A lot of us know what we want from a good logo. It has to be amazing. It needs to grab people by the shoulders and tell them that they positively have to be as hyped and excited about your business as you are. You want to put it everywhere – shirts, trucks, tools, gloves. After all, you want to show it off. Except it’s been four hours and you’re still staring at a blank canvas. It’s time to talk design strategy.
A lot of the information on where to start and how to get results is vague, inconsistent, or outdated. It can be tough to know what is and isn’t important when you’re looking for a strong logo. We want brand recognition. We want business. The tough part is translating those goals into our designs.
- A Good Logo Catches Your Attention
We get hit by wave after wave of advertising every day, both as business owners and as consumers. So it’s important for us to filter through all the noise to figure out what’s important, and throw out everything else. Most of the time, we don’t even think about this decision. It happens almost instantly. And you need to get your logo to jump over that filter so you get the attention your brand deserves. You need to design so the people who see your logo don’t even need to think to know that you’re important. Logo design is about marketing to people’s sensibilities. It’s about figuring out how the brain thinks about brands, and telling it that your brand matters. But how do we do that?
The insistence that logos need to work in black and white is an old one. So old that we tend to take it for granted. So old that it stopped making sense when we stopped using black and white. Back then, finding a reliable printer was about as easy as finding as an honest politician. Today, we have smartphones. We’re exposed to more digital media than we know what to do with. Colorful logos are only marginally more difficult to print than black and white, and always worth the extra life they bring.
- A Good Logo is Easy to Recognize
You’ve probably heard this one a dozen times already: “Logos must be simple”. We instantly think of sleek and simple: Nike, Apple, Windows, and Adidas. But complex logos like KFC and Starbucks are still popular cultural icons. It’s harder to make a copy, but they’re distinct. The worst thing you can do is try to mimic someone else’s logo. Your logo has to be uniquely yours. It needs to be something people recognize instantly. A good logo should be distinctive and unmistakable.
- A Good Logo Knows Its Audience
Another bit of textbook wisdom is the idea that a logo has to be timeless. This one isn’t entirely wrong, assuming you’re making a logo for a multi-national supergiant like Coca Cola or Hewlett Packard. Otherwise, the expectation that you need to have a logo that appeals to every demographic across every generation seems a little premature. More importantly, tons of small and medium businesses and an enormous number of start-ups start because of a desire to ride the wave of a sudden trend or fad. Take Instagram, for example. Instagram took advantage of the rise of ‘selfie culture’, and advertised itself as a platform made for selfies. The design of their logo targeting college students and young adults, and as the trend grew, their popularity skyrocketed. Know who your target audience is, and design for them.
- A Good Logo Has a Message
One look at the Burger King or Youtube logo and you know exactly who they are. This doesn’t mean you have to put your product in your logo. But giving people an idea of who you are can be very powerful. Lego uses rounded fonts and bright colors to seem playful and light-hearted. Merrill Lynch’s bull not only has the appearance of something fierce and protective, but also comes with a visual pun on the word “bullish”. Let your logo give people a taste of what your business has to offer. Bright yellows and reds or smooth, rounded fonts can inspire warmth. Deep blues and thin, elegant fonts look honest. Beige, brown and thick fonts express strength and durability.
- A Good Logo Is Memorable
Capturing your audience’s attention is just the first step. Now you’ve got to make sure you keep it. People lead busy lives. If something catches your attention now, it can still slip from your memory by the time you’re ready to do something about it. It’s important to make sure your customers can recognize your logo when they see it again, or, even better, recall your logo completely from memory. This can dramatically improve how well your logo markets your brand. Recognizable, iconic images like mascots and structures are great at sticking into people’s memory. The NBA dribbler, McDonalds “M” and Target bullseye are all good examples of this principle in action. A one-word description should be enough to pull your logo from memory.
Not every great brand has a logo that follows these principles. Uber’s new logo follows none of them. Uber Eats follows all five. Your logo is a marketing tool. A good logo can grab people’s attention. It can make them want to talk and think about your business. It makes people want to ask questions and be enthusiastic. It has your customers coming to you for answers. It showcases everything great about your business in a single, powerful image. A terrible business with an amazing logo will lose steam fast. But a fantastic business with a boring, forgettable logo isn’t going to gain much steam at all.