What a Logo Should – and Should Not – Do
Philosophies about the purpose of a logo are abundant. Some designers subscribe to the belief that a meaningful logo is the ultimate symbol of what a brand stands for and/or aspires to be. Others insist that conceptual meaning behind the mark is irrelevant so long as the brand’s reputation – through other means – communicates an effective message (think Apple). I lean towards the former stance, in that without a concept, a logo is merely a dee-zine. I’m a big believer in purpose and meaning, and designing a logo is an opportunity to solve a communication problem. Apple may have reached the apex of branding where a bazillion people worldwide associate a text-free, flat icon of fruit with technology, but it took them decades to establish that recognition. Smaller organizations and startups need logos that do more work, because their audience’s exposure to the brand may be limited.
What a logo should do
A logo should communicate an intended message.
To me, this is logo design 101. A logo is the cornerstone to a brand’s identity system and should tell you something about who they are and what they do.
A logo should meet the needs of the client.
In today’s market, adaptability and versatility are key. The client’s intentions for using the mark must be discussed at the outset of the project. At the very least, most logos need to render across a variety of digital devices. Brands often need derivative icons that can be used for social media. Their target audience’s unique cultural associations (such as with colors and symbols) and behaviors (especially regarding where/how they will see the logo) may come into play. Accessibility for individuals with lower literacy levels or visual impairment should be considered. An experienced designer will offer insight as to how the logo’s adaptability might be expanded upon as the brand evolves.
A logo should meet the K.I.S.S. principle head on.
Keep It Simple, Stupid. As our preschooler is increasingly influenced by her peers, I’m becoming my own mother who hates the word “stupid,” but I suppose this is an okay mantra for those of us who overthink (🙋🏻♀️ hi!). Less is more is another way to put it. A great logo design boils the brand’s message into one essential, distinct, and memorable mark.
What a logo should not do
A logo should not tell the entire, life story of a brand.
While it might be the cornerstone, a logo is just one brick in the marketing wall. Context must be considered, including how the logo will be displayed in tangent with the brand’s online presence, packaging, ads, promotional materials, social media, product reviews, and beyond. A good brand strategy establishes content for a variety of outlets that support one another to present the whole story. Ultimately a brand’s reputation is what will establish how much recognition they gain. As Muhtar Kent puts it, “A brand is a promise. A good brand is a promise kept.”
A logo should not say it and show it.
Redundancy in a logo is a missed opportunity. If a brand’s verbal name does not communicate anything to their target audience, the logo is a space to present information. This could take the form of literal illustrative elements that convey a blatant, visual message or be subtle as use of color and fonts that conjure key emotions.
A logo should not be a compromise.
Also known as the “Frankenlogo”, a logo that results from a blend of different ideas, a board or staff vote, an argument, a crafty collage… is rarely going to communicate a clear, memorable message. Just say no.
A logo should not merely be a word typed in a display font. Especially if that font happens to be Papyrus.