I know, there are millions of really rubbish logos out there, but that’s no excuse to add to them. Some of them even work of course, but only because they were created decades ago when logos didn’t have to work too hard and have since received millions of dollars in investment that has eventually made them synonymous with the brands they represent. However, if you are starting to build a brand from scratch today, you don’t have the luxury of time and funds. Besides, logos that require that kind of investment are inefficient and wasteful.
If you are setting out to create a modern icon you need to understand the game you are playing. You have to appreciate that competition is tough, the pace of business fast. You can’t afford to approach this as you may have ten years ago. To succeed a new brand has to gain traction and start to make ground on your competitors immediately. Your logo isn’t a passenger on this bus, it’s supposed to be driving it, so set some objectives.
A logo is a short-hand for your brand or business. It’s a visual motif that should represent you more accurately and, most importantly, quickly than the name of your company alone or a sequence of words, written or spoken, could ever do.
It should (and if it’s good it will) get your message across in a time-compressing, Matrix-like heartbeat. So put yourself on the spot. Think of the shortest and most efficient introduction you could possibly give your business. Consider also that the attention of your target will start to degrade from the moment you begin to speak until anything you say will be lost like a whisper in a busy high-street. Then imagine that the process from start to end takes no more than a split-second. Now you get it!
You’ll want to state your name of course. No elaborate fonts here. Can you read it instantly, at-a-glance? If not it’s no use to you. Next, you’ll want people to know what you do. Think practical. What business are you in and what imagery does your sector own? I’m not talking tacky icons. Colour, for example, can convey a lot. Then start working on projecting your personality, because, as we all now know, business is about relationships (or “brandships”) and personality is critical to success. Both Fonts and colours will play a part in this (hold on to that legibility though) and the graphic style of your logomark too (The symbol that might accompany your name).
It’s good news that a good logo can do all of this. The even better news is, a great logo can even get you seen more often AND buy you more time at each encounter to tell your story. How does it do this? By being impactful, distinctive and interesting! That’s what a good designer can do for you.
When you write your brief to your designer your must-haves will be something like – Must present your name clearly, suggest what kind of business you are in and/or the contribution you make, give a hint of your personality and do so in a way that is high impact, distinctive and interesting. Even entertaining.
All of these points should already be defined in your “brand model”. A brand model is a record of the coordinates of your brand developed from your business “vision” and “mission” which should be in turn derived from a deep understanding of your market , customers and competitors. The whole thing is a process and your logo is just one of its end products.
This isn’t fine art, this is design, so don’t think that your targets will be interested in a convoluted “brand story” that some designers seem dedicated to either. You certainly don’t have the time to explain it to them and anyway, why create a romantic story when you have a story – your brand story – already? It’s just a waste of time. If you need to explain your logo, it’s failed. Remember, your logo is supposed to be explaining your business, not the other way around.
Once you have your logo design you need to test it. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you are qualified to judge whether the design hits the mark, neither is your designer. The only person who can tell you for sure if it works is your target, so go and ask them (learn from Gap and other dramatic failures). There are no excuses, the cost of research like this will be a drop in the ocean of losses an inefficient logo will bring you.
The secret of great logo design is to remember that while the relationships we have with brands are all about emotion, the design of a logo has to be purely pragmatic. Of course, you may end up deciding that your design may not achieve all of your objectives, but you need to aim for them and tick more of your boxes than you miss.
First published on LinkedIn September 2015
August 2, 2018