Sharp Points

thoughts on graphics and branding

Philosophy for Logos:

Posted by stephaniesharp on April 17, 2009

To me, a good logo must withstand the test of time. I deplore graphic fads because it dates the mark and will require a reworking of the logo in a short amount of time. Which may be fine if you know the business will no longer be around in two to five years. For a fad product (remember pet rocks, mood rings or plastic shoes ) a logo employing a “graphic trend of the month” would work. But most companies exist and operate to survive decades. So why do some feel compelled to fall into the “me to”” trap by using swooshes or currently a 3-D bubble look?

The best logos are developed for companies whose executives embrace design and branding and fully live their brand. A designer has to get to know the company. Corporate exec’s who can verbalize their brand personality, vision and essence, even if they’re not familiar with those terms, help the designer to fully understand the company and be able to design a spot-on logo

A good logo should be able to survive decades. Small updates can be made to it periodically, but the basic logo stays the same. Look at the history of the Prudential rock for an example. Shakespeare has withstood the test of time. Kiss Me Kate is an update on The Taming of the Shrew. This is how I see logos, timeless.

I recently read an article about the rules of logo design. It got me to thinking that I should verbalize what rules I tend to follow, and maybe which I’ve heard others stand by that I feel are unnecessary.

1) It should work in black-and-white. This is a big one for me. One I will never break. I believe it is not a strong logo if it doesn’t work in black-and-white. Which is why when Sharp Designs presents the initial design comps for a logo we only show it in black-and-white. There are many reasons for this. The majority of companies still only have a black-and-white fax. And any e-mails or pdf’s sent to a client may be printed out on a black-and-white laser printer. You want them to be able to see and read the logo. You’re not communicating well if someone is comparing products ore vendors and then is confused as to which company that print out belongs to. (Which ties in to consistent and good branding practices, which is another blog entry to come.)

2) It should be scalable from covering the side of a semi-trailor to being recognizable printed on an advertising specialty such as a writing pen.

3) It should work in low-resolution such as on your website. And you can lump newspaper ads in here. Some newspapers experience quality problems at times, it is the nature of their printing process and the paper. You can’t get very fine detail to show up clearly in a newspaper ad. And don’t believe a newspaper salesman unless he can show you comparable samples.

4) It should be able to work using only 2 colors. This is a rule that may become extinct since full-color printing is becoming more the norm with the associated price dropping considerably in the last few years. But it’s always good to have a 2-color option for your logo even if all of your marketing materials are 4-color. What if you run an ad in a publication that only prints in 2 colors? And that second color is one of your corporate colors? Wouldn’t it be better, more impactful, more consistent with your branding to run a 2-olor ad than one that is just black-and-white?

It’s good to think through all the possibilities, all of the what ifs, before the design process is started.

5) It should represent the company, the brand values, personality  and attributes. You’re probably surprised I didn’t list this rule first. I didn’t because to me, it is just obvious. It’s an automatic. I guess I shouldn’t assume that everyone does this. So that’s why I decided to go ahead and list it as a rule here.

6) It should not be trendy. Unless it is for a product whose life-span is expected to only be a couple of years. This rule is another one that is part of Sharp Design’s DNA. To me, a trendy logo is not a successful logo, or a good one either. If everyone has a swoosh in their logo, how is having one in yours differentiating your company? Logos and the encompassing brand is not strong if the company has a “me too” logo.


One Response to “Philosophy for Logos:”

  1. andymarino said

    I couldn’t agree more with you.
    Andy Marino

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