This post is about a really cool article by Jeff Davidson on medium.com, The Startup. View the full post at https://medium.com/swlh/what-makes-a-great-logo-c7b0e8c4b9e3.
The article “What Makes a Great Logo” focuses on the four critical qualities in making a great logo tat people usually overlook.
Mentioning that the general consensus among designers is that logos should be unique, scalable, simple, and work well in monochrome, Jeff goes beyond these basics to gauge the quality of a logo.
Jeff argues that the first function of a great logo is to be a vector for conditioning and a way for businesses to differentiate their products and services from their competitors. It’s true, if logos and branding didn’t exist, it would be difficult to create a unique identity that is recognizable and makes the buying process easy. He further develops on the importance of novelty in business, culture, and branding. Logos play an important role in this dynamic.
Finally, he argues that the utilitarian value of most products are essentially the same, and the value of the logo this context is here to enable deep emotional connections that facilitate purchase decisions.
Now to Jeff’s top 4
Quality 1: Great Logos Can Be Recreated by Hand, Off Memory
If an individual can notice, remember, and replicate a logo with relative ease, then you’ve probably got a good one. Think about the Nike swoosh, Mcdonalds arches, and Adidas three stripes. All of these are simple and memorable enough for people to easily replicate. If one is not able to replicate the logo, it’s a sign that it isn’t ‘structurally’ adequate for it to be stored in long-term memory, which can be caused by complexity or banality.
Quality 2: Logos Should Look ‘Structurally Sound’
Structural soundness is another quality of a logo that nobody talks about. Imagine a graphic form as if it were a structure. Would it stand firmly? Does it look balanced or symmetrical? Humans are attracted to language and symbols that adhere to organization, alignment, and symmetry.
Quality 3: The Founder Should Like It
Logos are very dear to the founders of companies and for good reason. It’s often the first thing they think about when starting up, or hiring a designer. This quality of fondness also makes it extremely difficult to design logos profitably. The subjective nature of the project is ripe with chances for failure because the designer can’t plan for personal taste— the subjective preference of both the founder and their close network of peers. In reality, the designer should and will know what solution works the best, but at the end of the day, this really doesn’t matter because they’re not the key decision maker. It isn’t their baby. This makes it very important to have a very structured process for designing logos, which should involve a heavy ‘discovery’ session at the beginning to gauge taste.
Quality 4: It is Remarkable
Great logos are ambiguous, intriguing, and often remarkable. Some may think that a logo needs to have some literal representation to the product or service in question, which is completely not true. Nobody needs to look at a logo and know exactly what the company does. That in mind, if you can amalgamate different abstract forms while achieving both simplicity and ambiguity, it can create an attraction or fondness that is ultimately good for business. The basic truth is that humans love mysteries and novelty, and if you can literally get people to look at your logo for longer, the memory and recall will become more significant.
Remarkable designs, advertisements, and stories spread virally. That’s how business works. People see or use something, they tell their friends, and then it spreads.
Take the above logo for example. Now I’ll be the first to admit that it breaks a lot of the golden rules of logo design. It’s not very simple, scalable, structurally sound etc. That in mind, it was so creative that the founder loved it and was happy to pay for it and tell of his friends about it. When I posted it online, it got some buzz because of the creativity in using a section of a film reel to add to the typography (notice how the ‘m’ and ‘f’ in mindfuck is actually the same form rotated 90 degrees).
When logos become so interesting that they become remarkable, it is inherently good for business. People talk about the FedEx logo, or an interesting ad campaign because it resonates. The creativity and challenge of incorporating double meanings in the form is a great way to create something that is intriguing and memorable. Ambiguity also ensures longevity. Imagine if the Apple logo was literally in the form of an old computer screen. They would be forced to change because their products evolved to mobile smartphones which nobody would have predicted at the time. Thus, literalness in logo design is actually detrimental to a company due to the inherent unpredictability of future markets.
When designers reach legend status they can start to work like Paul Rand who charged Steve Jobs $100,000 for the Next logo in 1986. Taking inflation into account that’s roughly $240,000 today. What’s even more profound is that Paul Rand only ever gave one option to Jobs (and most of his clients at the end of his career). Rand despised the politics of design and made it his mission to seek clients that valued his expertise. Steve Jobs, like most great entrepreneurs, know how to select and trust talented people—and let them do their work. Poor entrepreneurs can’t trust anyone and thus they resort to micromanaging every part of the business. Company founders then need to spend more time selecting the right people and spend less time managingthem. There’s a difference between great leaders and great egos. If you’re looking for an exceptional logo, find a great designer who charges a higher fixed rate and let them to their work.