An inside view of what makes great logo development
What makes excellent logo development? People worldwide have come to expect a logo when encountering a company or product — It’s ingrained in how we size things up. We understand logo development differently.
We demand more of it. Call us, and we will gladly tell you why.
A logo will stand for everything a brand represents to us — and most often within an emotional context. Just think of the famous brands and your own personal reaction to them via their logos.
You see the Coke logo and think/feel/associate “authenticity” and “relaxing good times and refreshment.”
When you see the Nike swoosh, you conjure up “winning” and “personal triumph.” These companies have done a brilliant job of building emotional brands and connecting them with their visual symbols.
Business logo development is no less emotional or influential than for consumer brands. It’s all a matter of association in the hearts and minds of your customers. Who could deny the emotional power in the Merrill Lynch bullish icon?
From an insider’s point of view —as the practitioner who creates these symbols — there is much to consider when evaluating or creating the little piece of art that will come to represent an entire enterprise.
To the layperson, the logo is just there —part of the overall impression.
They don’t actually study the logo’s form, color, and style in all its detail.
They simply experience it. But for all its apparent simplicity, a great logo is really quite sophisticated.
Logo development: Beginning with an Idea
There are rules for logo development; at least, there are rules for great logos. Like great advertising, all great logos start with a great idea. The idea is the foundation for all that follows.
Without the concept, a logo is just decoration — a ship without a rudder that cannot steer itself or the viewer toward a meaningful impression of the brand.
The idea can be abstract or figurative as long as it gives you a sense of the company’s unique personality and purpose.
Here are a few examples. Black and Decker use a hex shape like a steel nut (nuts and bolts). Along with its cautious orange color and all-caps bold sans serif type, the logo (symbol) and logotype (name) convey this company’s product strength and industry category.
CBS literally converted its “eye on the world” into a symbol that has successfully branched into all its many content venues.
Sprint’s “pin drop” from its signature TV campaign – “So clear you can hear a pin drop.” was used as the inspiration for its updated “pin in motion” logo.
The distinctive and contemporary “black on yellow” color palette helps separate Sprint from its competitors.
Understanding the craft of logo development
Craft in logo development refers here to formal design relationships. Like the formal relationships in an architectural masterpiece, there are basic rules of entry even to be considered architecture — size, placement, and thematic structure.
The construction must be sound and plumb, and the connective relationships must be elegant and true. Anything less, and the viewer focuses on the imperfections and misses the message.
It’s hard to imagine Frank Gerry or I.M. Pei allowing a wall to be out of square or out of proportion (unless they meant it to be that way as part of the effect).
Simplicity is the way
A logo must not be complicated. As a symbol for an entire organization and brand, its job is to connect with the viewer instantly.
This can only be done when the idea is direct and unfettered by unnecessary ornamentation. This goes to the concept of using only one visual “trick” in a logo. The focus needs to be on one main idea. For example, the logos for Black and Decker, CBS, and Sprint use one visual device and focal point – so there’s no doubt as to where to look — “nut,” “eye,” “pin drop.”
Verizon, however, once diminished the impact of its logo development with two separate and disparate devices – the checkmark over the “v” and the stylized “z” – that lead the viewer in two different directions, thus creating confusion.
They finally fixed this problem with an updated logo, removing the underline. The other value of simplicity is its flexibility. A simple design can be placed on nearly anything from a blimp to a golf ball – and everything in between.
Tradition believed logos would only be created in “line art.” This is where the forms in the logo are either positive or negative, with no gradations or tones.
This is because tones are more difficult (expensive) to reproduce in specific environments like signage and specialty items – like the blimp and golf ball, for example.
Tones also do not translate well in small sizes and are more difficult to print consistently. Today, as the technology focus on online and video is greater than ever, more and more companies are sacrificing flexibility for animated on-screen impact.
Check out this update for AT&T. AT&T’s venerable globe logo (line art — above on the right) was created by Saul Bass in 1984 and received a more 3-dimensional appearance in its 2005 (tonal) update (above on the left) by Interbrand. Some designers call it sacrilege. Decide for yourself what feels more “today.”
Style and Personality
Along with the idea and craft of the logo, there is much more to convey in terms of style and personality in the logo development process.
If the company in question is a progressive technology company, it stands to reason that the typographic style and overall design theme should be accordingly “progressive.” No sense wasting time looking at Old World calligraphic fonts or dark and recessive colors.
The Sweet Spot
The sweet spot in the logo development process is found when the logo grows out of a company’s vision for itself and its customers — the very thing customers respond to at a deep and actionable level.
The best scenario occurs when the logo has a unique and powerful brand theme line (think “Just Do It”). This logo/brand theme-line combination, or “lockup” as it is sometimes called, can be the foundation for a comprehensive brand identity and visual theme that crosses every media type.
Then, the logo development becomes great, creating a formidable tool for changing perceptions and gaining market share.