A logo is one of the first things you’ll need when creating a business or brand identity — yet it’s one that you absolutely cannot rush. When done right, a logo enhances customer perception and recognition of your brand and effectively communicates your identity and values. When done poorly, a logo risks looking like a copy of someone else’s work or too generic.
Essentials of a Logo
A good logo needs to be legible to be effective. Time spent puzzling out what the image is supposed to be will not serve you or your brand. The logo must also be simple enough that a customer who sees it at a glance — say, while riding the bus or driving to work — can read it and remember it for long enough to look it up on their smartphone. And that brief period spent glancing at your logo should communicate something of who you are. Logos that do this successfully include FedEx’s logo, which has an arrow hidden in the white space, and Mozilla Firefox, which features a fox wrapped around a globe.
This is, of course, trickier than it sounds. Heavy fonts may appear fine when rendered on a computer screen, yet become compressed when rendered in a 150-pixel square at the top of a webpage. The more elaborate fonts are, the harder they can be to read — yet they’re one of the things that can set a logo apart. When designing a logo, you must consider how it will render on a banner, on a webpage, on a sticker and everything in between. One size definitely does not fit all. Color plays a role here, too: A light-colored logo may not work against a light background. Think about where the logo will be displayed when choosing fonts and colors.
These concerns highlight another key quality of good logos: Usability. Here, this means that the logo must be able to be reproduced easily. The most beautiful logo in the world does you no good if it can’t make the transition from Illustrator design to webpage graphic or product promotion. Would your logo work if shrunk? Would it work if it was converted into black and white for appearance in a print paper, or would it only work in color? Would your logo work over photos, website backgrounds and other non-transparent backings?
Lastly, your logo must be un-ambiguous. Before you stamp your logo on every product, think about whether some might find it offensive. The old Cleveland Redskins logo, for one, portrayed Native Americans in a negative light. Would you want to make the same mistake with your logo and risk alienating a segment of your market?
One of the best decisions you can make when designing a logo is to hire a graphic designer to help build your brand identity. Designers know the perils and pitfalls of logo design. A good designer will listen to your story, then help illustrate it in a way that comes to life cleanly. While you can go it alone, you’ll spend much more time developing a decent logo.
If you do want to try your own logo, brainstorm your concept and message first. Prepare a mood board of colors, styles, fonts or concepts that represent your brand then build these into a design. Generate several logos and pick your favorite of these attempts.
Start your business off on the right foot by developing a quality logo. When done right, you’ll represent your brand well and generate consumer recognition in the marketplace.