Logo Design Workshop

If you study some of the best-known logos around, you will notice that they all have one aspect in common; they all go out of their way to be different.

Take a look at the logos of Coca Cola, Mobil Oil, IBM, and Kellogg's. They are all uniquely different, and are instantly recognisable across the world. If you were to take any one of them and cut it into pieces, even the individual pieces would still be identifiable.

To make a logo so powerful takes two things, time and money. All these logos have been around for quite some time and have had millions spent on promoting them in advertising and packaging. When you design a new logo, you certainly won't have the benefit of time, and you will be very fortunate indeed if it eventually gets the money behind it to make it an icon of our times.

One thing is for sure, if you don't get the basic principles right, it doesn't matter how much you spend, a bad logo won't get a chance to stand up to the test of time, it will be replaced pretty quickly.

Some logos have been around for years with little or no changes. They look every bit as relevant today as they did when they were introduced umpteen years ago. Designers, for instance, have tinkered with the Coca Cola logo, over the years but the changes have been evolutionary rather than revolutionary. It's not what you would call a modern logo. It was originally designed 'in-house' back in 1886 and despite the many changes that have been made over the years; it is essentially the same logo.

There are two lessons to be learnt here. Firstly, overly trendy logos can date quickly and can become embarrassments to a company. If you can put a date to a logo, there is probably something wrong with it. Almost every well-known logo that you can think of is just as relevant today as it was years ago.

Secondly, there's consistency. Unlike the Coca Cola logo, the Pepsi Cola logo has changed significantly over the years. It was originally very similar to the Coca Cola one, written in a flowery script style. Today, it is arguably more modern, with its bold sans serif typeface, but loses out on the classic, timeless aspect of Coca Cola's heritage. To gain universal recognition, any company or brand image depends on the amount of exposure it gets. If its changed every few years because it is starting to look old fashioned or through some chairman's whim, then it has to be relearned by the public and it back to square one.

If you are designing a logo for a company or product that has an established logo, think twice before suggesting any radical changes. Look firstly at an evolutionary change that makes it more relevant to today's market. That doesn't mean 'modernise' it, some years ago, the fashion was to 'modernise' logos with a starker 'Swiss' look. A look that lost many companies their hard-earned traditional values.

If you look at the logos of some successful hi-tech companies and see what we can learn from those. Take Microsoft, IM, Canon, Sony, Apple. They are all fairly simple, with the exception of Apples 'apple' symbol; all are just the name of the company written in a distinctive way. 'Distinctive' is the important factor here. These are not ordinary typefaces bought from Adobe or downloaded from a free font site on the Web. They have all been specifically designed and hand-drawn so that they are not the same as any other typeface.

Microsoft has a fairly ordinary bold italic sans typeface, but the 'o' has a nick out of it making it more distinctive, recognisable and memorable. IBM has 'scan lines' running through a bold 'Egyptian' style font. Canon has a particularly distinctive initial 'C'. Sony has what is probably the least distinctive type style of all these examples, an extended slab-serif, but the word itself is so unique it can get away with it. The choice of company and product titles is another important factor. The Apple logo is the only one, which has seen a recent change, an evolutionary one where the rainbow stripes have been replaced by a single colour.

None of these logos are what you might call 'fashionable'. Apple's rainbow stripes were, but have given way to a more classical approach. In doing so, the logo has lost some of its distinctiveness but it was clearly dating the company's image, which is undesirable for a company wanting to appear innovative. Graphic styles, like clothes, go in and out of fashion all the time.

There are certain clichés associated with every discipline you can think of. Look through the Yellow Pages or a clip art CD and you will see thousands of them. In logo design, clichés are counter productive. Instead of making your logo look unique, you are confusing it with every other company that uses the same visual idea. In fact, using such devices can make the company look run-of-the-mill and cheap. But take a cliché and give it a twist, use it out of context or in a different way, you will have given your logo something that people will remember.

There is very little value in copying someone else's logo. A logo should ideally be as different from every other one as you can possibly make it. It should also communicate something about the company or product other than just its name. You have an opportunity to add some additional values subliminally through your choice of typeface and colour.

Most corporate logo need to work across a wide spectrum of usage situations - signage, stationary, packaging, promotional items and mainstream advertising. They will probably require different sizes, and versions for different applications too, their uses are limitless.

Designing a logo today means that it will probably be used on the Web. In fact, the Web could well be its main expression and print little or no consideration. A logo designed for Web use has to take into account that it will be displayed at a small size, in a relatively low resolution and possibly with a restricted colour palette. If designing specifically or primarily for the Web, you should start with Web safe colours, not Pantone or ink colours. It is easier to match printing ink to Web safe colours than the other way around.

10/11/09 - Portfolio updated

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