How to make a Logo
Before I get into the challenges of logo design, I’ll need to provide some background on Brand. After all, a logo is an important element within the bigger picture of corporate visual identity and the even bigger picture of brand strategy. If you’re not working with one of the famous, global ad agencies, you may have never been properly introduced to the proper conceptual structure which will allow you to consider your logo needs in the right way.
By the way, I’m not a professional logo designer. I employ them, I work with them, and I have gone through the challenges of developing several brands with a full host of consultants, brand experts, creative directors, designers, and marketing gurus. In the process, I learned important things about how to make a logo, create a brand, and manage a brand. However, I suspect that many professional and would be brand makers and self-proclaimed graphic designers would contend with my straight forward way of thinking about logos.
Brand is Business
I believe that great brands drive revenue and profitability by influencing choice and sustaining margins. As business analysts, researchers and statisticians have demonstrated in the last 20 years, earnings are attributable to strong brands. In my opinion, if you have been in business for five or more years and you don’t have a strong brand, then you’ve only been losing sales, profits, and market share. Without a brand, your business is unlikely to stand out, command attention and provoke loyalty.
What is the asset value of the brand to the organization?
Brand plays a role in the customer’s purchase decisions, the competitive strength of the brand within its markets, future market position and business development opportunities.
Although branding is fundamental to business success, not every brand will succeed as value generators and economic assets. Often brands are not well conceived; they fail to…
- Embody the true business values of a company
- Exploit customer expectations, emotions and culture or
- Excite and stand out.
Another problem is the failure of investment, building brand is more than getting the right logo and corporate visual identity, it means adopting it as a culture within an organization and, at the same time, putting it out there in the public for all to see… as often as it can be shown.
Brands do not succeed because there is a logo and corporate identity. Brands succeed when an organization embraces the brand and becomes fanatic about its brand. Getting the logo on your business card, letterhead and a brochure-based website is like baby’s first steps. Putting it out there on 5,000,000 banner ad views/month on Yahoo!, making an interactive website that customers love, and getting the brand up on outdoor signs with an exciting message is starting to get your brand game on. This kind of brand management is the initial proof of you truly believing in your brand.
How does one brand successfully reach out and engage our attention, consideration or loyalty when another fails to do so?
When a brand is effective, it creates demand. It’s not just about communication. It’s also about making the right customer choose the brand’s products or services regardless of competitors’ offers, today and tomorrow. Their fanatical loyalty and enthusiasm should also encourage their friends to do the same. An effective brand receives a positive, favorable and welcome response from its audience. People act on this.
It is true that much of the energy and dynamic behind a brand’s capacity to create demand is created by consistency, frequency and choice of delivery. Let’s consider this at a more simple level of abstraction. Brand can not fully effective when you have corporate identity in your business card, letterhead and website but you don’t have it on your catalogs, signage, boxes, and other marketing collateral. Nor can brand be truly effective when you have all of these things, but…
- Your competitors are investing in branding campaigns across the internet through online advertising and marketing… and you have no online strategy.
- You don’t utilize online social media to carry your brand message forward or salvage it from the vagaries of internet discontent.
- You can’t be found on the first one or two pages of results in a search engine with a quick, simple search or, worse, your competitors are using your abandoned brand through search engine matches to bring your customers to their offer.
You need to think beyond the box of a logo: what will you need to make your brand relevant in your market through the most effective channels: store sign, internet, on clothing and accessories, and outdoor sign among others. More importantly, you will need to make your brand relevant to potential customers.
Finally, a brand must be expressed through a attention getting, unmistakable, and easily recognizable corporate visual identity that creates interest, demand, trust and loyalty. The image must capture the imagination of the customer.
What is a logo?
The most obvious element in visual corporate identity is the logo or trademark. Typically, a logo includes an ideogram and logotype. The ideogram is an image. The logotype consists of a text message, font type and color.
The logo can not be just any thing.
A logo must be a pithy, powerful message that synthesizes as much of the following as possible:
- Consumer behavior, perceptions and needs
- Customer service standards
- Value or function of the products or services
- Corporate behavior and culture
- Mission and vision of a company
That’s not all, the logo must meet the five general requirements of corporate visual identity as a visual trademark:
- It must get attention and be recognizable and distinct from other brands
- The psychological association of the image between the company, product or service should not require a leap of faith
- It must support the reputation of the company and business goals
- It must inspire internal culture
- It must be believeable to those who work within the company
The requirements above represent problems that even trained professional graphic designers find difficult to solve. The kid who knows how to play with Photoshop and Illustrator knows nothing of these requirements and they will never be able to create a great and enduring brand. It’s not believeable – unless you religiously buy a lottery ticket every day thinking that your big pay day is coming.
Beyond the business requirements, there are technical requirements for a logo:
- The text must be readable and images must be obvious
- It must scale cleanly from small online banner ads to building size outdoor signs: text and images should not appear strangely when scaled up or down
- It must be effective without color such as in black and white. And it must be effective across different backgrounds as required for business purposes.
- It must have elements that make it recognizable from a distance. For example, a meter from the monitor or 100 meters or more from an outdoor sign.
- It must be recognizable if blurred. People don’t always see things clearly nor do they always gaze at things from a stand still.
I admit, those 15 guidelines are a lot to swallow in one drink! However, none can be ignored or overlooked.
A Little Philosophy and Update on the Trends
Modernist influences have had a particularly strong hand in guiding logo design since the 1950s as demonstrated by celebrated logo designers such as Paul Rand who was responsible for the globally recognized logos of IBM, UPS and Westinghouse. The most important emphasis on the graphic design of a logo for the likes of Rand were the ideas of defamiliarizing the ordinary, functional-aesthetic perfection, and iconic simplicity. Rand himself believed that a logo should be so easily recognizable that it could be recognized from a distance even if blurred or mutilated.
More noticeably, the internet has become a fertile ground (or cess pool) for new ideas, new businesses, and new design trends, the graphic design limitations and advantages have had dramatic impact on corporate identity. More often than not, web-based graphic designers often lack an education in the visual arts and, worse, they lack an appreciation or sense of the fundamentals of visual design. At the same time, visual technologies such as Flash have allowed web designers to use motion, effects, sound, and other elements to create, in the best cases, an immersive and engaging experience of corporate identity.
Beyond the good sense of functional-aethetics, iconic simplicity, and defamiliarizing the ordinary, the possibilities of extending a logo to become a prominent item within an immersive experience of corporate identity must be considered seriously. If you ask me, I’ll tell you that online or interactive strategy is where it’s all going. It’s the most important ground to win, today and tomorrow. That in mind, proper logo development must include a vision of online strategy for its role in an immersive, engaging experience.
Choosing the right logo designer is not easy. Often, it will not be the person that can make your website too. Nor is it likely to be the person that makes banner ads or books your online advertising. These people may or may not even be able to give you insight about how to consider making a logo more effective within their own area of expertise (or so-called expertise). On the other hand, professional web site development companies and professional online strategy companies may have the experience, knowledge and talent to make it happen – assuming they have brand strategists, online tacticians, creative people, graphic designers, copy writers, and a portfolio to prove it.
Most do not.
Do not be impressed by a large catalog of logos or the names of the clients. Be very impressed if they can show you one or two logos that have all the right ingredients for a great branding strategy AND they can explain these ingredients to you.
Large catalogs mean they treat logo design as uninformed graphic design- lacking any sense of brand or business insight. And interesting client lists refer more to their networking skills than their brand knowledge. You want to know if they can do serious things with your brand – not how good their golf, drinking or socializing game is.
One of the greatest mistakes in logo development can be to insist upon your own personal artistic preferences and tastes. Unless your artistic tastes have been refined by years of collecting and/or making art and design and your tastes are shared by your markets, questions about the message, subject, style, color and font are strictly business decisions that must be answered with rational, calculated business information- even they they will be executed with creative and passionate expression.
If you do not trust the designer to get you there, it’s the wrong designer for you. Find someone else. It doesn’t matter if you know them from high school, college, work or through a friend or relative. What matters is your brand and how they can contribute to making your brand effective- not how you know them, how long you knew them, and who they worked for.
Don’t trust the designer if they aren’t asking you the right questions about your business, your products or services, your customers and your competitors. Trust the designer if they have the experience, knowledge, people and talent to do amazing things AND…
1. They are asking the right questions and writing it down
2. They are make active efforts to understand your company product, services, customers and competitors
3. They explain every important recommendation and decision they make
If a designer meets the requirements for your trust, you will need to trust them to do their best. This means you will need to carefully consider their recommendations, decisions and explanations even when it doesn’t fit with your preferences, likes, and opinion – unless of course you are a brand expert or strategist and you have the education, experience and training to know better than them.
Putting your trust in your designer to leverage their experience, insights, knowledge, and talent in your best interest is often the key to a successful and productive design project. Often, the best results come when enthusiasm, excitement, support and inspiration is shown and given from both sides. As in any kind of business dealing, contentious, suspicious and difficult relationships often become costly, angry, late and unsastifying projects.
April 13, 2001
New York City
About Stan Faryna
Stan Faryna is an online strategist, web-savvy technologist and project leader who provides value-intense counsel, support and project management for important clients in North America, Europe and the Middle East.
Stan Faryna is editor-in-chief of Black and Right (Praeger Press, 1996), a landmark collection of socio-political essays by important American thinkers including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Copyright 1996 to 2008 by Stan Faryna.
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