Your logo is one of the most important elements of your brand communication. Choosing the right logo that best represents your brand can be confusing and frustrating. It’s always sad when I meet business owners who are having difficulty because their logos weren’t created well.
Poorly designed logos can be the result of two things: 1) the graphic designer didn’t have the knowledge to design a professional logo, or 2) the business owners insisted on a concept without fully understanding the impact. This article is for the business owner who hopefully has hired a professional logo designer.
- Start with a well-defined brand. Your logo must represent your core brand values but if you haven’t clearly defined your brand it’s like asking your logo designer to work blindfolded.
- Design in black & white first. Color can mask problems with design and composition, so always start with black & white. Additionally, your logo will inevitably be seen in black & white at some point (copy prints, applications, etc.). If you love it in black & white, you’ll love it in color.
- A logo must be simple. Your primary goal is quick, easy recognition of your brand. Don’t try to say everything you do or stand for with your logo. You’re only looking for an easily identifiable symbol. Subtract as much as possible. If in doubt, leave it out.
- Memorable. A simple, yet appropriate logo makes it easier for your customers and prospects to remember and identify your brand.
- Avoid trends. It’s okay to be aware of them, but you want to avoid having a logo that will look dated in 3-5 years.
- Make it future-proof. Avoid references to specific technology or other literal aspects that may become irrelevant.
- Avoid clichés. Your brand should show originality.
- Do not use stock or clip art. It may make designing faster but you can quickly run into copyright issues. I’ve known multiple companies who had to get a new logo because they were using stock or clip art that is approved for commercial use but not logo use. It’s an expensive lesson. You also do not want to confuse your prospects with a logo that uses art that could easily be used by others. Again, your brand should show originality. If you’re just like everyone else, then why should they choose you?
- Do not steal, copy, or borrow other designs. I’ve had clients literally tell me to “copy that logo”. (I refused, of course.) Besides missing the entire point of an original brand, you’ll open yourself up to trademark or copyright infringement.
- Include something unexpected, original or unique. Use negative space, double entendres. If your logo is interesting, people are more inclined to try your brand.
- Make graphic icon active, not passive. A sense of energy and movement shows you’re alive and moving forward.
- Consider cultural differences. Some graphic designs or icons — or even color — may be interpreted differently in other cultures.
- Choose typeface carefully. Avoid gimmicky fonts. The type should match the brand.
- Don’t use more than 2 fonts. Clean and simple. Too many fonts looks cluttered and unprofessional.
- Make it legible. How will it look in newsprint, online, mobile devices, engraved, embroidered on apparel?
- A logo is not the same as a tagline. Each should be able to stand independently.
- Create a graphic icon and a wordmark. Sometimes you’ll only have a few pixels to communicate your brand. If using a type-only logo, make sure there is an element of the logo that can be used as the graphic icon.
- Use color appropriately. Use color to help convey meaning and reinforce your brand culture. Make sure it looks good in grayscale, too.
- Create a reversible concept. Your logo should have versions that can be reversed out to present equally as well on light and dark backgrounds.
- Create both horizontal and vertical layouts. Sometimes you’ll have plenty of horizontal space but limited vertical space (think website logo) whereas other times you’ll have to fit your logo into a skinny space (think print column). Be prepared for both.
- Make the logo scalable and versatile. It must present well in a variety of mediums and may need to appeal to different audiences. Consider how the logo will be used. Will it be on a storefront? Does it need to be seen across a highway? Will it be printed on small tags?
- Create a logo style guide. Define how the logo can be used, color options, size restraints, positioning (with an exclusion zone to preserve space around the logo so it won’t look crowded or cluttered), how to use the logo on different backgrounds, etc.
- Consider how the logo should be used if viewed over the top of photography. If you anticipate problems, define appropriate use with photography in your logo style guide.
- For redesigns, be prepared for negative feedback. People don’t like change and often react strongly to it. If you’ve made a logo change for the right reasons using the criteria listed here, you’ve most likely made a sound business decision. Eventually, people will adjust to the new logo and love it, too.
Iconic logos are created over time. It ultimately depends on your success as a business and how consistently you deliver on your brand promise.