Dec 1, 2009

The Logo Design Litmus Test

Logos are everywhere working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to brand items for easy company recognition. But creating an effective logo is not easy. Below are the five main criteria to keep in mind with any logo design. In order to illustrate these points I have created two different logos for a fictitious Leaf company.

The "Good Logo" (left) was created in Adobe Illustrator and follows the below principles, while the "Bad Logo" was designed in Adobe Photoshop and ignores the below rules

The "Good Logo" (left) was created in Adobe Illustrator and follows the below principles, while the "Bad Logo" was designed in Adobe Photoshop and ignores the below rules

1. Scalable

Your logo needs to be flexible enough to support just about any media at any size (think tiny business cards through massive billboards). This is why photograph based logos are not the greatest choice, at some point the pixels that constitute any raster image will enlarge enough into recognition and become “pixellated” or grainy. In contrast, quality  logos are created by utilizing vector images, which are based off of mathematical equations that define shapes and display crisp and clear at any resolution. Raster graphics are typically saved as .EPS or .AI (Adobe Illustrator).

Both leaf logos magnified 500%, notice how the "Good Logo" (left) is still crisp while the "Bad Logo" (right) has become "pixellated" or grainy

Both leaf logos magnified 500%, notice how the "Good Logo" (left) is still crisp while the "Bad Logo" (right) has become "pixellated" or grainy

2. Recognizable

Logos end up being reproduced in many different formats, the least common denominator of which is the fax machine. While your logo may look amazing in full color with glares, reflections and gloss, at some point it will be faxed in only one color, black.  Your logo should be consistent whether it is reproduced in one color, two color, or full color, and should be attractive and effective whether it is embroidered on a shirt or printed on your outdoor sign.

logos_black

In this fax simulation notice how the "Good Logo" (left) is still recognizable while the "Bad Logo" (right) has become a large black blob with only the word LEAF recognizable

3. Expressive

Template logo designs fail in the aspect that many other companies (possibly even major competitors) could be using the same exact logo template. This makes your company look generic or contrived instead of unique and innovative. Your company offers customers a unique product, experience, or other service, and your logo needs to communicate this.

logo_lookalike

Sumpter & Gonzalez LLP (left) and Stylegala (right) used the similar fonts, positioning, and letter treatment resulting in very similar logos

4. Dependable

Reflections (2000), swooshes (1999), and starbursts (1998) are all graphic design fads that have passed. Your logo should not be visually stuck in the past with them. Design trends come and go every year, and affixing your company’s look and feel to the latest and greatest trend will only date it later in life.

The John Deere logo has stayed true to it's original form for over 133 years

The John Deere logo has stayed true to it's original form for over 133 years

Conversley, Pepsi has changed it's logo with different fads over the years with no similarities between the original or the current iteration

Conversly, Pepsi has changed it's logo with different fads over the years with no similarities between the original or the current iteration

5. Memorable

Can you describe your logo over the phone? Does your logo require a fact sheet to decipher it’s visually cryptic metaphors?  The point of any logo is to give your company a visual for clients to recognize and remember easily. Simple, intuitive marks should visually leave behind your one (and only one) big claim to clients.

Even without colors, names or captions, I bet you can name the famous brands behind these logos

Even without colors, names or captions, I bet you can name the famous brands behind these logos

Your logo is your company’s identity, the face presented to the crowd.  A good logo will go along way toward building trust, brand integrity, and customer recognition. Will your company make a good first impression and stand out from the crowd?

Want to Learn More About Graphic Design & Branding?

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