I’m not a designer. I graduated in Economics and started my career as a digital marketer. What do I know about Logo Design? But I’m an avid learner. I have read books on design, spent countless hours watching design tutorials just so I can speak in the same language as the talented designers in my company. I am confident, if I can learn about the science (yes, science) that goes into creating amazing Logos, anybody can.
Before we dive into the characteristics that make all great Logo Designs great, let’s take a look at the main function of a logo.
Industry legend Rand Paul has this to say about the functionality of a logo:
“The principal role of a logo is to identify, and simplicity is its means… Its effectiveness depends on distinctiveness, visibility, adaptability, memorability, universality, and timelessness”.
Rand Paul not only understood what made logos great but underlined some of the best practices designers follow to this day. If you’re a company that is creating its first logo or rebranding, you will inevitably question whether the designs proposed by your visualizer is actually any good.
But first, what are the most common types of Logos in use?
The Monogram or Lettermark
A lettermark is a logo that is based solely on letters, typography, and fonts. These types of logos consist of the letters in a company’s initials (think IBM, BMW, HP).
There are certain advantages to this logo system. For companies with large names, brand recall can be an issue. It is certainly easier to remember IBM than Intelligent Business Machines.
The Wordmarks or Logotype
The wordmark is another typography-based logo. This type of logo can be confused for the Lettermark, but the distinguishing factor lies in the fact that wordmarks spell out the company name in its entirety.
The Logo Symbol
Symbolic logos are essentially what we think about when we think of Logo design. The symbol logo is often called pictorial logos sometimes due to its inclusion of graphic-pictorial depictions. A symbolic Logo often captures the essence of the brand through artistic imagery. While some Symbols attempt at telling a story, most pictorials simply serve as an identifier the brand will use in its lifetime to distinguish itself.
The Combination Mark
Combination marks are the most common types of logos you will see brands using these days. The combo uses the logotype and symbols to create robust designs that can be adaptable in multiple platforms. Brands generally love the combination mark due to its versatility and adaptability to multiple platforms.
Adaptability is also a feature we’d discuss more in detail further ahead.
The Dynamic Logo
Dynamic logos are some of the modern forms of logo design that have emerged in recent years. This type of Logos challenges the general concepts of Logo design yet remain true to the purpose all logos serve.
So what is a dynamic Logo?
Unlike a static (regular) Logo, a dynamic logo can change in appearance based on the context where it is used. Based on the designer’s choice, a dynamic logo can change its base texture, color or any other identifiable elements creating a new logo altogether. However, despite its flexible nature, all dynamic logos are still identifiable as the brand’s extension.
See Rancon's dynamic logo & case study
The 7 identifiable traits all Great Logos have in common
Perhaps you are on your way to deciding what type of Logo you want for your company. Maybe, you have a designer assigned for the task. Whether you design a logo yourself or delegate, find these traits in your logo to determine the end result is nothing short of amazing.
Your Logo is Distinct
As Rand Paul says, the function of a logo is to identify. Your Logo should differentiate itself enough to be remembered by your customers and identify your brand. Ideally, the logo should stand out in a crowd of other Logos in its market.
Your Logo is adaptable
Adaptability is defined by the ability to uniformly establish visibility, meaning, and aesthetics in all formats, platforms, and sizes. What that means is that a good logo system is designed in a way that retains its distinguishable characters in all sizes. It is just as recognisable in print as it is on digital media. And just as identifiable in tight spaces like the favicon on your website as it is on a gargantuan billboard.
Your Logo maximises visibility
Visibility is important in Logo design. Most uses of logos are created to garner impressions and anything contrary is just wasteful. This is why it is important that your logo is just as visible in a white background as it is in purple. While designing a logo, start off with a black and white design and gradually add colors. Make sure, that your logo maintains uniform visibility across all colored backgrounds.
Also see: Slack cites visibility as one of the main reasons for the controversial rebranding of its Logo.
Your Logo is timeless
Predicting the future is hard. There is no surefire way to tell if a logo will stand the test of time but there is a lot you can do to make sure it has a long shelf life.
Designers carefully study brands to understand how visual elements work. You can learn about Design by researching brands who changed brand identities recently and learn from their mistakes. As a general rule, you will find that most Logos that have gone through frequent rebrandings, mostly committed these mistakes:
- Followed a trend too closely only to see it fade to obscurity and render current logo obsolete.
- Created a complicated Logo that failed to connect with the audience.
- Their logos were not adaptable to digital media.
Your Logo is memorable
As much as an issue of branding, memorability has huge impact on sales of a product. Customers need to remember what your Logo looks like if they want to find your product on the shelves of the supermarket. Moreover, customers are also at risk of buying counterfeit products if they can’t recall your Logo and get fooled into buying a fake that closely resembles your brand.
Your Logo is universal
In this Globalized era,the world is rapidly disseminating borders. In most countries, goods are allowed to move freely and what people in Singapore think about an American brand is just as important as what it’s local customers think. Therefore, it’s vital that brands are perceived equally across all cultures, and borders.
However, this is easier said than done. Symbols,colors and words have different connotations across cultures and Designers have to be careful that the virtues of their brand does not get lost in translation when stepping into new foreign territory.
Most importantly, your Logo is simple
This one trait is given more priority than others by Rand Paul. Simplicity is a trait carries virtues in it own rites. But also, by default adds to the aforementioned characteristics. Simple Logos are more visible, easier to see and recall, adaptable and timeless.
Simple Logos are easy to spot at first glance but for the sake of discussion, you can identify Logos with this trait by its minimalistic design, avoidance of unnecessary details and readily understandable nature.
A few parting thoughts: What Logos shouldn’t be
Call it myth-busting or the biggest Logo design mistakes, Logos do not necessitate these following considerations during design.
Logos should tell customers what the brand does
We’ve all been guilty of believing this at some point in our lives. "Logos should tell a brand story" - we keep repeating to ourselves. But is it really necessary?
If logos can tell the customer how the business helps them, more power to it. However, it is not necessary. More importantly, we must ask ourself if this pursuit of meaning stops us from achieving the 7 vital traits mentioned above.
If you can confidently say yes, that your Logo can both tell what the company does and has all 7 of these traits, I certainly implore you to go down this path. But if it doesn’t, reconsider the design.
Case in point, check out Sony’s iconic Logo. Can you tell from looking at that Logo that it sells electronics and insurance? What about apple? Does it shout “Computers”?
Logos are industry specific
Do industries have archetypes every designers must abide to? An unwritten code, that all tech logos must be blue and all feminine products washed in pink?
Logos must try to be relevant to its customers and their expectations rather than the expectations for the industry. If we take association too seriously, we risk creating something that is too similar to others. This can come in the way of creating a memorable and distinct Logo. Brands should take liberty when designing their Logos and have the boldness to stand out. Otherwise it risks losing itself in the ocean of rivalling brands and fade into the depths of obscurity.
Logos should have intrinsic meaning
Is design an art form? If so, should it carry meaning? The answer to both is negative. Design is not an art. Rather it is a tool that is used to provide objective solutions to real world problems. Design in all forms, have objective implications in how it is used and applied in real life. Industry veteran, Michael Beirut clarifies this issue once and for all:
“When we look at a well-known logo, what we perceive isn’t just a word or an image or an abstract form, but a world of associations that have accrued over time.
As a result, people forget that a brand new logo seldom means a thing. It is an empty vessel awaiting the meaning that will be poured into it by history and experience.
The best thing a designer can do is make that vessel the right shape for what it’s going to hold”
And that folks, is the best way Logos can be described by anyone. On that note, let’s end this discussion and best of luck with creating amazing Logos and Brand experiences.