Logo's are a facinating invention, just about as old as humanity and almost as interesting.
From cave paintings to the walls of the pyramids and the coins of Greece and Rome; insignia, and signet rings, and coats of arms; and just about every visual media, human beings have always created and responded to logos.
But today there is a perception that logos are kind of over-rated, that we've moved beyond that common place communication, and that a product or service does not need a logo, provided it's good enough on its own merit. The belief is that our clients are so super-smart these days that they don't even look at the logo, they look only at the value, the service, the quality and the price.
I disagree with that idea, I think that people have always associated quality with design, and they always will.
Here are 5 thoughts on why a fantastic logo is not an option for a first-rate business, and a logo-less or poorly-designed-logo business is undermining themselves, their clients and their potential:
1. Good products and service go with fantastic logos.
With a few exceptions (where there is monopoly or other external factors) every successful brand was built on the foundation of a fantastic logo. Some big brand names started in a garage or store room but almost all of them invested early on in a great logo design that captured the vision they were trying to communicate.
This is because people are making visual associations all the time, they are not going to 'get it' without you leaving hem a trail of very obvious visual clues, starting with your logo.
"Don't worry about people stealing an idea. If it's original, you will have to ram it down their throats." - Howard Aiken
The inverse is also true, bad logo design goes with, you guessed it, bad product and services and bad brands.
This is such an intuitive response that we don't even think about it. Our eyes are the very first filter in the noise of competition. And if our eye sees a shabby logo our very first impression is shabby product and shabby service, no matter what the salesman tells us.
Graphic Designers go to collage to learn how to communicate these values clearly, sublimely and powerfully. Don't underestimate the professional services of a good logo designer. There are plenty of places to get a logo for free or for cheap. A cheap logo is usually worth the price.
Why is this important? - Because conscious and sub-conscious associations make up the bulk of our buying decisions. Whether or not we care to admit it.
Once you have a brand identity you want to keep it consistent across packaging, digital media, social media, stationery and whatever else it finds itself on.
This means that the logo must also be simple enough to work in black and white contrast (no grey or color).
The last thing you want is a your clients receiving a fax or a pack or a flash drive with a grey blob for a logo because the design would not translate in black and white. Makes sure your designer designs your logo in black and white first.
Consistency also means that you need to get a set of color references and a brand usage guide from your logo designer and use them. Take your coroprate identity and brand user guide seriously, don't let suppliers get away with changing your typeface or redrawing your logo.
Use a tool like AssetBrand to keep track of your most current logo, colors and fonts in all possible formats so that your suppliers don't have to hunt for the right logo.
Why is this important? - Because brand recognition does not work without consistant design, colors and fonts. In fact inconsistancy in your brand is associated by your clients with inconsistency in your business.
Don't be affraid to reinvent your brand. Sometimes a new innovation or a business milestone requires a complete change design, sometimes all it takes are subtle changes; but let it happen, don't fight it.
Companies that never change their identity send a message to their client base that they are resistant to change and stuck in a previous era.
You also don't want to be changing your logo or company name every six months, that sends a message that your business is unstable. For most businesses I would suggest a logo and identity review every 3 or 4 years. Even if no change is made to the coroprate identity this is a good idea just for the sake of checking on your logo consistency across all it's media uses.
The important take away is to aviod getting your brand stuck. It's always better to risk with a little bit of change than to avoid change altogether in this past paced and visual economy.
Why is this important? - Because we live in a fast paced economy, you need to show that you are ahead of your game and your clients need visual clues that you have a realistic development plan.
4. Avoid Sentiment like the plague
The blunt truth is that no one else cares about the combined names of your pets, your granmother's home town or what you did in the war. Those things are relevant to you, but they are utterly irrelivent to the brand you are building; and, if you try and force thm in, they could threatten to get in the way of your clients' believing your brand.
Even in choosing a business or domain name the vital issues are availability and clear association, especially psychologocal association. You need to be clear and obvious. Very seldom does sentiment add to those efforts, 99 times out of 100 sentiment is neither clear nor obvious, it almost always has to be explained to an outsider, like an inside joke; and that does not help you build your brand.
When you are considering a brand name or a logo design write down 10 or 20 adjectives that describe your brand, your mission and your business. Those adjectives are keys to clear visual communication that hit the target you have in mind. Thay will be catalists for a logo designer who is helping you find just the right look for your brand.
Why is this impotant? - Because if people are sentimental about a brand it is for their own sentimental reasons that have nothing to do with yours. Sentiment is not your friend when it comes to brand development.
5. Keep it Simple
Alan Perlis once said that "simplicity does not preceed complexity, but follows it." He's absolutely right. A simple logo has the advantage of being easily reporduced across multiple media, but more importantly it tells potential clients that this business has 'worked out the kinks' in their field.
In a flash our brains review a set of logo options and our minds are made up. Time and time again we will choose the simple communication over the complex mix of multiple ideas and symbolic representation.
A potential client does not evaluating a logo the way the business execs would like them to:
"Oh, I get it, the 3 blue waves represent the 3 core deliverables of XYZ Corp. And the seagul represents their adventurous spirit, and the horse and carriage must represent their link to their past."
That is simply not happening! What is happening is XYZ'a potential client is looking at their new logo and her mind is saying, "What?.. blue things, a bird, I think, and horse stuff... I don't know what that means; move on," and she's probably not even conscious of it. Even as a salesman is walking up to her she's already made up her mind and the game is over.
Keeping it simple does not mean that the logo itself needs to be simple, or that the product needs to be simple, but if it is complex then the logo needs to communicate that complexity in a disarmingly simple way.
Why is this important? - Because our minds process ideas extremely quickly and very regularly, in fact they are bombarded by large amounts of complex ideas. It is an extremely pleasing relief for the mind to be presented with an already processed, clear idea. Add some accurate association and half the brand battle is won.
So what now?
My advice is to spend some time with a good logo designer. Explain your vision, describe in detail why you think your business is so valuable to your clients. Use adjectives to describe your core values and how you'd like to see your brand valued; then get them to design you a fantastic logo and use it consistently.
Let your business wear it like a medal!
The Access logo designs on this page:
1. FreshGround Coffee Shop
2. Heart Solutions owner of PiP Publications
3. Tacoma Baptist Schools
4. Aero Canopies - Custom truck canopy manufacturers
5. AfricaPlaces - Holliday accommodation
6. AssetBrand - Brand asset management
7. Chem 2010 - Cleaning chemicals
8. Cygnets - Preschool