How to create a logo that works

May 30, 2008

I’ve been involved in re-branding, including logo makeovers, as an in-house communications professional as well as a consultant. For many, the hardest part of re-branding is getting the logo right. People have strong feelings about logos. They pin a lot of hopes on them and believe that getting the logo right will greatly enhance their success—however that’s defined.

I work with some amazing graphic designers, so I thought I’d ask three of them a few questions about the process of logo design and what they think makes a great logo. The panel consists of Suzanne Braun from Relish Design, Bob Gair from Spark Design and Kevin Braun (no relation to Suzanne) from Element B Design Solutions.

The Questions

1. What are the elements of a good logo—Is it all about how it looks or must it achieve specific objectives?

Kevin: Simplicity and consistency are key. Simplicity ensures easy recognition and reproduction. You want people to identify your company or product as quickly as possible. The focus should be on whether it works not whether you like it. You can’t rely on personal taste (what if you have BAD taste?). Instead, you have to focus on the target market and key communication objectives.

Suzanne: A logo is more than just a graphic; it’s part of a larger marketing concept. It conveys what you want your customers to identify your product/company with. A logo should be simple, not overly elaborate or complex. It also needs to have longevity—you’ll want to retain it for a long time. The logo is about your company and not about you personally so you need to separate your personal feelings and emotions from the logo.

Bob: First, it should be recognizable. It should also be unique in some sense. The role of the logo is to graphically represent a company amongst the clutter of marketing material out there. It needs to take on the attitude of the company it portrays but not look like the competition. So if everyone is using swooping shapes in your industry, be careful to take a new direction. The important elements of a recognizable logo are: Shape, colour and content. So if your logo is a blue circle, it might not be doing what you want it to.

2. As a designer, what do you need from your client in order to create a successful logo?

Kevin: A clear objective and trust. What is the ONE thing that you want to communicate? Trying to convey too much is beyond what a logo can do and it becomes ineffective. As for trust, as designers, we are thinking about more than just creating a unique logo. We consider the overall brand and how the logo will be produced in countless ways including print and online production. It needs to work well large, small, in colour, and black and white.

Suzanne: A mission statement and the objectives of the company as well as the demographic it’s marketing to. I also want to know what the online presence will be. Looking at competitors’ logos and samples of what the clinet finds esthetically pleasing can help as well.

Bob: Involvement. The most difficult task is when a client tells me to try a few things and that they’ll know what they like when they see it. That’s like throwing darts blindfolded. The client needs to follow the designer through a discovery process where the concept for the logo can be refined. Their input is critical to creating a successful solution. It’s best to engage everyone at the outset—all the stakeholders.

3. What do you think gets clients “hung up” when it comes to creating or changing logos?

Kevin: Unrealistic expectations can be a problem. Sometimes clients want the logo to represent or say too much visually. A logo is not an advertisement. it is a simple, abstract icon to identify your company or product. Advertising and marketing convey the rest of the message. I find that smaller companies tend towards making their logos too complicated. The most successful companies and organizations in the world generally have very simple logos.

Suzanne: Business owners sometimes second guess logos and start to take the design personally rather than looking at the logo from the outside in.

Bob: The most common problem is second guessing on the part of the client. Clients will often be happy with a solution as it addresses the criteria set out in the discovery process. They then gather opinions from outside of that process and some are bound to be dissenting. This can lead to them second guessing their instincts and it throws a wrench in the process. it’s fine to seek further opinion but when bringing the feedback to the designer, listen to that professional’s advice. They are the experts in this endeavour. A designer needs to listen to all the input but in the end, it his his/her recommendation that should hold the most weight.

There you have it—insight from three experienced design professionals about logo development. I hope that if you are embarking on a complete re-branding or simply a logo makeover, this post will help you along the design process.

I’d love to hear about your experiences with logo development. Why not leave a comment?


2 Responses to “How to create a logo that works”

  1. messagecom Says:

    Thanks for your comment John. You’ve added some great additional points. Good argument for creating a logo that is timeless so that it can span the years as your company’s brand identity.

  2. There are some very good points in this post. The logo is one of the most important elements of a brand; perhaps it is the most important after the product or service itself. Consumers, or the target market, know the brad by the logo, and the more they see the logo they more they will buy the product or service. When companies change their logos, the target market cannot keep up. When the marketing concept gets to complicated, the result is usually failure. Good logos express the brand simply and effectively, and remind the consumer of the brands consistency and likeability. By the logo staying the same over the years it anchors the target market to the brand even as improvements occur.

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