Ask a Font Creator: Logo Layouts and Font Choices
Posted on 27th February 2017
When it comes to graphic design, a logo can be both the most simple and the most difficult thing to make. You need to get an idea across in a very short amount of time, using either an image, some text, or both. You want the viewer to understand a lot of things in that short time: the purpose of your business, the quality of your business, the trustworthiness of your business. All of those aspects of your company can be seen in the font choices and layout of your logo.
Today we’re going to take a look at some logos that all include typography, and talk about how well they work. To keep everything fair, every single logo we’re going to look at today is for a pizza restaurant somewhere in the world, named either “Pronto Pizza” or “Pizza Pronto.” I think you’ll be amazed, impressed, and baffled at how different some of these can be! (Also, I got the largest images I could for these logos, but unfortunately, some of them are on the smaller side.)
I’m going to start out gently, with a logo that I like. This Pizza Pronto is in Auckland, New Zealand. If you’re a font-head like I am, you’ll recognize the main font as Lobster, which is getting a bit overused these days (there’s even a website out there, Lobster Is the New Comic Sans, with examples of Lobster being used all over the place). But if you set that aside, they’ve chosen a clean, easy-to-read script font with a slightly retro/Italian look to it, which I applaud. The text at the bottom is in Gill Sans Bold, a nice clean and simple sans-serif that goes with almost anything. (You may recognize it as the base of the Toy Story movie logo.) Add in the cool uneven oval abstract shapes that bring a pizza to mind, combined with a simple two-color scheme, and this is a nice, clean, simple, modern logo that makes me think your restaurant will be clean and modern as well.
We’re going to start heading, bit by bit, into uglier waters, friends. Our next Pronto is from Ocala, Florida. It’s using a decent, modern, bold sans-serif in green; it’s very casual even for a sans-serif, because of the rounded corners. But then they’ve gone and paired it with Brush Script MT, a font that comes pre-installed on most Windows computers over the last 10+ years. And if there’s one piece of advice I can give you, it’s this: don’t use stock Windows fonts for your logo. Too many people do it, so most of those stock fonts will look over-used and too familiar.
Fonts aside, let’s look at the layout. The red text overlaps the checkerboard frame just enough to make it hard to read. The red text has a drop shadow, while the green doesn’t, which makes things look less unified. The checkerboard pattern in that border is sometimes square, sometimes rectangular; also, the sides are thicker than the top and bottom. And the sides of the checkerboard frame are closer to “PRONTO” than the top and bottom are, again making things uneven. Not to mention that while I like the idea of the little running fellow, they’ve chosen an illustration where his legs look like they’re drastically different sizes, and he’s missing a hand. The clock hands in the other O are clearly from some other clip-art pack, because they look more hand-drawn. I’m not against the concept, but the point where the hands meet should be centered, so that it makes the O look like an actual clock.
Our next Pronto is from Germany. It pairs two more casual fonts: a thin handwriting style that I don’t recognize offhand, and the Windows pre-installed Ravie on the bottom. The two fonts have a mood imbalance – Ravie is a kooky kid-style font, while the handwriting is a bit more adult.
The two fonts are each displayed in red, with a black outline, and with a second copy of the word in green with another black outline behind. But the top font’s black outline is MUCH thinner than the bottom font’s, which makes them even less unified.
Last but not least, a word about using a highly stylized cartoon character for your logo: too much detail, and when you shrink them down to a size this small, they get fuzzy and hard to look at. In my opinion, simpler is always better with a logo. Plus, there are clearly a lot of really, really unattractive cartoon logos out there. For example:
We have this fellow, whose Pronto is in Camden, NSW, Australia. This was the largest version of the logo I could find, so you can really see how hard the cartoon chef is to see. But I don’t know that making him larger would make him any more attractive. The hooded eyes and smile, combined with the giant mustache, make him look like kind of like a silent movie villain.
The font choice on this one … could be worse? I believe it’s Impact, another Windows pre-install. And I’m pretty sure that for “PIZZA,” they just squished Impact down to make it shorter and wider. (Remember, every time you squish or stretch a font, a font designer cries.) You may know Impact from, well, almost every meme out there.
If you’d like to learn a bit more about how Impact came to be the meme font, check out the article at Know Your Meme.
Our next cartoon chef is from a Pronto Pizza in Tanzania. He’s not that bad – I kind of like his just-kissed fingers, although his pointer finger is twice as long as any other finger. I also can’t figure out where his mouth is. Is it the crescent just above his chin? Or is that a shadow? Or maybe a little chin-beard?
As far as the font: this is Cooper Black, another Windows pre-install. I’m sensing a theme here with Pronto Pizza restaurants around the world! And as we’ve discussed in previous posts, placing text on a curve can be a challenge – you sometimes have to tinker with the spacing to get it to look right. Check out the A at the end of PIZZA, sitting out all alone by itself. Crying its delicious pizza tears.
Our next little chef is from Valparaiso, Chile. I don’t hate him – yes, he’s kind of amateurishly drawn, but I actually like that. He’s simple and no-nonsense. That finger-kiss thing means he knows his pizzas are delicious.
The Pizza Pronto font in this one is, again, Brush Script MT. They’ve done alternating green-with-white and white-with-green, which is just confusing. Though it does show a weird little optical illusion that's always fascinated me: fonts in white always look thicker than fonts in a darker color. I’m sure there some scientific reason why that I’m too lazy to look up right now.
The subtitle is in a different script font, but it’s just close enough to Brush Script that it’s confusing – did they think it was the same font, and just accidentally picked the wrong one instead? This is why when you pair fonts, you want them to be in different styles.
Our last little cartoon chef is from Elmhurst, New York. And I do wish I could find this logo a bit larger, because he looks like he might actually be kind of cute. Simple, smiling, and not too much crazy detail.
THE TEXT, THOUGH! I mean, there’s putting text on a curve, and then there’s THIS. That big green PRONTO is warped beyond recognition – at first it more registers as swirly lines than letters. I have no idea why there are … starfish?... inside the Os. And last but not least, the font is Wide Latin, yet another one that comes pre-installed with Windows.
Urgh. After that one, I need a palate-cleanser. Let me find one that isn’t too bad.
This one is good in some ways, and not so good in others. I like the simpler three-color scheme; the orange and red still give the feeling of pizza, without needing the green/red/white combination we see so often. As for fonts, the PRONTO is in Helvetica, which is the safest of safe bets for a logo, even though it’s a Mac pre-install (I’d also give Arial, the Windows equivalent, a pass – primarily because despite the fact that they’re pre-installed fonts, they’re very simple and clean). But it’s been squished a little shorter than normal, which is a total no-no. I don’t hate the pizza slice cut out of the O, but I do think it could have been done a little better. The PIZZA and PASTA are both in Algerian, another pre-install favorite I've been seeing far too much of lately.
Just like Helvetica is a clean, modern font, the orange rectangle behind it is clean and modern. And Algerian is a popular font for “older” style things, as it was originally designed to be reminiscent of Victorian-era woodcuts. So the rougher distressed-looking circle kind of works with it. But the two combined together is a style mismatch – does this place want to be clean, sharp, and modern? Or rustic and rough? The two aspects are fighting with each other.
Here’s a logo taking the red/green/white color scheme and managing to make it look a little more classy! The abstract shape of a slice of pizza coming out of the pie brings the logo a bit more into modern times. (Though the slice of pizza being green is a bit of an oddity.) The color scheme also make the shapes look like a tomato with a bit of stem.
The fonts are a mixed bag. The script is a nice handwriting style called Legault, and it’s been adjusted a bit here and there so it doesn’t look like it was just typed straight out. The small print is in Lithos, which is another Windows pre-install, but since it’s serving the role of a sidekick sans-serif, I’ll give them a pass.
Makes you wonder, then, which came first: La Jolla, or this Pizza Pronto from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Different fonts, different drawing, but I sure get the feeling that this is a copy of the La Jolla logo. Why do I think this is the copy? Because it’s a little bit worse in every way. The layout isn’t as nice, the abstract pizza drawing isn’t as sharp. The script font on this one DOES look like it was just typed on a straight line with no modifications.
This post is getting long, and I have a surprisingly large number of Pronto Pizza logos left in my file. So I’m going to do some quickies:
Paris, France: Some decent elements, but they don’t go together. The simplicity of the clock clashes with the detail in the pizza slice, which shouldn’t be under the text because it makes the text hard to read. The fonts aren’t exciting.
New York: Cooper Black again, but at least the spacing isn’t bad. I don’t generally like to see beveling and embossing and other Photoshop effects in a logo, because it tells me that this logo wasn’t designed in a vector program, and likely can’t be blown up to an appropriate size. But common font aside, it’s not horrible.
Lake Tahoe, Nevada: The fonts aren’t common, but the outline treatment around them is causing fuzziness in places. Both fonts are kind of superhero-ish, which I could see if the cartoon pizza slice had a cape on. In general, it looks like this was put together by someone’s cousin who has a little knowledge of Photoshop. And it feels like the little pizza guy stepped in some of his own dripped cheese, and it's stuck to his foot.
Milton Keynes, UK: Oh, no, red text on blue – always a bad idea. And that red script is in Monotype Corsiva, which comes (say it with me) pre-installed on Windows computers. It isn’t just the colors clashing: the “Pronto” in a ’70s-style font doesn’t work with the red script. If all the red elements were removed (including the border) and the logo was resized, it would be a lot better. (Not good, but better.)
Egypt: This feels more like a university logo than a pizza restaurant. Which isn’t an awful concept – if you wanted to go with a “the smartest place to get pizza” or “our chefs have expert knowledge” sort of thing. The ordinary serif font is inoffensive, but not very exciting. The thing that bothers me the most is the uneven shield shape.
New South Wales, Australia: Oh, this could have been decent. The font isn’t a common Windows pre-install, and has a modern flair to it. I don’t hate the sliced-pizza thing they’re doing with that last O in PRONTO. But why, why, WHY did they feel the need to put the little “speed lines” to the left of the logo? It kills the entire thing. Also, “Pizza & Grill” should be moved up closer under the green/white/red line, so it’s the same distance from the line as PRONTO is.
Mexico: Cooper Black again around the outside, but I’m totally loving the treatment of the Os in PRONTO as motorcycle wheels. Unfortunately, the rest of the motorcyclist cartoon is really rough, and looks like it’s been auto-traced a couple of times too many. With some cleanup, a different font around the outside, and a less primary color scheme, this could be a really fun logo.
I’m going to end with my favorite of the whole lot, straight out of Orland Park, Illinois.
First off, the fonts. Pronto is in Melanie BT Roman, which is a friendly, clean, casual font; it’s a modern-era handwriting style (created in 2000), and is just lighthearted enough without seeming childish. It’s paired with a likewise clean sans-serif, truly serving the sidekick role so that Pronto can be the star.
The holding shape behind Pronto serves double-duty: the red color brings tomato sauce to mind, so it could look like a pizza. But the texture applied to that oval looks somewhat like wood, which makes you think their pizza oven is wood-fired. The flames on top bring that point home. The flame illustration is done in a style that matches well with the Melanie font. Everything has a varying thick-to-thin black line around it, which also unifies the elements. All of the elements are well-spaced. My only issue is the acute accent on the final O in Pronto, because I have it in my head that prontó is Spanish, not Italian (though I may be wrong on that). But overall, if I saw this logo, I’d think that the restaurant was clean, modern, and not too stuffy. Which is just what I want from a pizza place.
Back in design school, we all had to make a logo for the same coffee company. And I thought to myself, “These instructors have surely seen EVERY possible option for this company already.” But the vast majority of us managed to come up with things that hadn’t been seen before. Let this list of Pizza Prontos stand as an example that there are a thousand ways to create a design for any business. Many of those thousand aren’t that pretty, but they’re out there. ?
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