logo design

So you need a logo.
What do you look for? What is the process?

To understand what a logo is meant to do, we first must know what a logo is. A logo’s design is the visual representation of your brand, your visual identity, inspiring trust, admiration, loyalty and an implied expertise.

A logo’s shapes, colors, fonts, and images should be consistent with and characteristic of your product or service… your brand. It must also maintain its integrity in all media whether it’s screen printed tiny on a pen, huge on a billboard, or animated with motion graphics on a video.

When something this vital to your business is meant to do all of these things, it’s not something to be considered lightly, and consistency in how you present your brand supports its credibility. This is the birth of your brand.

Here are a list of 8 helpful steps to walk you through it. We also have a new questionnaire (design brief) to help us know what your goals and requirements are. Feel free to use it.

8 Steps of Logo Development

Write down descriptive attributes that embody your company. This could be as simple as a list of adjectives that describe your company, it’s features and benefits. Here’s a simple Design Questionnaire to help you.

A logo is its own entity, the visual embodiment of your business. It’s as important as how you dress, shake hands or present yourself to your customers. How do you want them to perceive you?

Color carries a lot of emotional weight. Is your brand edgy and young or relaxing and prestigious. What colors connect to your target market?

I can’t stress this enough. We all know the KISS method, (keep it simple, stupid) – but many times designers forget to apply it to logo design. Count your elements. If there are more than a few, you probably have too much going on. Remember that consumers will be doing everything from quickly glancing at your logo to staring at it during a red light – make sure that it’s simple enough to remember and decipher. Other things are gradients, bevels, and dropshadows. These don’t transition well in enlargements and printing – stay away from these. Again, remember this is not a photograph or an ad – it’s a logo. Drop on needed effects when you incorporate the logo into your designs.

Just because you sell a widget doesn’t mean you have to have a widget in your logo. An abstraction suggests the nature of your business. A portrayal creates an image that literally communicates the brand.

A portrayal might use the name of your company, it’s initials or a picture of the product. But beware of too obvious a choice.

Chevrolet could have chosen a picture of a car, but how would that be different from any other car company? Abstraction gives a brand a better shot at uniqueness and offers the possibility of brand growth. Wrestle with this issue, make a decision and stick with it.

Look at the Nike “swoosh.” It’s not a literal representation of anything. The meaning is created by a simple, distinguishable shape that embodies movement and speed…. go power… and reinforced by a consistent branding and marketing message tied to the abstract image. The swoosh gained meaning with that combined branding effort and its resulting credibility.

Some companies, like Apple Computer, have a natural jumping off point for logo development. If this is the case in your organization, go with it. Using a picture that literally captures the brand name creates a strong bond between the logo and consumer recognition.

Unfortunately, many companies do not have the luxury of simply picturing their brand. Nike, for example, could have used a winged goddess, but how many people would have associated that with the brand? After all, a minor deity is not as recognizable as everyday table fruit.

A photograph is not logo material. Your logos should be foremost created in a vector format. What this means is that no matter how big or small you shrink or enlarge your logo, it should never pixelate or blur. A logo has to be reproduced using an indeterminate amount of printing methods. Does it work in a full color ad at 300 dpi as well as on the web at 72? What about in black/white? Screen printed shirts? Embroidery? What if you put it on a billboard? Or if you want it cut out of vinyl for a sign or banner?

A logo should work independently in any of these scenarios.

Think of ABC. It’s original logo is a black/white circle with the letters “abc” in the middle. But if you ever watch the network, you’ll see lens flares, highlights, bevels, 3-d modelling, sound and other effects really making it move. That’s the difference between the logo design and an application of it. The TV medium allows for movement, light and some spectacular After Effects. Save those extra touches for what the medium will bare.

The more people involved, the more messy the process. Figure out who really needs a say in the process based upon expertise and responsibility. Those are two separate fiefdoms. Expertise means people with professional experience in marketing (and maybe production). Responsibility means the key stakeholders must be involved so you don’t go down your merry path only to be vetoed at the end of the yellow brick road. Keep the group small. If the CEO gets final say, have that person on the committee. Don’t allow a bunch of surrogates to imagine what the boss will think.

The worst possible process is a free-for-all where a committee tries to make everyone happy by combining elements from different designs – the “one from column A and two from column B” approach. This almost never yields a happy result (or a strong design). Get everyone to vote thumbs up or down, winnow the choices and keep voting until you have one favorite.