The most critical part of logo design happens before pencil touches paper, literally or digitally.
The hardest and most important first step? Figuring out exactly the concept you want to communicate.
IBM knows a thing or two about getting a logo right. Theirs has been recognizable around the world for almost half a century. Their archive, which includes a history of the IBM logo, explains the importance of a logo in branding: “Just as a nation’s flag expresses the distinct identity of a country, so, too, a logotype — typically a symbol or letters — helps to establish the name and define the character of a corporation. Effective logos become synonymous with the organizations they portray.”
With your clear concept in mind, what makes a good logo?
Designing a great logo requires deeply understanding your business identity and your market. The challenge is to cut through all the good things you want to communicate and focus on the one core principle that drives it all.
Keep it simple. Simple as in elegant. Simple as in expressing the one thing you think you offer that will mean the most to your market. IBM identified their core selling proposition as empowering fast and agile processes, so back in 1972 the globally acclaimed graphic artist Paul Rand designed their now-famous logo to be simply the letters IBM with “horizontal stripes to suggest ‘speed and dynamism’,” according to IBM’s website. The minimalist logo is supremely memorable — and still in use today.
Another factor to consider is how the logo will look when shrunk to down an inch or smaller in height. If you can’t see all of the detail at the smaller size, your logo is probably too complex.
Use brain science. The best designers understand symbolism based on research into human neuropsychology and use it to their clients’ advantage. Security providers often use shields in their logos. Circles and ovals connote inclusion and unity. Angular shapes communicate strength and data. Note: Different cultures assign different meaning to symbols; in our increasingly global markets, intercultural awareness is important.
Color choice matters, too; think about how green represents growth, money, and health. Blue represents safety and security. Red and yellow convey excitement, and are claimed to induce hunger.
Stay away from stock. What’s the difference? Think of sweatshop-created dresses at K-Mart vs. a Dior design. Wearing one, you look just like a thousand other people on the street. Wearing the other, your individuality shines as you make a memorable entrance.
Paul Rand was the Dior of graphic art. Giant corporations like Westinghouse, UPS, and ABC could afford him. More reasonably priced talent is available to more modest organizations. A great logo that sets your brand apart will cost more than buying stock art, but a designer who can capture your business’essence is worth every penny.
Insure adaptability. You’ll need a small version of your logo on your business cards and branded items like shirt, water bottles, and pens.
You might also want to enlarge your logo for a trade show banner or vehicle wrap. Some applications might need the logo to fit in a square space, while other uses will require a vertical or horizontal version.
Your logo should also look good in color or black and white. After all, it’s quite common for logos to be photocopied (and yes, some folks out there still do use fax machines). A professional graphic designer should provide your logo in several formats that give you options.