What Makes a Logo Good
Logos are powerful symbols, representing not only what’s evident in their design, but everything the public associates with the company. By Shawn Hazen
Lately we’ve seen how a logo can become an short-hand for corporate greed. A logo can never be better than the company it represents—how do you react when you see the Enron logo? It’s indicative of how effective a symbol a logo can be.
Independent of what they stand for, how logos are used can rub people the wrong way. Times Square is both awesome and revolting. The companies displayed there are functioning on a different, perhaps less conscientious, level than most. But a logo is simply a tool for recognition. It’s really just a graphic manifestation of a company’s personality (or at least the personality they want to convey). Not every company is extroverted enough to be displayed 100 feet tall in neon. The avenue for displaying their mark might be limited solely to their packaging, or to a storefront and napkins. Regardless, there’s no evil in a logo that’s beautifully designed and sensitively implemented.
A well-designed logo will feel comfortable in the necessary settings. It will also have formal characteristics appropriate to the company’s personality, which will also be recognized by the intended audience. In addition to the form of the logo, the message it carries—be it a visual pun, a simple narrative, or some higher concept—needs to be appropriate and recognizable. Sometimes “clever” works, and sometimes it is better to be subtly evocative but simple. And then there are always those logos that benefit from a deeper layer of meaning—that require a little more translation.
But, at its core, a logo should be deliberate. Whether they realize it or not, that coffee shop on the corner has a logo. They probably considered what font to use for their sign, but not much else. But thinking about these things is an art form and executing a logo successfully is both artistic and extremely rational. A logo has to be simple and clear, to be sure, but it also has to be unique. In addition to the conceptual, communicative, and demographic aims, less obvious but equally crucial considerations exist: how and where will the logo be reproduced? How will it work very, very small? How about huge? What do the colors represent? Are they reproducible in any medium? Does the logo have to be in color in order to work? Does the symbol have implications (good or bad) in other cultures?
The starting point for any entity looking for a logo is a little soul-searching. How does the company want to be perceived by its buying public? Hip above all else? Or established and trustworthy? And who is this buying public? Will they be amenable to decoding a conceptual logo? Or should it just be direct about what the company does? Who else is doing what the company does, and how do they represent themselves? The answers to most of these questions are fundamental to the success of any commercial venture anyways. As is an effective, well-designed logo.