Brilliant Logos – 7 Methods to Reach an “Aha” Moment

Ask any toddler what this is. Even before s/he can say the store name, the logo is known, and the excitement is real. This Toys R Us logo is the visual identity of a brand.

The lettering, the backwards “R,” and the colors are all part of a design that represents fun and kids, has emotional appeal to both children and adults, and influences consumer attitude and purchases. With all of this riding on just a logo design, it is no wonder that many companies are willing to spend huge amounts of money to get just the right one. It is something that “brands” the business permanently. It must be engaging, easily recognizable, and psychologically appealing. And once chosen, it must stay.

Whether you are a small business attempting to design your own brand or a beginning designer trying to make a name for yourself with that one great logo creation, you need to come up with brilliant ideas and transfer those ideas into an extraordinary piece of art. With so many logo designs “out there,” the biggest challenge will creating something that is both original and unforgettable. No easy task! But here are 7 tips that should help you as you go through this process.

1. Pre-Planning

Most logos don’t just pop into a head and get transferred to paper. There is an entire thought process that must come into play first. And if this pre-planning stage is glossed over, the chances of having a logo design that will really work for a company is really reduced. Here is what must happen during the pre-planning stage.

  • A full understanding of the brand must be captured. This means, as a designer, immersing yourself in the brand completely. Read everything about the company; pour over every page of the website and social media pages. Get copies of the company’s mission statement. As for photos or videos of the workplace, so you get a feel for the environment and the culture. Designing a logo for a Cadillac, for example, will be far different than designing one for a Kia or a Chevrolet, and you can see that in their current logos.
  • You must also immerse yourself in the persona of the typical customer. If the company has not developed a customer “persona,” then you must. Ask the right questions of the owner and sales force. What is the gender, the education level, the income range, and the age range of the typical customer? Where does the typical customer live – city, suburb, or country? You will use this information when you choose things such as typography, color and complexity of design.
  • Do your research and learn from others. Once you have a full understanding of the company, its products and/or services, and once you have an understanding of a typical customer, then you must study the logos of similar companies with a similar customer base. Why, for example, do you think that Dodge chose this logo for its trucks and large cars?

    Dodge Logo

    They chose it because these are all “muscle” vehicles, and when we think of a ram, we think of strength and aggression – a huge emotional appeal to the typical muscle car buyer and a statement that Dodge products are tough.

  • Remember the principles of logo design. It must be:
    • Simple – something that is easily recognizable
    • Memorable – something that will stick in the minds of viewers
    • Enduring – It must “stand the test of time” – will it still be a great logo 10 or 20 years from now? While Coca-Cola has made minor changes over the years, the basic design is still there
    • Versatile – Can the logo be placed anywhere and on anything? As a store sign? As an emblem on a T-shirt or cap? All over the website?

2. The Initial Design Phase

This is where some serious thought must occur. Here are your important considerations:

  • Do you need to design a symbol only? If the company has a rather generic name, it would not be a good idea to use it as a part of the logo. That is probably why Dodge chose not to use its name in the logo itself, but, rather, put it below the logo in some instances. Sometimes, as in the case of Dodge, the actual logo represents a word that defines the company or brand.

    No one will ever mistake this as a gift card from anywhere else but Target. The logo is simple, sleek, and represents the name brand. And here is versatility as well – it is laced around the eye of a cute pet.

  • If the company has a unique name, then a logotype may be a good idea.

    Famous Logos

    All of these brands have unique names, and their type logos are perfect. This is not to say that a unique name must always be placed in a logo. Nike doesn’t have its name – only the swoosh.

  • As you come up with ideas, sketch them all – and never throw any sketches away. You may come back to them, either for this logo project or for another.

  • Think about any “play on words” you might use. Apple did this so well:

    Apple Logo with bite.

    The bite out of the apple symbolizes “byte”.

  • Think how you can use negative space to place a “message.” What do you see in the white space between the E and the X? You see an arrow – Fed Ex moves your packages forward to their destination.

    White space between the E and the X in FedEx Logo.

3. Colors

There is an entire body of research that now deals with colors and the appeal they have. The toys R Us logo represents a perfect example of this. Colors do represent certain moods and tones, and that is a big consideration as you are sketching design options. In general, colors represent the following:

What colors represent

If you have a full understanding of your brand and customer, then you will know what colors to use in your logo design. Here, for example, is the Rolex logo:

Rolex logo

The crown is usually in a muted gold tone, but most uses of the logo place it on a black background = powerful, sleek, luxurious, and sophisticated.

4. Typography

Just as color is highly significant, so is typography, if you are creating a type logo. Again if you really understand the brand, and you intend to put any typography into the logo, then you have to match the brand and the type you use. One of the big trends for 2016 and perhaps beyond is using vey functional and clear typography. One of the best to choose type is to look at the designs of companies that are just like your company or organization or that are related. Doing this will give you a better feel for tone and style, and that will impact the font options you have. A couple of ideas here, as you think about typography:

  • Think about the company brand but also think about the words you will be using. If a word is unique, do the opposite with typography. If the word is simple, you can dress it up a bit.
  • With all of the options you have now, creating your own unique typography is probably not necessary.
  • Get some great ideas and review the importance of typography to your overall design by reading through this basic primer or by getting some inspiration from logos that have created using type alone.

5. Ideas for Ease and Flexibility

You want balance with your logo – hopefully you will find that balance in the simple and sleek mixed in with something a bit quirky that will make it memorable. The arrow in the FedEx logo above is an example of this. So is Amazon:

Amazon Logo with smile arrow

Here is a pretty simple type in basic black, but the orange arrow is the “centerpiece” of this logo because it adds the quirky. Note that the arrow goes from “A” to “Z” – representative of the fact that Amazon pretty much carries anything you might want to buy.

As to flexibility, you also have to keep in mind that logos will be used not just on clothing, signs and websites, but they will also be appearing on different devices which may have different backgrounds. Think of logos on apps, as avatars, as icons, etc. and envision how your design will appear in a variety of ways. As long as you keep the basic logo, you can actually make a lot of changes. Adidas and Nike do this well:

Adidas Logo

Note how the three bars which are the standard design are placed in so many different ways. And they typography always remains the same. No one will mistake any of the logos for being anything else but Adidas. Likewise, the Nike Swish is often seen in black. However, it has also been in almost every other color imaginable. Here it is in white with a multi-colored pastel background – probably perfect for a page that might be advertising girls’ shoes:

Nike Logo in white with a multi-colored pastel background.

6. Use All of the Online Resources that You Can find

You are probably familiar with the typical sites such as LogoGala and LogoMoose, but you might want to broaden your study by sites like Dribble, which features a large number of design sites, not just for logos. Another great site is Deviant Art. You never know how or when an inspiration will come, but just looking at art and design every day will go a long way.

And there are individual sites like Logo Store by 99designs which can give you some great inspiration or sites like Logomaker and LogoYes which will give you ideas for interfaces.

7. Study the Psychology of Logo Designs

While the psychology of color has already been discussed, there is also a psychology of shapes. There is a reason, for example, that the Worldwide Fund for Nature has a panda, and that the shape of that panda is completely based upon circles:

Worldwide Fund

The earth is a circle; circles represent infinity and eternity; they represent a unified whole with everything enclosed within.

Logo shapes don’t just “happen.” They are based on psychology. For an excellent read on the psychology of shapes, there is a great little book by Martine Christie (Logo Design London) that will give you great insight into why specific shapes are selected. This will provide you with some inspiration, to be sure.

Be Inspired by the Best

As a logo designer, you probably love looking at logos that have been some of the best designs throughout history. You might want to get the publication titled, 20 Corporate Brand Logo Evolution, and draw some inspiration from the best of the best. Of course you know there are awards given for logos, such as Wolda and Hugo. Looking at these award winners will probably also inspire you. Don’t forget, as well, that nature has wonderful shapes and colors – more than one great graphic designer has had an “aha” moment looking at a starfish or a leaf. As was said above, you never know from where you next great idea may come.

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