The Anatomy of an Unstoppable Corporate Logo

Block of Famous Corporate Logos

Posted on 13 May 2014 by Kyle Sanders

Image source: Deviant Art

Just as your own face has thousands of muscles, fibers, nerve endings, lines, wrinkles, and edges (not to mention a few vitally important sensory organs), the inner workings of logo creation can be equally intricate. Construction, in either case, requires a deft hand and clinical precision. Grab your scalpels, my fellow brand physicians. Today, we’re going to do some exploratory surgery into the anatomy of an unstoppable corporate logo.

Just as your own face has thousands of muscles, fibers, nerve endings, lines, wrinkles, and edges (not to mention a few vitally important sensory organs), the inner workings of logo creation can be equally intricate. Construction, in either case, requires a deft hand and clinical precision. Grab your scalpels, my fellow brand physicians. Today, we’re going to do some exploratory surgery into the anatomy of an unstoppable corporate logo.

Aesthetics and Branding

There are two major ideas to consider when approaching logo design.  The first is from an aesthetic perspective, essentially treating the design as an art project. That means you’re focused solely on the subjective appreciation of your logo as a piece of corporate art. Something sleek, minimalist, and perhaps with a vague metaphorical connection to your USP. You don’t want to be too literal in your representations, as that can make things overly complex, and then you’re ranging far from the minimalist ideal. The second idea is to approach your logo as an almost secondary element within the overall structure of your corporate branding strategy. According to Seth Godin, the best way to handle any logo design is to: “create an abstract image that is clean, simple and carries very little meaning until the brand of the organization adds that meaning.” Godin is pointing out that logos are only a representation of the brand, and the brand needs to build a reputation before it can take advantage of abstract representations. Logos live and die by brand perception. Let’s consider a famous example. People see the Nike Swoosh and think about:

The actions a company takes are what define the perceptions of the public at large, and those ideas are compressed and reflected within the corporate logo. Therefore, as Mr. Godin pointed out, the most important part of creating a corporate logo is to make it open-ended, and easy for people to project their own emotions toward your company upon.

Building the Perfect Corporate Logo

We’ve covered the ethics, now it’s time to get to the artistry. A few guidelines to get you started:

  • Logotypes- these are fancy, stylized variations on your company’s name. They’re more affordable and memorable as compared to the minimalist abstractions that we covered above. It’s a way of including name recognition in your branding. Definitely worth consideration.
  • Cleanliness is next to Godliness- intricate details do not scale. This logo has to appear everywhere from billboards to mobile phones. Keep it simple.
  • Inform your design with research- know your market, know your industry, and incorporate your knowledge into your logo’s symbolism. Do all this, while still avoiding clichés, which lead to…
  • Uniformity– in some ways it’s necessary, and in others it should be avoided. For example, you want your font choices to maintain a uniform aesthetic, while the logo itself needs to stand out from the crowd.
  • Color Psychology– Carefully choose your color schemes, as different shades can have vastly different effects on people’s perception of your brand. Color psychology is a complex and interesting science, that bears more than a simple once over. At the very least, you should get a firm grasp on the basic associations between emotion and color.

Beyond these basics, you want your logo to be “evergreen.” That is, you don’t want to be dated by the trendy design principles that are currently popular. Redesigns can cost a lot, so don’t get caught up in a herd mentality. Along similar lines, your logo needs to be memorable. It has to make an impact, which is yet another reason to keep its design simple, as complex details tend to escape the grasp of long term memory. Finally, you want your logo to fit with your niche. Combine the factors we’ve described in the list above. Specifically, color psychology, research, and uniformity. If you know your niche, you can more than likely spot an inappropriate visual. It’ll be a horse of a different color, so to speak. And it’s a fine line between being “fitting” versus “interchangeable.” Make sure your design errs towards the former.

If at all possible, hire a professional designer to produce your logo. It’s worth the spend as it will be unique, original, and assuming the designer knows his business: functional. Click here for more information about procuring a proper professional for your design needs.

What are your favorite corporate logos and why? List your picks in the comments.

Kyle Sanders is an Austin SEO and co-founder of Complete Web Resources, a design and marketing agency.

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