In small towns like where I’m from, we tend to see many a cringe-worthy logo. Most smaller businesses don’t find it necessary to invest time and money into branding simply because they feel their product or service is more important. The truth is they’re right… well for the most part.
It is, in fact, true that branding isn’t as important as your product or service. If you have established a client base that can sustain your business then you’re okay… for now. The reality is that people have become more visual in modern times. We are quick to judge books by their covers, and likewise, companies by their branding. Acquiring new business will prove to be a difficult task if your brand’s image isn’t professional by today’s standards. Your logo may not directly sell your product or service but if it’s not easily recognizable or resembles another brand, it can have a negative effect on your credibility and professionalism.
Let’s take a look at how to avoid bad logos and then what I’ve learnt makes a great one.
7 Simple rules to avoid a bad logo
1. Don’t let an amateur design your logo
This is a number one rule worthy of the name. If you follow only one of these rules, follow this one. You may think this rule is a no-brainer, but there is an astonishing amount of small business owners out there who have nephews who know Photoshop. You wouldn’t ask an amateur to service your car or educate your children, so why should your company’s identity be any different. Designers are studied in various aspects of their profession. It’s not just a technical skill. Good design relies on creativity and the understanding of colour, psychology, balance and much more. Hire a professional.
2. Never create your logo in raster format
A professional designer will never make this mistake. So if you aren’t designing your own logo and you’ve followed rule one, you shouldn’t have concerns.
A logo should always be created as a scalable vector. You’re doomed if it isn’t. Examine the above image. Vectors, unlike their raster counterparts, are not pixel-based and will scale to absolutely any size required without losing quality. They’ll print beautifully and can be displayed on any screen size.
3. Avoid designing for yourself
I admit, I have a tendency to do this quite often when I design flyers, adverts and the like. Never logos though. When you conceptualize or design a logo, whether for your brand or someone else’s, always consider the brand and its target audience. You aren’t projecting your own ideas here, you’re creating an identity for an entity that will someday have its own ideas, separate from yours.
4. Avoid complex designs and relying on colour for effect
This is one of the most common mistakes. A logo is not a painting. It’s a symbol and it should be easy to print and display on every medium and on any background. You will eventually have issues if it doesn’t because you can’t always have control of the size and medium it will be displayed on. It should also be easy to replicate. You might, on occasion, have to outsource design work. If that’s the case, the designer taking on the work will easily be able to make a vector from a photo or screenshot if your logo is simple.
Additionally, a good logo should be at least recognizable in monochrome.
5. Use appropriate fonts and not too many of them
Before you begin creating a logo, spend a fair amount of time considering your font. This is especially necessary if yours is text only. If your business is a professional service, steer away from more casual fonts. Likewise, if you’re in the business of planning weddings, an army font will not help your image.
Using too many fonts is just as problematic. Simply put, a logo should have one or two fonts, depending on the design. We are visual and having too many fonts is distracting, inconsistent and quite frankly, irritating. If you decide to use two, always consider contrast. Avoid using two of the same class of fonts from different typefaces. For example, match a script font with a serif font. Match a more blocky sans serif font with a lighter monotype font. You get the picture.
6. Never follow trends
Your brand is unique. You want people to know that. If your logo looks weird but people recognize it with a positive attitude, then mission accomplished. If there’s any part it that serves no purpose, remove it. Do some research. Make sure your logo has no resemblance to others’.
7. Say “NO” to copying and using existing resources
Stock images and vector resources are great. They save you tons of time and effort. Not when it comes to your logo though. Stock images are downloaded by thousands of people all over the world. If you’re using them in your logo, it will be quite upsetting for you and your client to see them elsewhere, especially if its portrayed in a negative light. Worse, you could find yourself facing unnecessary problems with plagiarism and copyright or trademark violations.
What makes a logo good?
You don’t have the be the world’s greatest artist to make a great logo. Its easy to appreciate a logo that portrays some thought behind it. Remember that creativity is the main ingredient. Here are the other ingredients in the recipe to a successfully executed logo design:
1. Keep it as simple as possible
Don’t embed the entire Da Vinci code or any other cryptic messages that only you understand in your logo. As I mentioned earlier, if it has no significance, remove it. Use as few colours as possible. An iconic logo is easily recognized even if its portrayed as a silhouette. If it’s not recognizable in one colour, you may have to go back to the drawing board and try again.
2. Make sure it’s memorable
Whether it’s funny, clever or simply attractive, make sure your logo is unforgettable. Aim for people thinking about it even when they’re not thinking about your business. It invokes emotion and people will feel more familiar with your brand because they’ve been thinking about it so often.
3. Design for tomorrow
If you think your logo is boring a week after you’ve made it, chances are many others think so too. Keep this in mind before you begin conceptualizing it, because you can’t afford to change it every week. A logo too-often changed is useless because it identifies nothing.
4. Its anatomy should be versatile
Can it scale to any size? Can it print on any medium? (Paper, card, steel, wood…) Can it be embroidered? Will it display on any background colour? Will people recognize it in black and white? Will it fit in a square, like a social media profile picture? These are all questions you should ask yourself and/or your designer. Getting it right the first time round will save you from having to go through a re-branding process.
5. It has to be appropriate
Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer to what makes a logo appropriate. Common sense and a little experience might come into play here. There’s no rule that says it has to have anything to do with your product or service. You could be a tech company with a fruit as a logo, or even a design company with a hummingbird, but if you are a mechanic and your logo is a bottle of nail polish then it could send your prospective clients mixed signals.
A few additional points to consider
Aspect ratio: It may be any shape you desire, but where possible, aim for a logo that can fit in a square.
Splitting the elements: If your logo consists of an image and text, make sure each can hold its own. You’ll find it increases its versatility significantly.
Instant impressions = instant impact: A picture is more memorable than text. A logo that is text only is technically still a picture and is perfectly acceptable. Just make sure to customize its font so its easily recognized.
Slogans are not logo elements: Your slogan or tagline may be great, but they are separate from your logo. They can be distracting and won’t even be seen if it has to printed on small media like business cards.
Repetition: Once you have a logo you’re proud of, make sure the whole world sees it. It has to be on all your business documents (business cards, letterheads, corporate uniforms, workwear etc.), but display it everywhere else you can. Sponsor an event, plaster it on all the event’s media. Create a social media brand page, make your logo the profile and banner picture. Run a social media ad campaign, make sure your logo is featured in it. Then more people see it, the more confident they will feel about your brand.
Do you think your logo’s a masterpiece? Or will you use this advice to give it a touch-up or maybe even a complete overhaul? Let us know in the comments below.