What Makes a Great Logo? by Nicole Valentin
Here at NV Adverting, we receive many requests for logos. When you’re starting a business, a logo is the first form of identification. Whether we realize it or not, we’re bombarded with thousands of logos every day. TV commercials, cereal boxes, billboards, and the gleaming emblem of the Mercedes that just cut you off are all competing for our attention. With so much competition, every good business wants their logo to stand out. So what is a logo anyway? Let’s start by talking about what a logo isn’t.
A logo isn’t your brand or your identity. It’s meant to identify a business in its simplest form through the use of a mark or icon. Let’s focus on the word SIMPLE. What comes to mind when you think of a simple logo? Nike, McDonalds, and Apple are a few examples of simple, iconic logos. These logos are great because they stand the test of time. Gradients, drop shadows, solar flares, and reflections are examples of current trends. Design trends are very much like fashion trends; they’re in one day and out the next. Simple logos are easy to remember. We remember McDonald’s and Apple because they use one icon that can stand alone or with text. You don’t need a loud logo to be proud. Strong, simple logos will always stand above the visual clutter.
A logo isn’t an adjective. It’s there to differentiate you from your competition, not to describe what your business does. Many businesses make the mistake of using their logo as an adjective to describe or illustrate their business. Is the Nike logo an athletic shoe? No, but the patented swoosh does symbolize movement and dynamism. It’s just like saying that your face describes who you are. People may make assumptions about you based on the way you look, but they have no way of knowing everything about you. Your face is the image or icon that others associate with what they know about you. The principle is the same for a logo. I was recently working on a logo redesign for a church that had a tagline about mending broken pieces. My client thought it would be a great idea to add puzzle pieces to the existing logo or to make the text look like hot, welded metal. It would definitely make for an interesting graphic, but it doesn’t belong in a logo. Your business doesn’t gain meaning from the logo. It will gain meaning from the quality of your business. Once again, your logo should identify your business as something recognizable and memorable.
A logo isn’t a graphic. As I said before, some things just don’t belong in a logo. If you have a car detailing business, your logo doesn’t have to be a picture of a Corvette with flames racing down the side. Remember that your logo will be viewed in a variety of ways. It will be seen on formats as large as billboards to as small as business cards. While the image may be colorful, remember that it will also be seen in black and white. Even though we live in the days of iPads and smartphones, we still have fax machines and printers. Too much detail and color will get lost in grayscale printing. Graphics don’t translate well to all types of media and lose quality in formats that require large images. Logos must be created in vector format. Vector images are made up of mathematical points that can be scaled up or down. This means that no matter what size the logo is reproduced at, it will never lose quality. Raster images, pictures taken with a camera, are made up of dots called pixels. Once an image is created at a certain size, you can’t enlarge the image without losing quality.
Despite our more mentality, less is more. A logo is meant to be a visual fingerprint that identifies your business from the rest. Don’t get caught up in making your logo an adjective. Your business will give meaning to the logo. The logo along with the quality of service is what will make it memorable. Don’t let your logo get lost in the details. Make sure it can hold its own in a variety of formats. By knowing what a logo isn’t, you’ve already got a leg up on your competition.