How to Design a Custom Lapel Pin

How to Design a Custom Lapel Pin

Posted by Pinonda Lapel on Dec 10th 2017

There's a rule that we follow when designing a lapel pin.  It's a simple rule and easy to remember - but SO many people break this rule that it's worth repeating it here...... again.   


I can't tell you how often a customer will send in a design for a pin that's just not going to work.  It's a bit sad because it's clear that they put a lot of work into the design.  You can see the hours they've put into their photoshop or illustrator file, carefully selecting colors, adding text and graphic effects that look really cool ...... on their 24 inch high definition monitor.

But that's where the challenge lies.  While designing cool graphics on a computer is a lot of fun and those colors, graphic effects and fonts with really fine lines will probably look great on a t-shirt or when you print them out on an  8.5" X 11" brochure - they're not likely to be legible on a 1" lapel pin.  Which brings us back to our golden rule - Size Matters

Now, before I get into the details here - I want you to remember that you don't have to do any of this.  It's not your job to design an awesome lapel pin - it's mine!  So, please don't hesitate to let me design your pin for you - for free!  It's what I do all day long and I love it!  Simply give me some idea of what you want, send me some files with your logo or a sketch and usually within a day I'll email you back a mockup.  Request your free mockup here.

Ok - so if you don't want me to do it for you - here are some guidelines for DIY pin design.

  1. Set your work area within illustrator, photoshop or whatever graphics program you're working with to the target size of your actual pin.   Most pins are in the 1" X 1" range.  1 1/4" or 1 1/2" are also popular.  By the time you get to 2' you're talking about a very large pin.  Can't quite visualize how big those are?  Make a square at each size and print it out.  Then cut those out of the paper and hold them up to your shirt.  This silly exercise will give you a good reality check for which size to target for your pin.  Another easy reference point is a US quarter which is about 1" round.  
  2. If your pin is going to include text - don't go any smaller than 6pt size.  Even at 6pt it's going to be very small, so try to keep text at 10-12 pt.  Also - if possible stay away from fonts with really thin, fine lines.  Sans-serif fonts are best for clarity at small sizes.
  3. Use 1pt stroke weights.  If you're designing a pin to be created in raised and recessed metal (like a die struck soft enamel pin, or cast pin) use 1pt black stroke to indicate where raised metal lines are placed.  If you're designing a pin to be printed (like our photo dome lapel pins) your strokes can be thinner but the thinner you go - the less they will show up.  
  4. Continually print out your design on on paper.  Printing out your design is a good reality check for what your pin will look like in reality.  If you print it out, hold it at arms length and can't read it - then people won't be able to read it when it is on someone's shirt or on a lanyard at work. 
  5. If the colors in your design are important to you, then use PMS colors (In illustrator they're at Windows / Swatch Libraries / Color Books / Pantone Solid Coated).  PMS provides a standard color language so that cool shade of blue you pick out is the same blue we will use when making your pin.  If you don't use PMS colors, then we can only guess at the color output you want because colors will vary between your computer monitor and mine.  That's why PMS colors are used as the standard worldwide.
  6. Once your done, convert all fonts to outlines and save your work.  There are millions of fonts out there and you may have found the best one for your design, and while we have thousands of fonts in our library, we can't have them all.  So converting to outlines means we'll be able to use that awesome font without having to recreate it - adding lost time to your project.

Ok - that's probably enough for now.  Since every custom pin is different, there's no way to give you a complete crash course in lapel pin design in one blog post - but if you follow the golden rule and design your pin at the actual size of the pin you want - you're going to save yourself a lot of frustration later.  

Again, I'm happy to design your custom pin for you - just send me your request and I'll send back a free mockup!  

Happy Pin Designing

~ Pinonda