Posts Categorized: Customer Questions
Rob Marsh

2 More Things to Avoid with Your Logo

A few days ago, we wrote about three things you should never include in your logo. You can read that entry here. Of course, there are more than three things to avoid when you are working on your logo. Here are two more:

#1 Avoid using too many colors in your logo. When it comes to helping your customers remember your company and visual identity, simplicity is the key. The best brands choose a single color (in some cases two) to represent their business. Coke uses red—and only red. It’s not likely you’ll ever see a blue Coca-cola logo (but Pepsi uses blue). Prudential Financial uses blue. Starbucks uses green. And all of these brands have a version of their logo in black and white that is just as recognizable as the color version.

Over time, colors help customers easily recognize brands. We read color and shape before we read the information in those shapes, so your brain recognizes a Coke can before you can even read the name printed on it. Your logo deserves no less.

In addition, if you ever need to embroider your logo onto a uniform, promotional give-away, or materials in a retail store or office, having a logo with just one or two colors will help make it possible. Gradients and multiple colors make it far more difficult and in some cases impossible to create these products. The same is true if you need to print your logo in a small area, a simple one color logo will make the job much easier.

#2 Avoid using too many fonts in your logo. How many is too many? In most cases, two fonts would be too many. Once again, it’s all about creating a simple mark and avoiding anything that can make reading it more confusing or complex. Unless you have a very compelling reason to do otherwise, one font should be enough for your logo. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, make your mark as simple as possible. Choose fonts that are easily readable and represent what your company stands for.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule. There are logos that effectively use more than one color—the discontinued rainbow Apple logo is an example. (Although Apple had a single color version to use when necessary, which has since become their “official” logo.) And there are logos that effectively use more than one font, but usually one font is the mark, and the second font is a simple descriptor to help give context to the mark.

Bottom line: keep it simple.

Read about more things to avoid when creating your logo, here.

The Recycle Symbol: Can You Use It In a Logo?

This issue came up recently when working with a customer that does roof insulating. He wanted to communicate that he uses only recycled materials, and wanted a recycling symbol in his logo. I provided him with concepts that included some circular arrow designs, keeping it abstract, because I was reluctant to use the actual symbol. It somehow felt dirty to me to use such a commonly known symbol in his branding. I feel the same way about the dollar sign (which they also wanted, but I convinced them otherwise).

Turns out, I didn’t need to be too worried. The recycling symbol is in the public domain, which means its available for anyone to use freely for any purpose. It is not trademarked. Local laws may restrict its use if its used deceptively, but otherwise its fair game to use in a logo.

I still try not to use it, because I don’t really like the way it looks incorporated into my design. I much prefer to use my own variation of it. But if the customer really has to have it, I’ll incorporate it. What do you guys think?

It’s always best to take the customer’s request, and get creative with it, so you’re not infringing on any copyright or going back to the same old design ideas. Clients want a graphic design company that will take their ideas and run with it!

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Rob Marsh

3 Things Your Logo Should Never Include

Last week we posted a note about what your logo should say. Because logos can’t possibly tell a customer everything about a product or business, you should choose a simple concept when you develop yours. You can read that post here.

There are a few things your logo should never include—and yet, we get requests from business owners almost every day to add these things anyway. So in the interest of helping you get the best logo for your business, here’s a simple list of things to leave out of your logo.

#1. The legal phrases Inc., Corp, LLP or LLC. We understand why some customers want to put these legal abbreviations in their logos. They just incorporated their business or formed their partnership. They are excited. Their business is now “for real”. And they want everyone to know it. (We even had one customer tell us his lawyer said he needed to include the LLC in his logo. The lawyer was wrong.) Before you do it, think about the familiar logos of successful companies you see every day. We would bet that none of them include these legal terms. Coca-cola or Pepsi? Nope. Ford or Mercedes? Again, no. Delta Airlines, Marriott Hotels, Avis Car Rentals? No, no, and no. Legal abbreviations are for legal documents and disclaimers in small print. They just mess up logos and confuse your customers. It’s best to leave them off.

#2. Tag lines. This one is a little tricky because so many people are used to seeing tag lines used with logos that they assume their logo must have one. The right tag line can help with your marketing if it’s used correctly. But it doesn’t belong in your logo. Tag lines change. And if you’ve included your tag line in your logo, you’ll need to update signs, business cards, and anything else you’ve printed with your logo, any time you change your tagline. And, adding elements like tag lines to a logo make them more complex and thus more difficult for your customers to remember. Again, think of the logos you see every day. Do they include tag lines? Almost never. Tag lines are for advertisements and marketing materials, not logos.

#3. Addresses, Phone Numbers, and Websites.  You might have just signed to ten-year lease on your location, and you have no plans to change your cell phone provider, but trust us, these things change more than you think. If your logo includes your phone number, you’ll have to update it some day. But more importantly, these elements just add clutter to your logo—and remember, the best logos represent a simple idea associated with your product or business. A logo that includes an icon, a business name, a tag line, a phone number, and a web address will look cluttered. The more your customer has to take in when he sees your logo, the less they will remember.

Rob Marsh

What Should Your Logo Say?

Every day we speak with dozens of small business owners who are looking for the right “look” for their business. Whether they need business cards, a website, a brochure, a presentation folder for a conference, or even a vehicle wrap, they want to make sure that the design they get communicates the right message.

As we talk, we often hear that a customer wants their logo to represent ALL of their services. A business owner who provides outsourced technical support, upon seeing her initial concepts, might say, “Well, sure, they’re great logos for a tech support company. But I also provide programming services. This logo doesn’t show any of that. And I sell computer components. Can we show some of those too? I want to make sure my customers know I can help them in more ways than one.” A bakery owner wants to show donuts, muffins, breadsticks, turn-overs, brownies, sandwiches and drinks, all in addition to a loaf of bread—just to make sure people know they can get more than bread at that location.

But “everything and the kitchen sink” is the wrong approach to logo design. Here’s why:

Think about the logos of successful companies. In most cases, their logos don’t picture their products (in fact, most don’t include any icon at all). They likely don’t even have a tag line in them. The Coca-cola logo doesn’t show a soft drink. The Barnes & Noble logo doesn’t show a book (or games, or movies, or CDs). The Starbucks logo does not feature a cup of coffee. The McDonald’s logo does not feature any food. But over time, these logos have come to represent all of these things, just by being associated with them.

There are exceptions to the rule. The Fox Broadcasting logo includes a search light—a holdover from the movie studio days. But note that they don’t include a television, a DVD, a movie screen, and a book—all products that Fox creates and sells. One icon is enough to represent all of the company’s products. The old UPS logo included a package, representing the major business that UPS is in. But it doesn’t include all the package sizes the company delivers. It didn’t represent all of the locations around the world the company delivers to. And it didn’t include all the ways UPS could deliver your package (by truck, by plane, etc.).

When you consider what you want for your logo, think about one simple idea that can be associated with the things you do. It may be an icon (like the Nike swoosh), or a letter (like the golden arches: M), or it may simply be a unique type treatment (like Virgin). Rather than asking your design team to include everything your company represents, ask them to focus on a single idea that will come to represent your company as it grows in the coming years.