How modern is your logo?
If there is one thing that symbolizes and represents something for your business and your brand identity for that business, it is your logo. Simply put, it is the one thing that can speak volumes (good and bad) without saying a single word. It works 24/7 as a silent salesperson. It never sleeps. It never rests. It is there for you and your customers every single day without ever complaining. But does it need to retire and make way for a younger, fresher logo? You be the judge…
What is a logo?
A logo is simply a graphical mark that represents something. This ‘something’ can be an organization or an individual. Not only can it represent something but it can also identify something… providing immediate recognition and instilling confidence within a consumer. The idea of a logo is nothing more than a simple identification. This identification is the essence and purpose of why a logo exists. The goal of a logo is to successfully identify an organization and the goods and/or services provided by that organization or individual while conveying the spirit of that organization or individual.
Logos are designed with an almost infinite number of varieties of shapes and, in fact, do have personalities. These personalities are the ‘face’ of the organization or individual it represents. They are the workhorse for your business. What a logo is not: it is not a brand. A brand is a perception that someone has towards a good or service provided by a business. A brand however, can be represented by a logo, as the logo is a visual indicator of that brand.
A logo is the cornerstone in the visual identity of a business and a component of a brand identity. The difference between a visual identity and a brand identity is simply this. A visual identity is the application of your logo as a defined, unified business image. A brand identity is the management of perception of your business, goods, services, and experiences of your customers. I will go more into brand identity in another article.
Diff’rent strokes for diff’rent folks
♪♫ “Now, the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum…” ♫♪ and that is the case for logos. Especially in today’s era where virtually, ‘anything goes’. There is an overabundance of logos available, sometimes assaulting and overstimulating our visual senses at times. With so many logos out there, it can be difficult to not only have an original logo, but a logo that accurately communicates your business and what your business represents.
There are many different types of logos that can be created and I keep them in 4 major categories. The reason why I categorize them into 4 major groups is for several reasons. The first reason is simply organizational, as I believe this blankets the field of logos. The second reason is my education and experience. Any logo I’ve designed has invariably fallen under one of these categories… thus reason number one. The final reason is a hybrid of the first two with the inclusion of the ‘work’ component within my process. When I am tasked with creating a logo, I never just do what is asked of me with the initial idea. I always do more. Sounds a little insubordinate, you might think, but in my minds-eye and my process, it isn’t.
My rationale behind ‘not just doing the initial idea’ is because the opportunities to properly develop a logo can be hidden in other logo types. If they are not explored, they are overlooked and never discovered. It is as simple as that.
There is a process to designing logos. Yes, a designer is given a task, the idea, and the desires that accompany that idea. This idea and desire however is typically what is ‘stuck’ in the minds-eye of the individual with that idea. Until that idea gets down on paper, that individual will be blinded to any other ideas as their minds-eye can only see that one idea. I will always do the initial idea but I will also explore alternatives as well. It is instilled in my process and is not something I will deviate from. These alternatives I will explore reside within the other categories of logo types.
The categories are as follows:
A freestanding word (or words)
A uniquely designed letterform(s)
An abstract visual
A combination of a word mark and letter mark; or a word mark and symbol mark; or a letter mark and symbol mark.
No matter which type of logo is chosen, at the end of the day, it needs to be professional, communicate clearly, identify easily, embody the spirit it represents, and be championed by not only the designer, but by everyone within the business. There should be an inherent level of pride when the logo is looked upon by yourself and your co-workers. There should be a level of trust and comfort and positive associations when viewed by your customers and, above all else, it needs to be consistent in its distribution. Consistency can elevate the perception of your business… as long as you buy into, follow, and adhere to the rules of the logo. If you do, the logo will stand by you and your company.
“There’s no crying in baseball”
Nor is there crying involved when it comes to logo design. This isn’t about having egos bruised or hurt feelings either. This applies to the designer; it applies to the individual who hired the designer. You are all professionals. There does need to be a synergy and an understanding of the end goal here by both parties and a drive to achieve that goal. A logo is not to be taken lightly because of what all it does and what all it represents. The goal is to have a successful logo…
So you might ask, what is a successful logo? Is it that the logo increases your business 10% immediately? No… that’s not realistic. Being a brand champion will do that for your business and even that won’t be immediate. When we talk about a successful logo, we are looking more specifically at the characteristics of the logo.
I’m hoping that a few things I’ve spoken of in this article already have begun a conversation with you in your mind as it pertains to your logo. If they haven’t, then the following breakdowns of what makes a successful logo may get you thinking a little more about your logo.
Less is More
Simplistic design = High Impact. The heart of a successful logo is the result of a complex process that has taken the proper time to be worked and matured. The end result, however, appears simple. One might think that it does not take that long to design something simple but it is one of the hardest things to do. The natural tendency is to ‘toss-in’ as much ‘cool stuff’ as possible when you want a logo but ultimately, less is more… particularly for the next reason.
Your logo must be immediately recognized at a glance. The meaning of your logo needs to be clearly communicated immediately to anyone viewing it. If somebody has to think about what your logo is, what it represents, or question something that feels ‘off’ in the logo because something doesn’t make sense, it is not a successful logo.
Your logo not only needs to communicate quickly, convey the spirit of the business, but it also needs to make sense and appropriately represent what it is supposed to stand for. Does it make sense in the context of your industry? Does it make sense in the context of what it is supposed to represent?
Your logo will not reside on one specific medium. It can be as small as 1” x 1” in black and white on a fax machine, in print in CMYK color, on the web in RGB color, and in various forms of multimedia and video. So the logo needs a few well-tailored ‘outfits’ to fit various occasions.
This is kind of an addendum to the logo needing to be adaptable. Your logo could end-up on a billboard that is 10’ high by 30’ wide. Your logo can be as small as 16 pixels by 16 pixels as a favicon for your website. And it also needs to look good and function correctly in all sizes in-between.
Does your logo appeal to both current and future customers? You need to keep in mind that you are not the customer here regarding this point. Does the logo speak to their needs or interests? Yes, you have a vested interest in the logo but that interest differs from those interests of your paying customers.
Does your logo create a strong and unique impression in a sea of competition? Just because you are in the optical industry, does not mean your logo needs to be cliché and ‘has to have’ an eye or a pair of glasses in it. At the same time, it does not need to be so abstract that it would be better viewed in the Guggenheim. A successful logo will stand-out in a crowd without being obnoxious.
Does your logo convey a sense of quality, trust, and expertise? Your logo is usually the first introduction to your business. You want to make sure that it is putting its ‘best foot forward as it pertains to your business at all times.
Your logo needs to ‘have legs’ and go the distance. Your logo needs to be able to survive trends and be memorable… feeling like it belongs. This is, of course, not to be confused with clutching onto your logo for years, that was designed in 1998 when everyone added a bevel & emboss and drop shadow because Photoshop made it easy to do that.
What has your logo done for you lately?
Sure, you can disagree and say you’ve been successful with your old logo. It has obviously done its job and served its purpose and that’s absolutely fine. But ask this of your logo. Is it helping you get new and younger customers to build future business? Or is your logo simply being complacent and just sustaining an older customer base?
‘Ask not what you can do for your logo, but what your logo can do for you’
On a slight side-note here, the same thing applies to any pictures you may be using in tandem with your logo and any marketing materials or advertisements. Make sure your photos are current. Really, no more than 2 years old. This is also an attribute of providing trust with your branding and with your customers. Don’t hang onto the past and look like you’re in the past. If you do, how can you possibly move forward?
Does your logo have high standards? It should. If you looked at the aforementioned list and put your logo up against it, how well did it do? If you had even a single ‘no’, then perhaps it is time to look into giving your logo a refresh or putting it out to pasture.
I need you to understand this though… I’m not saying your logo is bad nor am I implying it. I am simply asking you to take an honest look at your logo and evaluate it. I will never profess to have the best solution or even the right solution for you… just my ‘best creative solution’. The field of design is highly subjective. It’s like antiques… trash to one and treasures to another. It is all in the eyes of the beholder.
With that being said, there are logos out there that look like children designed it yet they are tremendously successful (*cough-cough Google *). But that’s what great about design. Nobody knows. Sure, there are methods, techniques, and processes to achieve the best result and I’m pretty sure Google’s logo went through these rigors but ultimately, you just want to make sure your logo is the best representation and embodiment of the spirit of your business.
Another thing to consider (which is not lost on me) with regards to your logo is your opinion. It is, after all, your logo for your business, but there are two types of opinions to consider: personal opinion and professional opinion. When you have something that is so close to you, near and dear to your heart, you cannot help but be protective of it, as well you should.
But there comes a time to ‘let go’ and trust in another professional. A personal opinion about a logo is usually accompanied with “because I like it” and “because I’m the boss” without any supporting substance. These are not good reasons for a logo to exist or represent your business. A professional opinion will offer constructive criticism (aka critique), supportive descriptions along with quality analysis and feedback, much like the list above for what’s in a successful logo.
Remember, egos and feelings need to be checked at the door. A professional designer will turn off their emotions and immerse themselves into the project at hand while taking on a sense of ownership, pride, and a ‘do whatever it takes’ mentality to make you happy with the final result. If you are a professional, your customers come to your business and immediately put trust in you as the expert. This needs to be reciprocated with the designer you are working with. They are just as much the professional and expert that you are, just in different fields.
Start Getting Started
So if you are now closer to a decision to giving your logo (and business) a facelift or going for a full-blown extreme makeover, you now have to take the next steps. Begin with an honest assessment of your logo. Use the points in this article to assess your logo. You can get a simple game plan in motion before bringing in a designer.
Research the competition. They say that competition breeds good business… and it does. You do not, however, want to look like your competition. If you look like everyone else, how can you possibly stand out? When I am doing a logo design, I research the same industry to see what everyone is doing or has done. Not so I can get ideas of ‘what to do’, but rather, to get a sense of ‘what not to do’. What good am I as a designer if I create a logo that looks like everyone else’s and essentially becomes camouflaged with the others? So make sure you take note of trends and clichés. It is ok to like an aspect or element of another logo that you would want incorporated into your own. This is important information for the designer to know prior to designing.
Seek and derive inspiration from a business outside of your industry. Maybe there’s a new restaurant that opened up near you. You love their food, the way they look, and the ‘feel’ of the atmosphere inside. This is brand identity at work and their logo is a part of it. When you pull-up and see the sign with the logo, you immediately associate ‘good things’ with it and your senses start arising… anticipating with excitement, what awaits you inside. Try to evaluate the elements that stir these sensations and see what could transfer over for your business. Just because it’s not in the optical field, doesn’t mean elements of that business can’t work for yours.
Look at typefaces too for inspiration. Since the majority of logos will have text in it, the look and feel of that text will be very important. Much as I ‘busted-on’ Google earlier, I love it as a resource and here’s my approach with using it as a tool. Simply go to google and type in a word that describes a style you like; perhaps ‘modern’, and then add the word ‘typeface’ after it for your search. When you hit search, choose images when the results show. This lets you cut-through the junk and drill-down to more specifics. And since they’ll be pictures, you’ll have a better sense of the style more immediately. You can quickly get a ‘feel’ for the way the typeface presents itself. Just make sure you make a little scrap-book of sorts to save/secure your research.
Same applies with color too. Your logo will need a color or two. Inspiration is all around so make sure you ‘look differently’ at what’s around you. Just because the vast majority of logos in the optical industry have blue in them, doesn’t mean yours has to as well. Yes. Blue is an appropriate color for anything in the medical field. Blue is a ‘safe’ color. The color psychology and meanings of blue do make sense in this context and it provides a good case to use it… but it’s not the only color option you have.
Take a look back at our summer issue regarding color to get a little more into it. In particular, take a look at the ‘The Feeling of Colors’ article. At the end of the article, I list positive associations of colors.
Find a word with a positive association in that list that you believe is an important aspect of your business and see what color it falls under. For example, if ‘confidence’ is a word you want associated with your business, as it’s something you instill in your customers, then orange is a good color to go with. In a sea of blue logos, how well will a logo with orange stand out? Just because orange isn’t your favorite color, doesn’t mean it couldn’t be your logo’s favorite color.
– Phil Dunphy
Phil’s-osophies – designer-inspirations
“There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.”
- Milton Glaser
“The public is more familiar with bad design than good design. It is, in effect, conditioned to prefer bad design, because that is what it lives with. The new becomes threatening, the old reassuring.”
- Paul Rand
“It’s through mistakes that you actually can grow. You have to get bad in order to get good.”
- Paula Scher
“If you do good work for good clients, it will lead to other good work for other good clients. If you do bad work for bad clients, it will lead to other bad work for other bad clients.”
- Michael Bierut
“Socrates said, “Know thyself.” I say, “Know thy users.” And guess what? They don’t think like you do.”
– Joshua Brewer
“I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares, as opposed to ugly things. That’s my intent.”
– Saul Bass