Logos are often the first thing we associate with a company. Logos are the first part of a branding effort that creates untold connections between emotions, products, and consumers. They tell a story of what, who, and why; we make immediate judgments and decisions about value because of a product’s emblem. But what makes a great logo?
Ask a dozen designers and you’ll get a hundred tips on what makes a logo really work. By distilling those ideas down, we’ve come up with four key traits that great logos have in common. First, we should probably define a logo. The right logo should define and separate one company from another. A great example of this comes in any product that has many manufacturers, like shoes. A pair of Nikes without the trademark Swoosh would be indiscernible from a pile of adidas if those had been stripped of their stripes. Put the logos back on, and you might reach for a pair of Air Jordans, but why? They’re both shoes, they’ll both serve the same function. Here, the logo identifies what some might consider better quality, a more valuable style, or more interesting heritage or story. In our shoe-centric example, the emotions our customer had with Nike set that pair of sneakers apart. The logo didn’t just make a difference, it was the difference for the customer.
Your Logo Should Be Memorable. One of the key qualities of a great logo is that it should stick with people. One of the great tests used to evaluate potential logo designs is to ask customers, often in focus groups, to recreate the logo. After being exposed to the logo on a screen, on a product, or in print, a memorable design should be easy enough to recall and recreate. What causes you to recall the logo is harder to quantify but relies on being different and unique enough not to blur into other designs.
Your Logo Should Have Structure. Subconsciously, we understand that design should have a concept. It doesn’t matter if the logo is symmetrical or not, round or square, text-based or rely solely on shapes and lines; as a whole, it should have sound shape. This sense of structure extends to the colors it incorporates, too. There are some obvious color combinations that work and some that don’t. We know, for example, orange and pink don’t go together. The trend today is to rely on primary colors, and it’s a tactic companies like Google, Slack, and others have used to great success. Great logo designs answer one simple question: does it make sense?
Your Logo Should be Convertible. When a professional designs a logo, it isn’t a single graphic that gets packed and shipped. Your logo should be convertible into a full media kit that caters to different platforms, styles, and functions across a number of applications. Typically a logo will have some combination of square, horizontal, vertical versions, as well as files with and without text. With so many options, logos are after delivered with a style guide that helps keep its use uniform. Some firms have very strict rules about how, when, where and which logo is used and insist on approving every use of its logo. When designing a new logo, consider how your initial design might work in different shapes, with or without text, and in monochrome.
Your Logo Should Make You Excited…And A Proud. One of the easiest ways to test your logo is to slap it on the company Christmas gift. If you’ve done this before, look around right now; if your employees don’t have a uniform, do they choose to wear or display your brand? If not, the design might need an update. Every business card, pen, coffee mug, sweatshirt or sticker is an ad; don’t limit your logo planning to traditional print and digital marketing. Every single time your logo gets in front of another person, it’s an advertisement that you invested in, and that investment started a long time before you purchased those business cards.
Small businesses tend to think of branding as ‘too big’ for them to tackle when, in fact, it’s companies that need to differentiate and impress that benefit most from great branding. Make a point of examining your logo and branding every few months to ensure that it’s been used properly and professionally, and when it’s time to refresh, work with a pro to bring it to life.