7 Essential Qualities of a Great Logo
Expert advice on the do's and dont's of effective logo design
At their most essential, “logos are made to identify,” says Jacob Cass in Smashing Magazine. Through the use of images, icons, marks or symbols, logos identify companies or products in the most basic way--so that in the split second when a user views a logo, he or she can connect it with the brand it represents.
Nowadays, with so many logos in existence, it's not hard to find examples of great, and not-so-great, logos in use. What makes the difference? What makes a logo work well? And, more importantly, what can your company do to ensure its logo represents you effectively?
Here are Straight North's top seven qualities of effective logo design, complete with tips for putting these tips into practice for your business:
DO streamline your design. DON'T overcomplicate things.
Because you want your logo to be easily recognizable, you want it to be simple---a lightning-fast way for users to notice and remember your brand. “A complicated logo will not only make your logo difficult to reproduce and maintain, but you will also fail to engage your audience," says logo design company LogoBee. "The logo is the ultimate 'elevator' pitch to your potential clients and business partners. You don't have time to recite your entire business plan in an elevator pitch, and the same concept applies to corporate logo design.”
Ask yourself: Could someone look at this logo and easily describe it? Or is it too complicated to get a sense of quickly? For inspiration, check out this list of examples of simple logos.
DO set yourself apart. DON'T look just like the competition.
In today's cluttered marketplace, finding a way to stand out amongst the competition can seem pretty challenging, but “the idea here is to be different than your competitors,” says The Logo Factory. Without a distinct logo design, you may find potential clients and customers have a hard time recognizing your brand, confuse you with another company and, most importantly, end up going with a competitor rather than choosing your products or services.
Ask yourself: Does this logo look unique? Is it easy to distinguish from other brands? And remember that even the most distinct logos can still be simple.
DO consider various applications. DON'T design for just one size or medium.
A great logo can be printed at different sizes, across different mediums and in different applications without losing its power. “Graphics have to be versatile enough that they can be used in many different mediums,” according to Men with Pens. “A good logo has to work well on the web, on letterhead, in print ads, and in video. Good graphic designers know that what looks great in a site banner might not work on a brochure or vice versa, so they carefully craft a logo that looks good no matter what.”
Ask yourself: Will this logo be effective as a letterhead as well as on a billboard? Will it work in full color as well as black and white? Many designers recommend creating the logo in black and white first, before bringing color into the equation, in order to focus on overall design.
DO think about your industry. DON'T feel the need to be obvious.
An effective logo should be appropriate, but that doesn’t mean it has to be as obvious as you might expect. As Patrick Winfield writes, “McDonald’s … could have went with a juicy burger next to the name, but instead they took the first initial ‘M’ and created an icon that was both simple and visually pleasing to look at as an asymmetrical element.” Whether you follow the example of McDonald's or its competitor Burger King, who puts a hamburger in the middle of their logo design, your logo needs to be appropriate to your brand.
Ask yourself: Does this logo communicate the right tone and style? Does it show or in some way hint at what type of business or product it's representing? Take a look at these 11 appropriate logo designs from Website Magazine.
DO design for your intended audience. DON'T forget the customer.
As with any business endeavor, understanding your audience is key. Whatever your industry, your logo needs to be able to connect with the people you are marketing to. “The important thing a logo needs to do is to speak to your target audience,” says Christopher Wallace of Design Festival. “If you run a children’s toy store, it’s not crucial to have an image of a toy in your logo or to have the word ‘toys’ in there either. What is more important is to use a color scheme or font that is childlike and appeals to kids.”
Ask yourself: Who is your desired audience in terms of age bracket, income, gender, tastes? Will this logo speak to that group of people?
DON'T be forgettable. DO leave an impression.
Making a logo that’s memorable may seem complex, but according to Angie Bowen of Fuel Your Creativity, it’s of great importance. “A great logo will remain memorable enough that a person who has only seen the logo once should still be able to recall it enough to describe the logo to someone else. This is not the easiest of qualities to impart, but it is certainly a high ranking one so make sure your designs stays in their minds.
Ask yourself: Can this logo make a lasting impression on my audience? Will it be memorable? For a list of 50 unique and memorable logos, take a look at this post from Vision Widget.
DON'T be too trendy. DO aim for longevity.
Graphic designer David Airey writes at his site, Logo Design Love, that “Trends come and go, and when you’re talking about changing a pair of jeans, or buying a new dress, that’s fine, but where your brand identity is concerned, longevity is key. ”
Ask yourself: Will this logo still be relevant in a year? In five? Can it withstand years or decades of changes in the industry? For examples of timeless logos, check out this list.