The missing “don’t dos” when designing a logo

The first thing entrepreneurs think about when building their brand is their logo. So, I thought this post would be useful.

I recently came across an article in the October 2011 issue of Inc. Magazine, called ‘What not to do when designing a logo’. The article goes on to say how Milton Glaser — one of the most celebrated American graphic designers famous for his “I Love NY” logo – explains three “don’t dos” when designing a logo:

  • Don’t trust your gut. Everyone is an expert. They don’t like blue, or they want fatter letters. It’s hard when you have a manufacturer who’s been making something for 50 years and thinks he understands the subject — but designing logos, he doesn’t know anything about anything.
  • Don’t focus-group it to death. It’s a nightmare presenting a logo to a board of eight people and trying to find consensus. At the end, you have something that is weak and ineffective and looks like 100 other things.
  • Don’t just do it. The word trend is the Nike swoosh. So many clients and designers think of a logo as being a peculiar kind of shape that stands out from others. But there has to be a fundamental editorial proposition behind the logo.

As a branding strategist, I believe there are TWO important factors missing from the list:

  • Don’t develop a logo without a brand strategy. People often ask me: “What do you think of my logo?” And, honestly the answer is always and inevitably: “it depends”. Since design is highly subjective, evaluating a logo without knowing the context or the strategy is unfair. Sure, I could provide my feedback, but without knowing if it appeals to the target audiences, then my point-of-view would be just that… one point-of-view. By having a brand strategy, you can evaluate the logo against it, which helps to reduce the subjectivity factor.
  • Don’t put all the responsibility on the logo. Once in a while, I see entrepreneurs putting all the responsibility of the logo to achieve everything. They want the logo to be symbolic of all aspects of their business. They want the logo to clearly articulate what they do and what they stand for. They want the logo to be locked up with a ‘tagline/slogan’. Now, it would be ideal if a logo could accomplish all of that (symbolically, of course) – however, the reality is that logos simply can not carry all the needs of your branding. Consider creating a visual identity – a visual language that builds upon the logo, with additional elements such as primary and secondary colors, typographic style, photography/imagery style and secondary graphics.

Thank you for reading.

Comments
  1. Darin Bushman says:

    05/03/2012

    Re,

    I see folks all the time focusing way too heavily on the logo as if it was going to make them successful without all the hard work. All too often they try and stuff 50lbs of crap into a 1 lb bag (aka their logo). What are your thoughts on logo crowdsource sites like logotournament.com . Is it possible to get your needs met on a logo using crowdsourcing?

    Darin

    1. re author says:

      07/03/2012

      Sure, anyone can get a logo from sites like crowdsourcing. Except, the bigger question is: WHY have just a logo? If there’s ONE thing I would love entrepreneurs and small businesses to realize is that ANYONE can create a logo. But, if you’re interested in creating a brand to attract your target audiences, command a premium pricing, or distinguish yourself from competitors, forget the logo – and create a brand. Create a brand that emphasizes relationship, experience, and emotional connection with people. It’s not always about the logo.

  2. Jasmine Sky says:

    15/07/2012

    Boy, can I speak to this from experience!

    I love how you’ve expressed this, Re, “Why have just a logo?” !!! We non-branding professionals really don’t get that the logo is NOT the brand. This is still impacting me on a daily basis as I work with my brand as you have defined it for me. My brand has taken on a real life personality – one that can be related to by my ideal client. No brand mark can do that. Yes, the brand mark is what they see repeatedly but it is only one expression of the brand. My brand so came alive for me after working with Re. it literally took on a life of its own – something I had never dreamed was possible.

    BTW, I’ve had many logos created for me in my life but never in the way that Re’s designer created my new one. She b-lined directly to the ‘personality’ of my brand as Re had defined it and dug deep into that to make sure those elements were expressed in the mark. Consequently it expresses my brand fabulously because it is a symbol of the very essence of my brand.

    Thanks Re for your incredible gifts and your dedication to educating all of us entrepreneurs on just what a brand is!!!

    1. Re Perez author says:

      15/07/2012

      Thank you, Jasmine. We are thrilled to see your new brand come to life in all its forms. Your passion and enthusiasm is inspirational. And your hand-painted silk art wear is stunning — a true gift for women.

  3. Erin Ferree says:

    16/07/2012

    Hi, Re – My heart did a little dance of joy when I read “Don’t develop a logo without a brand strategy”. I get the “what do you think?” question often and I always answer, “that depends” as well, because otherwise I’d just be giving my personal reaction (yes, as a design expert… but without data it would just be opinion anyways). Bravo! – Erin

    1. Re Perez author says:

      18/07/2012

      Erin – Love the dance of joy! I’m glad you can relate to this conversation. :-)

  4. Michelle Cornu says:

    06/11/2012

    I also danced of joy When I read “logo with a brand strategy” . I believe that branding Is very emotional and so close to people that they relate to logos quickly and forget why it Is there, what we are trying to achieve. À logo Is only a little part of the puzzle. Often I see people stuck on the pixel forgetting the big picture! Thank you for this little reminder.
    Michelle.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>