Logo Design

The state of visual identity (logo) design, circa 2012

I'm a voracious reader I comb through book stores and avidly follow design blogs and articles online. I regularly search for new information, trends & ideas to consider. The internet has turned many of us into information addicts.

Everyone these days can have a blog, after all, it's recommended by all the online marketing gurus.

We are desperate for our opinions to be heard and with the anonymous nature of the internet...we can proceed to opine & vent at will. I usually don't participate in forums anymore because, by the second day, someone's incivility always pops up. Bad manners in real life are annoying enough, but when online... people feel they have carte blanche authority to spew their invective at will.

I recently found a website/blog about current (2010) logo design trends. Most of the comments, in my view, expressed immature ramblings, not well reasoned opinions by experienced designers.

It was easy to see this...a large portion of the respondents couldn't put a cogent, articulate sentence together...forget about the bad grammer, speling & punkuation (sic). Just look at any forum online these days...it's enough to give your eighth grade English teacher nightmares.

I found it curious that several people stated upfront they were not designers, yet they still felt compelled to add a comment. I'm not an electrician...I have a healthy respect for high voltage...I leave it alone, and call a professional.

One could write a book about logo/identity design...in fact, dozens have been written. Most are well done & beautifully illustrated with examples of logos “properly” created, along with the obvious “poor choices”...what to do and what not to do...how high or wide...the correct proportions;etc.

It does seem they've all been written only for fellow practitioners, not the design layman...what to do , what not to do...complete with all the rules dutifully indexed. A logo must do this or that...it must follow these conventions and standards with regards to sizing and shape...it must be this & not that. Oh! and a logo won't work if it can't be converted & reproduced in B&W or gray scale. Remember, no fine details or gradients...and 2 colors are best.

These are people that know nothing about the art of lithography & printing or the nuances and advances in digital printing techniques.

As an artist, albeit a commercial one, I'll follow Picasso's lead in breaking the rules often and in departing from tradition at times.

I'm not a bureaucrat...the feckless prisoner defined by his set of rules... hopelessly bound and walled-up as was Fortunato's fate in Poe's novel, The Cask of Amontillado.

I'm not a (wild and crazy guy), but my natural inclination is to be a little different from most. My number one overarching personal (rule) in designing a logo is for it to be inspired...is it uniquely different...is it evocative and memorable...does it have lasting power?

My views, as follow, are in line with most other visual identity designers...as a collective group we tend to agree on basic design tenents.

Your corporate identity is not the same as your logo design. Your identity is the sum of your business parts. Everything the business projects in written or graphic form and/or how your employees interact with the public... this forms, shapes and manifests itself as your corporate identity... your public persona... the overall perception you give to the world.

The logo design is a part of the overall identity...a needed, necessary, important and vital aspect. It can be said...the logo is your front door...the lobby to the business.

If well crafted, customers will remember it and associate it with the good image you've worked hard at to project. A good logo can do wonders in separating you from the competition...making you stand out. This, after all, is what we strive for...seeking that unique and special name or logo. Conversely, a good logo cannot resurrect a poorly guided company.

Here are some guidelines I like to follow. I'd rather be guided than ruled.

I'd like to think of these following notes & ideas as instructive and meaningful to first-time clients...a sort of primer for understanding logo development from a designer's perspective.

It's hard to say exactly which step or consideration comes first. Any business, it can be argued, needs to develop a strong brand identity. It's also especially necessary for the smaller business, as they actually face more competitive pressures.

As a small company you struggle simply to become known. Whereas, Proctor & Gamble, Microsoft, IBM; etc., at this point, are working on finessing their already established stable of products.

The well executed combination of branding & identity creation can best help the newcomer compete locally, then on a regional scale, while finally moving on to the national and global stage.

As mentioned, the logo is just one portion of your overall brand identity, but it is not of much consequence if you have not accurately defined your audience and what the focus of your business is.

What is the spirit of your business?

Who is your audience?

Who are your competitors?

What is the intrinsic visual voice or language of this environment...what's your scene?

The three design elements we are dealing with in logo design.

Type, image, & space

Space can include negative space, that area around objects or images. We've all seen a picture of a vase in silhouette, but after closer inspection we see two faces in profile.

Of the three elements or considerations, it may be a surprise to some, but the correct choice of typeface...its style, weight; etc. is the most important element, and has the greatest potential for impacting the overall look and feeling of a design. The correct choice of type can either elevate a design or relegate it to the bargain basement.

Typography has its own language...its own voice. It really speaks to us. Type can be quiet, loud, reserved, elegant, dashing or frivolous in style. For every emotion you wish to show, there is a typeface designed to convey the desired feeling. Some designers do nothing but design type...lucky for us all.

Logo elements to strive for

  1. Is it inspired?

  2. ...usable, scalable, in a vector format?

  3. ...unique for purposes of trademark approval?

  4. ...proprietary for purposes of trademark approval?

  5. Imaginative

  6. Overall visual impact

  7. Evocative

  8. Harmonious

  9. Simple & concise

  10. Timeless

  11. Memorable

A logo should contain some truth...a cognitive element...a cerebral moment. As a metaphor for the business it can't be just purely decorative or pretty.

A logo doesn't have to reflect, in the most literal sense, exactly what a company does. Often, only a conceptual or abstract design is required.

A logo is often thought of as a signature and the thought of what that signature implies. It doesn't show everything or explain all the details, afterall, it's not a book. It's the beginning of a promise...a dialogue with the consumer.

As beautiful as a logo design may be, it does not exhibit greatness on the first or second day. Logos need time to mature, as most wines do.

It's the amount of retained impressions a logo makes on the public that elevate its acceptance in the first place, then on to greatness at a later date. These impressions cost money...politicians buy their positions at times, just as logos do. This, in reality, seems unfair to some small companies, but life is not fair.

Take the “golden arches” for instance, (McDonald's),... a universally known, but unremarkable design. The same can be said about the IBM logo.

Nike's swoosh, as a mark, is not remarkable either. Not until years later & after billions of impressions has it reached super stardom status...its raison d' tere.

The Google logo is quite simplistic by all measures. A second day PhotoShop user could have made this design, but the logo now has achieved its status because of its ubiquitous use...plus the name has real meaning & it has become a verb. You now Google to find information.

Let's work towards creating a superstar logo for your business.

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever....”

Endymion ~ John Keats


All text & graphics Copyright 2012 Alan Bennington/BOXEDBRANDS and other copyright holders

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