Milton Glaser, the creator of the “I love New York logo” once said, “The logo is the point of entry for the brand.” With that in mind, every element of your logo needs to be treated with respect and understanding, in order for it to work in harmony with every piece of branded communication you produce and create a memorable connection with your audience. Here are a few common mistakes that can lead to discord—or worse cause your logo to resent you:
A well-designed logo will exude a warm fuzzy feeling that the logomark (the graphic or symbolic element) and logotype (type treatment) were, in fact, created at the same time by the same designer. However, it’s not uncommon for logos to undergo a “Frankencomp” effect. That is, “I really like the type from version three, but I’d like to combine it with the mark from version one.” If this is the case, it’s important to take the time to bring the two ideas to mutual ground without losing the integrity of either element. Otherwise, the fallout can be pretty ugly.
A common misconception is that the symbol you choose for your logo should show exactly what you do. While it’s great if a creative solution arrives that does just this, most companies will not have a simple, all-in-one solution that sums up their products and services. An effective logo won’t have to work itself to death to be simple, bold, and iconic—instead, it should easily allow you and your customers to apply meaning, while creating flexibility in your brand. It helps to think of a logo as a stamp or seal that provides a look and feel for your brand and nothing more. Give your logomark a break, and save the complicated imagery and messaging for your Web site or brochure. Think about it: Nike doesn’t sell swooshes, nor does Starbucks sell mermaids.
Not every logo needs to appear in 3-D. As a matter of fact, most of them shouldn’t. Your logo should function at a very basic level—black-and-white and the size of a spitwad. While it’s okay to add some flair to your logo for the Web, it’s important to realize that you’ll need to be able to reproduce it in a wide range of sizes and applications from billboards to key chains. After all, the embroidered logo on your company shirt can’t reflect the cool transparency or lighting effects that your Web site can. Unfortunately, the number of logos lost in the space-time continuum has been an increasing trend for the last few years. (See also number 6.)
While it’s acceptable to put your company name in a standard format and font, your logotype should have its own distinct identity. Thus, materials like letterhead, memos, or a print campaign should not be set in the exact same font as the logotype. Pick a typeface that complements the logo, but doesn’t steal the spotlight. After all, your logo is the hero of your visual branding—but it won’t work so well if you keep shining the bat-light beacon in its eye.
Unless you’re selling flashbacks to the ‘60s or Technicolor dreamcoats, you should limit the colors of your logo. A good rule of thumb is to only use one or two colors. Not only will this help create a uniform color palette, it also saves on printing costs while improving the color consistency of your final pieces. Finally, you shouldn’t feel like your logo has to have color. Many successful logos are used only in black-and-white. For instance, Jack Daniel’s and Calvin Klein require no prismatic embellishments.
First it was grunge with lots of texture and now it’s Web 2.0 with high-gloss and reflections. Logos shouldn’t follow trends, especially since your logo should last 10 years or more—and most fads move from hip to tragic in the blink of an eye. When designing and selecting a logo, skip the hype—follow the laws of form and function to develop a true icon. Why be a follower when you can be a leader? (Side note: Web 2.0 refers to the functionality of your site, not a look. Asking for a Web 2.0 look is the equivalent of asking to make something taste “more purple.”)
This may come as a shock, but a logo doesn’t always need a mark. Logotype alone can represent your brand, and it’s not that uncommon—think FedEx or IBM. If your logotype is strong enough to stand on its own, don’t force it into an arranged marriage. Seriously, it’s ok to be a little unconventional sometimes.
A common mistake is designing a logo that you “like.” That’s great if you’re the target market. However, nine times out of 10 you aren’t. Always put yourself in your customers’ shoes and be aware of what they’re looking for in your brand. A logo that speaks to your consumers will perform much better than the detailed illustration of your childhood pet immortalized in a logomark. Your logo is like a teenager—it wants the approval of it’s peers and friends—not its un-cool parents.
Pay attention to the needs of your logo—and it will return the favor by getting your brand the attention that you want.