Words To The Wise™ By Marketingsage Staff
Great designers often create terrible logos. A logo may look great in one format, but if it does not meet a diverse set of reproduction requirements it will look terrible or be unusable in many common situations. This short, to-the-point, guide will help your designer create a great looking and usable logo.
Here’s an easy way to test if your logo is well designed. Put it on a black and white photocopier, set the contrast to its blackest level, and shrink it to 1-inch or smaller. You can also run it through an old fax machine. Your logo fails the test if:
- You strain to recognize the blob on the page.
- Elements such as lines or font serifs disappeared.
- Elements merged together.
If your logo fails you’ll run into some reproduction problems. If the problems can be overcome, you’ll pay a premium or your brand image will be weakened (e.g. you’ll be the tiniest logo on the page.) Follow these rules to mitigate these problems.
The logo must work in a single flat color. It doesn’t have to be a single color, but it must work that way. Overlapping colors do not work when the logo must be cut from a single sheet of material like the vinyl used for some signs. Additionally, some printing processes do not allow you to print one color over another.
The logo must work when shrunk to 1-inch or less. The elements should not bleed into each other at lower resolutions and/or smaller sizes. Therefore you have to be careful with serif style fonts and thin elements.
The height-to-width ratio should remain reasonably equal when shrunk to 1-inch. A very tall or very long logo will become tiny when confined to 1-inch (or less). Therefore it may not work on space constrained give-away items such as pens, or it may look weak compared to other logos on a web page or in a catalog.
Icon element and lettering should be similar in size. If one element is disproportionately large, the other will appear disproportionately small when the logo is reduced in size.
Avoid gradations. They won’t work when you need the logo embroidered on a shirt or hat. Additionally, they break the single flat color rule.
Limit the colors. One or two color logos work just as well as four color logos and you’ll save a lot of money over the years.
Don’t change the logo. If you’ve had a logo for years and you are thinking of changing it because you are tired of it – don’t. You could be throwing out significant brand equity. Building a brand requires consistency and repetition. You’ll be starting fresh. You’ll be spending money on building a new brand image when you could be spending it on lead generation. Additionally, you’ll never fully purge the old logo. It will still exist on partner web sites, on older collateral and elsewhere.
Big is small. If you want to look like a big organization use a smaller, simpler logo. If you want to look like a mom and pop operation, go big and flashy.
Strongly consider word-based logos where the font is the principal element of the logo. Myfonts.com is a great resource for finding and evaluating fonts. Once you have something that works customize it to make it unique.
Spell your company name without capital letters in the middle. Admittedly, we made that mistake. We started with “MarketingSage.” When the company name was typed with the capital S in the middle of the word spell checkers would split the words “Marketing” and “Sage.” This meant others, including journalists, did not use our brand name as intended.
Chose practical colors. Colors can convey a mood, evoke an emotion, and even inspire some people to take an action. These qualities are described for about 50 different in this article: The Psychology of Color. However, some colors do not work well in logos. For example, very light colors only work well on very dark backgrounds seriously restricting your design options for websites and collateral.
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