend to be very specific cases, and rarely ever incorporate emojis into an actual logo.

If you run a boot camp, paintball centre, or any kind of combat sport-related business, please continue as you were. Use as many stencils as you’d like. Otherwise, stay away. There are no businesses, other than a select few, that have any sane call to using stencil fonts.

As a general rule, the following fonts should never show up in a logo. . .

Comic Sans, Courier, Papyrus, Tahoma, Time New Roman, Zapfino, Apple Chancery.

Shapes are good, and they can be a great way to add elegance and visual relevance to a logo. But they must be relevant.

If a shape doesn’t pertain to the name or nature of your business or the industry you’re in, you should probably drop it. Unfortunately, irrelevant shapes are so prevalent in logos that they’ve become suggestive of careless, half-hearted design. But done properly, of course, they’re excellent.

Many formal, professional companies opt for this approach. Especially businesses who have an actual, physical sign above their office.

The problem is that whilst shiny brass signs look great on buildings, they don’t translate well to logos.

Script fonts aren’t display fonts. Their purpose is to be used on a small scale. Great for wedding invitations, subpar for logos.

Also, script font especially doesn’t go well with acronyms in all uppercase letters. 

Full-blown illustrations

It goes without saying that illustrations, used in the proper context, are invaluable visual tools for businesses to employ. But a logo needs to be diverse. It’s not a book cover. It needs to be as effective in a thumbnail as on a billboard. And full, colourful, detailed illustrations rarely scale down well.

Now for the good stuff

If, after all that, you’re in need of some design relief and would like to read about what makes a good logo, why not take a look at How To Design A Successful Logo In 5 Steps.