We have this conversation so often with clients embarking on a logo design project that I’m amazed it’s taken this long to write about it… so here is a post about what makes a good logo. Any client undertaking an exercise in logo design for their organization needs to understand a difficult truth. It is that most people don’t have very good taste when it comes to style and this is especially true when it comes to a variant that they don’t know much about. In light of this fact, chances are, you probably don’t have the awareness or expertise to define what is or is not a stylish logo.
Now, granted, what is considered stylish can be very subjective, but when we’re speaking in terms of what is broadly appealing in our culture, there is some degree of consensus or effectiveness that can be measured.
Unfortunately, this is a very difficult thing to appreciate and impose on ourselves especially when it comes to something like a logo which represents something so personal (like your own company). This is why it’s so important to find a designer that you trust. When you hire a logo designer you’re not simply hiring someone to produce artwork for you. You should be hiring someone who knows what is stylish based on their expertise and persistent study of logo design and then you should defer to them on that question rather than relying on your untrained preferences. What all of this amounts to is that you could end up with a logo concept that you don’t necessarily like but could be the best logo for your brand. Do you have the courage to accept those terms going into it? If you do, you might come out the other end of the process with a much higher chance of success with your brand.
With that out of the way, let’s look at the fundamental qualities of a good logo. These are the qualities that should be given priority whenever you’re evaluating and considering a concept:
Simplicity is important for several reasons. A good logo needs to be versatile and easily used in a variety of applications. This means that it can be shrunk down and printed on a business card or blown up and slapped on to a billboard without losing its effectiveness or legibility. A good logo must be versatile and simplicity makes this possible.
The more memorable a logo is, the more easily it will be to create an impression that lasts and build associations with your product/service/message. Knowing this, you should be able to begin to understand that it’s not all about how stylish the logo is as even (and perhaps especially) ugly logos can be very effective in this regard.
While ugly logos can be very memorable, they can also build negative associations for your brand depending on your intent, so it’s important to understand the reasons why or why not to take that approach. Generally, an appealing logo is the better way to go as more people will be drawn to you and your organization through an emotional attraction brought on by the important impressions that a logo can provide.
If you’re logo is not unique, then it won’t identify you effectively. Your logo is your visual ambassador so it should, obviously, do a good job of representing you and only you. If it isn’t unique, instead of getting noticed, you’ll be lost in a sea of voices all clamoring for the attention of your target audience.
This is a less important consideration, but often it’s a good thing if the logo can represent the organization in meaningful ways. There are many well-known logos that defy this rule, however. For example, what does a mermaid have to do with coffee (I.E. Starbucks)?
As with anything, there are exceptions to the rules, but these serve as a good foundation for understanding how to design a logo and how to evaluate one as a client. Once you understand the criteria, you can begin to apply the possible exceptions that might exist in your particular application.