Logo Design (part 1): Why designing a logo isn’t just a question of drawing something pretty
A lot of start-up companies worry about how much a professional business logo will cost, so they ask a friend who is good at art if they can help out. Eager to help, or perhaps just interested in a new challenge, the artist often produces an image of some sort based on a literal interpretation of the business activity or company name, or on the owner’s personal hobbies and interests. It may be a lovely piece of artwork, but that doesn’t mean it will work as a logo.
Logos created by artists rather than designers are often hand-crafted and full of intricate details that have important personal meaning for the business owner. While this may be ideal for a certain type of illustration or artwork, it doesn’t usually work well for a logo. There are a number of reasons for this, which will become clearer if we look at what you want from your new logo and the characteristics it will need in order to do the job it’s intended for.
Your logo should support and promote your business’s strategic marketing objectives.
Your logo is just one element of the company branding, and, as part of the branding, its function is to support and promote your business’s strategic marketing objectives. You want your clients to see your logo and associate it with your brand, so it needs to be simple, recognisable and memorable. It will be more readily recognisable is if it is different from other logos; most importantly, it should be easily distinguishable from your competitors’ logos.
You are going to want to use your logo in a lot of different situations, from business cards to exhibition stands to website and social media, so it needs to be versatile enough to work on printed materials and on screens.
Versatility is key: a logo must work for different media, in different sizes, in colour and in black & white.
A logo also needs to work effectively in different sizes: some logos look great when they are small, but just don’t adapt to larger applications; others include text and details that are lost when scaled down.
This is one of the potential problems of a hand-drawn ‘artistic’ logo: you can scan it into a computer, but it will lose clarity when you scale it up, and every little imperfection – often the very details that make the original attractive – will become magnified; alternatively, the intricate, hand-crafted features that work on the original are lost when it is reduced for use on small-scale materials such as business cards.
It’s also important that the logo is effective in black and white, or at least in shades of grey. If you send documents to a client, they are likely to print them in black and white, and even when there is a colour original, it’s likely that any materials that are photocopied will be reproduced in grey-scale.
There are other situations when colour won’t be available and a successful monochrome version is vital: the Spanish utilities company Iberdrola have a lovely logo where a green leaf, a blue droplet and a yellow flame, all with the same shape, indicate that the company is an environmentally-friendly supplier of gas, electricity and renewable energy; once the logo is stamped onto a metal manhole cover, however, the colour subtleties are lost and, with them, much of the information contained in the actual logo.
Your logo is part of your marketing strategy. It should appeal to your clients and make it simple to recognise your products.
When you are commissioning a logo for your company, it’s very easy to lose sight of the main reason for the design: your logo is part of your marketing strategy, intended to appeal to your clients and to allow them to easily recognise your products. As always, it’s important to remember that even if you own the business, you are not necessarily one of your target audience. Essentially, then, you don’t need to like your own business logo. It’s far more important that the logo be fit for purpose: it needs to appeal to your clientele and convey the right public image and the values that your company stands for.
We started this post by talking about the cost of a logo. It’s true that, particularly for a start-up, a professionally designed logo may seem a big expense just when there are a lot of other very necessary expenses and money isn’t yet coming in. But one final point about logo design is that it should be timeless: it shouldn’t be influenced by temporary trends in fashion and design. So in fact money spent on good design will ensure you have a logo that will last for many years with minimal change. We can see this from looking at some of the international brands we are most familiar with: the MacDonald’s golden arches were first used in the restaurant architecture in 1952 and have been a part of the logo since 1962, while the three-pointed Mercedes star has been around since 1909. Both logos have undergone changes over time, but the essential, clearly recognisable, element remains.
Good design can be expensive, but it’s worth thinking about why this is the case. If you commission a professional designer to create a logo for your business, at first sight, the end result may look ridiculously simple, but there are fundamentally sound reasons for this simplicity: this simple design will be timeless, effective, meaningful, versatile and memorable; it will be a valuable asset and play a key role in your marketing for years to come.
A good logo is timeless, effective, meaningful, versatile and memorable and will last for many years.
On one final note, we’ll just quote Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, who said, “If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.”
The next article in this series on logo design will look more closely at the different elements of a logo and what you can expect when you commission a designer to produce a logo for your business brand.
Gwyneth Box is an award-winning poet, writer and translator, with business experience in IT, language consultancy, design and publishing. Gwyneth specialises in copy writing and transcreation, particularly in the fields of lifestyle, travel and technology. As owner of Tantamount and its companion organisation, authorbranding.co.uk, Gwyneth works with freelance creatives, businesses and educators on projects that draw together the threads of publishing, technology and training.
This post was originally posted on the Tantamount blog.