A client of ours has had a logo designed which is simply their brand name in block characters, with stock photos of smiling models within the characters themselves.

Aside from the garish design, is there a technical limitation on using images within a logo? i.e. cannot create in vector format etc.

The logo itself is incredibly high resolution (and the logo will be printed on a very large surface).

6 Answers 6

  • a) Does the client own the rights to the photo outright? If the client does not own the rights, then the artwork can not be copyrighted—meaning, any other company is free to find the same stock photo and use it. This results in brand confusion and possible issues due to competitors diluting the companies brand. Exactly what you don't want for a logo.
  • b) How does the photo look when the logo is 1" in size? Logos need to be reproduced at very small sizes. Branding should consider this. If at a small size the mark is unclear or indiscernible, then it's not living up to its purpose.
  • c) How does the logo look at very large sizes? Photos, being raster based, have a limitation to their maximum size before broken pixels occur. If at very large sizes the resolution of the photo is not high enough, you may find the mark looks horrible and conveys a very poor message for the brand.
  • d) Does the logo reproduce in multiple color variations well? Logos often need to be reproduced in full color, greyscale, solid black (no halftone), and sometimes spot color. Does the photo have enough contrast to be clear when reproduced as a greyscale image? How does the photo reproduce when only solid black without halftones? Is it even possible with the photo?
  • e) Non-technical: what are the races/ages of the models? Is the company targeting a specific demographic by using a photo of models that are all clearly a specific group? It is very easy to alienate customers by using general photo of people. If a potential customer sees a photo of a group of 20 year old white people, they may assume the product/service is designed for 20 year old white people and never bother looking further. Using people in a logo is almost always a very bad idea due to this.

In the end, what some uneducated clients feel is a "logo" is really nothing more than an image they use repeatedly with their company name. While that may skirt the definition of a "logo", it often is more along the lines of "trade dress" as opposed to a "logotype."

Sometimes you may be able to talk the client into a more practical logo; sometimes you can't. When the client is unwavering and insists on such a bad image for a "logo," in my opinion, they are a lost cause. Their business will often have some short-lived initial success then struggle until they give in and change their "logo" or they'll cling to the bad image until the business fails.

Well-designed, functional logos generally consist of universal elements which work the same at all sizes and all color reproduction methods. The entire point of a logo is to be consistent. Photos are never consistent—substrate, dot gain, reproduction methods all will change how a photo reproduces. While the photo may reproduce well at relatively medium size in full color on a particular substrate, it will often fail in other use cases. Once you need to use a logo with a photo at a postage stamp size or get signage made, the logo falls apart completely, making it useless.

  • Although, a company need not have just one varation of the logo. Other variants may omit the photographs.
    – joojaa
    Commented Sep 10, 2017 at 0:10

Not really. But there are practical, and legal reasons why this isn't done.

First of stock photography does not cover this kind of usage, so these images are expensive as not only do you need to comission the photographs. You also need release by the models for this specific use, but can still get into legal problems in some juristictions.

It makes it harder to print and get consistent logos printrun to printrun, manufacturer to manufacturer. Having solid colors is easy to specify, even gradients are a walk in the park. Not impossible just more problematic.

The logo has to work on many sizes and mediums. So while it is ok for a logosystem to have variation. If the image elements are very prominent, then you may have problems recognizing a white on transparent logo that is etched on glass for example.

PDF documents get unwieldy for digital consumption. And so on and so on.


To add to what's already posted, using high res images will generally result in a large source file. So while a 100% vector logo could be 1 Mb or less, a logo including a high res image could quickly increase in size up to tens (?) or hundreds (?) of Mb.

Which could pose a problem when sharing this between different contractors as you can't just attach a large file via email and clients don't always have a routine in place for sharing branding assets from cloud backups.

I have worked with a lot of clients and many times they don't know where their logo is (after the logo being explicitly delivered), or what format should be used for each task so including an image could add to this confusion on the client side.

  • 2
    A 100% vector logo could be 1 kb or less. Splines are super, super cheap. Adding a bitmap to a spline logo makes everything much harder. Any bitmap will either have enormous file sizes, or reproduce badly at large scale. Commented Sep 9, 2017 at 19:54

Using an image will make it impossible to use the logo in certain situations such as embroidering the logo on a polo. It would also make screen printing the logo an issue as well since the number of colors used in screen printing generally adds limitations and cost.


What will be left of your company letterhead when faxed? How many spot colors will printing of your company letter paper require? How will the rotating neon version on the top of your company headquarters be realized and from how far will it be recognizable?

How are you going to trademark the models' likenesses and how will you recompensate them when further jobs of them would constitute trademark infringement?


I'm thinking using a photo will create some limitation in designing a vector logo. Thinking it that vector logo supports zooming in with no limit, and a shooting photo are not allowed to zooming in along. Technically speaking, it's not right.

In reality, we just zoom in in some degrees. So I want to say it depends on your canva.

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