what makes a great logo design

What makes a great logo?

Isn’t it funny how inspiration strikes for a blog post? Creating great logo designs is the backbone of our business, and yet whilst it’s something we do on a weekly basis, we don’t often stop and break down what makes a great logo – not unless we have a new team member starting at least. But sometimes things just come together don’t they, and you just feel inspired to write – do you find that? A few weeks back I read a great post on the Wolf Olins blog called What makes a better logo? in which one of their designers wrote:

These days everyone seems to have an opinion about graphic design. Some classify good graphic design as something they can’t create themselves, design that’s aesthetically complex or looks like it was really hard to make.

I chuckled a little smugly to myself and thought nothing more of it really. Great post, perceptively written, but surely everyone knows that a great logo isn’t about doing something clever with Photoshop or Illustrator that you couldn’t do yourself? But I’ve come across a few things recently that have inspired me to put my marker in the sand and explore what makes a great logo.

So what does make a great logo?

Concepts are important, but all too often they overshadow the fact that the finished result just wasn’t polished enough or simply didn’t look right. Sometimes this is down to inexperience, other times it’s down to a difference in focus. Either way, nothing is more important than the logo looking great and sending out the right signals for the business.

Fonts are utterly essential in our book. Fonts convey meaning, they add personality, quirks and distinction. Some of the greatest logos ever created are simply fonts (logotypes) that exude the right personality and attract the right clients. Sure – much of the personality and attracting the right clients comes through the brand identity as a whole – but the logo is the punctuation mark to that.

Colour is essential. Colour enables you to communicate powerfully because it works at a subconscious level. Picking the right colour for a logo is about more than reverting to black – it’s about using colours that capture the essence of the brand: hues that support the brand values and tones that communicate a cohesive message.

It’s not about overlooking the obvious. Coming up with a great logo isn’t about how clever you can be in terms of concepts – how far you can push the boundaries. Sure, no one appreciates something that looks like it was downloaded from a stock library (which leads me on to my next point…) but if you have a company called Blue Elephant for arguments sake, no one’s going to knock points off for you not showing a blue elephant in one of the concepts. There’s little benefit in being different for the sake of “earning your money”.

Original artwork. If this is your distinctive brand mark then if you’re going to have an icon you need it to be bespoke to you. And that’s the risk with having something that comes from a stock library, the last thing you want is to see another business with the same design. Sure, you may well see things that are similar to your icon – if you sell cupcakes for example there are only so many ways that you can draw a cupcake, you’re likely to see something similar at some point, but if you also combine great colours and distinctive fonts with a strong brand identity then there should be no confusion about whose business they’re looking at.

Finally (and interestingly as I have found it hard to separate the two in this post) it doesn’t start and finish with the logo design. The brand identity is so important as it pushes the communication so much further, keeps it cohesive and really conveys your brand personality.

Most of all, a great logo has to create the right feeling when you look at it. It has to answer the brief. And that means pulling together beautiful typography, a powerful colour palette and strong creative skills to execute a logo that is both cohesive and confident. Those are my views, what are yours? What do you think makes a great logo design? Do share your thoughts and opinions below…

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