If you don’t want your brand to end up in a blog about logo blunders, read this.
A simple internet search for “bad logos” will pull a laundry list of laughs. Do you always know WHY those are logo blunders? Sometimes, it’s easy to spot. Other times, you might be left scratching your head and wondering takeaway there is, so you don’t make the same mistake.
Logo design isn’t easy. It’s more than picking shapes and colors. It’s definitely not picking what your mother likes (unless, of course, your mother is someone like Paula Scher). Logos require thought. A lot of it: about your brand, your target audience, the message you want to send… it can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, there ARE straightforward principles that will help you avoid a few logo blunders.
We’ve culled a few of these logo blunders and interviewed our own CEO Re Perez and Brand Designers Lidya Toscano and Cindy Reyes to give you, The People, 10 helpful tips, organized by topic, so that your brand doesn’t end up on a Pinterest board of bad logo designs.
1) Don’t have multiple, competing primary elements.
[kraft foods logo image]
[Border Angels image]
A primary element is something people notice first. It’s often used as a metaphor for a specific message. Too many of these, and your logo looks cluttered.
Keep it simple. Don’t over-complicate it. So, when is too much… too much? Pick a single story or message: don’t try to tell everything. You don’t even need a tagline within the logo. Remember that you never have to be literal. What’s enough for people to see a house? It might be a square with a triangle.
Yes, there are exceptions.
Like Hermés. It took 175+ years for that brand to build a perception. Sometimes the elder gets a temporary pass.
2) Minimize the different number of styles used in the art.
Every graphic in the logo should be designed with the same style. Otherwise, it will look like mismatched puzzle pieces that don’t fit. That’s why this one is a logo blunder on multiple blogs:
Can you see how the house, the sun, and the flowers aren’t drawn with the same style? It looks cluttered and messy. If you want a retro logo, stick with retro elements. If you want a Victorian logo, well… call us first… but be consistent.
3) Keep the number of fonts in the logo to a minimum.
No more than 2. Preferably 1. Three is unlikely to ever work. Your logo will look cluttered and hard to read. We aren’t negotiating on this one.
(Don’t forget last week’s blog… font logo is relevant to personality too!)
Kerning is the spacing between letters. Too little or too much space will not only make words hard to read, but also change the word altogether. Esurance learned this lesson quickly (although not with their logo) when, from a distance, the word “click” looked very different.
Did you know that graphics can pose the same threat to space in a logo? Take a look at the NYC Taxi logo, which appears on a number of logo blunder lists:
The graphic “T” within the circle breaks up the wording so that “Taxi” is actually “T” and “axi.” (Also, the circled T seems to be stuck in the middle of a fight between two competing fonts. Poor T..)
5) Avoid outlines and drop shadows.
Outlines and shadows below text will be a problem when resizing the logo. For small logos, lines will appear thicker and shadows will make any text hard to read. Legibility becomes a problem. These two logo blunders are also un-creative ways to make something stand out. Work with shapes, colors, space instead.
Take a look at Fandango’s change:
6) Size matters.
Logos must work in small sizes. Why? Your logo will need to appear in different applications (particularly online). In some instances, you might need adaptations of your logo that work as icons (think Facebook and Twitter).
Test your logo as a 1” square. This is also a good, general legibility test. Can you still see it? Or does it turn into a splotch of ink? It might have that WOW factor when blown up on the wall in your office, but if someone can’t see the small version, then go back to the drawing board.
7) Does your logo use color theory?
Like it or not, there is a consumer psychology behind color. Certain colors are associated with certain emotions and perceptions. Does your logo use color theory in a way that helps your brand? Or does it ignore consumer perception completely? This doesn’t mean you can’t be different, but your logo must consider the psychology behind the colors it uses.
Take a look at this example.
The reason McDonald’s uses red is its association with hunger and appetite, and yellow, because McDonald’s is in the business of happiness. Would green ever work for Ronald’s empire?
8) Does your logo remind people of another brand?
If so, then you have no differentiation. It will kill any personality you are trying to create. In the movement for simplicity, it sometimes happens. It isn’t always the result of copycat efforts. Fortunately, reverse image searching for logo designs is becoming easier, but it isn’t foolproof given the millions of logos in the world.
Yet, sometimes, this logo blunder is a bit too obvious:
Again, initial feedback from extra pairs of eyes can save you from inadvertent logo blunders. Non-designers may not be able to explain color psychology or why something doesn’t work, which, of course, is never helpful feedback for a designer. However, consumers can be a great resource by spotting when a logo looks like someone else’s.
9) Does your logo look like it’s NSFW?
Put on the grade school hat if you want to avoid this logo blunder. It will detract from the personality you want like a bad zit on your middle school forehead.
How many bad logos look like sexual innuendos? There are literally hundreds out there. We’ll highlight the importance of this particular logo blunder by sharing one that may be a bit more difficult to see. Is there something other than two people dancing?
How does this happen? Well, designers are human and are involved in creating the vision they see for the logo. Take a step back. Sometimes, a second pair of eyes are needed. Have someone else look at the logo, perhaps a couple of teenagers. You aren’t looking for high-brow feedback. What do people see the first time they see your logo?
Pay attention if they snicker. Especially teenage boys.
Harmony & Unity
10) Everything must work together.
If your logo includes multiple, distinct elements, like a font and a graphic, they must work in unison. Otherwise, the logo will appear disjointed and unconnected like an awkward Frankenstein. Take a look at this logo blunder from Hilton:
Although the graphic and the font, separately, might be interesting, that’s the problem: they look distinct and separate. It’s like someone designed a logo, then someone else added a company name after it. They don’t work together. There’s no real balance across the image and the text.
Although logo design can be a fun challenge, these guiding principles can help you avoid common logo blunders. Perhaps the easiest rule to remember is one we haven’t mentioned: if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. GAP learned this the hard way when it redesigned it’s classic, successful logo to something that seemed like it was keeping up with the Joneses. So, if you’re redesigning a logo, are you doing it simply to keep up with trends? Or following well understood design principles to improve on a brand message?
If your brand has taken you as far it can go, there’s only one way to take it further. It’s not with a marketing agency. Not with a business coach. Not even a graphic designer.
It makes common sense to hire a branding agency … for branding. And, you can do that in just 2-days with our “Branding Intensive“.