Recently I’ve been talking about following a process to create a visual identity design for your business. After all the initial exploration and research, the logo is the first visual element to be created and really the most logical place to start. Even though a logo is not your brand it is most recognizable part because it will be on pretty much everything from a simple business card to your website and any other products or advertising for your business. So if it is something that is seen often and represents your business you want it to not only look good, but also be a true representation.
But what really makes a logo good? Many articles I’ve read regarding this topic narrow it down to about 5 to 7 key qualities, but I wanted to explore how a logo really fits into these qualities so I broke it down into 4 sections. All of these work together to make a logo effective
Attract Your Ideal Audience and Send the Right Message
First and foremost, the logo needs to attract your ideal customer. If it doesn’t do that then it doesn’t matter how cool it looks. This might be an extreme example, but if your company sells baby products and your logo looks like it belongs to a technology or gaming company then it's going to confuse your audience regardless of whether you like it. Designer or not, many people can tell when a logo just doesn’t fit.
You need to consider what is appropriate for your audience. This doesn’t mean following all the current industry trends just to fit in. In fact, you want your logo to be different enough from the competition so it will stand out, but remember, don’t sacrifice communicating with your audience just to be different.
Things to consider:
- The type of person you want to attract
- Your target market’s personality
- The style you want to portray
- Emotions you want to evoke
Keep it Simple and Recognizable
There are times when a highly detailed logo is called for, but many times simple is best. Simple is generally easier to recognize and recall to memory, but just because something is simple doesn’t mean it didn’t take a lot of thought and skill. Many of the best logos are super simple and appear to have taken no time at all to create, but in truth a lot of thought and exploration went into it before the best solution was found and executed.
A visual double entendre is a strategy designers sometimes use to find a solution is called, which is when two pictures that are wrapped into one as a clever interpretation of a concept. At times viewers don’t even see these types of hidden meanings and juxtapositions at first glance. Some are almost like a subliminal message. I don’t know about anyone else, but once I see it makes me smile and think, “How clever! Take the FedEx logo for instance. This is a classic example. Many people don’t see the hidden arrow, but once you see it, you always see it.
Another classic example I think about is the Apple logo. (I know, I know. Everyone uses Apple as an example, but hey it’s a good one that everyone familiar with.) Their original logo evolved from something more detailed with a rendering of Isaac Newton sitting under the apple tree to what it is now, a simple apple with a stylized bite taken out. Even without all the detail there is still a ton of meaning to be found in this logo. I’ve heard a few takes on it. Some say the bite refers to computer bytes, which is very fitting, but it can also have other meanings. The story of Isaac Newton is still there within it, but I also think of the biblical story of Adam and Eve when they ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. These days most people use technology at least a little in their quest for knowledge.
This is a very famous example of something seemingly simple and extremely recognizable that can still have a deep meaning that speaks to the audience beyond the first glance.
Make sure it’s Versatile and Timeless
You will use your logo in a variety of purposes as your business grows so it needs to be versatile. Simple logos work well in vector format and allow for that versatility. If you’re unfamiliar with the term vector, this is a format allows the logo to be easily scaled without becoming blurry unlike a raster/pixel based format, like jpeg. In vector format it can work at any size and, depending on how the logo is built, you can quickly and easily change the color.
Another quality you want to strive for is for your logo to be timeless. If the logo isn’t able to work on everywhere, it might not have that timeless factor. One logo that comes to mind that has lasted the test of time is GE (General Electric). It’s only been slightly modified in its more than 100 years of existence. The most dramatic change was in 2004 when they changed the color from black to blue. It’s so simple yet still elegant and recognizable it works anywhere.
Whether or not you’re planning for your business to last as long as GE, it’s important to ask if the logo will still be effective years from now. Again, a timeless logo should fit the brand not just follow the current trends because trends change quickly. This doesn’t mean that it won’t ever need improvements, but following trends could be a sure way to make it look like every other logo from the time of its creation and end up dating it after a short while.
Unique and Memorable
With all of this in mind the ultimate goal is to make sure your logo is unique and memorable. One way to do that is with custom type. It may not fit for every brand, but it is one way to achieve a unique feel instead of just searching the font menu for a typeface that your company name looks nice in. With custom type no one is will be able to find out what font you used to easily copy your style.
This is also why the initial exploration and research is very important. That first idea might seem great, but it could be the same idea everyone else has and then you could end up with almost the exact logo as your competition. It’s been known to happen. By striving for something unique your logo is more likely to be memorable.
All of these elements work together to make an effective logo. Here are a few things designers usually consider to achieve these goals:
Carries meaning and communicates ideas, but make sure the logo works in grayscale and possibly as one color.
- Negative Space:
There are some really unique and clever ways to use negative space to your advantage, like the visual double entendre I mentioned.
Horizontal, vertical, square or sometimes alternate logos to help fit these formats and make the logo more versatile in the ever growing mediums that it will be applied to.
- Proportion and Symmetry:
A logo that is unbalanced to begin with will cause everything around it in various designs to feel unbalanced.
- Passive vs. Active:
Depending on type of business you have this may be a factor. The FedEx logo has an active quality because of the forward pointing arrow. Twitter’s bird logo is another example. It has evolved to a more active bird,which fits with the activeness of its users.
Nothing shows you care about your business and brand more than caring about what represents it. Your logo will be the first thing your audience sees that represents your business. This is one big way you can project professionalism. Professionalism is what build trust in time with your ideal customer and keeps them coming back.
Remember, if a designer loves what they do they don’t want to create something boring and ineffective because if it turns out well it not only makes you look good, but it makes them look good to you and to other potential clients. So find someone who truly loves what they do and is excited about your business.