What’s in a logo?
Target. Nike. Starbucks. Walmart. I could show you any of these company’s logos and you would recognize them instantly. But what makes a logo effective? What makes it useful? What’s in a logo that warrants every brand needing one, and some brands falling short at nailing that perfect blend of recognizable and different from its competitors. Let’s explore!
Words + Imagery
Essentially, a logo is a combination of type and form that express your brand visually. That visual representation should embody the characteristics of your mission, your people and your work. But one common pitfall is believing that a logo should describe every single word of your business name through illustrations.
Try to picture your favorite logo — does it have a “clip art” feel to it? Does it pictoralize each word? Or, does it engage you in aesthetic and color to intrigue your eye and help you recall it’s business? You should be able to identify, or pull your logo out of a lineup, in less than 5 seconds. It should resonate with your target audience, but without emulating other logos in your industry and getting lost in the sea of marks.
At Wisk Creative, most of the time spent on logo development is actually spent on exploring who you are and what your mission is as a business. The colors, forms, typefaces and illustrations are all secondary to truly understanding the message you want to convey in your wordmark. If you truly “know thyself” the exploratory part of our branding process is a fun and easy one — resulting in a mark that truly identifies you and expresses your aesthetic to your target audience effectively.
Color + Form
Logos utilize color and form to convey a thought or feeling. Similar to classic expressive art forms (like drawing or painting) a logo can solicit emotion and recognition from its viewers. We hold the most noteworthy logos in high esteem for this. Think, Nike, whose swoosh is one of the most recognized logos in the world, but is composed of simple shapes with a form that conveys movement and energy through it’s high contrast curves.
A great logo deserves balance. Balance of contrast between colors, balance of shape and form. Wordmarks and icons should guide your eye through the illustration or text easily, should flow naturally and should be simple; but profound in what they convey. A well balanced logo is sometimes unnoticed, but an imbalanced logo is easy to critique. Even without the eye of a graphic designer, I’m sure you can think of some “bad” logos that made you scratch your head a little bit…that tends to happen when the balance is out of whack. (One noteworthy logo “fail” for me, the 2012 London Olympics mark. Yikes.)
One final note on color & form: hierarchy. We’re not talking kings & queens, we’re using that fancy word to describe the order by which our eye pulls us through a form. Is your type on top? Centered? Justified left? Does the icon flow into the text? Stand out? Stand above? Do your elements trap space or create other shapes unintentionally? Does your logo translate well from a large print, like a billboard, to a small print, like a letterhead? This order of movement is important. A dynamic logo pulls your eye through the mark with ease and has a sort of harmony around it, appealing to your audience rather than unnerving it.
Versatile + Consistent
Most people don’t think of versatility when they picture a logo, because they are so used to recognizing a mark in one form only. What we don’t recognize verbally is that we do see logos (even the most famous and well known forms) in variations across media. Let’s go back to the Nike swoosh. It has been used in print ads, on shoes, t-shirts, videos, filled with different colors and patterns, layered over images and left to its classic form. Versatile, but consistent.
Your logo should have one primary form, and maybe a simplified or expanded variation that matches. Sometimes, an accompanying icon can be detached from the logo to be used as separate mark (Think: McDonalds arches without the word “McDonalds” below it). Your logo can be just as consistent and versatile as the big leagues, and should. You should be able to drop your logo into a PowerPoint presentation, print it on tags or labels and still use it on a letterhead or business card. Once again, the recognization of your marks should remain in tact, but the variations allow for creative usage and give space for successful use across many media types.
A Quick Study
Below is a small gallery of logo projects we’ve worked on, in various stages of their processes. Hopefully, the insight into the process and purpose of a logo has some creative juices flowing for you. Can you identify the point and purpose of each component of your logo? Is it time for a refresher? Shoot us an email or give us a ring and we can talk about simple ways to improve your brand by refreshing or creating a logo that works for you.