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A series of Design Help tips, suggestions & practical advice assembled by designers in our studio. For more help features check out the Buyer’s Branding Tips category on our blog.

Logos To Avoid

Overused, overdone & completely unoriginal logo design clichés

The logos on this page are amongst the most popular of all time. Not popular as in “I like that cool logo.” Popular as in “hey, let’s use a logo just like this one.” Which when you get right down to it, isn’t exactly a a ringing endorsement, especially since any exercise in branding is supposedly about designing an original logo. Accordingly, let’s take a look at the most overused and overdone logos of all time. Don’t get us wrong. These were all perfectly great logos at one time, in fact some of them were brilliantly original ideas when they were first conceived.
But that was a long time, and a bazillion knock-offs, ago.

Since then, they’ve become the most unoriginal logo concepts of all time. Except for the original versions, which are still pretty cool. They are also treatments that are to be avoided at all costs, as using one as your company logo will advertise to a job chunk of the world that you, or the designer you hired, are a bit lacking in the originality department.

The ubiquitous swoosh (swish) logo.

Swoosh (swish) logoGranted, the ‘swoosh in a logo‘ phenomenon has died down a little bit since becoming passe shortly after the dot com crash at the turn of the century, but there’s still an occasional swishy, swooshy breakout when one designer gets lazy. And a whole bunch more take their lead. Swooshes are a perennial favorite because they’re thought to represent high tech companies and because many communication giants started using them around 1996. Many designers believe that the swoosh comes from the Nike logo, but that mark was around for eons before swishes were getting slapped on logos left and right. The most common swoosh owes its heritage to the rings surrounding Saturn (which is cool, because the Saturn car company used a swoosh in their logo too, though they did have a sound reason to do so, before they went belly-up.) Swishes, swooshes and orbital rings are a favorite with designers because they’re incredibly fast to produce.

Drop a circle, copy and drag, extrude.

While we celebrate the swoosh for serving many deadline crunched and concept-addled designers for years, it’s time to give it a rest. By the way, Saturn, the planet (not the car company) called. It wants its ring back.

The Multiple Swoosh Extravaganza logo

Swoosh extravaganza logoOscar Wilde is often quoted as saying “Moderation is a fatal thing. Nothing succeeds like excess.” Which is exactly what’s going on with multiple swoosh logos. We’re down with the excess. Not sure about the succeeding part. The thinking is this – if one swoosh is nice, then a whole bunch of swooshes is a lot nicer. Like its solo counterpart, the multi-swish extravaganza is favored due to the lack of time (and originality) it takes to create. Once we’ve created one swoosh, it’s simply a matter of Control-C copy. Then Control-V paste, paste, paste. And paste again. Used to be that clients doled out bonus points whenever a designer managed to artfully wrap a couple of swooshes around the first letter of a company name. It’s not every day you see that kind of design brilliance. Well, actually, it is.

Every bloody day.

One-legged pointy man logo

One legged pointy man logoIncorporating figures into a logo requires a little bit of design prowess. The human body is an incredibly complex mechanism, and paring all the bits and pieces down to a simple graphic ain’t easy. Unless we resort to One-legged Pointy. Don’t know how this poor guy lost a leg, but lose a leg he did. Replaced with shish kabob skewers, looks like he lost his hands too. This graphic element has been used for almost every design theme that calls for a human figure, particularly in the sports logo categories. No real surprise there – we can bend him, twist him and skew him for soccer, hockey and football logos. Lest we think that Pointy is but a mindless jock restricted to athletics, he’s also been seen wrapped in a swoosh or two. You know, for more hi-tech and brainiac themed designs. Despite his decidedly non-bipedal nature, Pointy Man is a case study in true adaptability. Though if you’re thinking of adapting him for your logo, it’s time to hit the drawing board afresh.

Synchronized one-legged pointy men logo.

Synchronized pointy men logo

Remember what Mr. Wilde said about excess earlier? Same can be said for One-legged Pointy Man. Excessive use of little triangular figures can only improve on already brilliant logo, right?

To showcase a community vibe, Pointy and his friends can be found in all sorts of configurations but they’re especially fond of half-circular and circular formations. These look really nice sitting on top of centered typography. Lots of groups, communities and networks like these logos. Medical organizations can’t get enough of it. Which is why you shouldn’t use it..

Swish man logo.

Swish man logoDespite having all his limbs intact, Swish Man is slightly less adaptable than Pointy, and usually remains on a until a logo calls for some sort of human movement. Running, walking, even riding a bike, it’s all good.

Like his pal Pointy, Swish doesn’t have any hands, or feet for that matter, but his arms and legs can be rotated into a large variety of positions for the appearance of more, or less, speediness. Alas, Swish Man is a solo player, as the introduction of others will leave any logo looking like a jumble of broken Saturn rings. Or swooshes. Which when you get down to it, is exactly what he’s made from.

The Ubuntu widget logo knock-off logo

unbutu widget knock offIf we could only pick one logo as the most overused and overdone design, the wonderful little Ubuntu logo would probably be it. Or rather, one of the three widgets that makes up the Ubuntu logo (right), originally developed for the open source operating system of the same name. The original logo is supposed to ubuntu widgetrepresent a birds-eye view of little men, complete with round heads and out-stretched arms and the Ubuntu Widget presents a endless variety of graphic possibilities. All of which have been done to death. Community logo? Check. Communication logo? Check. Anything to do with people interacting with people and we’re good to go. The Ubuntu Widget is usually used in a group of three, but some versions will see four, or even five widgets in a circle. The Ubuntu widget is probably one of the most copied logos of all time. Over the years, there’s been a few variants thrown into the mix. To whit:

The huggy Ubuntu logo.

huggy ubuntu logosThis huggy version of the standard Ubuntu widget can usually be found in church, day-care center and support group logos. Group hugs are favored but one-on-one variants can be found in their natural habitat, the community care business card design. While not technically Ubuntus, we’ve had to widen this category to include some pointy-handed hybrids. That’s okay, because nothing says “we care” more than a Huggy Ubuntu, pointy-handed or not.

The swimming Ubuntu logo

swimming ubuntu logosThink synchronized swimming. Birds eye view. You can almost hear the water splashing. Very similar to the Huggy, this logo can often been seen at gigs for day care, school and other community based groups. Lot of internet companies too. For additional ‘swirly’ goodness, the Swimming Ubuntus are often featured with alternating colors.

The dancing Ubuntu logo.

dancing ubuntu logoNothing says “fun, fun, fun” like a chorus of twinkle-toed Ubuntus tripping the light fantastic. Might be to that infernal “birdy dance” though. You know, that stupid country track that your Gran insists you dance with her to, usually at one of your cousin’s wedding. The Dancing Ubuntus have you covered. There are several versions of this approach in circulation, but most are a variation on three or four dancing partners, doing the “doh-see-doh”, as seen from above. Like a bird. Sitting in the rafters. Of a barn.

The quarterback huddle Ubuntu logo.

The Quarterback Huddle Ubuntu logoThere’s nothing that illustrates putting smart heads together more than the Quaterback Huddle Ubuntu. Almost a backwards version of the logo proper, these logos combine the community theme of the original, with an added dose of “ain’t we smart” worms view symbolism. There’s been a recent outbreak of Quaterback Ubuntus featuring Joomla colors cause nothing speaks of interactivity more than red, green, orange and blue. And why be even remotely original if we can knock off the colors too?

The Joomla rings knock-off logo.

The Joomla Rings knock-off logoWith all of its intertlinked goodness, the original Joomla logo represents the open-source content management system (CMS) of the same name. The original Joomla is so nice, its little intertwined people (made up of the letter J) have been a source of design inspiration for many would-be designers the world over. Got to give it to the original. It rocks. But who needs original when we can simply borrow the concept, tweak it a bit, stopping only to figure out what ring goes under, and what ring goes over. The overlapping Joomla rings logo comes in all sorts of configurations. from circles, to ellipses and has been spotted in threesomes and foursomes. Many Joomlas still feature their original color palette because as we’ve mentioned, nothing speaks of interactivity more than red, green, orange and blue. How much as the Joomla logo been ripped on? No idea, but it’s a lot.

The damn boat logo.

damn boat logoWhen our designers developed this little boat logo almost ten years ago, it was a pretty nifty. Then it went to #1 on Google, and everyone and their brother wanted a copy. And while we get ‘imitation is the sincerest form of flattery’ and all, we just wish people would come up with their own concepts from time-to-time. That way, we can stop hearing our designers screech “again with the boat logo!”

That would be nice.

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Logo Design Help Center

A collection of helpful and informative tutorials for designers, do-it-yourselfers and anyone interested in branding their company.


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