There is nothing more important than your identity.
Your logo is the visual identity of your business that reflects and represents everything you are. It is of immense importance and value to your business even if it does not have a numerical ROI. But, unfortunately, logo design is still an underrated business aspect that is frequently put on the backburner. Even in the design conscious world of today, we see a lot of businesses and websites that have no other concept of the logo except for the ‘graphic in the top left corner’.
Your logo is supposed to convey meaning, spirit and purpose, and inspire trust, loyalty, recognition and admiration. At its most powerful, it is the little Nike swoosh the entire world recognizes and respects and, at its worst, it’s the unremarkable rip off that cripples the entire business and/or makes it a laughing stock.
Whether you are a business head drafting the creative brief for your designer or a designer tasked with the logo design for a company, follow these seven steps for effective logo design:
Step 1 – Answer the Who, What, Why and Where
Who are you? What are you selling? Why are you selling it? Who are your customers? Where is your business located?
The fundamental questions about the existence of any business emerge again when it’s time to come up with the logo. Once you’ve decided on your identity, the biggest challenge in logo design is squeezing an entire business into a single graphic: Should the logo simply contain an image of the product? Or should it reflect your mission statement with images symbolizing victory and growth? Should it just be the name of your company written in good old Helvetica?
The answer is usually much simpler than it seems: You’re supposed to capture the essence and purpose of the business in your logo- not its parts.
Think about the ideas and values you want to communicate about your business to your customer. Shortlist the keywords you think best reflect your business and its objectives, and then think of their logical visual associations.
The much cited FedEx logo is a great example. It captures the movement, progression and ‘delivery’ aspects of the FedEx service with a logo that looks robust and professional. Notice how the letters ‘E’ and ‘X‘ are joined together to form an ‘arrow’? That’s some inspired, creative logo work right there and it’s the perfect fit for the company.
Step 2 – Capture Your Unique Brand Personality
Your brand personality is basically the spirit of your product/service. In Marketing terminology, it’s the way you choose to position yourself in the industry and stand out from the competition. It’s your style statement, your purpose and your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) all rolled into one.
For your logo to be truly effective, it needs to be uniquely you. Don’t try to hop on to ‘logo design trends’ since whatever worked for one business/website doesn’t necessarily have to work for you. Instead choose a logo that is distinctive and timeless.
If you have a memorable brand name, you probably don’t need your logo to be anything else than your brand name written with the right typeface. The Coca Cola logo is a good example because it has managed to remain pretty consistent through the decades by just combining the brand name with the right typeface.
The industry you’re in and your target market are also strong factors for choosing a style for your logo. For instance, you can be colorful and cartoonish if you are a toy maker but you will need to come across as serious and professional if you offer financial services for investors looking to diversify their portfolio.
Bottom line: Your logo should be unique but appropriate.
Step 3 – Choose Colors Wisely
If your business is a web-only entity, you can be very generous with the color palette you use for your logo. However, if your logo will also be used in print, you will have to make certain considerations.
As a rule of thumb, restrict your logo design to three colors that can be reproduced equally well across both mediums. It is preferable to use the Pantone color system for logo design for the widest application. But if your logo will only be used in certain restricted settings, you can get away with using CMYK or RGB just as well.
Also, make sure the logo works in both color and black & white varieties. You’ll find that the most effective logos- and ones belonging to the biggest corporations- work just as well in color as without it.
The Ignite Creative logo uses just two colors and looks best with the red flame but it looks pretty good in black and white too.
Your color choice should extend to reasons beyond just what ‘looks pretty’. Color theory suggests that all colors have very different personalities and they can send subliminal messages that speak to the subconscious. Red can symbolize excitement, heat and passion, blue tranquility and peace. Whites and silvers can look clean and sleek while a plethora of bright colors like orange and green can suggest a fun, youthful spirit.
Keeping in mind your particular business and industry, choose colors that fit the mood, sense and purpose of your company.
Step 4 – Carefully Select Size and Formatting Options
Your logo should always be designed as a vector so it can be scaled infinitely. It should adapt well to all browsers and resolutions and be versatile enough to look as good on a stamp as it would on a billboard. If you are the client, make sure your designer provides you with the original EPS/AI file so that you are able to freely resize the logo. Also, ensure that the logo works just as well in reverse color (light against dark background or dark against light).
Typography, as with all matters of design, is of utmost importance in the logo design process. As a general guideline, you should not use more than two typefaces in your logo. If you need variation (for instance, for differentiating two separate words when they are written together without spaces), you can just choose different weights of the same typeface. That way you can achieve distinction while still maintaining consistency. Case in point: The Color Cure logo below.
Step 5 – Only Use Original Artwork
Sometimes saving money can cost you a lot more in the long run.
That’s especially true when getting your logo designed from ‘design contest’ and ‘outsourcing’ sites. You don’t want to save money on a logo that will turn out to be a bad copy of an existing logo or get you into legal trouble because it uses copyrighted artwork/images.
The Lake Mary High School ran into a lot of trouble after Chrysler pursued legal action against them for copying the logo of their pick up truck, Dodge. The school had to bear significant expenses to get the logo removed from uniforms, print materials and even the gym floor! It would have been easier to pay a little more for an original logo, don’t you think!
Always ensure that any images, artwork and design elements used in your logo are original and free of copyright restrictions.
Step 6 – K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid)
This golden marketing adage holds true for logo design too.
Your logo can have a high level of detail and elaborate artwork that give it depth but its overall look should always be simple. Most of the detail is often lost when the logo is scaled to a small size or doesn’t look good if enlarged
The simpler your logo is, the better it fares when resized.
Also, a simple logo has a much better chance of being instantly recognized and registered in the brain. Even if your customers glance fleetingly at your logo, they will be able to immediately relate it to your business.
The Nike logo is a perfect example of the KISS principle. On surface, it’s just a swoosh. But when you consider that the swoosh looks like a tick mark, and that the name ‘Nike’ itself is shared by the Greek goddess of victory and the swoosh symbolizes her flight, the logo manages to claim multiple positive connotations: It’s about victory (always a worthwhile attribute), speed (a great fit for Nike’s sneakers) and being the right choice (the tick mark). And best of all? The logo is stunning in its simplicity and impressive in its global appeal. The brilliant slogan doesn’t hurt either.
Step 7 – Get Feedback
Before you put your logo to work, you should always take it out for a test ride. Whether you’re the designer or the client, you are so immersed in the logo design process that you are unable to give it the requisite overview of a fresh or objective perspective.
The logo for ‘Kids Exchange’ fails not as much because of its poor aesthetic as it does because of one simple overlook: Because of the absence of spacing, the entire brand name turns into something completely inappropriate. The designer and client probably did not realize the mistake because they were too familiar with the brand name. But the irony is not lost on onlookers.
In fact, here are some more examples of logos that were commercialized without realizing what they could look like to all the people that were not involved in the design process from the get go. Caution: Only click that link if you are comfortable with some racy humor!
Ideally, you should show your logo to other designers and a section of your customers to get valuable feedback. The opinions of your spouses and siblings (while always welcome) are usually of very little value in both design and business contexts.
Your logo should be unique, simple, appropriate, creative, versatile, timeless and memorable. Those are some tough requirements but if you manage to meet them, your logo will be one of the best investments you can ever make!