The Global VC

7 Design Hacks to Improve Your Startup Logo Designs

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Below is a collection of my tips and feedback from a creative logo live-hacking workshop I led during the most recent 500 Startups seed accelerator program, Batch 20. The goal was to help startups better communicate their branding messages through simple yet effective design practices.

Here are 7 Design Hacks we implemented to give Batch 20 companies a logo facelift:

1. Use Color Contrasts to Increase Legibility

Obie.AI  —  A Slackbot for accessing team data.

Comments: Choose a better color combination for the logo to make it easier on the eyes, especially when used as the app icon. You can use Adobe Kuler (free) to create or check your color schemes.

The suggestion is: Since the product is a Slackbot, the logo icon will be applied on Slack as a 40×40 pixel image, which is very small. The new color scheme would make it easier for users to recognize the icon and it’s more mobile-friendly.

2. Unify Logo Elements to Achieve Visual Consistency

Via Global Health  —  A platform that connects people in emerging markets with medical supplies that is otherwise inaccessible.

Comments: The company name is “VIA GLOBAL HEALTH”, yet the part “VIA” is disconnected visually with the text “GLOBAL HEALTH”. Users may confuse the name of the company as “GLOBAL HEALTH,” because the “VIA” looks more like the symbol, than the company name.

I gave them two suggestions to choose from:

Option A: Remove the circle (which currently isolates the “VIA” part), and instead integrate the arrows (that make up the V and A in VIA) into “GLOBAL HEALTH” as well.

Option B: Keep “VIA” part as a symbol, and write out the entire company name in text.

3. Add Color(s) to Enhance Brand Name Recognition

Cybewrite  — A machine learning solution for cyber insurance underwriting and pricing.

Comments: The company name “Cybewrite” has an unusual spelling (omitting the “r” in “Cyber”). I recommend highlighting two parts of the name with two different colors. This helps users remember the correct spelling of the company name.

Additionally, thickening the middle line of the pen tip and the word “Cybewrite” makes the logo more legible when it is displayed in a smaller size. See below:


4. Highlight Certain Logo Elements to Make Your Logo Pop

Win-Win — A sports gaming platform where users play in week-long tournaments to compete for experiences with their favorite pro athletes and influencers, while the entry fee goes to support charitable initiatives.

Comments: The original black-and-white logo does not stand out from the background on both the app and the website. I recommended highlighting the hexagon outline around the W with the color gold to make it pop. The color gold is also associated with the golden medal, which is reinforces gaming and sports.



5. Pair Your Logo Name with a Relevant Logo Icon

HyphenConnecting Team insights with Management & HR in Real Time.

Comments: The current logo icon is too abstract, which does not complement the brand message, “Connecting Team insights with Management & HR in Real Time”. I suggested adding dots around the logo letters to visually convey the message, “connecting dots between team and management”.

The logo icon also should be relevant and meaningful enough to be applied as the social media icon. Currently, the company’s social media icon is a straight dash with a curvy straight underneath. The founder told me it was supposed to be a Hyphen with a smug underneath it, which is too obscure and abstract for the audience to understand what they are trying to convey.

I suggested using the first letter of the word, “H”, as their social media icon, with the dots at each end of the letter indicating the notion of “connecting”.


6. Avoid Misleading Letter Case Combination

Urban Logic — Applies machine-learning analytics to make city planning faster, cheaper and more accurate.

Comments: I understand the current icon symbolizes statistics, yet the green “L” in lowercase can be confused with an uppercase letter “i”. I suggested either replacing the lowercase “L” by simply adding a horizontal stroke at the bottom, or turning the current rounded edged “UL” into square edged bars, to avoid confusion.

7. Avoid Misleading Letterform Alteration

RapidCFO — A conversational finance bot.

Comments: The company name is “RapidCFO”, but the part “O” is an open circle, which could make users confuse their name as “RapidCFC”.  

My suggestion is to apply the original arrow treatment of the letter “O” on the letter “C”, and turn the letter “O” back to a full circle. Also, since this company is dealing with finance, having a second brand color like green will help users to reinforce.

Bonus tip: Additionally, you can add international currency symbols, such as the dollar “$” sign, the pound “£” sign, the euro “€” sign, the Japanese or Chinese sign “¥”, and so on for location-based versions. It can even be animated, see below:

To summarize, here are the 7 Design Hacks to Improve Your Startup Logo Designs:

  1. Use Color Contrasts to Increase Legibility
  2. Unify Logo Elements to Improve Visual Consistency
  3. Add Color(s) to Enhance Brand Name Recognition
  4. Highlight Certain Logo Elements to Make Your Logo Pop
  5. Pair Your Logo Name with a Relevant Logo Icon
  6. Avoid Misleading Letter Case Combination
  7. Avoid Misleading Letterform Alteration


500 Batch 22 begins July 24th, 2017 in San Francisco.

Click Here to apply for our the Batch 22 Seed Program.


See also:

7 Marketing Secrets from 500 Startups Demo Days
7 Design Thinking Tips to Improve Your Startup Growth



Yiying Lu is award-winning bilingual (English & Chinese) artist and designer. Born in Shanghai China, Educated in Sydney Australia & London UK, now based in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, she currently is a Design Lecturer at the NYU Shanghai Program on Creativity & Innovation. She is also an individual creative consultant who provides talks & workshops for global startups and corporate innovation teams on design thinking, entrepreneurship & creativity. Her projects have been featured in many publications, including The New York Times, Forbes, NBC News, TIME, CNN, BBC, San Francisco Chronicle, TechCrunch, Mashable, and The Huffington Post. She was named a “Top 10 Emerging Leader in Innovation” in the Microsoft Next 100 series. For more from Yiying, you can follow her on TwitterLinkedin and Medium.


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