Note: While reading a book whenever I come across something interesting, I highlight it on my Kindle. Later I turn those highlights into a blogpost. It is not a complete summary of the book. These are my notes which I intend to go back to later. Let’s start!
The seven ingredients for your iconic logo
- Keep it simple. The simplest solution is often the most effective. Why? Because a simple logo helps meet most of the other requirements of iconic design.
- Make it relevant. Any logo you design must be appropriate for the business it identifies. For example, as much as you might want to use a fun design that makes everyone smile, this approach is not ideal for businesses like the local crematorium.
- Incorporate tradition. Trends come and go like the wind. With brand identity, the last thing you want is to invest a significant amount of your time and your client’s money in a design direction that looks dated almost overnight.
- Aim for distinction. Begin by focusing on a design that is recognizable. So recognizable, in fact, that just its shape or outline gives it away.
- Commit to memory. Quite often, one quick glance is all the time you get to make an impression. You want your viewers’ experience to be such that your logo is remembered the instant they see it the next time.
- Think small. Your design should ideally work at a minimum of around one inch in size without loss of detail so that it can be put to use for many different applications.
- Focus on one thing. Incorporate just one feature to help your designs stand out. That’s it. Just one. Not two, three, or four.
- Mind-mapping helps you consider as many different design directions as possible
- Even the most simplistic designs are helped by an extensive sketching session.
- A pen or pencil offers much more control and creative freedom than a computer mouse, so don’t use a computer until your ideas are in place.
- Don’t fret if you think you can’t draw, because what’s important is that you document your ideas so that you can either build upon them or rule them out.
- Don’t be tempted to show a client all of your sketches, because there will undoubtedly be directions you don’t want to pursue, and it would be most unfortunate if the client chose one of those directions.
- Make sure your PDFs help the client focus on the idea, and not on an easily changed aspect like color.
- As much as we like to think otherwise, books are judged by their covers, so make sure your identity presentations look professional to keep clients on board.
How to avoid all the traps of “design by committee”:
- Conspire with your point of contact
- Take control
- Keep the committee involved
- Questions, questions, questions From the very beginning of any design project, you need to ask your client questions. Lots of them. You need to have a comprehensive understanding of your client’s desires, as well as whom its competitors are, and what’s been done with past identities. The last thing you want is to discover near the end of the project that a previously unknown client’s competitor uses a similar mark, or that the style of design just simply doesn’t relate to your client’s goals.
- Understand print costs Ask your client very early if she has set a printing budget, because color usually costs more and may limit the scope of your design. Every printer’s prices are unique. With some printers, you might find that full-color print costs are nearly on par with single-color jobs, but this is usually rare. It’s your job to inform the client about commercial print requirements and limitations early in the process.
- Expect the unexpected If you’re unsure how long a task will take to complete, always estimate longer. For instance, if you think it will take one week to act upon client feedback and to deliver revised artwork, say it takes two, then pleasantly surprise your client by delivering sooner than expected. Design projects are like construction work—you piece lots of little elements together to form a greater whole, and setbacks can crop up at any time.
- A logo doesn’t need to say what a company does The Tiger Woods logo isn’t a golf club. The Virgin Atlantic logo isn’t an airplane. The Xerox logo isn’t a photocopier. Computer logos don’t need to show computers, dentist logos don’t need to show teeth, and furniture store logos don’t need to show furniture. Just because it’s relevant, doesn’t mean you can’t do better using a design that doesn’t depict the product or service your client provides.
- Not every logo needs a mark Sometimes your client just needs a professional logotype to identify its business. Use of a symbol can be an unnecessary addition. This is something you want to determine at the outset of the project. Ask your client if she has a preference one way or another. If the company is entertaining ideas about future expansion into other markets, it might be better to opt for a distinctive logotype, because an identifying mark or symbol might prove restrictive.
- One thing to remember All strong logos have one single feature that helps them stand out. Apple’s is the bite (or byte). Mercedes is the three-pointed star. The Red Cross is, well, the red cross. Leave your client with just one thing to remember about the brand identity design you’ve created. One thing. Not two, three, or four. Just one.
- Don’t neglect the sketchpad You don’t need to be an artist to realize the benefits of sketching during the design process. Imaginative ideas flow much faster when you use a pen and paper compared to a mouse and monitor. Carry a notebook with you at all times.
- Leave trends to the fashion industry Trends come and go. When you’re talking about changing a pair of jeans, or buying a new dress, then going with the trends can work for you. But where your client’s brand identity is concerned, longevity is key. Don’t follow the pack. Stand out.
- Step away from Photoshop There are a ton of logo design tutorials online that show how to create a logo in Photoshop. Avoid them. We’re dealing with vector graphics here, so Adobe Illustrator should be your software of choice. Leave Photoshop for photos.
- Work in black and white No amount of fancy gradients or color choices will rescue a poorly designed mark. By refraining from using color until the end of the process, you and your client are free from distractions of a preference for, say, green, which leaves you free to focus on the idea.
- Keep it relevant Are you designing for a law firm? Then ditch the fun approach. Perhaps your client produces a kid’s TV show. OK, so nothing too serious. Maybe you are designing for a Michelin star restaurant. In this case, you’ll likely favor muted colors over bright, fluorescent ones. I could go on, but you get the picture.12. Remember legibility The public most likely will glance at the logos you design for only a second or two before moving on. So legibility is key, especially when the brand isn’t well-known. For instance, a client’s handwriting may look pretty, but if most people can’t read it immediately, then don’t consider using it as a logotype.
- Be consistent Many logos are accompanied by style guides, and the creation of these guides is your responsibility. They ensure that anyone within the client’s company who uses the design does so in a consistent manner. Consistency breeds trust. Trust wins customers.
- Match the type to the mark Display a level of unity across your design. For example, if you show a playful mark, try matching it with a playful typeface.
- Offer a single-color version The logo you design for your client might show a number of different colors, but you must also supply a version that uses just one. By doing so, you’ll improve the overall versatility of the identity and save your client from having to come back to you if the company opts for a single-color print run.
- Pay attention to contrast When your logo is applied to the design of promotional material or corporate stationery, you must keep an eye on the contrast between the logo and its background, as well as between actual elements within the logo design. The tonal range should be contrasting enough to allow the mark or symbol to be clearly identified.
- Aid recognition Keeping your design simple makes it easier for people to recognize it the next time they see it. Consider large corporations like Mitsubishi, Samsung, FedEx, and BBC. Their logos are simple in appearance, and they’re easier to recognize because of it. Keeping it simple also allows for flexibility in size. Ideally, your logo will work at a minimum of around one inch without loss of detail.
- Test at a variety of sizes Try printing your work to ensure it’s clean, with a good level of contrast on paper, and not pixelated. But don’t just print a single logo. Replicate the design at a range of sizes and colors for variation. There’s no point in using a full page of paper for just one tiny design.
- Reverse it Offer clients a logo option that works on dark backgrounds— in other words, supply a white version. This increases flexibility, and you’ll be appreciated for it.
- Turn it upside down Just because your design looks OK the right way up doesn’t mean it will look OK when viewed upside down. If your logo appears on a book on a coffee table, for example, you don’t want people who are viewing it upside down to see a phallic symbol. So consider your design from all angles before finalizing it.
- Consider trademarking your design Having your logo registered as a trademark can prevent legal issues for your client. Unfortunately, the actual registration process is lengthy and complex, so it’s worth passing the project to a trademark lawyer. But you should brush up on your knowledge of the process so that you’re prepared for questions your lawyer will have for you.
- Don’t neglect the substrate The paper or card stock on which a logo appears can make a very big difference in how it appears on final presentation. The color and sharpness of your logo can change dramatically. So be sure to discuss all the possibilities for variation with your commercial printer (or advise your client about it) before final production.
- Don’t be afraid of mistakes Everyone makes mistakes. Learn from them, and move on.
- A logo is not a brand A logo is just one part of a company’s brand identity. The brand, as a whole, represents much more—the mission of the company, its history, people’s perceptions of it, and so on. An effective logo plays an important part, but it won’t save a poor product or service, or a company with a weak mission.
- Remember, it’s a two-way process Projects do not always pan out the way you think they will. Your client might request something you don’t initially agree with. If this happens, work with him on what he wants, and if you still disagree, then show what you believe is an improvement, and give your reasons why. Your clients will be more open to your ideas if you’re open to theirs.