It seems easy, doesn’t it? Take your company name, type it up in a funky font, and pay your most artistic niece five dollars to come up with a cool symbol.
Easy. Logo done.
Unfortunately, that’s not really how it works.
The world’s best logos take a lot more work than a few minutes of doodling and playing with different fonts. Great logos require research, plenty of thought, and the help of an experienced designer. All of which is definitely effort worth spending. Because for any company, your logo is perhaps one of your single most important distinctive brand assets. So it pays you to ensure you’re designing a great one.
But why is that process so hard? Why can’t you simply hire your niece and still come up with a logo that will last through the ages and support your brand identity? Good question. First of all…
#1 Great Logos are Simple Logos
In design, simplicity is a deceptively difficult thing to get right. There’s that famous quote that goes:
Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.
— Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Essentially, to achieve beautiful simplicity in logo design, you need to create something that gives away just the right amount of information, without being too complex.
And that’s not easy.
Plenty of designers struggle to take all their client’s notes and come up with interesting logos that both tell a brand’s story and remain as simple as possible. It’s just too easy to complicate things and create a logo that’s far too intricate to be memorable.
For example, let’s talk about Volkswagen for a second. Volkswagen’s logo is clever and easy to picture. If asked, you could probably draw it from memory or at least get pretty close.
But the interlocking V & W hasn’t always been their logo. When they first started out, VW had one of the most complicated logos you’ve probably ever seen. It’s the kind of thing that pretty much nobody could ever recall or recognize:
But that’s not really an exception. We’ve seen plenty of companies start with something similar. They have this whole story they want to tell with their logo and can’t seem to boil it down into a simple, clean icon. It’s just one of the many reasons that great logos are hard to design; complication is hard to avoid.
#2 Great Logos Are Instantly Recognizable
When someone sees your logo, they should immediately understand that whatever it’s printed on is related to your brand. There can’t be even a millisecond where someone wonders who that icon belongs to.
Take Nike, for example:
There is no mistaking that logo. As soon as you see it you know who it belongs to.
Your logo should be the same.
Your designer can help you come up with an icon that sets you apart from all the other companies in your space. It’s up to you to ensure that when someone stumbles across any of your branded material, they’re instantly able to connect it with your company.
Accomplishing this isn’t easy. You’ll likely need to do plenty of competitor analysis, look at a range of similar logos that other companies are using, and find a way to tweak yours so that it’s unique and distinctive.
Do it right, and you’ll have a powerful symbol that can help you easily build brand awareness and quickly bring your company to mind wherever you choose to place it. Of course, you can only do that if your logo can readily be used absolutely anywhere…
#3 Great Logos Must Be Easy to Use
As far as branding elements go, your logo is the only one that you’ll use absolutely everywhere. Typefaces will change depending on medium. Colors can be adapted based on what you’re trying to achieve. But your logo should remain constant and unchanging no matter where you use it.
That sounds like a no-brainer, but we’ve seen far too many brands forget about this important aspect of logo design.
A common issue we’ve seen before is when companies decide to use gradients in their logos. This is great for the web, but how will that look on letterhead, compressed to the size of a postage stamp, and photocopied using black ink? Will it still be recognizable?
Check out this logo for Camtek:
Great for the web. Great as a mobile phone app. But how would it look in grayscale?
Not nearly as recognizable. If that was sized down and at the top of some company letterhead, it would be impossible to connect it to the original company. Compare that to something like the FedEx logo…
This is a logo that can be reprinted at any size, with any color treatment, and will still be instantly recognizable. Even in black and white, it’s still the same logo. You can use it on billboards, the side of a truck, the header of a website, or even along the side of an airplane.
The one thing we do love about that Camtek logo though, is the fact that it can be used in both square and landscape format. In the past, logo designers mainly had to worry about how their creations would look when used in magazine vs. billboard sizes. In the internet age however, designers find they mainly need to worry about header vs. avatar sizes.
In other words, a great logo should be easily adaptable to the long, landscape format that goes at the top left of your website; and the square format used for your social media profiles and other digital avatars. For example, notice how Google has two different logos depending on whether they need a square format for their Facebook page or a landscape format for webpages:
You don’t necessarily need two different logos, but you do need to think about how you can adapt your logo to every possible place you might use it. It might sound like a lot of work, but again, that’s just part of the process— designing a logo isn’t easy, no matter how simple the final product may look.
#4 Great Logos “Feel” Right to Your Audience
Before you sit down to work on your logo, it’s important that you already have an idea of the kind of person who you’re selling to. Your logo will be a reflection of that. Together with your designer, you’ll need to work on something that your target audience can instantly connect with.
These days, we see plenty of startups that roll out a logo that has nothing to do with their audience. Instead of thinking about what images their audience would relate to, the founders have opted to simply spend ten dollars at Fiverr and go with whatever creation appeals to them.
We’d suggest you go a different route.
Instead, try thinking like Adidas or Puma. These are companies whose logos appeal to sports enthusiasts. They’re so cool, that any of their customers would be proud to wear them on their shirts.
It’s not a bad idea to ask yourself, “would my customers pay to have my logo on their clothes?” If not, either your logo isn’t interesting enough or it doesn’t appeal to the specific audience you’re trying to target. Keep working with your designer (you do have a logo designer right?)
#5 Great Logos Require a Great Designer
The previous four points were all about the general principles of great logo design. However, when you really get down to it, there’s a ridiculous amount of technical stuff involved in designing the perfect logo. If you’re going to do it right, it’s important that you work with someone who has years of experience and knows all the tricks of the trade.
Don’t believe us? Allow us to convince you with a quick example:
Pretty simple, right? Five interlocking rings. No biggie. The kind of thing your niece could knock together in an afternoon.
What you may not know about the Olympic logo, is that the yellow ring is actually thicker than any of the others. That’s because they hired a professional designer who understands how the human eye reacts to different colors. If they had simply created five rings of equal size, the yellow ring would appear smaller than the others and would upset the balance of the entire logo.
That’s the benefit of working with an experienced designer: experience.
And to be honest, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Have you ever wondered why the apple logo has a bite out of it in that exact spot? Or why the Twitter bird’s feathers are arranged in exactly the way they are?
It’s all due to the concept of the Golden Ratio, which is a huge concept in design and we simply don’t have enough time to get into it in this article. However, the designers who created those two logos knew exactly how the Ratio works and used it to create eye-catching, aesthetically pleasing logos that would be recognizable and look great no matter how they were used. And we guarantee you they didn’t do it for ten dollars through Fiverr.
The bottom line is, a great logo isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s one of the most important pieces of your brand identity and it requires research, thought, and the work of someone who knows what they’re doing.
This post was originally published on Brace for impact.