14 February, 2006

Logo Hell

One of the things people pay me money to do is to design logos.

I do this pretty well, most of the time, although I'm sure there are a few that are better left unmentioned.

The good thing about logo design is that you get a kick from seeing your work on packaging, letterhead and business cards. There are few things as satisfying as opening a magazine and seeing one of your logos in the ad. That's only happened to me twice, but both times it was a kick.

But there is a bad thing about logo design, and that is the fact that--like everything else in Marketing--everyone is an expert. The accountants are experts, the shipping department are experts. In a way I can't blame them. If you have spent more than 18 months in any capitalist society, it is impossible to be unaware of corporate branding and the logos that have permeated the ionosphere.

And that is the problem. When professionally designing a logo you should have three things in mind: brand identification, brand differentiation and simplicity. You have to envision the thing on tiny business cards and blown up on company t-shirts. Even if you are designing for a mom and pop company you have to imagine that you are designing for Coca-Cola. If it won't look good on a billion boxes or bottles, it's not a good logo. Period.

Here's where the problem comes in. All the non-design "experts" in other departments of the company think that the best logo should actually be nearly identical to other logos out there. Those are what they are comfortable seeing everyday. A new logo--a good logo, one that makes the company stand out--is not familiar and therefore is not what they want.

An art director I worked with actually submitted logo designs to product managers with current logos snuck alongside. They always picked the current logo, even if it's for a muffler shop, a troubled boys' home or a microbrewed ale.

So please, everyone out there. If you are ever in the position of needing a logo designed, please trust your designer with at least 65% of the creative process. It'll give you a far better brand build than having to explain to people that "no-we're not soft drink company, we're the law firm."


At 4:33 PM, February 14, 2006, Blogger Casey said...

Interesting. Both your post and this one show up in my aggregator at the same time. I wonder if someone is trying to tell me something.

This is the icon I came up with for Proxi:

I like it but I probably violated several of your rules.


At 5:51 PM, February 14, 2006, Blogger Lee said...

That is a cool job you got. Have you done anything national that I might recognize?

At 7:38 PM, February 14, 2006, Blogger Kat Coble said...


Icons are a different world entirely. Because they're, er, iconic and all. There's a different principle of semiotics involved so you're okay.


No, probably not. Not unless you are looking at shelter magazines for photo albums and scrapbooking supplies.


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