How often did you read things along these lines?
“Your logo is the silent ambassador of your brand”
“Your logo creates the people’s first impression”
“Your logo fosters brand loyalty”
Advice like this makes people want to pour their entire business into their logo – which can hurt it so much in the long run.
Here’s the painful truth: Your customers don’t care about your logo!
There, I said it. Now boo me all you want, but bear with me for a moment.
The sole purpose of your logo is identification. Your logo is there so that people can connect whatever it is that they’re seeing with your company. That’s it. Your logo does not need to tell the entire history and value proposition of your business.
Think a moment about a few famous marks: the Nike swoosh, the Apple apple or the Mercedes star. Do they spell sportswear, computers or cars? Not at all.
A logo is an empty container.
❌Mercedes didn’t build good cars because of the logo,
✅ the logo got its power from what people think about the company
Put any other mark next to the Mercedes name and it will still represent the same things (both good and bad).
So, you see, the logo doesn’t have to tell the entire story of your company, or none at all.
Instead of forcing meaning into the logo, give your customers this power. Let them associate your logo with positive experiences. They won’t care what shape or color it is, but they’ll know that the presence of that mark means good things for them.
You may be wondering now what makes a good logo then. The answer’s easy, you only need to worry about these 4 characteristics:
Imagine a lawyer having a playful, brightly colored logo. Not that relevant or appropriate, is it?
✅ Your logo needs to communicate the right tone and style.
❌ What your logo doesn’t have to be is obvious.
🚕 Car manufacturers don’t have cars as logos;
🍔 McDonald’s logo isn’t a burger or a chemical plant;
👟 Nike or Adidas don’t have shoes or clothes in their logos;
🍏 Apple isn’t selling apples.
🔲 National Geographic has its logo after the magazine’s iconic yellow border
Yet all their logos are relevant to what they’re doing and their industry. The mix of shapes, colors and typefaces communicate the company’s identity and trigger the right emotions.
- Round shapes communicate playfulness;
- Slanted text is in constant motion;
- Bright colors are energetic;
- Pastel colors are soothing.
There’s also nothing wrong with an obvious logo, just make sure that your main concern is if it’s relevant or not.
To test your logo for relevancy:
Show your logo to a few people. Just that, no other details. Now ask them what they think your business does bases on the logo alone. Are they even close?
This doesn’t work with people who know your business even one bit.
What makes a logo simple?
It sounds pretty obvious, but it’s not as easy to achieve. Less is always more when it comes to logo design.
Remember, your customers usually don’t care about your logo. It has just a few moments of their attention. If you want your audience to remember it, keep it simple.
The big boys didn’t modify theirs without good reason:
- Apple dropped the colors and all the effects
- Master Card is just the 2 circles now
- Even VW recently went flat and minimalist
When it comes to logo design simple goes hand in hand with memorable and versatile.
To test your logo for simplicity:
Can you sketch your logo from memory in 30 seconds or less?
❌ If you can’t do it this fast, it’s not simple enough.
❌If you can’t recall all the intricate details, it’s not simple enough.
It walks hand in hand with simplicity and it can make or break your logo.
It couldn’t matter less how relevant, cool or unique your logo is if you can’t use it property. You logo never sits by its own, you’ll use it in a wide variety of scenarios and mediums.
Think about these characteristics:
Can you use your logo in very small sizes? Is it still recognizable? Bigger isn’t a problem in most cases.
Is the text part legible in small sizes? Some fonts only look great when they fill the screen.
To test your logo for scalability:
- Resize it at favicon size (the small icon in your browser tab) – 16x16px. Is it still recognizable?
- Imagine printing it on a pen, even if you’ll never do it. Is it still legible?
3.2 One color
Does your logo work in black or white only? Or do the details turn into an unrecognizable blob?
It’s best to have your logo designed in black & white first anyway. If it works like this, color will only improve it, not mask defects.
Can you rearrange your logo?
Think about the web use: website headers, social media avatars, email signatures etc. Your logo will need to be placed inside areas of varying proportions – and you’ll definitely need the one you didn’t account for.
It doesn’t need to scale fully – a responsive logo can be of great help here:
To test it:
Does it fit in both a horizontal rectangle, square and circle?
Does it look good as an app icon?
More often than not your logo will be seen in the fast & furious scroll we all practice. It will simulate just this – seeing it for a fraction of a second, from the corner of your eye.
Just like the one color exercise, it will also help you see the main shape of your logo.
You get bonus points if your logo is recognizable even if just a part of it is visible.
To wrap them all up, is your logo…
This is where the magic happens.
With about 27.5 million businesses in EU alone, how can you have a logo both simple, versatile AND distinct?
It’s not mission impossible. As you can see, there are quite a few similar well known logos, yet each is distinctive enough. Just look at Pinterest, Target, Vodafone and Beats:
You may always have the surprise – after investing time, money and effort into your logo – to find out that someone else has done it before you.
Doing the research is important, even from the infant phases of the logo design. Test it once you have a good draft, don’t wait until you’ve spent forever fiddling with the details.
To test for distinctiveness:
First, is your product targeted at a global audience or expect to extend internationally? If not, your search area reduces quite a bit.
If you find similar logos to yours (you’ll likely do):
Is the similarity coincidental or does your logo look like a rip-off?
Coincidental – move on
Looks like a rip-off – go back to the drawing board
Are those companies operating in your industry? Are they direct competitors?
No – move on with caution
Yes – go back to the drawing board
Show all the similar logos (yours included) to people who don’t know yours. Are they likely to confuse it?
No – move on
Yes – go back to the drawing board
Finding those similar icons isn’t that difficult nowadays, thanks to technology and the big brother, Google.
1. Do a general search of your industry, look at your competitor’s logos.
2. Do a reverse image search on google of a) the full mark and b) just the icon itself.
3. Research design platforms, such as Behance, Dribbble, Logopond or Pinterest. Designers showcasing their work use keywords that make the logos easy to find.
To find relevant keywords, think of your industry, the idea and the shape of your logo.
If you have any questions feel free to email me, or drop me a message on LinkedIn.