A logo is a powerful visual representation of your company. It forms an impression that should be memorable, unique and positive. An effective logo is the start of a successful corporate identity. Your company can be as up to date in its services and products as you like, but if your logo looks like 1983 your company’s image – and profits – will suffer. While you can’t completely control your corporate image, you can influence it to a large degree.
Every successful logo design project begins when senior management sees the logo not as a decoration, but rather as an important component of their brand. Before working with a professional to design your identity, it helps to know a little more about logos. Some might suit your business more than others.
What you should look for in an identity design
Simplicity: Simplicity can make the difference between good and bad design, between a “look” that’s strongly memorable and one that’s instantly forgettable.
Shapes: Our brains are hardwired to recognize smooth, closed, regular shapes. This tendency is especially strong under conditions of short exposure, competitive surroundings, or low attention level. If your “message” is too complicated, people simply won’t remember it.
Memory and Recognition: Memory and recognition depend partly on the strength of the initial impact and partly on subsequent reinforcement. Simple designs can be made bolder than complicated ones and, therefore, make a stronger initial impact. There is less to remember about a simple design, so subsequent reinforcement is easier. In disorderly surroundings, simple design always stands out.
Appropriateness: When looking at any design, consider the function of the item. Consider the following: What is its intended use? Where will it be used? How long will it be used?
Different kinds of logos
Typographic Logo: Also known as a logotype, this logo consists of your name only, in an appropriate typeface. Typographic logos are the most common marks since they can be easily assembled and are the most straightforward way of defining a company. Usually, they are used as a starting point and can be adapted to incorporate a graphic or symbolic elements within the typography. When a graphic or symbol is added, the typographic element becomes known as the signature. Example: Coca-Cola, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and Ford.
Graphic Logo: This logo uses a graphic that clearly illustrates what your business does. Also known as a descriptive logo, it has a direct correlation between its visual message and its owner’s products or services. The mark can represent a product, demonstrate an area of expertise, or define the cause or mission of the organization. It can also be a graphic representation of the company’s initials. Example: IBM, Apple Computer, GE, and Merrill Lynch.
Symbol Logo: This logo uses an abstract symbol, or mark, to reflect your business. A symbolic logo will usually incorporate a figurative element into the overall design. These symbols facilitate an intangible or abstract element within the company or organization’s overall business or purpose. Example: AT&T’s globe, Chase Bank’s Hexagon, and Nike’s Swoosh.
Elements of a logo
A logo is composed of the following graphic elements.
Graphic or Symbolic Mark: A mark, or trademark, should have the qualities that are basic to its usage: individuality, memorability, and legibility. It must convey its message in quick and simple terms.
Logotype or Signature: The corporate signature is the standard form of writing a name, with or without a symbol.
Color: Although color alone is not enough to identify a corporation, it can be used effectively to support a graphic program.
Tagline: Your tagline is the short phrase that summarizes what your company is about. It quickly and clearly explains your product or service. It’s a tiny but key piece of identity and brand recognizability. If it’s clever, it can enhance and add personality to your brand. If it’s clear, it tells someone what your company can do for them.
Selecting an effective mark
Too often designers make serious mistakes when developing marks for clients, particularly small businesses. A good checkpoint is to evaluate the company budget and determine the money available for marketing and promotion. If a budget is large, then a highly abstract mark is a possibility. More money buys more exposure to the mark, which translates directly into market recognition. When a budget is small, few exposures can be purchased, magnifying the need for quick recognition and low abstraction. A high level of abstraction is a luxury only companies with large marketing budgets can afford. Low abstraction marks are quicker, more effective visual tools.
The six universal attributes of a great mark
If we weren’t in the room when the decisions were made – if we don’t know what the CEO’s intentions were – how can we say one logo is “better” than another?
As in ice skating, technical merit can be judged independently of communications content, and we can all see the skater fall. The first five things that distinguish great marks from ordinary ones are technical; the last one addresses content. Great marks are always:
Distinctive. The design idea doesn’t need to be the most unique in the world, just distinctive enough so you can “own” it in your particular marketplace.
Practical. The design can be printed small, in ink or pixels; works in black on white as well as in colors; works in reverse too, white on black. (Faces, human or animal, usually flunk this last test; the eyes turn white.)
Graphic. The design communicates purely in visual terms, to the right brain hemisphere; it doesn’t depend on verbal, intellectual interpretation. If it’s a wordmark, it can be recognized by form alone (you don’t have to “read” Coca-Cola’s logo more than once or twice).
Simple in form. The design contains only one graphic idea, one gimmick, one dingbat. Thus if there’s a symbol, the accompanying name is plain and unadorned. And if it is a wordmark, one idea or device makes it special–like IBM’s stripes. (The more unique the name, the simpler the graphics can be.)
One message. Great designs try to express no more than one attribute (such as stature or speed or dynamism) and support a single aspect of positioning.
Appropriate. In the end, of course, the content’s got to be right. An otherwise-great mark fails if the reputation, positioning, and personality expressed are at odds with management intentions.
Your logo is not your brand.
Your logo sends a message about your company, and it represents your brand visually. “Branding” communicates four key properties of an organization: message, values, benefits, and relevant attributes. Design has an important role in communicating your brand’s message visually, but your logo can’t do it alone.