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What Makes a Good Logo?

A Selection of Logos Designed by Ovy Design

This is a deceptively hard question to answer. Most people can think of a good logo - a tick maybe or some golden arches - world famous symbols that instantly convey a sense of quality or trust.

But trying to think why these logos are so successful is not nearly so easy.

The effectiveness of a logo depends so much on the subconsciousness of the viewer and the subliminal messages it transmits that for all the simplicity of its appearance the logo is in fact an incredibly sophisticated communication device. And one that is far easier to get very wrong than right.

It is no wonder that large companies spend so much time and resources developing their logo. Famously when BP rebranded in 2000 they spent £136m on their sunflower design.

Obviously this is an extreme example but it is also an indication of how seriously big business takes logo design and small businesses should do the same.

Even with a small budget the principles of logo design remain the same and there is no reason why you can't have a logo that effectively communicates your message in an appealingly attractive manner.

So what are the basic principles of good logo design? Essentially most designers would say there are three: It must be simple, memorable and appropriate.

People are only ever going to glance at your logo. You want it to be quickly identified. Don’t overcomplicate things by trying to cram in too much information.

You want your logo to be distinctive, to stand out from the crowd. You don't want something that is very similar to your competitors.

You want your logo to be appropriate to your business. A design that works well for an accounting firm maybe completely wrong if you work in children's entertainment. Very careful thought must be given to choosing fonts and colours when you are developing your logo.

To add to these basic principals versatility is also a vital component of a good logo. It needs to work well on social media as well as maybe looking good on a polo shirt.

It is very important for your logo to be designed in a vector format. This means that it can be scaled to any size and will work across a variety of mediums it should also function in horizontal and vertical formats. A good logo will work equally well on an advertising board and on an email.

Also it is also a good idea to avoid faddy designs. You want your logo to have longevity. A classic look, if you like. Trendy designs can date quickly and this can have a negative influence on your business. You don't want to have to shell out on a new logo a few months after rebranding.

So now we have looked at the basic elements of a good logo it is time to consider the kind of logo you want for your business.

The logo design is usually a collaborative experience between the designer and the client.

The client will often have an idea of the kind of logo they want - the basic elements and colours etc. and it is up to the designer to take on board these ideas and turn them into something that captures the essence of the business as well as satisfying the basic principles of a good logo - simplicity, being memorable, versatile and appropriate.

Broadly speaking there are three types of logo:

  • The Typographic (Wordmark) Logo - just the company' name in a distinctive type face. Coca Cola for example.

  • The Type and Symbol (Pictoral) Logo - The company name and a design. The most common logotype. Starbucks for example.

  • The Icon Logo (Abstract)- Just an instantly recognisable symbol. The rarest of all logo's and the holy grail for any successful multinational organisation. Nike for example.

It is fair to say that the vast majority of small and medium size business's opt for a type and symbol logo.

Typographic logo's can be very expensive to promote and market because, unless you are well established it is far harder to convey what your business is without an accompanying image. Imagine if you had never heard of Google you would have no idea what it is they do. It's not even a real word.

The Icon logo is not really an option for anyone outside a select few of blue chip companies. Often they are a distillation of a more expansive logo. The Facebook 'F' for instance. It is something to aspire to rather than seriously consider when starting out.

If you do choose a type and symbol logo design the first thing you are likely to think about is what type of symbol you want to use and how it relates to your line of work and core values.

You may very well decide you want a very literal image. For example if you run a dog walking business you could just have somebody walking a dog as your image.

You may equally well prefer something more abstract. It essentially comes down to personal taste. But it is very important to consider who your target market is and the impression you want to give out.

The colours you choose are also vitally important. There have been many studies by psychologists on how the human brain processes colour and how it associates different colours with different moods. Your choice of colour will be a vital component of your logo's subliminal message.

Below you can see a chart showing how colour theory relates to some of the worlds most famous logos

The final thing to consider for your logo is the typeface. The above chart is worth studying to see which fonts large company's choose and how it combines with colour to get their message across. This should give you a rough of what you want from your logo.

A couple of pitfalls to avoid. Don't get your neighbour who went to art school in the 1970's to draw your logo.

He might be very talented but it is virtually impossible to accurately recreate a drawing in a digital format which will work as computer designed logo.

Don't select colours, fonts and an image just because you 'like' them. You must think of your ideal customer and what will appeal to them, it must be right for your market rather than personal preference.

Also avoid firms that offer very cheap logo's. They use templates that can be tweaked by using a limited range of fonts and colours but you will end up with a generic logo that may look very similar to one if not several of your competitors.

You may also find that you don't actually own the logo and will have to pay a fee every time you want to us it.

It is vital to find a graphic designer, preferably some one who has been recommended to you, who you feel 'gets' you and your business. Develop a good working relationship with them and they will help you build your brand and grow your business.

To summarise. A good logo should be simple, memorable, appropriate and versatile.

Download our FREE Logo Briefing Sheet to help you plan a successful logo with your designer

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