How to Evaluate a New Logo Design

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.

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. Memorable. A simple, yet appropriate logo makes it easier for your customers and prospects to remember and identify your brand.
    5. 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.
    6. Make it future-proof. Avoid references to specific technology or other literal aspects that may become irrelevant.
    7. Avoid clichés. Your brand should show originality.
    8. 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?
    9. 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.
    10. Include something unexpected, original or unique. Use negative space, double entendres. If your logo is interesting, people are more inclined to try your brand.
    11. Make graphic icon active, not passive. A sense of energy and movement shows you’re alive and moving forward.
    12. Consider cultural differences. Some graphic designs or icons — or even color — may be interpreted differently in other cultures.
    13. Choose typeface carefully. Avoid gimmicky fonts. The type should match the brand.
    14. Don’t use more than 2 fonts. Clean and simple. Too many fonts looks cluttered and unprofessional.
    15. Make it legible. How will it look in newsprint, online, mobile devices, engraved, embroidered on apparel?
    16. A logo is not the same as a tagline. Each should be able to stand independently.
    17. 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.
    18. Use color appropriately. Use color to help convey meaning and reinforce your brand culture. Make sure it looks good in grayscale, too.
    19. Create a reversible concept. Your logo should have versions that can be reversed out to present equally as well on light and dark backgrounds.
    20. 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.
    21. 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?
    22. 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.
    23. 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.
    24. 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.


Leading with Values

Today, two news articles popped out at me. One was about Zappos “squishy” culture and the  other was about Panera’s profit from shared values. The message is clear: people care about values. Harvard Business Review, Forbes, and other publications as well as the swelling number of books written about profit built on purposeful intent (e.g. Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia, The Responsible Business by Carol Sanford, etc), are removing any doubt that the future of business must be squarely focused on human needs beyond the simple product offering.

Too much headline news is curated based on fear or tragedy. To be honest, I think it makes some people nervous to believe things are improving. Perhaps trouble has become a “safe place” for them and the idea of change for better makes them nervous? But the facts are that the world is indeed getting better, and people truly do care about each other. The sooner businesses wake up and realize it, the better chance they have for success.

Transforming Systems

Effective systems are critical to success. Businesses have multiple systems: lead generation, sales, accounting, workflow, customer service, etc.  These systems and processes are set in place at the beginning however once set up, should be reviewed regularly. Adapting to unforeseen variables, technology, social behavioral changes and expectations, and innovations is an ongoing effort.  Continuing adaptation is non-negotiable if a business is to experience any kind of sustainability and success. While commitment to transformation has always been important in the modern era, the speed of change has increased dramatically.

Sadly, the temptation in many organizations is not just to avoid change, but actually punish anyone or anything that hints at the need to change.  Leadership often looks at the cost of change in the short term rather than the long-term cost of being locked in a concrete (aka safe, proven) system.

Some organizations are trying to “transform”. They get that things have changed and they need to adapt. Unfortunately, the aspiration to change is much easier than actually doing it. Transformation requires continual learning and the ability to adapt, over and over again. Businesses struggle with this because they rely on choosing solutions to create their way of doing things, and those solutions are based off knowledge and ways of thinking.

Yet to be successful, positive change must be ongoing. The burden falls on leadership to:

  1. 1) be committed to continual education and long-term change,
  2. 2) provide an environment that allows for flexibility and adaptation and
  3. 3) empower workers rather than inspect them.

Dr. W Edwards Deming is considered to be the father of modern quality control. He popularized the process of Plan/Do/Check/Act. Later in his career, he modified it to Plan/Do/Study/Act because he felt that the emphasis on “check” was interpreted as inspection. The difference between “check” and  “study” is enormous. “Checking” can be used to threaten workers and create fear in the workplace. “Studying” looks at the system and allows for understanding and growth. Far too often quality control is used to bludgeon the workers rather than modify a faulty system. As always, the root of the problem falls on leadership’s ability to allow ongoing transformation.


When you’re thinking about marketing, you already know you need an outstanding idea. You will have mere seconds to communicate it. Less than a year ago The Associated Press claimed our attention span is 8 seconds, shorter than a decade previous. People obsess over making those seconds count, scrambling to rise above the noise like eager volunteers waving their hands at the teacher, “Pick me! Pick me!”

The Super Bowl is the biggest ad game in town, with mega-millions spent to get the most attention. We talk about the ads after the game, or maybe sneak peak and pick our favorites before the Super Bowl is played.  Yet many of the top spenders are losing market share, or at best still scrambling for a genuine place in the hearts of consumers.

That’s where the big companies, for all their millions, are missing the point.  A truly outstanding idea begins with an outstanding company willing to address the higher values and purposes of its customers. Being louder, funnier, cuter or more obnoxious than the other guy may grab 30 seconds of attention (because it stands out), but loyalty to a trusted brand that can prove it supports the values of its customers is what wins. Don’t seek to  merely stand out—be outstanding!

Photo by P. Keleher

Success Requires Business with Higher Ideals

In 2008, Jim Stengel left his prestigious role as global marketing officer at Proctor & Gamble to start on a new mission sharing his passion for growing business through a focus on higher ideals. Below is a good video that shows the result of studying the world’s top 50 brands and their correlation to ideals. These companies are successful because they don’t just offer a product or service but reach for something higher.

It’s a great video in its entirety but please try to watch at least the first 3:20. And if you can hang in there longer, keep watching for the great example of Coca-Cola’s return to ideas by delivering happiness—guaranteed to make you smile (unless you insist on being pissy).

The research done by Stengel and his partners at Millward Brown reveals every successful brand must address at least one of the following fundamental ideals (human values):
Joy: Delight people with experiences of joy, wonder and limitless possibility (examples: Lindt, Zappos)

Connection: Enhancing the ability of people to connect with each other and the world in meaningful ways (Natura, Starbucks)

Exploration: Helping people explore new horizons and new experiences (Discovery, Pampers)

Pride: Giving people increased confidence, strength, security, and vitality (Snow Beer, Mercedes Benz)

Society: Affecting society broadly, from challenging the status quo to redefining categories (IBM, Innocent, Method)

Ultimately, every business is human business. Connect to your customer’s fundamental values and they will connect to you.

Here’s the link to his video. Enjoy!

The New Story of Brand Success: