Step 1: Helvetica
No, this isn’t some pretentious hipster crap. Helvetica is a perfectly neutral typeface with no distinguishable stylistic elements. This means that it can feasibly be used for any purpose with all the focus given to the message rather than the method.
For people with no background in typography this is great news. Instead of spending hours designing an inferior logo, the difficult part of visual communication can be entirely removed. This prevents well meaning people from creating bad designs and avoids distracting from that which needs to be communicated.
Take a look at some familiar logos to see how widely and effectively Helvetica has been used by many large businesses.
Okay, so I lied. Making a logo is a little more complicated than just choosing a typeface, but these next steps will explain how you can properly display type without doing anything at all.
Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration. — Jeffrey Zeldman
Step 1.1: Pick a weight
No matter what your company does, this will increase visibility without imposing.
Step 1.2: Color
If you don’t know all about the mathematics of color, contrast, and saturation, you are better off leaving it out entirely. Unless you know what you are doing, avoid the temptation to paint your letters with the hippest, new Tangerine Tango.
Make it black. Or if you must, dark gray.
Step 1.3: Don’t touch that
Kerning, tracking, leading, orientation, manual expanding/condensing, hyphenation, ligatures, bearings, texture, gradient, stroke, dropshadow, feather, drop letter and small caps. Let them be. If it is necessary the software will do it for you. Unless you are prepared to learn about these things—which I would encourage you to do—feel free to just let them slide.
Less is less, and less is good. So unless your logo requires a pre-1957 typeface, stick with Helvetica and you can’t possibly screw up.
Warning: Design by removal
Using this method you can quickly create a useful logo by removing the non-essential elements. The product may lack some qualities that it should ideally possess, but at least it won’t possess any that will harm your brand.
This is by no means a perfect process. Designing by simply eliminating elements can do nothing to deal with the root problem; it can only stop something disastrous from happening. If you want to have a logo that represents your company effectively and adds value to your brand, there is no substitute to hiring a professional designer.