I've designed hundreds of logos, maybe even thousands if you consider all the variations.
What is a logo?
And why do I want one?
What is a logo not? Well, it is not just an illustration. Nor is it a fancy font. it is your most visible marketing tool.
- First: A logo, like any form of visual communication, is primarily an idea, like paper clips or sticky notes or e=mc2 or the golden arches.
- Second: Like all good graphic design (visual communication) a logo must hook the eye of the consumer.
- Third: It is not enough to catch the consumer's eye, you have to keep their attention with an illustration that conveys an idea that is interesting and relevant to the viewer.
- Fourth: A logo is a form of information and communication: the how, when, why, where and what of that idea. It is the call to action, the call to eat a hamburger when you see the golden arches miles away.
- Fifth: A logo is your visual brand. The style, fonts and color will dictate the design of your company's website, letterhead, sign, and everything else. Often a logo is the legal representation of a business, like the signature of an individual, or the stamp of a notary.
- An Idea — Why does my logo read as "bicycle" when half the letters are missing. In a more abstract manner, it conveys my passion for new creations, adventure and design. I hope it will invoke people to ask, "What is the connection between bicycling and graphic design?"
- Eye catching — Simple circular shapes and roughly complimentary colors (cyan and gold) read quickly at a glance.
- Attention keeping — It is an elegant design which pleases the eye, and it is a curious puzzle.
- Conveys information — It reads as "Blue Bicycle". It gives the viewer the impression of adventure, design, elegance and simplicity. Also it combines two familiar elements into something new, interesting and mysterious. These ideas or feelings are how I like to view my business and design philosophy; and the type of people that resonate with these ideas are the type of customers I like to attract.
What are the basic types of logos?
Some logo terminology.
"Logo" is the somewhat generic term for a corporate identity. Sometimes a logo is just type, sometimes it is a picture, and sometimes both.
A type treatment of a company's name. Below is the history of the Sony logo. These may seem like finicky changes nowadays, but it took Sony from 1961-1962 to redesign the logo to better translate into a new medium — neon signs.
Google uses a logotype with a decorative, customized font.
Of course, they have now reached a level of market awareness where Google can have a lot of fun playing with their logo. They call it Google Doodles. I'd love to have that job. This doodle represents the Chinese New Lunar Year, the Year of the Dragon.
On the other end of the spectrum, Google holds my personal record for OCD logo redesign. Can you spot the difference in extreme kerning below? At this size, it is only about 1 pixel difference.
2. Icon, Mark, Brand or Dingbat:
A mark evolved from the symbols potters used to identify themselves in ancient times. Now a mark is a pictogram used to represent what a person or company wants to convey in terms of information and feeling.
Here is an examples so well branded that it doesn't need an introduction; and that is the whole idea behind using an icon, so that when you are miles away from being able to read the word "McDonald's" or you just get a flash of the golden arches out of the corner of your eye, you start dreaming of hamburgers. This an abstract symbol, which reads fast and easy, but it could have been a drawing of a realistic hamburger, which is more difficult to discern, but if you've never heard of McDonald's you'd get the idea.
This is the McDonald's brand. The word 'brand' is literally derived from a cow brand. In the olden days, ranchers soon discovered it was a bad idea to brand their cows with something like, "This Here's Old McDonald's Cow," so they invented brands or pictograms to represent themselves. It keeps the cows happy, but the drawback is that everyone has to be taught what the abstract brand means.
3. Icon and Logotype: Here is another famous example. Nike has invested so much money into branding their image that they could use the word "Nike" or the "Swoosh". Most companies, however, have to combine both because they can't afford the brand recognition. Most people think that it is essential to brand their logotype; however, I think it is tres eighties.
Another favorite example is seeing how Apple Computers logo evolved. The first decorative logo is barely readable. It features Newton under an apple tree. The second logo uses the word "apple" to take a bite out of the apple. By 1984 the company was so famous they dropped the logotype and now just use an icon, which keeps getting simplier over time.
These are my favorites! I like to combine both the logotype and icon. It solves the problem of having to design three different logos, and spending millions of dollars branding your company. Below is a logo I designed for a floation spa, featuring sensory deprivation tanks. I think combining the type and icon adds aesthetic integrity and sophistication to the design. This logo both reads and feels "float" in one swoop.