June 09, 2006 @ 10:34 AM
As a designer who spends some time designing logos, I want to state for the record that your logo doesn’t matter. That’s right. If you created a spectrum of all the problems facing large companies, small companies, stagnating companies, companies experiencing painful growth, you won’t find one that a logo can fix.
So I wanted to offer some logo advice for business owners I’ve gathered through my experience in developing brands:
- Your logo is not your brand. Don’t expect it to be.
- If you are unable to articulate why someone should choose your company over your competitor, a well designed logo is not going to fix that problem.
- Trying to look like a big company when you aren’t one is a bad strategy. These days, 2 guys can have a billion dollar idea. No one cares how much overhead you have. That is old thinking.
- Your logo is also not your value proposition. Don’t expect it to be. “How will people perceive us as global, if it doesn’t say we are in our logo?” They will know you are global, when you actually are global. Chances are also good, they won’t care.
- The CEO of a company should remove themselves from the design process. Find a designer you trust, and resist the urge to “play designer” yourself. You will get a better logo in the end. It will be based on the attributes of your company and not your personal preferences and tastes (your personal taste simply doesn’t matter to your customer).
- You will never ‘know it when you see it’.
- Your customers do not care about your logo. It’s hard to believe, but making your logo bigger will not make it more memorable, it will just make your message less memorable.
- How you use your logo is more important than its design. Develop an identity plan before putting your logo on anything.
Your logo is only one very small part of building a successful brand. Its design is minimal in making your promise match your customers’ experience (read: branding). Design is an invaluable tool in communicating who you are, what you do, and why it matters. But if you can’t articulate these things yourself, design cannot do it for you.
(All logos are property of their respective owners.)
Great post Mark, you've summed it up perfectly.
I agree. Well said.
I might point out, though, that sometimes the CEO advice may be ignored -- especially in the case of Apple, where their customers do care about Mr. Jobs' personal taste.
Sean - I agree. Steve Job's knows his audience, and knows what sells better than almost anyone I can think of. He can eloquently articulate why someone should choose Apple over other Personal Computers, MP3 Players or Media Management Software. He also has the wisdom to hire designers like Paul Nixon, and to get the heck out of their way. People can learn a lot from Steve Jobs.
This is very true, however I would dare suggest that in cases where companies logos are horrific, it actually hurts their brand or the publics perception. That being said a good logo does not detract from a companies image nor does it shout "hey look at me" but rather it blends into the whole scheme of things thus making it the perfect compliment to a business...not the business itself. Great post!
Thanks for this. I was thinking of fiddling with mine but your article helps me see my time would be better well spent working on solidifying my brand and working on my client relationships. I do agree with Stewart--a horrible logo can really tarnish a company, but a company with an "average" logo and outstanding brand and marketing system is going to outshine a company with an "outstanding" logo and no successful branding to back it up.
Excellently stated! And if I may be so bold to add:
Logos are designed to subtly communicate meanings and ideas. But in the end, in the consumer's mind, a logo's message is derived from the branding, personality and the actions of the company.
Show somebody an Apple logo, and they think premium, hip, fashionable, technological, savvy. They don't think "fruity produce that makes great pie."
Try the same exercise with the Target logo. Or the Nike logo.
Put another way, in the eyes of a consumer, a logo does not give the company meaning. The company gives a logo meaning.
All rings so true until I look at the StarBucks logo.
Not sure what he (JoeBogus) meant about the Starbucks logo. I don't think he gets it.
Expecting a new well-designed logo to instill any sense of market superiority in your target audience is similar to expecting a new set of Pirelli tires on your car to give you greater performance.
So ask yourself (Mr/Mrs CEO): Are you behind the wheel of a high-performance, barely street legal sports car? Or is your company/brand an mid-size compact?
While it's often easier to see that it's what's under the hood that counts - many CEOs and brands assume that by saying "I have a fancy sports car [logo]," that then they'll be invited to the race - much less, win the damn thing!
In summary, a logo is only ever as good as the organization and product/service that it represents. Thanks Mark, for making it the subject of conversation.
I wish we could print your article and mail it to every business owner in the world.
Good work, Mark.
Ironically the design firm I work for (hint: 1 more than 49,999 feet) has been tasked to rebrand the identity for a rather large corporation. This reminds of the process so far. Such a fine line between presenting a company and its ideals, and a pretty picture.
Great post! So true. So frustrating. So never going to change.
Okay guys. I guess what I wanted to say about the StarBucks logo can be approached from the other end. Here is what I mean: How about this logo? http://www.wsclightingsystems.com/
I would really like to hear what you have to say in response.
Or without even going that far, how about the Hyundai logo and it's fishy similarity to Honda logo. I am about to buy a car and frankly I would find that one thing resonate with a bit of embarrassment somewhere in the back of my mind everytime I parked next to a Honda.
How about a skull for the logo of your website? I dare you to do it if it truly does not matter.
Okay, I am out. By the way, I loved reading the article and really like the japanese pattern you chose for your background. Do you think it matters?
In reply to your copious comments, I'd say the logo is the very least of the problems encountered on the W.S.C. Lighting Systems site you've linked to. And if that company's owner was interested in fixing their website, focusing on what font to use in the logo would be a gross misuse of his/her time.
Secondly you're confusing Hyudai's brand with their logo. Hyundai's brand is low priced cars with a gigantic warranty (10 years I believe). If that embarasses you, I suspect it has very little to do with the design of their logo.
Context gives a logo it's meaning. My logo was designed in about 25 minutes. I wasn't thrilled with it, but as a business owner I had bigger and much more important things to move onto. Now I quite enjoy the logo, and it's context (my wbesite) has given it meaning.
Here are some very eloquent words on context, and its relationship to a company's logo: http://www.designobserver.com/archives/013873.html
Point very well taken. The WSC Lighting Systems site has problems, the logo being only one of them.
Regarding Hyundai: No I would not be embarrassed by the ten year warranty in the least. It would rather be the one thing to brag about to my three-year warranty Civic owning friends. Give me a twenty year warranty and I will consider buying a Ford. But let us not get side-tracked. We were discussing logos.
Regarding your website logo. I have already complemented you on your creative juices that flow abundantly judging by the overall design of your website including the appropriately modest logo. I also like the color scheme and as I already said your choice of background. My claim is that you would not select a skull for your web site because despite the snappy statement you have chosen for your well written and well received article, you know that a logo does matter only not as much as some would have it. Although the context gives the logo its meaning, the context does not design the logo. An effort and a degree of creativity is required, be it twenty-five minutes of your time or ten days for Vincent.
Ask any Asian about their Chinese zodiak sign - you will find the dragons are much quicker to respond than the pigs. What's your sign?
What I meant about StarBucks logo is that it it is sexy - well sexier than the Hyundai logo in any case. At least this is the impression it made on me about a decade ago. It does not make their coffee any better nor get rid of that annoying guy who keeps opening and closing the white glossy laptop he caresses with his Sinatra glances. Nor does it enrich the StarBucks crowd in general. Nor does it explain the StarBucks memorabilia madness when the chain started growing. Why would every other student in every other campus on the planet walk around with a StarBucks coffee mug? Because the coffee is sooooooooo good? My point is that logos do have currency in the economy of signs and symbols. People have a taste in coffee and a taste in signs. I like Marks taste very much and his is a well chosen logo.
As a Certified Asian Person (with papers to prove it), I've never noticed the hesitancy with which a person reveals their zodiac symbol. Then again, I'm a tiger. :D
Good post! I got out of the Record Company Business to start my own design business - and have endless first-hand evidence to the fact that the smaller the company - the larger the Logo.
Logos are all to often (ab)used by Company Executives in the same way middle-aged recently-divorced white guys purchase sports cars, and hair-weaves - to cover a multitude of other problems.
Mark, Well put and well taken!
I am on both sides of the fence on the issue of does your logo matter? To me as a start up, it was very important because of the excitement associated with the very idea that this mark will be the gateway for my customers to even experience the brand. My logo will be on the entrance of my store, on our business cards, etc. customers will always associate their "gut feeling" about a business with their logo because that will always be the spark that ignites that feeling. Guilty by association, I guess! so I say take pride in your logo and your business and use that pride to create, build, and grow. Your brand will be a reflection of that.
But, like Mark said, trust a designer and let them do what they do. I did, and got a much better result. THANKS MARK!!!
I disagree with this article and feel that the writer is trying to be "too cool for the room" in order to get some sort of reaction to his blog.
Ask Coca-Cola if their logo matters.
How much do you charge to design a logo that doesn't matter?
If you'd read more than just the title of the post, you'd see I'm offering advice on how to get a good logo, and suggesting that you not have unrealistic expectaions as to its purpose.
If you're looking for an estimate, you can reach me through my contact page.
Some very interesting points, but I disagree with a few of them. The way you have over generalised many of the points I think is a little irresponsible. I can see some of the points you are trying to make, but not sure you have worded it wisely. I can read between the lines in much of what you are saying, but my point is, many people may not be able to.
- Your customers do not care about your logo
Think it's irresponsible to say clients/customers don't care about a logo. That's a pretty wide sweeping remark. People do care about a companies image, and that will include a logo in many cases. Sure, it's not a deal for many who just don't care for design or such things, but in today's world, appearance accounts for a lot.
It can turn people off on a unsubconcious level, just like a good or bad book cover design can. I am finding more and more people realising that a solid logo design is now worth paying for.
And frankly, how do you know so much about everyones customers? It's a little patronising and bordering on alienation.
- How you use your logo is more important than its design. Develop an identity plan before putting your logo on anything.
A well designed logo is paramount, it's just not about the whole identity. A badly designed logo can ruin or undermine an otherwise well thought out identity. It's all about measure.
You need to design a logo with a proposed identity in mind, I realise that. If you design the identity first, as you state, then you are asking for trouble. It's like designing the interior or exterior of a building before it's been planned.
I design the logo first, but with a view of how I will develop the overall identity in mind. This usually means long discussions with the client about how and where they need their identity to work. Any restrictions need to be factored in that may need you to design a logo a certain way, but the logo is always the first thing to be designed.
If you have designed a poor logo, doesn't matter how you use it, you have let the client down. So how you use a logo is not generally more important than it's design but more a combination once you have a solid design underway. So saying the overall identity design is more important than the logo design is quite far off base.
- Trying to look like a big company when you aren’t one is a bad strategy
Again, disagree with this. It all depends on the company, what they do, who they deal with, who their competitors are. Their experience and professionalism may mean they can afford to look bigger than a 2 person set-up.
To just state it's a bad idea, is way off in my opinion. In fact I am working on an insurance brokers logo now. They are small in staff, yet compete with the national big boys. They have repeat clients, they provide excellent and very competitive service. So we are positioning them to look bigger than what hey are, but with a strong focus on approachability and sincerity. You can look bigger than you are if you can be sure you can provide the service.
- Your logo is not your brand. Don’t expect it to be.
This is poppycock. In many cases, the logo does define the brand from the eyes of the consumer. I realise it is not from a brand identity perspective, but for many shoppers, all they care about IS the logo or the label. To them, this is the brand. It's not of course I know that, but Im talking about the perception for Joe Public. And given Joe Public runs into the billions, I would not argue with how they perceive what a brand is and isn't.
Companies exploit this very thing, hence Apple and Nike DO focus on the logo, that is why they have simplified and simplified the logo over the years. For many, the logo IS the brand.
It's all about perception, we each perceive things differently. Designers, agencies and customers.
Again, it is the sweeping generalisations that I think are causing me issue with what you are saying. One needs to be careful, much of what we do is not black and white, far from it. There are always levels of grey that can be argued until the cows come home. But it's incorrect to state so much as fact when it is not.
If logo is not important why hasn't anyone asked you what is that orange swirl on the top of the page? Guess what? they know exactly what it says. If it's a brand you want to build, a good logo can go a long way.
Graham Smith's comment should be stickied up top, since it brings your article back down to earth.
Author scratches at some interesting dynamics playing a devil's advocate for the business owner, but irresponsibly lays out anecdotal observations as good advice.
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