Updated: Mar 4
Badge designs are trending! And for good reason...when used as your primary logo, badges can offer your brand an outdoorsy, playful, and stylish aesthetic. When designed as a sub-branding item, they’re also an awesome way to incorporate numerous details of your brand in one piece without overcrowding your logo.
In this article, we’ll go over what a badge design is, its specific elements, its benefits, and my two cents on the matter.
At the bottom of the page, we’ll go over a badge design I did for my brother Andrew’s business–Huegel Taxidermy–to put all of this information together into a visual example.
What is a Badge Design?
Though it’s not difficult to recognize a badge design when we see one, its definition doesn’t come quite as easily. Badges themselves have been around since the middle ages, denoting belonging to a particular family, organization, or occupation. They were also awarded to those who completed a pilgrimage, or committed a courageous act.
Today, badges are carried by officials like first responders and military officers for credibility. Kiddos can also earn merit badges as girl scouts or boy scouts for trying, or learning, something new.
When it’s all boiled down to a shared purpose, badges really have one job: to visually communicate–just like any other piece of modern graphic design.
Note: badge designs should always be consistent with company branding… but otherwise, designers have creative license to include extra elements that help carry their message even further than their existing logo.
What are Some Elements of a Badge Design?
Though badge designs look complicated and full of detail, they can really be broken down into a few elements that create a cohesive look. Your designer will choose these elements based on what they feel is most important to communicate about your brand. Below are a few examples.
Shape or Frame
The shape of a badge will depend on its use: will it be on apparel? Your website? Once your designer decides on a shape that is functional and fits its use well, they may even use it to integrate a symbol that helps communicate your brand further.
Example of a badge with a special shape:
Notice how the Pennsylvania keystone frames out the buck’s head. It gives context to the viewer that this buck is location-specific. What might this combination of elements indicate?
Do you have a special tagline? Was your company established by your family long ago? What products or services do you sell? Your designer may incorporate some of this info as copy into your badge design.
Example of a badge with copy: In this badge I did for Mohawk Outdoors, we included “Fish | Hunt | Explore” to show their customers exactly what kind of outdoors activities they do and cater to.
Graphic designers often use the likeness of physical objects to communicate something about a brand, and badges are no exception. Since badge designs are more complex, they may use this opportunity to incorporate symbols they couldn’t use in your logo to say something about your company values or personality.
Example of a badge with symbols: This badge I did for Spencer Crandall (a country singer) uses a compass, owl, maple leaf, bonfire, bear, and topographic shapes to create a modern outdoorsy aesthetic his fan base loves.
The colors you use in your branding speaks multitudes about your brand and your company. Bolder, primary colors usually indicate modern, sporty, energizing brands. Muted earth tones are best for nature or outdoors brands, like the ones I usually work with. Badge design color palettes should reflect that of the brand identity.
For those using badge designs as a piece of sub-branding, it is essential the design includes elements of the existing logo to make sure its ties in with its existing brand identity. This will help the viewer to make the connection between the badge and the company.
Example of a badge reflecting branding:
You can see elements of the existing branding in every graphic I did for this barber-shop company, from the retro-style type and old style tattoo illustrations to its grayscale gradient.
Where Should I Put a Badge Design?
Badge designs look great on physical merchandise and collateral, such as (but not limited to):
Shirts & Hats
So they work well for companies and businesses with tangible goods and products, or those promoting lifestyle brands that sell merchandise on the side. But they can also be used as primary logos on websites or social media.
From my experience, badge designs do particularly well on Instagram when displayed on apparel. Customers want to support the brands and companies they love, and a beautiful, well-designed piece of merchandise is a great way to do it.
Should I Have My Graphic Designer Make Me a Badge Design?
When I first meet with a client, I always recommend incorporating at least one custom badge design in addition to their standard logo right from the start. I do this for a few reasons:
For new brands, it gives us an opportunity to collaborate and further explore their brand identity by discovering what symbols, copy elements, and colors speak to their business.
For existing brands, it helps us nail down exactly what aesthetic and vibe they want out of their rebrand–and they get a professional graphic to advertise the transition across social media, blog, etc.
Even if they don’t use it right away, it can be saved for promotional merchandise down the road; which is a great way to boost brand awareness.
So, is a badge design right for you? If your brand identity is complex, has numerous symbols and extensive information to communicate, or will be using physical goods to advertise regularly, the answer would be a resounding “yes”.
Case Study: Huegel Taxidermy Badge
When I branded my brother’s taxidermy business, I focused on creating a modern brand identity that communicated the value of honoring traditional values while simultaneously bringing taxidermy into the 21st century.
His ideal client is the modern hunter–somebody who deeply respects nature and wants to honor their harvest with a mount that stands above the rest in quality.
This badge has an illustration of an actual “backpack mount” he recently completed, which includes a wooden structure and rope along with a mounted white tail that symbolizes how a hunter might “pack out” a buck after a long hike in to find him.
Here are some of the elements I included:
Shape or Form: I used a circle, keeping a sticker template in mind.
Copy: I included “2018”, the date he started his company. Many folks want to support “veteran owned” companies, so I included this element. “Mounted memories: land, water, and sky” is copy consistent with his brand and website to indicate the many different kinds of taxidermy he does. I also included “Lancaster, Pennsylvania”, to show his origin.
Symbols: A pheasant, a duck, and coniferous trees combined give an outdoorsy vibe that also suggests the hunting niche. A Pennsylvania keystone sits at the bottom to show his origin.
Color Palette: Natural, de-saturated forest greens and browns show an outdoorsy aesthetic and stay consistent with his brand colors.
Branding: Font faces and type is consistent with the branding on his website.
What do you think? Do you have more questions about badge designs? Are you considering one for your company?
Let me know how I can help at email@example.com or by calling, 717-490-2234.