What makes a great logo?
There’s no ‘blood test’ for great design, but here’s a few pointers
Well, if that ain’t the question to end it all – “What makes a great (or even a good) logo?” Despite having been in the business for over thirty years (eek – though The Logo Factory has been around for almost twenty of that) and having been privy to the creation of thousands of logos (as both a designer and a CD at the shop) it’s still a difficult question. Naturally, we all know a great logo design when we see it. Just like many of our clients. And, conversely, we can identify a bad logo just as quickly.
Unfortunately, these are but our opinions – we ’d argue ‘educated’ opinions – but opinions nonetheless. What about a litmus test for what makes a good logo and on the flip side, a bad one? Not so easy. Over the years, our designers have boiled it down to sliding scales of two factors – concept (the idea behind the logo) and execution (the actual artwork itself.) A great logo would have both excellent concept and execution. I’ve also seem brilliantly executed company logos where the concept is lacking or bland, and terrific concepts that fell short on the execution side – poor rendering, overuse of special FX, etc. Does it work? Let’s take a look at the basic premise presented.
Concept & execution – hallmarks of a ‘great’ design.
Using a few logo design examples from our portfolio, let’s take a look at effective concept and execution and how these two factors ‘play out’ to make a ‘good logo’ or even a ‘great’ logo..
When The Logo Factory designed this logo for a tak radio host, the main concern was the execution of the artwork (though the typography and icon had to be designed in such a way as to allow them to ‘stand alone’ as logos in their own right.) The concept of this logo played a secondary role but that still doesn’t stop it from being a nifty design (though you might argue the idea of having a radio celeb holding his brand is a pretty cool concept in itself.)
Here’s two examples of TLF logo samples that are driven primarily by concept (with rendering – while still technically proficient – taking a back seat.)
The logo for Electric Lemonade contains all the company elements in one simple icon – the name, a graphic notion of what the company does – as does the wonderful logo for Wonderstore Developments (both shown here.)
Remaining graphically simple and iconic, it could be argued that these logos are of the ‘traditional’ school of thought for a corporate logo. Typography, while still complementing the logo, is subtle and non-distracting and the icons are more than capable of standing on their own. So, now we have some form of ‘blood test.’ Most ‘great’ logos are based on two ’sliding’ scales – one for concept. The other for execution.
Does it work? I think so. If you’ll take a look at the brands that you like, I think you’ll probably find that they are unique in either concept or execution. And that’s probably a good measure of what to aim for when you’re looking to have your own corporate logo developed.
So, what makes a bad logo?
Okay, so now we have some idea of what makes a ‘great brand logo’. What about the converse? Does the lack of execution or concept make a ‘bad’ logo? Let’s take a look. Using this formula, take a look at pretty well all the so-called logo templates sold by many online sites – you know the ones; you pick a ‘design’ from a series of ready-made logos and substitute your company name for some generic copy. Do the logos have concepts? No (most are just meaningless squiggles and shapes.) How do they stack up on execution? Pretty badly. If they’re squiggles, this is a forgone conclusion. If they’re illustrations or actual objects these logos are either awful, or rendered in a manner that is consistent with most clip art collections (consistent line thickness, photo-traced realism.)
Here’s a design that’s been ‘inspired’ (it’s verbatim) by an actual example from a ‘logo-template’ site (No, we ain’t kidding. No, we aren’t telling.) No concept. No execution. For all practical purposes this isn’t even a logo. Impractical to copyright. Probably impossible to trademark. And while you can purchase logos like this for next to nothing all over the Internet, it could be argued that a ‘logo’ like this is worse that not having one at all.