The ultimate logo manifesto (intro)

As I am sure you’ve noticed, I spend a great deal of time discussing the importance of branding, and how the consistency and quality of a company’s branding efforts can go a long way toward name recognition and delivering a sustained marketing presence. One of the easiest and most important elements to any branding effort is the development of a company’s logo.

A good logo must do the following things:

  1. Serve as a recognizable symbol for a service, company, organization or product
  2. Convey that entity’s image, message or process in less than a second
  3. Must be instantly recognizable – it should be unique and stand apart from competitor logos
  4. Must be memorable and familiar – it should feel as if you’ve seen the logo a thousand times, even if it’s the first time you’ve actually looked at it.
  5. Must be versatile – it must work on any format and in any space or color required for any project that may arise

It is very easy to create a bad logo. Just look around, bad logo design is everywhere. It’s on the side of plumbing trucks; on billboards; on bus benches; on restaurant menus; in print ads; on TV commercials … they’re everywhere. And even though they’re all around you, how many do you really remember; how many made you stand up and take notice? If you saw the logo again, would you remember it? Would you associate that logo with a quality service? Would it make you want to call upon that company or organization?

A logo is an organization’s public identity. It does so much more than just serve as an image that states a company’s name. If a logo looks cheap or ill-conceived, I guarantee you that it will reflect poorly on that company’s public image. It doesn’t really matter how good the product is or how well a service is performed, if a company’s primary means of branding and corporate identity looks like a cheap afterthought, the message sent to the public WILL BE tainted and the impression of the company will suffer.

Think about all the good logos you’ve seen. You think of iconic symbols like the Nike Swoosh, the Golden Arches of McDonalds and the prestigious Mercedes emblem. These are just three logos picked at random, yet instantly identifiable in your mind’s eye. If I were to mention Apple, Coca-Cola and Starter I’m sure their respective logos just popped into your head. You think of these logos and you think of quality; you think of reputation.

Sure there’s a lot of money behind these logos. There is a lot of history and tradition that accompanies these corporate symbols. But you need to remember that these logos once started out with no huge amounts of financial backing or tradition. At one point they were new designs fresh off some artist’s drafting table or sketchpad. And though the years have passed, these logos have remained virtually unchanged and true to their original form. Why do you think that is?

There could be many reasons, not all of which are related to good logo design and theory. There have been many good logo logos designed throughout the years that have symbolized failed companies and ideas (think about the dot.com boom and bust from the early 2000’s). It’s true that a good logo won’t single-handedly make a company successful. It also won’t be the reason for an organization’s downfall. But a good logo is an important piece to a company’s public face, and in a world where perception is often more powerful than fact, it’s important to make to make sure that your outward appearance is doing all it can to convey quality, integrity, reliability and reinforce your business’ message.

There are a lot of considerations involved with the development of a logo. One of the things I am accustomed to hearing from small business customers is an objection to the cost of logo development. Spending $1,000 on a logo is a shocking expense and usually results in a response like “I could pay my neighbor’s kid $50 to design me a logo, why would I pay you $1,000?” And yes, you could pay $50 for a logo design – there will always be someone out there who can do a job on the cheap – but are you getting a better logo, or are you just saving money? What will that $50 say about your company? Will it say that you are interested in delivering a quality product? Will it impart respect? Will it instill trust and a sense of professionalism?

Or will it say that you are looking to save a buck wherever you can?

Cost is a factor that you, as a designer or you as a business owner, will need to view as a necessary expense toward the development of an effective symbol designed on a custom level to represent the business. The reality is that companies routinely shell out many thousands of dollars to develop a logo. It is not uncommon for larger companies to shell out four, five or even six figures to develop a corporate mark. That just goes to show how important a logo is to a brand. It doesn’t mean that a small business owner has to shell out five-plus figures for a logo, but it should consider a logo an investment in its continued success. How much do you think the Nike brand is worth? How integral is the ‘Swoosh’ to the identity of the company. If Nike switched to a different logo tomorrow, what do you think the damage would be to its identity? It’d be substantial. No matter what Nike originally paid for the design, the value of that logo has increased far beyond the initial investment.

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