The Science of Logo Design: Are There Universal Truths?

This is a guest post by Christopher Wallace, if you want to guest post on this blog, please contact us.

It’s a story every graphic designer is all too familiar with, and every business owner needs to hear: Company hires graphic designer to make them a logo. A few ideas are tossed around, and a concept is settled upon. The graphic designer gets their creative juices flowing and comes back with a clean, elegant logo. “I like it,” says company owner, “but my wife would really like to add some purple there in the background, and maybe a setting sun behind the lettering.”

Company owner gets what he asks for, while graphic designer decides never to put this now-horrendous logo in their portfolio. When company owner goes to order 5,000 sheets of letterhead stationary, he’s taken aback by the additional cost of having added an extra color to his logo. But that sun is stuck there now, and in grayscale or without the purple it just doesn’t look right.

Logos are meant to be simple. They are the face of your company, and your logo should immediately make an impression of strength and confidence. It should not require careful analysis by potential clients (“What is that? Is that a sun? Maybe it’s a winking eye?”).

Of course, every company has a different clientele base. It’s also important to consider your audience. Generally speaking, elegant clear lettering is always a win. If you’re a toy store or a skate shop, however, you’re probably not going to choose the same cursive font as a beauty salon. Keeping in mind that there are no universal truths to the science of logo design, here are some key concepts that almost always apply when shooting to reach your target audience.

Logo Design Concept

1. Buck the Trends

Your logo should be timeless. How many companies used the ‘Bleeding Cowboy‘ font for their logo over the last five years? It’s been so dramatically overdone that anyone stuck with it must be calling their designers back for a revamp. Instead, think about Puma, IBM, and even Red Bull. Each utilizes a simple but strong lettering. When the next fancy font falls out of favor the following year, companies with a timeless motif will continue to thrive.

2. Trust Your Designer

Chances are, whoever is designing a logo knows a lot more about it than the person that hired them. If you’re doing the hiring, research and choose a designer with portfolio work that closely matches the vibe you’re shooting for. Plan for your logo to be a permanent investment that will live on for the life of the company. You wouldn’t get a tattoo from an artist if you didn’t like the ink on their own arm, would you? Hire someone you can trust.

3. You Get What You Pay For

Don’t skimp. Again, your logo is your company’s tattoo, and removing it isn’t easy. Every time you approach a customer or client with your product and services, the logo is one of the first faces they’ll see. Don’t look cheap.

4. Less is More

The Nike swoosh may be simple enough for a five-year-old to draw, but it didn’t get that way by hiring a five-year-old. Think ‘iconic.’ A complicated drawing that incorporates all 18 facets of your company mission around that cool design you saw on your honeymoon in Peru may have meaning for you, but it’s just going to confuse your client. Apple may be the best example of how simplifying pays off. The evolution from a busy drawing to a rainbow apple to a simple monochrome symbol seems to parallel the ballooning of their market share.

5. Be Relevant

If you’re a dry cleaner, don’t put a cute pig on your logo. The mind of the consumer may be fickle, but we are also creatures of habit that like to be guided. If you’re a high-end clothing store, you’re not going to want fat block lettering in your name. Match your image to your ideal clientele, without being so specified that you lose potential customers. Again, elegant simplicity wins.

6. Be Consistent

For better or for worse, in many towns, a Starbucks will outcompete the local coffee shop. Even if the local store has amazing coffee, there’s a risk inherent for the newcomer making a choice. At Starbucks, they already know they like the product. That sort of brand loyalty takes time to build, but it has to start somewhere. Settle on a logo you believe in that’s easily replicable and identifiable. Then stick with it, and eventually you’ll be the obvious choice beating out your competitors.

Cover image credits: Red check sign in 3D by iprole

About the Author!

Christopher Wallace is Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, a leading provider of personalized pens, promotional pens, and other personalized items such as imprinted apparel and mugs and customized calendars.

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