This is part two of the logo design series. In the first post on logo design I talked about the technical side of logo design; the right formats and tools to use. In this article I will talk about the actual design, the look, of an effective logo. If you haven’t read the first article, you can find it here.
What is a Logo
The modern idea of a logo, an abstract representation of a company, can be traced back to the first trademarked logo. The triangle for Bass, a British beer brewer. They received the first ever trademark, for their triangle logo. The idea of representing a group or idea with a symbol predates that first logo by centuries though. Think of the cross for christians, the star of David for the Isreal, the sun for eEgyptian pharaohs, or even a skull for death. Today almost every company formed in the western world use logos to help introduce themselves and make it easier for people to recognize their offerings. Like older symbols, a logo has to be easy to identify, without too many details and components. They should also be unique enough so someone doesn’t think of the wrong company when they see it.
A logo consists of really two components, the colors and the structure. Sometimes the structure includes word or letters, sometimes it’s an icon, and sometimes contains an illustration. The color or colors used can go on to be part of the color scheme for everything else the company does. Since these two components to logo design are so important I’ll explore them each in greater depth below.
The Structure of a Logo
When designing a logo many designers start with the structure, sometimes the structure is hand drawn with a pencil in black and white, sometimes they’ll start off using design software. We experiment with several ideas, we’ll play with the letters of the name, or work up an illustration that captures the theme of the company or product. It may look like mindless doodling, or even playing, but during this process we are trying to come up with something that meets all the criteria for good logo design. Certain shapes create feelings that can help further define a company. For example, overall square or rectangular shapes lend a sense of stability, and are used a lot in financial companies, law firms, and other professional services. Circles can bring in a sense of being official, like an official seal. It can also bring a focusing effect, like a target. Diagonal shapes bring a sense of excitement or motion. Some athletic teams use this structure in their logos.
The Color of a Logo
Color has long been associated with ideas and messages, when used in a logo it has the same effect. A good logo designer will have studied color theory and it’s effect on our minds and emotions. A pastel pink logo wouldn’t work well for a company that makes leather jackets for motorcyclists, and most children’s daycares will avoid the color black in their logo. The colors used should support the overall message and feeling of the company. As well as thinking about what colors are used, careful consideration should also be given to the number of colors that are used. Too many colors will make a logo look “muddy” at distance or in small sizes. One way to see how this works you can use the squint test, squint your eyes and look at you logo and see if you can still distinguish the colors and shape of the logo, if you can then your logo passes this one simple test. If not, you need to simplify your logo.
What a Good Logo Design Has
- Easy to “Read” – A logo should be instantly recognizable, which a good logo designer will achieve by keeping elements lined up correctly, by using colors that have enough contrast and by using white space strategically for optimal impact.
- Have Good Proportions – A logo that is too tall or too long will be difficult to use in the long run. It should be able to be taken in a glance, without having to scan your eyes up or across.
- Be Timeless – A good logo should stand for decades, without any significant changes. This means that a logo based on a current event, trend or idea will not be relevant in a short time and will have to be redesigned, an extremely expensive process which you want to avoid.
- Memorable – One of the tests of how memorable a logo is, is to ask if a person within your target audience could draw or describe a simple version of your logo without too much difficulty. If it’s too complex they might miss elements, or worse, their memory may grab on to another logo that is easier to recall.
- Fitting – A large financial firm and an professional sport team should have logo that look very different. A logo should fit the industry and company culture.
- Adaptable – If you plan on rolling out your offering to multiple cultures and in multiple languages you will need to think about those cultures as you design the logo. Be careful about avoiding icons and colors that will negatively impact your future marketing efforts. If you are using a typographic logo, one consisting of letters or words, you will need to identify characteristics that can be duplicated in translations of your company name. Look at what Coca-Cola has done.
Things you should avoid in Logo Design
- Don’t Design it Yourself – This is one of the most common mistakes small business people make. Even when they hire a professional to do the work, they think they need to design the logo themselves. A business owner should provide input and should share ideas for their logo design, a good designer will insist on it. A wise business owner will then let the designer use their expertise, talent and knowledge to create multiple logo option, any of which would help the business be successful. From there the business owner can choose the one that they feel most closely aligns with the company vision, and maybe suggest one or two changes. Too often business owners will show their inexperience by dictating every detail of the logo to a designer, essentially designing their own logo by proxy, instead of of having a professional design the logo. Don’t design your own logo, let the professional logo designer do it.
- Never Use Non Professional Designer – The abilities to use a computer or draw well do not make a person a logo designer. A professional will know how to make your logo a success. Not even all trained graphic designers are comfortable tackling logo design because of the unique skill set required to do it right. A good logo designer will be thinking of much more than aesthetics, they will also be thinking about what will resonate with your target audience and will design a logo that will actually be an asset in the marketing and selling of your offering.
- Never Use a Pre-made Design – If it already exists there is a good chance someone else has already used it. This goes for the whole logo as well as the components of the logo. If your logo looks too much like someone else’s then every dollar you spend on marketing could end up building up their business instead of helping you. You also are setting yourself up for a trademark law suit. The do it yourself logo tools on some websites make the same graphics available to everyone, that means someone else may have already claimed it as there own.
- Never Hold a Logo Design Competition – The process to design an effective logo requires a lot of communication. The designer needs to understand your business, including your current audience, current competitors and all of your future growth plans. There should be some back and forth with proofs and ideas. A competition is not formatted correctly to facilitate that process. Professional designers don’t participate in competitions for both the lack of appropriate reward and because they know that without the right communication even they won’t be able to design a logo that will do the job right.
- Never Buy a $5 or a cheap Logo – When you buy a cheap logo from any of the websites out there you are not getting a logo that is really unique. They start with a template, or with a graphic that has been used with other companies in your industry, they may make a small tweak, and then add your company name and call it a unique logo. Just like using clip art, this can open you up to wasted marketing dollars or worse a trademark law suit.
If you need a logo designed, redesigned or improved contact me today for a free consultation and we’ll design the perfect logo for your company’s goals.