Your logo is the crown jewel of your business. It’s the flagship graphic. It’s the expensive porcelain figurine your mother kept in a locked glass cabinet and wouldn’t let you play with, because according to her, it’s not a toy.
The Biggest Problem
So let’s talk logos, and what yours should communicate. The biggest problem I see in logos is that they try to communicate too much. There are so many elements added to the logo that it begins to resemble a shrunk down Salvador Dali painting. And as much as that frustrates me, it’s also completely understandable. Because you’re not just one thing. You offer a variety of services. You target a diverse group of customers. Your son does lawn care on the side in the summer, so why not stick a leaf in the logo just to cover your bases? I get it. But in our attempt to communicate everything, we end up with a logo that resembles someone with a hoarding problem.
The Purpose of a Logo Design
It’s important to remember the purpose of a logo. A logo isn’t a poster. It’s not a brochure. It doesn’t exist to be seen by itself. With rare exceptions, your logo will always be attached to a something. It’ll be on a business card, or a letterhead, or one of those annoying flyers you find under your windshield wiper at the supermarket. A logo simply says, “This thing you’re holding is mine”. It’s no coincidence that we refer to a logo as part of a brand; a word that comes from the practice of taking a hot iron and permanently tagging cattle or circus cats. For that reason your logo doesn’t need to be complex, but it does need to communicate the essence of your business.
Three Basic Elements Logo’s Use to Communicate
So how do you create something simple that communicates something complex? To do that, you break the logo down into it’s three basic elements: Typeface, Color, and Icon. Everything you need to say can be represented using these three things.
Let’s start with the typeface. Type can communicate a huge amount of information. Italicized type can give a sense of movement or urgency. Bold type can communicate strength or stability. A serif typeface can look traditional or upscale, while a sans-serif can look stylish or simple. A script typeface can look fancy or delicate, while a hand written typeface can look personal or relaxed. So, what typeface is your company? What font best captures your target audience? Remember, it’s not about what you want or like, it’s about what your customers want or like.
But type usually can’t do it all, so let’s talk about color. Ask yourself, why isn’t every logo blue? Blue is a beautiful color. Blue is the color of the sky, and water, and the Smurfs. And who doesn’t love the Blue Man Group? Their Off-Broadway show was amazing. But as great as blue is, it can‘t be used for everything. You know why most restaurants use the color red? Because some dude in a lab coat figured out that the color red induces hunger and passion. And it works; I’ve had McDonald’s twice today and I’m lovin’ it. The color yellow communicates creativity. Green communicates growth. Blue communicates trust. Teal communicates that you enjoy making quilts and showing pictures of your grandchildren to strangers in line at the bank. The color of your logo is important, so spend some time really thinking about what you want to communicate in terms of color.
Last but not least are icons. This is where a logo can get derailed really quickly. Just yesterday I saw a logo for an electrician. The type and color choices were good. However, the logo had two electrical outlets AND the end of a power cord AND a lightning bolt. Four things that all communicate the exact same thing. If a logo could have turrets syndrome, this logo had it. Not only were all those graphics unnecessary, but it cluttered up the logo and created an unprofessional aesthetic. Once you’ve said something once, you don’t need to say it again. Or again. Or again.
The icon needs to be easy to understand. None of this swooshy abstract shape stuff. If I don’t know what it is, or if you have to explain it to your target audience, then it’s not doing its job. Another thing to ask yourself is if it’s relaying important information the viewer needs to know. If it’s a picture of your pet Corgi, and your business isn’t selling genetic clones of your dog, then it’s not a useful graphic and should be removed. Lastly, stay away from trends. Just because something is popular today, doesn’t mean it will be popular tomorrow. Think about people with Vanilla Ice tattoos. I bet they feel foolish today.
What does your logo say about your company? What does the type say? What does the color say? What does the icon say? They all say something, and if it’s a great logo, they’re all saying the same thing.