Video is a powerful engagement tool for any business. A YouTube channel is the number #1 place for your business to build an audience and reach your customers through video. An effectively designed logo creates visual identity; it makes you recognizable to your customers. Your YouTube logo also tells your audience if you should be taken seriously. A poorly designed logo results in brand confusion and suggests a lack of attention.

Your YouTube logo needs to work on small screens

Visitors to your YouTube channel will arrive from desktops, laptops, tablets, and mobile phones. More often than not, they'll arrive from mobile phones. And, most all sharing happens from mobile; people message videos to each other. Even though you might create your channel logo on a desktop, that's not how the majority of your channel visitors will experience it.

An image comparing the size of a YouTube channel logo to the fingernail on a human pinky

The above image shows a YouTube feed on the iPhone XS Max, Apple's largest iPhone. To its right is a pinky finger. The red horizontal lines show that, the Apple TV channel logo is clearly smaller than the fingernail on a pinky. That doesn't leave room for a lot of detail, and it certainly doesn't leave room for much text.

You need a brand symbol

Today, most internet use and a lot of work happens on small screens. Symbology -- the use of symbols -- is critically important. For proof, look no further than the home screen of your phone.

The home screen of an iPhone

iPhone and Android apps are all represented by symbols. They're clean and, when possible, communicate meaning. For example, Apple's Camera app is represented by a camera. The Mail app is an envelope. The Settings app is a set of gears. They're each symbolic representations of their functional equivalents. Your YouTube channel logo needs to do the same. It needs to symbolize your brand. In doing so, it must be both simple and recognizable. You probably recognized most of Apple's app icons without first being told what any were. That's the power of symbology.

Choose simplicity over complexity

When creating a YouTube logo (a brand symbol) for your channel, your symbol has to be uniquely differentiated from your competition. You don't want your brand confused with someone else's brand. Also, as implied earlier, your symbol needs to communicate meaning. It should connect your YouTube channel visitors to your brand with urgency: as quickly as possible. Immediacy requires simplicity. If visitors have to invest effort to figure out what your brand symbol is, or to read small text, they'll skip to your content. It's great that they're watching your video, but it's a missed opportunity; to connect your content to your brand. Even if you've provided something of value, the viewer may not connect that value to you: its provider. That's a problem.

Brand symbols for Apple, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft

Above are brand symbols for some of the world's most iconic companies. They all have several things in common:

  • All symbols are are simple. They're recognizable for what they are, even at sizes smaller than the fingernail on a pinky
  • All symbols use shapes to define them. None have thin lines which would appear blurry or dirty at small sizes
  • Each symbol uses a limited color palette, consistent with the brand it represents
  • None of the symbols contain words

All social networks use round profile badges

Despite their differences, all social media platforms have one thing in common. They display your profile badge or logo in a circle. When you upload a square graphic, it's masked to a circle. YouTube's dark mode demonstrates the effect. Corners are nonexistent for any of the below brand symbols.

YouTube logos for Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, Google, YouTube, and Apple

Here, you can see the brand symbols for Twitter, Microsoft, and Facebook as they appear on Twitter. They're masked to circles.

Twitter pages belonging to Twitter, Microsoft, and Twitter

Below are the brand symbols for Facebook, Google, and Apple as users see them on their respective Facebook pages. Again, they're round.

Twitter pages belonging to Facebook, Google, and Apple

Your brand symbol needs to fit in a circle

Whether creating a brand symbol to use as a YouTube logo or anywhere else, you need to give your design some space. A symbol may look great as a square. However, when masked to a circle, it could be missing information. You don't want bits of your logo missing from view.

You can't fit a square peg in a round hole.

The above shows what happens when you upload a square image to a social media site like YouTube; to use as your brand symbol. The first box shows the size of the square container into which your image will fit. The second shows your logo -- in this case Twitter's logo -- filling the box completely. The third box shows the circular boundary where your image will be masked. The last box shows the masked Twitter bird and demonstrates the problem of information loss. Twitter's bird is missing its beak, part of its wing, and a portion of its tale.

To solve the problem of missing information, your brand symbol needs to be made small enough so it completely fits inside of a circle.

The Twitter bird shrunk so it fits inside a circle

Now, Twitter's bird fits inside a circle. The bird has regained its beak, tail feathers, and wingtips. There's no information loss, but it still doesn't look right. The bird's beak and tail are touching the round border. It looks cramped. Though improved, the layout is still unappealing.

Give your brand symbol some breathing room

The Twitter bird must again be made smaller in proportion to its square container. Apple's iOS icon grid is a tool which can help solve this problem. It's available for free on the web and can be downloaded in a variety of file formats. You don't need to use it. It's a helper if you want it.

Twitter's bird symbol sized with the iOS icon grid

Above, Twitter's bird has been centered within the circles of the grid. The first box shows the empty image container. The second shows the uploaded Twitter logo with the grid layered on top of it. The uploaded logo is composed of both the white bird and its blue background which fills the entire container. Again, the third box shows how the logo will be masked. The fourth shows Twitter's final logo.

Let's compare the Twitter symbol we created to their YouTube logo...It's pretty close.

Twitter's channel page and their YouTube logo

Twitter's brand symbol looks the same on their Twitter page. It's consistent. Looks good!

Twitter's brand symbol on their Twitter page

Your brand symbol may fill more or less of the round canvas. The esthetic choice is yours. However, your symbol should not touch any edges of your frame. That's true regardless of your frame's shape.

We follow our own advice. This is the LEAP WORKS Twitter page. One day, we'll have more zeroes at the end of our follower count. Everyone has to start somewhere though.

LEAP WORKS Twitter page

Be consistent

Now that you've created a YouTube logo for your channel, you need to add your symbol to all the other social networks you use. Creating a logo is 90% of the effort, but if it's not applied everywhere, a lot of your effort will be wasted. Your customers will have a hard time recognizing you across platforms. Share unique content on each social network, but carry the same visual identity throughout them all.