The Good Logo

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Logo design is like solving the best puzzle ever. Essentially, it is distilling a company’s story into a simple graphic. Like all good art, the simplicity is a cover for a deeper complexity. There’s a mystique and a sense of cleverness about logos; upon closer inspection, you can find hidden patterns and double meanings.

Combining colors, fonts and shapes to convey a concept may seem like voodoo, but designers are operating from a logical basis. We rely on culture and the audience’s perception: What do most people think of when they think of power, of comfort, of speed, of anything? It’s nice to have a secret meaning, but you want your market to “get it.”

What Makes a Good Logo?
A good logo is simple. You can’t say everything in a logo, so don’t try. Adding a tagline may help explain a company’s mission, but the logo should be able to stand alone. Interestingly, food and beverage logos seem to be able to get away with more complexity. But take a look at the story of the Oreo cookie design (celebrating 100 years). The intricate pattern is offset by its circular shape, monochromatic colors, and its duality (both sides are the same). The overriding concept is simplicity. And take a look at how the Quaker Oats logo has become streamlined over the years.

A good logo is flexible. A logo will be used in all mediums and in all sizes, so it must be flexible enough to fit all formats. How do you achieve that? Simplicity. No intricate photos, no complicated patterns, no tiny text.

A good logo works as well in black and white as it does in color. Often, the black and white version will reveal the parts that *don’t* work. Convert your logo to black and white: Does it pass the test?

Good logo design isn’t cheap. The time it takes to develop a logo can be substantial. Plus logos have a higher market value: They are used on all online and print collateral, and over time the number of viewers can be awesome. It’s similar to advertising, where cost is based on circulation. A logo’s long life makes it the ultimate branding tool. A good logo is a business investment; a cheap logo will ending up costing more in the end, in terms of lack of branding and uniqueness.

Good logos need tending. Times change and so do logos. It’s fascinating to see how famous corporate logos have changed over the years. The Apple logo has undergone multiple metamorphoses (it actually got simpler), yet its original integrity remains. Read what Rob Janoff, the original designer, has to say about developing the original and seeing it change over the years. It’s a good logo – and who isn’t looking at that logo every day?