Friday, September 26, 2014

How to Develop a Great Logo

An organization or business logo, whether a graphic symbol or a distinctive typeface, is a visual way to instantly identify the entity. When used on signs, in advertising and on marketing materials, it is a shorthand way for its customers and prospects to recognize the business or organization.

Logos come in four forms:

  • Font-based: composed of type only. Examples are Walt Disney, Coca-Cola, Google, Louis Vuitton.
  • Symbol-based: an icon commonly associated with the type of business, such as the American Red Cross.
  • Abstract Graphics: a symbol created for the purpose like the Olympic rings.
  • Combination: a mixture of type and either a symbol or abstract graphic, such as the Chanel double C + font.

We cite these examples because they are well known, made so by their advertising budgets that use the logo in global ad campaigns. But it is good design that makes these logos memorable and identifiable.

Logo design principles

In 2009, Smashing Magazine offered five principles for effective logo design:

  • Simple. Milton Glaser, the designer who created the I Love New York logo, touts simplicity as a guiding design principle. A simple design is quickly and easily recognized. Ideally, the viewer sees the logo and immediately understands what it represents.
  • Memorable. Paul Rand, the designer of the IBM, UPS, Westinghouse and ABC logos, observed that logo design must be distinctive, memorable and clear but does not have to illustrate what the business or organization does. (For example, the ABC television network logo does not include a television set or broadcast tower.)
  • Enduring and timeless. To be enduring, a logo needs to remain current-looking for several decades, a quality called forward looking. Using colors and fonts that are the latest trend is the opposite of forward looking. Milton Glaser’s I (heart) New York logo was created in 1975; its clean lines, simplicity and neutrality have given it staying power.
  • Versatile. The logo must work in a variety of sizes (ranging from business card to outdoor signs); in color and black and white; in print and on the web; and on signs, vehicles, clothing and give-away items.
  • Appropriate. The typeface, symbol and colors used for the logo must be appropriate for the type of business or organization. A law firm or technology company needs a more formal-looking logo than a children’s clothing shop.

Technical considerations

Besides great design, a successful logo follows technical principles to achieve distinction. Understanding and honoring these technical aspects improves the chances of creating a great logo that is easy to work with in all situations.

A simple logo does not try to do too much. The logo does not have to represent the company’s products or services (the Nike logo is a swoosh, not a shoe) or reflect its company history. It also does not have to be a visual representation of the company’s tagline.

A good practice aimed at keeping a logo simple is to begin designing in black and white. Color can be added later, after the basic design is established. Another tip is to turn the logo upside down so its shape becomes more apparent and reveals possible flaws.

Over time, most logos are redesigned and made simpler. To keep an initial design as simple as possible, subtract anything that isn’t essential. And if in doubt, leave it out.

A memorable logo is one that is original and doesn’t borrow from others, either by imitating or copying. A memorable logo is devoid of clich├ęs (a globe to represent international or a light bulb for ideas) and may use only type without a symbol or graphic.

Enduring and Timeless
To create a logo that will last for 20 years without appearing dated or stale, choose a typeface that is simple and legible. This is especially important if the business name is unusual or unfamiliar. Use no more than two fonts in the logo design and avoid gimmicky, currently-fashionable or trendy fonts.

If the logo features both an image and a tagline, construct each of these elements as a separate piece of art – in other words, don’t overlap or entwine them. This will enable using the elements separately as well as together.

For today’s multi-media marketing requirements, a logo must be versatile so it will work in print, on the web, and on other items like apparel and give-away items. This means it must reproduce accurately in all three color spaces: PMS Pantone Matching System for one- and two-color printing; CMYK cyan, magenta, yellow and black, for full color printing; and RGB red, green, blue for the web. The logo may also need a version to use on a dark background, over photographs and in gray scale or black and white.

The aspect ratio (the relationship between the height and width) determines the shape and orientation of the logo. A logo that is too tall and thin or too short and wide will present layout problems on artwork. Square and circle shapes are pleasing and adaptable to many design layouts.

Logos need to be prepared in two file formats: vector and bitmap. Vector file formats produce the best quality reproduction for printed material, signage, vehicle wraps, apparel and give-away items. The best possible vector file format is an Adobe Illustrator EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) with fonts converted to outlines.

For websites, blogs and social media, a low resolution bitmap file format is required. JPEG, GIF and PNG are bitmap file formats.

Type, symbols and graphics have distinctive characteristics and should be matched to the brand image. For example, use big, powerful slab fonts to signify strength; serifs or scrip fonts to imply style or elegance; italics or slanted fonts to suggest movement or forward thinking.

Evaluate your logo

If you have never evaluated your logo using the design principles discussed on this blog, we suggest you do so now. If you find a few areas that need attention, give us a call. We can help with refreshing or redesigning your logo. Contact Brigid today!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


As part of its brand identity, a company or organization may develop a tagline – a few words or a simple phrase that describes the company’s product, service or mission. Also called a catchline, strapline or slogan. Consider a tagline to be a separate element of brand identity and do not include it as part of a logo. When included as part of a logo, a tagline could produce visual clutter, interfere with the logo design, or require the use of very small type that becomes illegible or plugs when being printed.

First Impressions

Big national brands spend a lot of time, effort and money developing a logo, then use their large advertising budgets to imbue it with meaning. But what about a business that doesn’t have national scope and a big advertising budget? Does its logo matter to the same extent? Yes! Customers recognize your logo without having to read anything. This means that your invoice goes directly to the accounts payable department. The newsletter with your logo will be put aside to read later.

A logo is equally important in attracting new customers, who often form their first impression of your business from the logo. If you inherited your logo, or if it has been years since it was first developed, you may want to analyze it against the information we’ve provided on our blog. And if you find that your logo needs refreshing, we’re here to help.

Graphic Standards

It is considered best practice to create a set of rules (called Graphic Standards) defining all elements of logo use, typeface system, color palette, layout guidelines and any restrictions on use. Many businesses often provide Graphic Standards documentation with the print-ready and web-ready PDFs provided to the printer or web designer. Here are a few things you can do to create Graphic Standards documentation:

  • Specify the minimum white space surrounding the logo.
  • Show allowable variations of the logo (horizontal and vertical formats, minimum sizes) and specify whether any of the elements (logotype, graphic element or tagline) can appear alone.
  • Provide examples of what not to do with the logo
  • Specify the logo colors using all three color systems: PMS (Pantone Matching System), CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow and black, the colors of full color printing) and RGB (red, green and blue, the colors of web sites). Include a translation of PMS color to CMYK and HEX equivalents.
  • Define whether alternate colors are allowed and if so, specify them.
  • Define any preferred color palettes that are to be used in conjunction with the logo. We often see three color palettes specified: primary color palette, secondary color palette and pastel color palette.
  • Define the allowable typefaces, including sizes and weights for various applications (body copy, headlines, subheads). Include fonts that can be substituted if the font you specify is not available. Always include web-friendly font alternatives as well.

Graphic standards documentation helps printers, graphic designers, web designers, give-away item manufacturers, and sign makers maintain a consistent look and feel for your logo. The consistent appearance of your logo helps create memorability, loyalty and top of mind awareness (TOMA) with your target audience. And that’s good business!

Q&A: Is my logo the same as my brand?

No. A logo identifies the company or organization, while the brand is the company or organization’s perceived image – its characteristics, values and attributes. A graphic designer can create a logo, but the audience creates a brand.

A logo is only one element of a brand. Other elements are the name, tagline, graphics, shapes (Coca-Cola bottle, Volkswagen Beetle), colors (Owens-Corning pink fiberglass insulation), sounds (NBC chimes, Harley Davidson motor), scent (Chanel No. 5), taste (Kentucky Fried Chicken spices), movements (upward motion of Lamborghini car doors) and customer relationship management (Nordstrom and Zappos are known for their impeccable customer care).

Branding is not marketing, though it does support marketing efforts. Like marketing, branding may encourage someone to buy a product or service, but it does so indirectly by defining the company or organization, not by defining its products or services.

Ultimately it is the brand that determines customer loyalty. Marketing identifies and activates prospects, while branding creates loyal customers who work to influence others to buy when the brand lives up to its customer’s expectations.