If someone were to mention Nike or McDonald’s, most people’s minds would immediately picture the iconic swoosh or golden arches. These are two of the most memorable logos around, and even though smaller businesses won’t ever have the same brand recognition as they do, it’s always a great idea to try anyway.
Making a great logo is a huge challenge. Many people just think it’s a little picture next to their name, but to get the most out of a logo it needs to be much more than that.
A great logo must have meaning that is appropriate to the business it is representing. While not all logos have an icon, if it does, the icon should further reinforce your business. A roofing company with a boat for a logo would just create confusion about the business. But meaning doesn’t have to be as literal as using a roof for a logo. Many abstract logos carry just as much meaning in the feeling they portray. For example, many lawyers will use abstract shapes that appear to be strong to convey trustworthiness and professionalism. Besides the icon, the fonts and colors used in a logo carry meaning as well. Imagine that lawyer’s logo with the abstract icon being accompanied by a playful children’s font, or a nature-related business using bright red over green or blue. Something would feel wrong about it. The use of green will automatically reinforce the idea of nature and eco-friendliness.
One of the most common problems with logos is the lack of simplicity. A well-designed logo should be just as identifiable at one inch as it is covering a full billboard. It should also be able to be reduced to a single color and still work just as well. The simplicity of an icon is what makes it recognizable and memorable. If Apple were to use a clipart picture of an apple in full color rather than their actual logo, it would not work nearly as well. Sure, everyone would know it because it’s Apple, but it would not be as strong as their actual logo due to the memorable and simple shape of the apple. Logos that are purely type based are a great way to achieve simplicity, but also puts much more emphasis on the meaning of the fonts and colors used.
It can become a huge challenge using a logo that is too specific with how it can be used. A strong logo should be flexible while still maintaining its brand standards. Many businesses have at least one social media account, and nearly all of them require a square or circular profile picture. While it’s a great idea to use the business logo as this profile picture, it can also be a challenge when the logo doesn’t fit in that space nicely. This is often solved by using part of the logo or icon by itself. However, many logos are not flexible enough to have this luxury. A logo with multiple options for how the type and icon are oriented will allow for more options when problems involving space arise.
Color flexibility is also vital to logo design. A logo with six colors may seem like a great idea when it’s on a white background, but it may clash or partially disappear when used on any other color. Simply having an all-white version of a logo will allow for much more flexibility in designs and branding.
Combining ideas in a clever way will often result in a logo that is memorable and distinct. Last year I made a logo for Think Urbana, a program that helps reduce the cost of building a new home in Urbana, Illinois. This logo consisted of a group of trees with their branches forming the roof lines of multiple houses. Connecting the ideas of a nature-friendly community with the various houses resulted in a logo that is unique to that program. While it’s easier to create innovative solutions for some businesses more than others, it is best to strive for something that’s more than the first thought. The more the creative the solution for the logo is, the more that company will stand out among its competition.
Great logos are entirely subjective, but following these guidelines will help immensely and bring up possible issues that may arise before they happen. While there are no real rules for creating a logo, a design that is meaningful, innovative, simple, and flexible will ensure that the logo is living up to its full potential.