How to Design a Church Logo

June 15, 2006 by

It’s been great to see more and more activity in the Church Marketing Lab. The level of creativity is matched only by the willingness to grow and expand the gifts God gave us. Logo and brand identity has come up time after time in the lab, and it’s an area that can be both challenging and very rewarding.

Too often we jump to designing a logo when in fact we should be developing an identity. It may sound like symantecs, but it really isn’t. A logo by itself is simply an appealing image connected to a church name. An identity is a strategy that tells your story through imagery and color. This certainly involves a logo, but must first begin with strategy.

God First
Don’t begin this process without first seeking God. This is a big task and if you don’t have some divine guidance, good luck.

Computer Off
Every identity and logo needs to begin with a pencil in your hand and your computer turned off. Don’t jump into Illustrator until you’ve done your homework and have pages of sketches. If you skip this step, you’re letting the computer design your logo and you’ll end up with a logo without heart.

Describe Your Church
Before we even sketch, take out that paper and pencil and begin to write down words that describes your church, your culture, the people in your community, what you’re great at, why people would want to know you, what people will find when they arrive, etc. This helps to find a foundation to build your identity on. Just because your church’s name is Hills Valley Christian Church does not mean you must have a logo with a hill, a valley and the sun shining over a cross. Instead your logo should be about what you are, it should tell your story.

Sketching Time
Once you’ve written out this list of words that make up your story, now you can begin to isolate the main threads that run through who you are. Now, you can being to sketch with the goal of putting into visual terms these key concepts. Sketch and sketch and sketch. Put the paper down, go take a walk downtown, play catch with your kids, pull yourself away and refresh. Now, go back and sketch some more.

Now Use the Computer
Now take a look at your sketches, highlight those that jump out at you… now you can turn the computer on. As you begin to put your sketches into Illustrator keep a few things in mind:

  • Design in black and white. Color is the final piece of the puzzle. Don’t let it confuse your decisions too early in the process.
  • This isn’t time for the tagline, that can come later. The logo must stand on its own. If it needs to be explained, it doesn’t work.
  • As you progress, look at different size scales of the logo. This will be important in having a universal logo. It will need to work on the side of your building or as a tiny web icon.

Step into the Lab
Once you have some concepts that you like, post them to the Church Marketing Lab (need help?) and the fun can continue. You’ll end up with a much stronger identity when you don’t do this alone. That’s what the lab is all about.

Post By:

Michael Buckingham

With the goal of making the church the most creative place on the planet, Michael founded Holy Cow Creative, the church’s creativity and design studio. He is the former creative director for the Center for Church Communication and Church Marketing Sucks, and is currently the experience pastor at Victory World Church in Atlanta.
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22 Responses to “How to Design a Church Logo”

  • Paul
    June 16, 2006

    For the most part, I REALLY like the process you’ve described, and agree with the distinction between identity and logo. I’m not sure how much people will latch on to the skething before computer bit, though I know some people are taught that way (I wasn’t).
    I prefer a pen in hand for most design ventures, but then I have a studio art degree with about half of my time in design and half in studio art. So I’m a tactile person, very.
    Yet, I don’t start with a pen in hand as you so strongly suggest. Even though I like it so well. I wonder why . . . ?

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  • Gene Mason
    June 16, 2006

    Good instruction. I’d also recommend not designing the logo by committee. I’ve found in the logos I’ve designed for the churches I’ve served and others that the smaller the decision making group, the closer we could come to capturing the essence of the church’s identity in the logo. More than 3-4 people involved and the opinions get difficult to manage. I think determining the decision-makers early on is important.
    I’ve designed several logos that went from simplicity and clear communication to wild and confusing because it got passed around to dozens of people in an email with “what do you think?” attached. Evaluation is important, but on a logo there must be a balance.

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  • Karen
    June 16, 2006

    Paul, I agree with you. I sometimes doodle, but I would much rather start on the computer and not with a pencil. And, it still comes from my heart. God has given people different talents and ways of doing things. Some like to draw by hand and others like to do it on the computer with a mouse or pen. It doesn’t mean that it isn’t coming from their heart.

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  • Jeremy.Scheller
    June 16, 2006

    I’ve been designing logos/identity systems for about 7 years for my side business. I’ve never started on paper. I’m trained with a fine art degree, but I find the computer to be just as useful a tool for doing creative sketching as a pencil…
    The important thing for me is to let the ideas drive the design and not the other way around. Using Adobe Illustrator doesn’t have to mean you’re letting the computer do the work. It can simply be the pencil in a virtual world.
    One thing I’ve learned to make a point of, is to actually pretend I’m sketching when I start out. This means, designs are roughed in quickly to engage the idea, but aren’t necessarily brought to “final logo” status. Fonts are roughed based on Serif, sans, decorative, etc. But if the font isn’t just so, then you can’t let it control you…
    After I’ve roughed in about 2-3 dozen designs, I take a step back froom the work and then return to it a day or two later. By that time, things look fresh again, and you can begin to decide which comcepts have merit for further exploration….
    My guess is, that a 2-D Illustration Software will eventually be considered the “traditional tool” for logo creation, as more and more things move into multi-dimensional presentation formats….
    Just a few thoughts around my process…

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  • Eric Wilbanks
    June 17, 2006

    Excellent article. Unfortunately, you’re preaching to the choir. The people that need to understand the process are our clients. I, for one, have trouble getting my clients to understand the necessity of thinking through the process. So I find myself doing way more comps than should be necessary. I work hard to both satisfy my clients and educate them, but I find that few are really interested in learning. They want a design, and they want it yesterday. And if I need any real insight, I have to do a Vulcan mind-meld, which tends to frighten some of them.
    So, I’ve started telling all my clients that if they want me to design an identity for them, they have to complete a “homework” assignment, which forces them to walk through the questions I want answered before I start my doodling. So far, I haven’t had anyone refuse, although they aren’t usually excited about it. Afterwards, however, the homework always results in a more efficient and effective design.

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  • Andrew Ling
    June 18, 2006

    It is dangerous to start your first drafts/sketches on the computer because then you will be limited by the program and what you know about the program. If you start with pen and paper, you focus more on the idea. Because it’s all about the idea- Then you go and figure out how to produce that idea.
    I dunno, it’s different for different people.
    Also- Eric (guy before me)
    Great idea!
    Then you have all the final information you need in one document. There’s no going back and your client will be/should be happier.
    ahh yeah

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  • Brandon Meek
    June 22, 2006

    I think Andrew says it best. I find that starting directly at the computer limits you and doesn’t let you explore everything. Also, there is a speed issue. Even if I’m using my tablet, i’m still faster with a marker and paper.
    I do try and get to the computer as fast as I can though. My handskills are questionable at times. :)

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  • David Tonen
    July 5, 2006

    I agree with you Paul, Make sure the decision making committee is no more than a few people. The most frustrating part is too many opinions. Gather several key and influential people and make them sell the final choice to the church!

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  • Jen Deal
    July 5, 2006

    Maybe the pencil sketch suggestion is for the artistically challenged like myself. I happen to have an artistically gifted friend who can take my word descriptions and extremely rough pencil drawings and make them into exactly what I’m going for. That worked very efficiently (plus the thought in my head that I’d be paying my talented friend for every minute of his time) when I designed my business logo. However, when same friend and I attempted to design a logo for the church without an identity in mind (and for free), we (the pastor and I) ended up changing what the logo should look like every time we met. I felt sorry for my goto art guy – it is simply impossible to get an accurate picture of a moving target. For something time enduring like a logo needs to be, starting with a word description of the identity is a must. In fact, I’d love to have a copy of Eric’s “homework” assignment.

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  • Todd Carver
    August 13, 2006

    Ok, I agree with most said here, but of all the comments I would say that starting on the computer is not evil! (I don’t really think that is the point being made anyway) The concept of sketches is really the underlying rule here right? If you can sketch in Illustartor, then do it. If not, get a pencil! (or pen) I think what is being said here is not, “don’t use a computer” but, “use your head first”, then go to the final art. Good article!

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  • phil underwood
    August 16, 2006

    do you have any of these creative, well thought out logos we can copy??

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  • Michael Kern
    September 28, 2006

    I design identity full time, and have managed a creative staff. My advice has always been to find your groove – a system that works best for you. Be careful though, because a groove becomes a rut if you do things the same way every time. So a system is great, but we also need to find ways to approach things with a fresh point of view.
    I gather input first, talk with my clients to get a good feel for their needs, research, sketch in a notebook, and use the computer to render the best designs. The process is filled with prayer. I find myself saying “dig deeper,” a lot. I also try to imagine myself as an unchurched person, a visitor, a church member, and the pastor. Then ask myself how each of these views the logos.
    Some designers just present one idea, others more. I present more, and this has worked well for me. I also appreciate feedback from the pastor and modify the logo based on their input. Most of the time it makes for a stronger design and one that is truer to who they are.
    I think Michael’s process is a good place to start, but as with anything else, you’ll develop your own way of doing things as you gain experience.

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  • Josh
    January 26, 2007

    I just wanted to add to the “draw first”s. I think the computer will limit you without you even realizing it. Go wild with sketches, then take it to he computer. The computer will then bring up other ideas with the spine being your drawings.

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  • leo
    August 3, 2008

    thanks for the guidelines on how to design, but can you give more steps on how to design a church program sir?

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  • Ryan Gear
    January 12, 2011

    I love, “The logo must stand on its own. If it needs to be explained, it doesn’t work.”

    I’ve seen way too many church logos that were a complex mess, like a vanity plate that doesn’t make sense. They meant something to the pastor but to no one else. Simplicity is key. I blogged about it today, actually.

    Thanks for your site and for helping church leaders, including me!

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  • tj
    July 18, 2011

    I enjoy this entire approach. Too often church branding and christian content in general is trapped in a feedback loop of what worked 20-30 years ago although my clients deal with an older demographic I can appreciate your fresh approach. Awesome and great advice to church members as well as designers.

    @ Gene, I know you posted back in 2006 but I just had to mention that I hear you brother! I have been in many situations where too many people being involved in the decison making process resulted in the strangest and most abstract versions of the simplest of concepts! I think feedback is important but it is worth putting something down on paper first rather than relying on non-professionals to brainstorm or put design elements together. I think if you ask someone their opinion they will give it and it will either reinforce or inform the design so you can develop it better but involving too many in the actual process puts them in a position where they feel obligated to have something to say or seek a fault in the design. I have had very intelligent people loose all reasoning skills in this situation because they just want to be heard! Consider these same people’s reaction to a finished logo on the wall and they won’t be constantly searching for a fault in it. Sorry for the rant! Just something that really gets to me!

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  • Boakye
    May 21, 2012

    I am working our church’s logo and wanted to see what other people have to say about the subject and your site has being helpful.
    More blessings for you!

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  • Pamela
    June 18, 2012

    I appreciate the information as I’m also trying to work on a logo for our church and have thought to initially draft it on paper first since that appears most logical to me. My question, however, is once I do get to the computer part of it, are there any programs out there that folks could/would recommend for this type of endeavor? Thanks!

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  • Matthew Sandahl
    June 20, 2012

    great sound advice.

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  • Tim
    April 12, 2013

    Our church is in the process of getting a new logo. how much should we be prepared to spend? are any of you who have logo design experience interested in a possible opportunity in creating a logo for us? email me at

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