Your logo? Cheap and nasty or gorgeous and bold?
What is a Logo?
A logo, from Greek λόγος logos meaning ‘word’ and τύπος typos “imprint”, is a graphic mark, emblem or symbol that represents an individual, a business, organisation or community. It is meant to facilitate instant recognition. Logos come in a variety of formats. They can be just the name of the entity represented by a special font or on the other hand a purely graphic symbol. And of course there are logos that have both.
During the days of hot metal typesetting, a logotype was one word cast as a single piece of type. This also meant that the term was used for a uniquely set and arranged typeface. Present day computer design tools allow one to create more flexible versions of logos.
In the modern times a logo is also often meant to represent a trademark or brand extending the meaning beyond it’s original concept. But caution should be exercised when thinking of a logo being a brand. A brand is far more than a logo. It is how the entire organisation or individual is perceived. A logo can be just one small element of this overall image that a customer may have about the organisation.
The current trend of logo design began as early as the 1870s. Many corporations, service providers or agencies use a sign or also known as an icon or a symbol or perhaps a combination of all components. Few of the thousands of logos are recognisable without a name. The Nike swoosh probably being one of the best and recognisable examples in use.
Why would you need a Logo?
Logos are a critical part of any instance where recognition is important. Some logos are designed to be used for a short period only. Examples of this are Hillary Clinton’s campaign logo or the Rio Olympic Games emblem. These logos serve a very short term purposes and are used to represent a campaign or event.
Most logos are however designed for the long term and tend to only disappear if the company or entity they represent no longer exist or are replaced by a new entity. Some logos that have enjoyed long term and in some cases universal recognition are Coca Cola, IBM or Apple. In each instance the longevity may be attributed to wise nurturing of the logo by senior management resisting modernising or changing the logo at the whim of some management or marketing executive.
Benefits for having a logo
A logo is meant to be the ‘face’ of a business or individual. It is a graphical mark of a company’s unique identity, and through colours, fonts as well as appropriate graphics are meant to provide information about a company or person that allows it’s public to identify with the core brand or identity.
Once a logo has established itself as a recognisable mark it becomes a shorthand way of referring back to the business or individual it represents. In some instances a logo can be developed without the individual even being involved in its creation. Such an example may be seen with Obama’s Iconic Hope Poster which came to represent Obama rather than his official logo which nobody remembers now. Whereas his Poster came to represent him during his 2008 campaign and not only in the USA but worldwide.
Some logos of course end up becoming the opposite of what they were intended to be and that is a positive representation of the product, company or individual. For instance BP had a really bad public relations disaster when it’s Deepwater Horizon Oil spill damaged not only the environment but also its reputation. Much adspend is being used to improve the image. McDonald’s logo has had some battles in recent years to stop being associated with junk food, bad service and overweight citizens. And as for Goldman Sachs their name and logo represented everything that went bad during the global financial meltdown.
What to look out for when considering a logo design
A good logo is unique and easy to understand. Of course a company or individual will spend money and effort to build a story around the business and the logo representing it. However, in the beginning, the logo needs to have some representational value of its own.
Colours, fonts and icons should start the conversation between the business and its customers. They provide essential information about the entity which they represent and allows it’s public whether followers, customers or supporters to identify with the core brand.
These elements are also important as anchor points in other promotional material and brand assets. The shape of the icon, as for instance the arches in McDonald’s logo or the colours used as for instance the white or silver of the Apple logo represent strong messages. McDonald’s arches are gates inviting people to enter and Apple signals that its products are luxury items.
These various elements of a logo whether colour, graphical representation or font such as the font add to the meaning of the entire company or person. Of course this is a visual representation initially. But as the business builds and develops itself the logo becomes more important and adds to the story that a consumer can buy into and identify with.
In some instances logo designs are also determined by the industry the business operates in. Green would be a colour used for companies operating in renewable energy fields whereas blue is often used to represent professional firms. Softer or rounder shapes are more often associated with logos representing the services industry one such example being the recently revamped AirBnB logo which has become softer and more rounded.
In the same way Google redid it’s logo in a font that showed a rounder image. As Google is changing its business model to include more human focused services steering a path away from it’s algorithms it is trying to show a warm and fuzzy face.
How should your logo be designed
Of course a logo is a very individual design that will resonate with its new owners. It is therefore very difficult to provide a concrete direction one should take to have a logo designed that appeals. However, there are some points to take on board.
It is important to decide what industry or field ones logo is going to represent and add to this an accurate development of the Persona of ones customer or target audience. Both of these elements will hugely impact on how a logo would be designed.
In many cases a logo designer is presented with a bunch of totally diverse icons that the client loves. And that is the only guideline provided. This information is not enough. A designer needs to be able to have some idea what the business is going to do, what industry it operates in and who the customer is. Without this information the designer is working in the dark.
Added to this are some personal preferences that a client might want to have incorporated into the design. These would be shapes, fonts and colours that the owner of the new logo likes and can identify with.
The most important aspect of a logo design is that the designer and the client communicate well and often and that the client remembers to make the effort to provide detailed feed-back. A ‘I don’t like it’ is not adding to the conversation and is of no help to the designer.
What to pay for a logo
One of the big questions is always what should a new logo cost. There is only one guideline for this and that is the answer to the question of what one is prepared to pay for it. A logo design can be bought for $5 from fivrr.com. Or it can be bought for millions from top end designers and design studios.
It is therefore up to the person or business who needs a logo to decide what the value of the logo is to them. According to this they will know who they need to use. The range of options open to logo purchasers are as long as the proverbial piece of string. Just match the value that it represents in the logo buyer’s mind to the service provider prepared to do the design work for that value.
The question that could arise then would be whether the logo is going to be any good if one only pays $5 for it. Well good is all about the value one places in the transaction. If $5 is all one feels a logo is worth then that will be a good logo for that value for that purchaser.
Decide the value a logo has to a business or individual. From there it will be easy to determine how much it should cost.
A Return on Investment
How can a logo become a good ROI. A logo can be invaluable in attracting new clients. Once a story has been built around a logo it can represent value, consistently exceptional customer service and reliability. This will attract new customers and will add a return on investment.
A logo can become an image in a customers mind that means it’s a company they can depend on and that they feel warm emotions towards. This also lets the company stand out from it’s competitors.
A good logo can be memorable and help the customers to remember a business or individual. It can also contribute to the hype around the business and help the company raise venture capital or sell its shares during an IPO.
It can help make a new company appear bigger and more established if the logo is designed by a good design studio. This can be an advantage to a brand new business that does not have a reputation as yet or has had time to build a story around its brand.
A Case Study of A Logo that Worked
It’s difficult to say whether a good logo is invented right at the beginning or if a logo becomes good because the company or organisation offers superb services and products that enhance the customers’ life.
A sample of a logo that started off life with a huge amount of emotion and hope and which has subsequently faded into part obscurity and part bad reputation is the South African flag that took over from the old flag. The old South African flag represented the white supremacy in power in the country during the apartheid years.
A flag is a logo for a country. On 27 April 1994, at the start of the first South African general elections this new flag replaced the old flag which had stood for apartheid and suppression since it’s first unveiling in 1928.
The new flag of horizontal bands of red, blue, of equal width, separated by a central green band which splits into a horizontal Y shape, the arms of which end at the corners of the hoist side. The Y embraces a black isosceles triangle from the arms are separate by narrow yellow bands. Three of the colours -black, green and yellow – are found in the banner of th African National Congress. The other three – red, white and blue – are displayed on the old Transvaal vierkleur, the Dutch tricolour and the British Union flag. The new flag was designed by State Herald Frederick Brownell.
This flag, negotiated by Nelson Mandella, as a prerequisite for his release and the national elections, represented for South Africans a new beginning, a new identity. It stands for hope and the coming together of all nations. That this didn’t quite happen is of course part of the history of the country down the line.
Of course it wasn’t quite that straight forward. The flag had been considered an interim brand for South Africa until a new flag could be decided on. And in fact it was right until the last moment before the start of the elections that the fate of this flag had not been decided on. But it was chosen at the last minute, probably because of no other alternative. In the meantime this flag has become iconic and next to the Japanese flag the most recognised flag in the world.
As logos go, this flag is a great example.
What logo would you like?
It all depends on how important the image of the business is as to what one will do to have a logo designed for a business. Of course it also depends on the budget that might be available. At the start of any business it is really tough to decide what budgets to allocate for items such as logo design, business card development and web presence set up.
Cash flow is all important and allocating a few thousand dollars or pounds to developing a brand represented by a logo, business card and web presence might at first glance appear to be a waste of money urgently needed to keep the business going.
Of course it is also sometimes seen as a false economy. By using basic clipart to throw together a logo, allowing the cousin twice removed to fiddle with a website and getting the cheap print show down the road to lay-out some basic brochures and a cheap business card might make financial sense. But perhaps that kind of approach could also be the difference between the business that always scrimps and saves and therefore tends to get the same scrimping and penny pinching customers or on the other hand the businesses that make it happen.
Yeah Can designed a super logo and website for my new club. They listened to my logo design ideas and requirements, and came back with some innovative ideas, I wish I could have used them all! The website was up and running in no time and looks fantastic. Super work team
Steph for Hanoi Speakers