The Three Essentials of a Great Logo

The mind of today’s consumer is a crowded space. It’s a never-ending battle for the world’s most valuable real estate and the subject of countless conference room meetings across the country.

“How can we increase our brand awareness?”

At the epicenter of your brand is your corporate identity, which starts with your logo. Like a chain reaction, your logo helps dictate everything that has to do with your brand: colors, fonts, personality, tone, the list goes on.

 

So how important is a logo?

Let’s answer that by the fact that companies pay up to hundreds of millions of dollars for one. Pepsi, BP, BBC, ANZ, Posten Norge, Accenture…they all paid handsomely for what appears to be an easy, half-hour design job. What’s not easy is all the thinking and testing that goes on behind the scenes before the finished product is revealed.

For the record, knoodle has never charged millions of dollars for a logo (we could have saved BP a lot of money!). But writing that big of a check speaks volumes to perceived value. A global company like BP understands how important their brand is. And thanks to the internet, whether you like it or not, every company is global.

Keep in mind, deep pockets do not guarantee a world-class brand. Coca-Cola paid $0 and Nike paid $35 for theirs. I don’t even think they sell a pair of shoes that cheap.

So, the question remains: what does make up a great logo?

As a creative director with a background in design, I’ve handled many brands and helped rebrand some of them. It’s not as easy an assignment as one might think. But regardless of the industry or budget, the goal is always the same: logos need to be simple, memorable and relevant.

 

A great logo is simple

Nowhere else is the mantra, “less is more” so relevant. With thousands of images bombarding the minds of consumers every single day, simplicity is a beautiful thing. The challenge is having the guts to pull the trigger. It’s a natural tendency (and flawed thinking) to want to put more in. I once worked on a logo assignment that included graphics of a banana tree, a fist, a wrench, two flags, a statue of liberty and two portraits in a pear tree. Gradients? Why not? Is anyone really going to remember all that?

OK, so I exaggerated with the “pear tree” but you get the idea.

 

A great logo is memorable

This piggy backs on the idea of keeping things simple. Simple means more memorable because there’s less to have to remember in the first place. But truly memorable requires more than that. It must be striking. Something needs to stand out. And that happens by being different. I’m always looking for clever, witty or interesting.

 

Great logos are always relevant

One project we did was for the body sculpting industry. They asked us to use red. We strongly advised against it. Red is too strong, too close to blood. Not relevant for the industry. Is the mark made of angular shapes (higher energy) or rounded shapes (more soothing)? Lower case (friendlier, modern) or all caps (bold, strong)? Serif or sans? The list goes on. A good designer has all these and more in his toolbox and knows how to use them.

In the end, a logo is only somewhat predictable. The rest is revealed through research. The GAP invested $100 million to rebrand back in 2010 and switched back to their previous logo with one week because their customers hated it. Save yourself millions and test your branding on those whose voices matter the most…your customers.

After all, they write your paycheck.

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