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:
- 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.
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 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.
Enduring and Timeless
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!