It’s your new logo- the keystone to your rebrand- the new messenger you’re sending out into the world to communicate that your company has ARRIVED! That’s a lot of pressure to put on what is seemingly a very small piece of art- so let’s get it right!
Your logo should be visually appealing, versatile, and able to maintain its integrity when printed on various merchandise with an array of different decoration methods.
Depending on the material of the product and the logo, your merchandise could be decorated with embroidery, screen-print, pad printing, heat transfers, direct to garment printing, custom molding, sublimation, embossing, debossing, laser engraving, jacquard weaving, or even the next best thing in the merchandise decorating world which is yet to be determined. Decoration technology is evolving fast! When you are working on your logo rebrand, here is what your promo merch partner wants you know in order to keep decoration methods working for you that will also deliver boundless creativity!
Get dedicated people: Your rebrand is one of the most impactful and influential projects your team will face. If your team is unable to dedicate experienced branding/graphic design talent to the project from your internal staff, consult with an agency specializing in rebranding to help manage the market research, overall creative direction and the outcomes you want from your rebrand.
Avoid Complexity: Avoid overly complex designs with intricate details, as they may not reproduce well on smaller merchandise or when printed in different sizes. Simplify your design to make it more versatile and visible down to 0.5” (Average imprint area of a pen is 1.25” W x .75” H)
Limit colors: Limit the number of colors in your logo to make it cost-effective for decoration. Three or less is ideal. Complex color schemes can be expensive to reproduce and may not look consistent across different items. For methods such as screen-printing and pad printing, each color is applied separately. There is likely to be a set up charge to create each screen or pad for each color in addition to possible per item “run-charges” that will be charged for each additional color to be applied to each product. For digital decoration methods that utilize RBG or CMYK printing, full color is available without additional charges, however these methods are not available for all promotional items and will limit your selection of products.
Notice scalability: Ensure that your logo can be scaled up or down without losing its recognizability or legibility. Test your design at different sizes to see how it looks on various merchandise items between 1” and 12”. Make note of the logo to product size ratio that you like for your logo. Some brands prefer to be more discrete and choose to not utilize the full imprint size, and others are more on brand to be as large as possible!
Allow for different imprint areas: Your beautiful logo that looks incredible on that notebook and fills up the 4.5” x4.5” imprint area perfectly won’t look quite the same when applied to the pen! Suddenly that impactful branding turned into a little dot in the 1” x .5” imprint area of the pen! To prevent this, create versions of your logo that look great in a square imprint area (sometimes referred to as a stacked logo) and ones that look good on wide rectangles, and tall rectangles (usually called a horizontal version).
Plan for color contrast: A logo should have good contrast to stand out on different background colors while in its full color version. Make sure your logo remains visible and clear on a variety of merchandise items, including both light and dark backgrounds. Provide logo variations that can be applied to products that are light and dark. Create one-color versions for both light and dark backgrounds. Make note of any logo/product color combinations you want to be avoided.
Avoid fads and overused trends: While it’s important to stay current, avoid overly trendy elements that may become outdated quickly. A logo should have a timeless quality to maintain its relevance and trustworthiness. You want your rebrand investment to last as long as possible and for your logo to still seem fresh and relevant 5+ years from now.
Pick the right typography: Be aware of the fonts and text in your logo. Ensure that the text is legible, especially when scaled down. Choose a font that complements your brand’s feel and is easy to read. Line weight for any text should be a minimum of 1pt and in general, all text should be bolder than if you were designing your logo to only be seen on a screen. Detail that is smaller than this may cause fill-in on printed material and bumpy or illegible embroidery. If you’re not sure if the details are too small for embroidery, send a version of the logo to your merch partner to create a “sew-out” example of your logo and adjust if needed.
Consider product versatility: Your logo should look great on a variety of merchandise, from clothing to coolers. Test it on different items and backgrounds to ensure it works everywhere. Take notice of any logo details that may not work well on specific items or locations (i.e., specific shapes may not be appropriate for chest imprints on women’s apparel, some messaging/logos/labels may be confusing on drinkware, etc.) Also, consider how readily available your main color pallet is. Blues are a common choice for logos, but your stock production options dwindle when you’re matching a specific Carolina “Tar Heel blue” vs a more standard Kentucky “Wildcat Blue”.
Avoid Gradients: Gradients pose a challenge to decoration methods that imprint one color at a time (embroidery, screenprinting, pad printing, jacquard weaving, etc.). Gradient affects can be created for some of these one-color methods by using halftones. Your gradient would be set up with a series of dots to achieve this look, but this process is typically costly, so gradient logos are more commonly used on products that utilize a digital RBG or CMYK printing process like heat transfers, direct to garment printing, or sublimation.
Be purposeful with negative space: Negative space can be a powerful design element. Consider how you can use it effectively to create a strong, memorable logo. Note what negative space is required to remain on the outside edges of your new logo to avoid your logo printing too large or too close to another element of the product. Also confirm that the negative space between design elements (also see Pick the right typography and again, avoid complexity) in your logo will not cause issues of “fill-in” or worse, unintended imagery.
Provide vector art files: Decoration on your merchandise requires vector graphics. These are files that will end in .eps, .ai, .svg, or .pdf. Vector art is the standard for logo creation as they can be scaled up or down without losing quality assuming text has been converted properly. Raster art, also known as bitmap or pixel-based art, is created by arranging individual pixels (tiny squares) to form an image. Each pixel has a specific color, and the overall image is composed of a grid of these pixels. Raster images are resolution-dependent and resizing them can result in a loss of quality.
Seek feedback: Don’t work in isolation. Get feedback from your promo merch partner throughout your rebranding process. They know a thing or two because they’ve seen a thing or two. They can offer valuable insights and suggestions for improvement if needed. Plus, you’re giving them the opportunity to get that creativity flowing with great new merchandise ideas for your refreshed brand!
Copyrights: Make sure your logo is entirely original and doesn’t violate copyright or trademark laws. This can lead to legal issues down the line. Once finalized, work with your rebranding agency or your internal legal team to establish any applicable registration marks and copyrights for your new logo.
By avoiding these common pitfalls, you can create a logo that not only looks great on merchandise but also effectively represents your brand and withstands the test of time.
Author: Sarah-Marie Clark, Online Services Manager