What Should Your Logo Do For You?

July 22, 2009 | Branding, Design Basics

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Last week I was at an in-person networking event of the LinkedIn Maine Entrepreneurs group. I met someone who had recently started their own company and he told me that he gave up on trying to get a logo designed and decided to move ahead without a logo. I’m not going to mention names or go into the details of his business, as it’s not important for this story, but let me tell you the gist of what he said.

“We tried working with two different designers and neither one produced anything we liked.”  He continued: “I think that a well-designed logo should be able to stand on it’s own. And that someone looking at it, without seeing the business name, should know exactly what the company does.”

Honestly, I was floored. I do not think this is the way to judge the merits of a logo, and here’s why:

  • You can’t illustrate all business concepts: If a logo is supposed to illustrate specifically what a company does, what about companies that do very abstract things such as business consulting, or human resource counseling?
  • There will be a sameness with your competitors: If a logo should clearly show the line of business would all bookstores, book publishers, libraries and maybe even authors have a book for their logo?
  • What do you decide to illustrate? If you try to clearly show the specifics of your business, where do you stop? If you are a carpenter, you might show a hammer, and a saw, and a level, and some wood and a house and and some shelves, etc. But then you realize that every other carpenter would be showing those same things.

hammer+sawHowever, your logo can be a tool for your business. I would argue that there are very few instances where your logo will be shown without your business name, or that someone will have no idea what business category you are in. And, if they have no idea, they really are not a prospective client at that moment anyway. Therefore, use your logo to be unique, different and memorable.

What a high quality logo can do

  • Differentiate. If you are a book publisher, it is likely that someone will see your name within a certain framework (the spine of a book, on your web site, etc.) so there is context. Therefore instead of just making sure that everyone knows you are a publisher (and show a book), you pick a differentiator. This could be something with your name (a monogram for example). Or, something highlighting the genre you focus on (a flower for gardening books).
  • Focus. As you choose how to differentiate yourself, this is the chance to focus on one of your strengths that may not be initially considered. For example, every carpenter does not need to show a hammer and saw. They could focus on their specific end result: a framed house, a piece of furniture, etc.
  • Stand out. Most of all, your logo can be a place to be memorable and stand out from the crowd of competitors. Use an interesting angle or an interesting style to set yourself apart.

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