1. Research, research, research…
Research is everything. It’s your first and last name, as well as your food and bed, when you are creating a brand.
Research is the most important part of designing a logo, and branding as a whole. Logo design with strong branding focus can easily push the limits of a five-figure budget primarily due to extensive research.
Whether you are a solo freelancer or part of a branding team, your client’s target audience will heavily influence the decisions you make and the direction your design goes towards. Understanding a company’s marketing strategy is as important as placing the keystone in a building foundation. Research encompasses everything from typography selection to presenting to a focus group.
2. A strong name is recognizable
Giving an identity a name and then giving the name a face. These are your bottom line goals when planning out your design. In that order. A strong name, with or without a mark, has to be recognizable without any taglines. It must carry weight of its own.
For the life of me, no one can remember my last name, much less how to pronounce it (it’s Mekkaoui by the way). But, say for example, I had you write it and pointed out that it included all the vowels in the alphabet, then you might remember me next time you come across it.
In branding however, we don’t have that luxury. I would have to be able to catch your attention as you zipped down the supermarket aisle. Hence, I made a short, rare name that I identify myself with and use persistently all over the web: Imokon.
When Coca-Cola briefly changed their formula in 1985, people flipped over sabotaged history. Can you imagine their reaction if Coca-Cola changed their name to Sanscoca Fizzola? Exactly.
Coming up with a strong name can either be fun or a complete burden. Regardless of whether it’s made up (Skype), a misspelling (Google), or a simple word (Borders, Apple); it all goes back to marketing strategy. You can read more about brand name types here.
3. A good logo builds trust
The logo is the first impression, of not just who a company is, but how trustworthy it is – and in turn, how much a consumer will open up.
It is very probable that one of three thoughts will go through your mind:
This place has a crappy Disney-esque logo.
Is this a Disney company too?
What’s the point?
…to which I’ll answer: the first two possible answers are exactly what I mean about face. That bubbly calligraphy used in the signature Walt Disney logotype is so well branded that the word Disney is all that you would think of.
This is the difference between This is a trustworthy site because it’s obviously Disney’s or This is a spam site and they couldn’t have made it more obvious.
4. A good logo is distinctive and unique
A strong logo, like a handsome face, does not tell you what’s inside; rather, it is a strong distinction amongst the masses, despite impersonation.
You probably didn’t read the word cup in the second logo. Your eye stopped at Coffee.
The first three, especially if rendered in grayscale, look very similar.
The green caught your eye more than all the brown.
You blinked at the Starbucks logo because it wasn’t really a Starbucks logo … but you still heard Starbucks in your head.
The creativity in designing a logo is not focusing on the subliminal—or the art—it’s in making an impact. The subtle hints (like the FedEx arrow for example) come naturally after the fact.
5. Details can make or break your design
Now that we got the big items out of the way, let’s focus on the nitty-gritty stuff. You can waste a lot of time going back and forth with ideas, but in the end, simplicity is always a win-win solution. If you’ve never applied the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid), you can be rest assured that you will in your logo project.
If you have it made as a branding firm, you will have a very experienced typography expert on your team. If not, you’re still not completely out of luck.
Reflecting back on the client’s target market – you’ll want to see what kind of fonts are common in that industry and what fonts are used by top competitors. Hint: one of the best ways to do this is looking at movie posters and magazine covers.
For example, the Bank Gothic typeface is mainly seen in action or sci-fi movies like X-men Origins: Wolverine or Hancock, but it’s been used in bad taste in Chipotle and Capital One Bank buildings.
Now the ITC Avant Garde Gothic typeface is almost a default fashion industry standard. Yet, I’ve seen Bank Gothic font used for a designer swimwear brand. Go figure – the fact that it was active clothing in nature might have made all the difference.
For a more antique impression, many go with Trajan Pro, which traces back to ancient Roman columns and works wonders anywhere from Micheal Jackson’s This is it to law firms or universities. However, you would never want to use this on packaging for baby products. It’s simply doesn’t give off a good vibe.