What is a logo's purpose? How does it help you and your brand succeed, and how can a badly designed logo hurt your goals?
Here are some rules to keep in mind when developing a logo for your brand that will save you money and help you avoid headaches down the road!
Make Your Logo Useful to Your Brand
Know who you are as a brand and share that knowledge with the designer you hire to create your logo. An experienced designer can advise you on how best to design a logo that suits your brand's needs, and ensure you are supplied with the right image assets. If you don’t get the right artwork files, effectively using your logo will be ten times harder in the long run and you will waste a lot of time and money. Think about how you will be using your logo before hiring someone to make you one. Will your company primarily be using online marketing, print marketing, or both? (When in doubt, plan for both.) Will your company need a logo that can be attractively and legibly printed on a specific kind of merchandise? An experienced designer can be a fantastic resource to you if you ask the right questions and know the direction you want to take your brand, but you won’t fully benefit from their expertise if you don’t share your plans at the very start.
Know your limitations and your goals.
Decide if you need more than a logo when creating your brand (yes, you do) and how you will create the materials you need even if you are on a budget. For example: are you an entrepreneur just starting out that will primarily be creating your own marketing images and can’t afford to hire a designer all the time?
Tell your designer if you plan to apply your logo to your own pictures yourself, and they can provide you with versions of your logo that you can use in free tools like Canva. If you plan to DIY most materials after finalizing your logo with a designer, be honest about it. Your designer wants the logo they spent hours creating for you to look good just as much as you do! A graphic designer or marketing consultant can help steer you towards some great DIY resources that can keep your brand materials looking hot even when you don't have a full-time designer on your payroll.
You want your logo to be versatile
Make sure that your final logo design is made to be legible at the sizes you will most often use it. Whether you print it on a billboard or use it on your business Twitter account, you need it to be recognizable. If you have a complex logo design, you should consider getting a responsive logo design that still effectively represents your brand with alternative, oftentimes simpler visuals that scale well.
You might need a simpler version of your primary logo. If you have a beautiful multicolored logo with lots of gradients, printing it on company swag will get expensive very quickly, and it could be a hassle to print your logo on certain types of signage and merchandise. If your brand has a complex and colorful logo design, ask your designer for a 1- or 2-color alternate version of your fancy logo that will be more affordable to print on materials. Depending on how often you need to print your logo on products, you could save your company hundreds or thousands of dollars long term.
But what if money isn't an issue for your brand? What if you have the budget and don’t mind spending extra to get what you want? Guess what: You aren't only saving money when you have a simpler single-color version of your logo to work with, you are also saving time. Do you have a trade show in less than a month? Finding a manufacturer that can do the multi-colored logo on those ballpoint pens that you want will take longer than finding someone that can print a single-colored logo for you, and it may also take the factory more time to make them.
Make Your Logo Memorable to Your Audience
Be consistent. Don’t alter your logo impulsively when using it on internal or external marketing materials. It is critical that you decide early on for your brand how your logo will be represented across all media. One common and reliable way to maintain a recognizable brand for your audience is through color. Color is a powerful tool. Make sure you ask your designer to provide you with the color values for your logo and instructions on how to use them appropriately.
However, contrary to popular belief, generic rules like “don’t change the color of your logo” or “don’t alter the shape of your logo” are not relevant to every brand. For example, the MTV logo is an iconic example of rejecting color consistency in favor of relying on consistent shape and structure. Integrating animation, pattern, and varied color and texture into their logo was perfectly suited to their brand.
Keep Your Logo Consistent
The only cardinal rule is establishing consistency in the way your logo and your brand are perceived by your audience. But how do you do that? How much consistency do you need to make a lasting impression? If you value your brand’s memorability and have the budget, you might want to hire a designer to guide you through the creation of your brand’s entire visual identity. Your brand identity is more than just your logo. Some brands have many guidelines; others have only a few. Having a longer list of rules doesn’t make your logo or brand inherently more effective, you just need enough consistency to make a memorable impact on your target audience.
Make Things More Timeless Than Trendy
Trends are fun, and you might love them because they are popular and you see them everywhere. You have convinced yourself that something “just looks good” but you can’t identify why. Distinguishing between trends and current best practices can be hard. The best way to ensure you aren’t doing something only because it is “cool” is to reflect on why you are doing it.
By making intentional decisions about your logo design that you can directly tie to your brand’s identity, you will ensure that you aren’t being swayed by the mere popularity of a design element. If you only like an element of your logo because it “looks pretty,” you might want to make sure it is truly necessary to your logo in the first place by identifying at least one other reason it works well for your brand. Otherwise, there could be another, equally attractive design decision that would empower your logo to represent your brand more effectively.
Have We Seen You Somewhere Before?
And finally—make your logo memorable by using it for a long time. Having an element that people see often and can identify is how you make your brand memorable. If you change your logo's appearance too frequently, you will never allow your logo to develop one of its superpowers: familiarity. Part of a logo's strength lies in how long it has been around and how often people have seen it.
If you have a logo that you are becoming bored with, don't ditch it just because you want something new! Consider first how much value it has brought to your brand over the years and that your boredom could actually be a great reminder of how familiar it has become: if it's familiar to you, hopefully it's made a lasting impression on your audience as well. I'm not saying that you should never update your company’s logo, but make sure you're doing it for strategic reasons and not merely because you yourself are no longer personally entertained by it. Update your logo for the objective benefits it will provide to your brand, not your subjective feelings. And to avoid needing to update your logo frequently for practical reasons, make sure it’s made well the first time!