The logo is everywhere. Almost everything we buy, almost every business we deal with, has a logo.
It’s that little symbol or design that represents a business, product, sports team or any other group
where identity is important.
The word itself is interesting too. More formally “logotype,” the word has its origins in the ancient
Greek ‘lógos’, which means ‘word’ or ‘speech’. That says a lot – a good logo says a huge amount
about the brand it represents.
Famous logos tell their own story
A strong logo – which projects a strong brand identity – does several things at once. For a new customer, it’s eye catching and (based on advertising or recommendation) brings a promise of satisfaction. For a regular customer, it brings a warm feeling, a positive association with something to be trusted. A good logo is both a promise and proof of its follower’s good sense and judgement.
Examples abound. Shapes and colours become deeply embedded as representing products and aspirations: think of the golden arches of MacDonalds or the apple device on an iPhone.
Nor is it just about physical objects. Consider the logos used by Google for their various cloud apps – Drive, Slides and Gmail, for example, or the big smile implicit in the Amazon logo. These are instantly recognisable and, for users of these brands and products, they carry powerful, sometimes subliminal, positive associations.
Logos have influence
Pick up your smartphone, or open a kitchen cupboard, and you’ll almost certainly see a logo, or many. Sometimes these can be very subtle – on a phone, a shape or shaded area – and sometimes they carry strong stand-out colours.
At either extreme, and in between, the effect is the same: the logo is associated with the product, and the product (more importantly, the type of product) is associated with the logo of a particular brand. Next time you buy a phone you’ll almost certainly be acting as much from brand loyalty as product specifications. And next time you look for your favourite jar of pickles in the supermarket, you’ll probably find them by looking for the shape and colours of the label and logo.
Why good design matters
The great logo is an identifier. It creates interest in a product and brand and it re-enforces the connection between purchaser and product. Thus, designing a logo requires considerable forethought and an understanding of audience, product and message.
Companies selling business to business will need a different style of design to those selling direct to consumers. A hi-tech start-up will have a different form of logo to a company specialising in, say, limited edition hand-bound books.
What makes a good logo?
Above all, the drive is to create a logo which does several things at once. It needs to project an image of the business (hopefully making very clear what the business does!); it needs to differentiate this product or company from its competitors, and it needs to create a connection with the customer – a customer who will then become a repeat purchaser. Logo recognition is fundamentally important.
None of this can be done without absolute clarity as to what the business does and why. Indeed, a classic mistake for start-ups is to begin with a logo before the purpose and direction of the business is properly defined. Product positioning, audience and value proposition needs to be articulated without ambiguity. When these are clear, then you have the starting point for a great logo.
Maximising logo impact
Generally (but not exclusively) the most effective logos are descriptive – logos tell a story. That’s to say the logo will make a clear link with the business and brand, so it’s easy to understand. Thus a coffee shop is likely to have a logo which includes a cup of coffee, and a speciality retailer of fountain pens will have a logo which includes a pen or quill. The descriptive element can extend to wording as well.
And then there’s colour, the psychology of which, its emotional impact and associations, is a complex field full of nuance. Colours are perceived differently depending on context and culture, so it pays to do your research well. It’s key element needs very careful consideration.
And when the work is done – it need not be expensive – the logo can be the foundation of strong and highly effective marketing; a good logo will be a place holder in customer memories as your business grows.
Adding an extra (animated) twist
Over time you may feel your logo needs updating. Many businesses do this, perhaps as their market position changes or because they wish to project a subtly different image to their customers, old and new.
Often changes are slight. Basic shapes and colours will probably remain the same, with small adjustments to better fit the business in its current form. Now with so much business and marketing done online, there is an additional option: animation.
On screen, logos no longer need to be static. Carefully designed movement (not overdone) will catch the eye and help imprint the logo in the audience’s memory. A logo which unfolds, perhaps, or morphs between two recognisable shapes, will have a long lasting impact and help you stand out from your competitors.
And remember to get back to basics. Think of the word that best captures your business and imagine how it would be as an image or symbol. After all, a picture paints a thousand words.
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