July 28, 2012 Alchemist Studios

What Is Logo Design?

Every company has a logo that represents the very essence or signature of the business.  And every logotype you see on the high street or in your kitchen has been designed by a professional or a very creative designer.  So what are their secrets and how do they distil huge international corporations into a tiny graphic device?

The Secrets of Successful Logo Design – Back to Its Roots

We may think of the logotypes as a uniquely modern device but as soon as humans learnt to express themselves graphically, they started to use symbols and emblems to represent individuals and groups.  From seals and coats of arms to watermarks and hallmarks, logotypes have long been a part of our graphic landscape.  Then, as printing became widespread and manufactured goods were distributed over greater geographic areas, the logotypes as we now know it came into being.

Learn from the Masters

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe said ‘Less is more’ and as a kicking off point for modern logo design, this makes perfect sense.  Think of the most iconic logos in the world and they all have one thing in common: simplicity.  The simpler the logo, the more likely it is to work over a variety of media, from television and poster campaigns to print and packaging.

Look at some of the logos designed by the great names in the industry: Chermayeff & Geismar designed American corporate logos for more than 40 years, including for Chase Bank, Mobil Oil and National Geographic; Paul Rand developed the logotypes for IBM, UPS and ABC; and Saul Bass was another gifted designer who devised the Bell Telephone and Continental Airlines logos.

Take these as your inspiration and work out what makes them the best in the business.

Power and Impact

A powerful logo is unforgettable and creates a positive association with its brand.  A small, simple ideogram can carry a strong message about the company it represents – and a good logotype will work in any country and any language.

Colour can be an important element in the design, but it also needs to work in monochrome.  At the same time, remember that fiddly details, fine line drawings and company tag lines will make it harder to use the logotype in varying sizes – shrink your logotype down to a few millimetres and fine details disappear.

Should a logo feature text?

Full company tag lines should never feature as part of the branding.  Logo design is the distillation of all that company is into a graphic symbol.   Having said that, some of the most successful corporate logos of the past 50 years have been ‘logotypes’.

A logotype is a logo made up of a single word or the initials of the company – think of the IBM or the MTV logo, both of which use initials, or the Facebook logotype, which is simply a word on a blue background.  Or the Golden Arches of MacDonald’s, a single letter that has become ubiquitous. There’s no mistaking who these logos belong to.

But other great logos are simply a graphic device, with no text.  Apple, Mercedes, Ralph Lauren and Firefox all have graphic conceptualisations that feature no type at all, recognised in an instant.

In it for the long haul or the here and now?

There are some corporate logos that have been in use for 100 years and over time this tiny pictogram becomes an integral part of brand image.  For that reason you want a logo that’s simple and timeless – it’s not something you want to change and redesign every few years.  Not when it’s likely to become the most recognisable thing about your business.

But your design needs to be adaptable for use in print, on packaging and most importantly now, on the internet.  Furthermore, once distinctive designs have been established for your brand, you can experiment with a dynamic designs.  An early example of a successful dynamic design is the Michelin Man, who has appeared standing, moving, eating, drinking and so on, without diluting the brand message.  Modern versions include the Google logotype, which is often illustrated to celebrate a particular date or event, or the Microsoft design, which remains distinctive while varying slightly across different business divisions.

No Small Challenge

Never underestimate the power of a strong logtype.  It can make all the difference to building your brand image and fostering brand recognition.  Take your time to choose a logo that really says something about your company because, after all, you’ll be living with it for years to come.  So it pays to get it right first time.

(c) Alchemist

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