Is Your Logo Talking Behind Your Back?

Or is it representing you in your best light? Logos stand in for you when you’re not there. It needs to express the important thing about your company and business.

Logos a should be simple, appropriate to the brand, and memorable. Finally, logos should stand the test of time. 

Origins

Logos go back to deep antiquity - they were a single image of something that was used as an expression of the individual. It symbolized an idea, thought, or even a product.

Aristocracy would have shields and those are basically complex logos - and not everyone was literate so pictorial means were a way of getting around that illiteracy. 

In Rome, you’ll see mosaics and in those mosaics are pictures of tradesmen. So you’d see an elephant and that meant someone had been to Africa. Or you’d see a dolphin and that meant someone was dealing in fish. So all of these things indicated who the merchant was. And I think that’s the beginning of the logo. 

Logos increased exponentially as commerce increased, industry increased, technology increased and there was more and more competition. Logo designers have to have a sense of what the company wants it’s personality to be. And then we create a symbol to identify and represent who they are.

Logo Basics

A great logo is memorable, it’s appropriate to the brand, and it’s simple so it can work everywhere and look the same in every situation. So, the first thing is simplicity and that means it must work as tiny as 16x16 pixels as someone’s favicon and at a very big size to go on the sides of buildings and on billboards

The second thing is that it is appropriate in the character and in the feeling. For example, if you look at the Girl Scouts logo and you ask “Is this appropriate for an organization that believes in the power of every girl?” and then you start thinking, “Does it look too girly?” No, it doesn't. Or you may ask, “Does it look too childish?” No, it doesn't. That’s what I think when I look at a mark and ask “Is this right for them?”

And then the last thing is it should be memorable. And often it’s something different. Something that throws off the balance. A good example is Mobil. It was redesigned in 1964 by a famous ad agency and has stayed the same since. It was based on geometry and the simple change of the “o” to red burns it into your memory. Changing the “o” to red also solved the problem of people pronouncing it like “mobile.” When a design fulfills these parameters, with time it will build equity and it will build recognition and we’re looking for something that will look fresh for a long time.

Design Process

Logo design is not like math. 1+1=2, but blue + square? You don’t know what it’s going to do until you get in there and start doing it. After I ask my clients a bunch of questions, I like to go home and brainstorm. I use word association and draw inspiration from logo masters like Saul Bass or Paul Rand. I usually come up with 20-30 rough sketch ideas that I narrow down into a few broad categories. Then I clean them up a little in Photoshop and show my client.

We narrow down to 1 strong idea, and then it just becomes a matter of choosing colors and playing with it on different backgrounds and refining it until it’s perfect.

BP went with an abstract representation. It fuses the B & P together in a modern and classic way. With time, it will become timeless because it’s interesting and has hidden messages in that the B & P are connected to make an abstract shape that looks like it’s moving forward into the future.

My client wanted to use his alma matter’s colors (USC). This was a bad idea because it’s already recognizable as USC’s colors. I decided to throw it in the batch of ideas to show him it wasn’t a good idea to brand his logo with someone else’s colors and he agreed right away.

BrightPoint wanted to show how it’s a modern, forward thinking realty group who will take care of you as if you were family. Blue symbolizes strength, conservative choices, and safety. Silver symbolizes intelligence, brightness, modernity. 

A few of my logo designs:

Finally, timelessness

Logo design should be timeless. The classic thing is Coca-Cola. We know that script. That script came out of the 1890s, but it’s such a part of our culture that it will probably always be contemporary. If a logo has been working, and it IS recognizable, and a company has been spending millions of dollars to promote it, there’s probably very little reason to redesign that logo. It is a fashion business. There are styles that change and typography that changes, and images that change. But, what you want, is you want your audience to see this and it will remind you of that entity. That’s when a logo works. That’s when it becomes timeless. 


We need the logo so people can be cued into who we are and what we do. It should be simple, it should be well-drawn, and it should be interesting. A logo can’t express everything, but it definitely should express the thing that’s most important. The thing that NEEDS to be expressed.