Your logo design appears on everything from your letterhead to your website, reaching customers, prospects, suppliers and the press. In other words, your logo reaches everyone and is the first impression someone will have of your company, therefore your logo needs to create a favorable introduction. Present yourself clearly and dynamically by using these logo design rules, and you’ll look like a pro, even if your office is your basement.
Easier said than done, you say? Maybe. Luckily, however, there are time-tested guidelines to follow in your quest for a great logo. Whether you hire an agency or do it yourself, commit these rules to memory (or at least bookmark this Web page):
1. Your logo design should reflect your company in a unique and honest way. Sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how many entrepreneurs want something “just like” a competitor. If your logo contains a symbol (often called a “bug”), it should relate to your industry, your name, a defining characteristic or to a competitive advantage. What’s the overriding trait your want people to remember about your business? If it’s quick delivery, consider objects that connote speed, like wings or a clock. Consider an abstract symbol to convey a progressive approach (abstracts are a great choice for high-tech companies). Or maybe you simply want an object representative of the product or service you’re selling. Be clever if you can, but not at the expense of being clear.
2. Avoid too much detail. “Simple” logos are recognized faster than complex ones. Strong lines and letters show up better than thin ones, and clean, simple logos reduce and enlarge much better than complicated ones.
Although your logo should be simple, it shouldn’t be simplistic. Good logos feature something unexpected or unique without being overdrawn. Look at the pros: McDonald’s, Nike, Prudential. Notice how their logos are simple yet compelling. Anyone who’s traveled by a McDonald’s with a hungry four-year-old knows the power of a clean logo symbol.
3. It should work well in black and white (one-color). If it doesn’t look good in black and white, it won’t look good in any color. (Also keep in mind printing costs for 4-color logos are often greater than that for one or 2-color).
4. Your logo design should be scalable. It should be aesthetically pleasing both small and large, in a variety of mediums. A good rule of thumb is the “biz card/billboard” rule: your logo should look good on both.
5. It should be artistically balanced. The best way to explain this is that the logo should seem “balanced” to the eye – no one part should overpower the rest. Just as a painting would look odd if all color and detail were segregated in one corner, so do asymmetric logos. Color, line density and shape all affect a logo’s balance.
Many logo gurus insist your logo should be designed to last for up to 10 or 15 years. But I’ve yet to meet a clairvoyant when it comes to design trends. The best way to ensure longevity, in addition to the rules above, is to make sure you love your logo. Don’t settle for something half-baked.
Once you commit to your logo design, you’ll need it in three essential file formats: EPS for printing, JPG and GIF for your website. Essentially, these file conversions render your logo a single piece of art (i.e., no longer a symbol with a typeface). Which brings us to the most important rule in logo use:
Never, never re-draw or alter your logo. If you want to animate it for your website, fine. But don’t change its essence. Reduce and enlarge proportionally. If you become tired of your logo, good. That’s usually about the time it’s starting to make an impression on everyone else!