If you are reading this, chances are you want a good logo for your business or organization. But you have no clue to make out a good logo from a bad one. Today, I will discuss what makes a logo good. This will help you create effective logos on your own, or judge the quality of logos you’ve outsourced to professionals.
Before understanding whether a logo is good or not, try to understand the purpose logos are supposed to serve.
In the most basic sense, a logo is essentially a visual that helps identify and promote a product, service or organization. It is much more than a pretty visual you place on your website or merchandise. On the contrary, a logo represents the very essence of your business.
And for this reason, logos should be designed in a way as to catch the attention of your target audience quickly and inspire long-term loyalty to your brand.
Before moving forward, let us look at the different types of logo you can choose for your company.
There are primarily 7 types of logo design
To start off, an abstract logo is used to represent a brand with the abstract symbols or icons. So for instance, the Nike logo isn’t a pair of shoes, nor is the Starbucks logo a cup of coffee or a coffee bean. These logos rely heavily on form, figure, shape, line, color and symbolism, and they don’t always convey what the product or service is about.
These are usually logos depicting people or animals in pretty much the same way as sports teams have mascots. Michelin Man is one of the best-known mascot logos out there.
These are text-based logos, usually used for acronyms, like IBM.
Logos like Twitter, Nike and Target are all examples of pictorial marks. These help you achieve consistency in branding.
Also text-based. Coca Cola is a major example of wordmark logos.
A combination of letters and design elements, like Dunkin’ Donuts or Baskin Robbins.
These logos also combine design elements with text. Examples include Mastercard and Harley Davidson.
Let us now break down the elements of good, professional logo design.
If your target audiences notice your logo immediately and remember it enough to recreate it, you have a perfect logo on your hands. Good logos are those that you can easily notice on a billboard even when going at 70 miles an hour, or on the packaging on crowded shelves at the supermarket. Once again think of popular examples like the Nike swoosh or the McDonald’s symbol.
And these logos have total recall, something that you can recreate by memory alone.
The challenge, however, is to design something unique that cannot be confused with other famous logos. This especially becomes a challenge in the digital world where thousands of new businesses and websites (and hence new logos) are created every day.
But memorability can only be achieved by keeping things simple, which is our next point.
Simplicity doesn’t make your logo memorable, but also versatile. Always remember the K.I.S.S Principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
Most memorable logos are simple, yet they also contain an element of uniqueness.
As already mentioned, logos have to be unique so as not to be confused with other brands. You don’t want to make other businesses successful with your creativity, do you?
What I mean by simple is that the logo should serve a purpose. You don’t have to deliberately have a minimalistic approach. The point is to have a logo that instantly resonates with the people watching it. If customers cannot remember it, it is not a good logo, no matter how artistically sound it is.
This brings us to the next point.
Another facet of a good logo is that it should appear clear, even when scaled down in size. Having a logo that works even when viewed at about an inch in size, without losing any detail, gives you lots of flexibility. This once again ties up with the point about simplicity. If the logo is too complex or detailed, it cannot scale effectively. Consider that you have to print your logo not just on your products, but also on promotional items, letterheads, merchandise etc. You can look at logos of major corporations such as GE, HP and Wal-Mart for inspiration in this regard.
As I mentioned above, the hallmark of a good logo is that it communicates your message effectively to your target audience. For businesses, logos are essential (if not the most) part of the branding strategy.
Keeping this mind, a good logo is one that is appropriate for its intended purpose. So for instance, a logo for a toy store should not be stylistically the same as a logo for a tax law firm.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that a logo needs to show what a business sells or offers as a service. Two examples come to mind: The Harley Davidson logo isn’t a motorcycle and the Nokia logo a mobile phone. And yet these symbols are universally recognized.
In fact, according to one survey, almost 9% of the world’s top 50 brands have logos that do not describe what the company does. Imagine that!
The fifth and one of the most essential characteristics of a good logo is that it works across a variety of media. This means that you should be able to scale your logos, use them across print and digital channels without losing their structure and uniqueness.
That is why good logos are designed in vector format. This allows them to be scaled to any size. Likewise, a logo should be able to work in both vertical and horizontal formats.
An effective to find out whether your logo is versatile or not is to ask a series of questions: Does it work when printed in one color? Does it work when printed in small formats? Does it equally work when printed on a billboard?
Now that you know the elements of a good logo, you are well on your way to design the perfect logo for your business. Here are a few tips to help you out in this regard.
This follows from the point of good logos being versatile. Test your logo to see if it has the same effect when printed in reverse, i.e. a light logo on a dark background.
One way around this is to start designing your logo in black and white only, as this helps you focus solely on the concept and structure. Colors can be added later (see next point).
There is also a practical advantage here, for experimenting printing with colors is costly for the business in the long run.
Colors obviously play a big part in logo design both to catch attention and also evoke emotions. That is why you should really be thoughtful about what you want to communicate with selected colors when coming up with ideas for your logo. Only use colors (as well as fonts and graphics) that reflect the image of your product or service.
Here’s another practical tip: Whichever color you select as the main one for your logo, the secondary color should be a complementary color or analogous color.
Finally and most importantly, since you want your logos to serve long-term branding purposes, you need to approach trends with caution. What works now may not work in the future, so make sure what you design looks out of place a decade later.
Waqas D. is the co-founder of the branding and website agency, FullStop™. He supercharges brands by crafting memorable logos, brand identities and engaging websites. Besides thousands of startups and medium-size businesses, FullStop has worked with likes of Microsoft & L’Oréal. View our portfolio or get in touch.
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