6 Key Elements of Logo Design Your Designer Is Probably Overlooking

Logo Design Essentials

Logos are a crucial visual representation of your brand. (Though they are far from the whole kit and kaboodle when it comes to your brand and brand identity, but we’ll talk about that in a different post).  As probably the most sought-after component of your brand during any brand work, it’s pretty important you get the logo right.  But not all designers approach logos in a standardized way, and too many overlook key aspects of logo design that need to be considered when designing this crucial element of your brand profile.

Of the many, many design considerations that go into a strong, evidence-based approach to logo design, we’ve found that six elements usually get overlooked in our RE-design work for clients who come to us with previous logos that missed the mark. We’ve compiled these six overlooked elements of logo design here. If you don’t use us for your logo and brand work, be sure to share this article with your designer so that they can be informed about these key elements that there’s a good chance they’re missing.

Source Image: Chart Room Creative

#1 Versatility

TLDR: Make sure the logo works equally well in all contexts….

A versatile logo just works. It works as a web browser favicon, on an email signature, or business card. It works on bigger surfaces like the cover of a pdf or huge surfaces like the side of a building.  The key is this: is the logo recognizable and impactful across a range of contexts?

All logos from Chart Room start with the graphical portion of your logo (commonly referred to as your brandmark) in black and white. We borrow from the Logo Modernism movement as part of our go-to aesthetic ensuring that your brandmark is clean, recognizable first in black and white, and impactful even in such a stark color treatment. We shrink down and use a vetted process to test your logo’s fidelity across a broad range of use cases to ensure any option we put forward works across the board.

Here are some brands you’ll recognize that fit the bill nicely when it comes to versatility.

Case Study: IBM

 

The curent IBM logo was designed by Paul Rand in 1956, using horizontal bars to represent the speed and dynamicism of computing power. This new logo is considerably different from the original 1889 logo (on left) that reflected its origins as International Time Recording Co. (ITRC) – days when it was originally preoccupied with punch cards as its main mode of processing data. No matter the use-case, the Rand-’56 IBM logo comes through cleanly and clearly.

Case Study: Nike

 

Whether on the tongue of a shoe, a microlabel on clothing, or a billboard in Times Square, the Nike “swoosh” is unmistakable, immediately recognizable, simple and clean. The swoosh was actually designed with the shoe in mind. As the story goes, Phil Knight commissioned a graphic design student at Portland State to design a logo that could go on a shoe in 1971. The design student, Carolyn Davidson, landed on the swoosh which today is synonymous with athleticism, motion and progress, though at the time, versatility of the logo on a shoe backdrop was the number one consideration. The design was confirmed and handed over to Knight for a mere $35. Nike is worth over $24B today, but word on the street is that Knight didn’t forget about Davidson and gifted her shares to compensate for the prominence and importance of the swoosh to the Nike brand.

Source Image: Nike.com

#2 Simplicity with Depth

TLDR: A good logo has a simplicity to make it unmistakable, but has enough depth to tell a story….

Logos should have enough simplicity to be clean and be easily recognizable regardless of use or color application. But, that doesn’t equate to being bland. Just as your brand has an identity and a story to tell, your logo should reflect your story as well.

We work from the inside-out with our clients to determine the essence of their brand and the stories that carry the most meaning for the brand. We then work to breathe the stories into the logo design, from subtle to overt incorporation, ultimately landing on the logo that is versatile, simple, but with depth.

Whether a symbol of your origins, or inclusive of subtleties of your brand identity and personality, your logo should have some depth and should indicate that there’s a story to be told. Take the Apple logo, for example. Simple, but with depth and story.

Case Study: Apple

 

Iconic as ever, the apple with a bite out of it. This version of the logo was designed by Rob Janoff in 1977. The apple’s bite is often interpreted as a nod to the fruit of enlightenment; but based on the earliest logos for Apple Computers, it actually is representative of the apple that fell on Newton’s head and led to his discovery of gravity. Extrapolate that story and you have a logo with story that reflects Apple’s mission to enable knowledge, discovery, and innovation across the world.

#3 Scalability

TLDR: Size it way up or way down, the logo still has to work perfectly….

Closely tied to versatility, a logo should be scalable in magnitudes of tens. Take the logo down to 1/100 of its size. Is the brandmark still recognizable? Scale it to the size of building. Does it lose its sense of cohesiveness and cleanliness?

Logo scalability requires a design mindset for function in the midst of design. We take the smallest and largest contexts we can and scale logo options to them before putting them forth to our clients for review. This ensures a clothing label, toy or writing utensil bears a brand as well as business card, website, or pitch deck – versatility and scalability working hand-in-hand.

Take FedEx and Lego for example. Both brands’ logos shine as examples of scalability.

Case Study: FedEx

 

A great example for a range of logo design elements, we chose the FedEx logo because of the scale we’ve all seen the FedEx logo on (shipping labels) to the billboard-sized prints on the size of its fleet and planes.  The current logo was introduced by Lindon Leader in 1994. We especially like is the “hidden” arrow in between the “E” and “X” of the name to hint at speed and consistency of delivery – a story to be told, a logo with simplicity but depth. And as far as scalability is concerned, no matter the scale, the arrow still pops. In fact, it becomes even more apparent as the logo size increases reinforcing FedEx’s service ideals around progress and speed.

Source Image: CNN.com via Logo.com

Case Study: Lego

 

Who doesn’t love a Lego (except in the dark under a bare foot)? And what child these days doesn’t immediately check for a Lego brandmark on a brick when it doesn’t seem to fit just right? (Our kids are Lego snobs and blame off-brand bricks whenever a fit isn’t Lego-perfect).

From versatility to scaleability to its lasting use of typography to stamp its brandmark on toys, bricks, kits, apps, movies, and billboards – Lego is a definite example of a perfectly scaleable logo. Turn over a one-by-one brick and see if you can’t spot it. It’s there – tiny, but unmistakable.

#4 Timelessness

TLDR: Drop the trends and focus on staying power….

Timelessness is about staying power. Easily half of our logo redesigns are a result of a designer who purchased a ready-made logo off of a site and dusted it with some new color and a new name. Nine times out of ten, these logos do not have cleanliness in mind when designed, and usually play to the current trends in graphic design without keeping the logo visually distinct and timeless.

Timelessness requires you to drop the trends at the outset and create a clean logo from the point of brand definition.  This ensures that as trends come and go, the logo still remains true to self and doesn’t fall into the trappings of all-too-often fleeting design trends.

Designers should ensure they communicate this concept to their clients. We recommend a consultative approach so that the brand client receives the best logo with all crucial design elements well-considered before landing on the “one.”

Case Study: Coca-Cola

 

“I’d like to give the world a Coke…”  It’s hard to argue with the timelessness of a logo that has remained mostly unchanged since it first appeared in the late 19th century. The distinctive script has been a recognizable hallmark of Coca-Cola, arguably the world’s most famous beverage.

Though the name has tested blocked font types for derivations like “Coke” (e.g. Coke Zero), the full logo representative of the overarching company logo has remained consistently “scripty” in its iconic curves, points, and letter intersections.

Source Image: LogoHistories.com

#5 Storytelling

TLDR: Logos should have a story that connects with the audience….

Storytelling is closely tied to depth. Depth indicates meaning. Storytelling begs that meaning to be told.

At Chart Room, we determine the stories from within the brand architecture. The stories provide a lens through which the brand evolves and they contribute as much to the brand’s messaging, voice, pillars, and overarching identity as they do the graphic elements and logo.  Once the brand story is identified we determine its role in the brand architecture; and when/if it’s appropriate, we use clever design to weave the story into the graphic design of the logo.

The most classic examples of brands whose logos hit the mark with story usually have a layer within the logo to indicate a company’s origins, a mascot, or key aspect of the company’s history.  You’ll see these jump out at you in the case studies below.

Case Study: Toblerone

 

From the triangular peaks of the candy segments to the logo itself, Toblerone is ALL about its origins in the Swiss Alps.

The company was founded in the Swiss city of Bern. And much like the Matterhorn peaks in the key brandmark of the Toblerone logo, the bear that is subtly woven into the Matterhorn mountain’s design reflects their city of origin. The bear was pulled directly from the city of Bern’s crest and adds another layer of depth to the Swiss logo story of Toblerone.

Case Study: Baskin Robbins

 

Baskin Robbins poured its essence into a brand and service promise of 31 flavors of ice cream. The story itself speaks to this promise of 31 flavors from signage to its embedded “31” in the center of the “BR” in its logo.

Source Image: BaskinRobbins.com

Case Study: Starbucks

 

Starbucks is a complex logo visually which required future iterations to be developed to ensure versatility and scalability. But it kept intact the crucial aspects of its story. Literally, story. The mermaid siren and even the company name were pulled from the pages of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick. The name “Starbucks” points directly to the ship’s first mate in the Melville classic, one “Mister Starbuck.”

Source Image: Forbes.com

#6 Monochromatic Adaptability

TLDR: Every logo should be able to stand on its own in black on white, and white on black….

This is a hallmark of logo versatility. Can your logo stand on its own in black and white? More specifically, is your logo distinctive, remarkable and clearly identifiable when colored black on a white background, and reversed in white on a black background? Trendy logos fall short of this, and any designer that hands you a gradient-rich, 3-D-sloping, multi-colored pictograph should be questioned about monochromatic versatility. While the logo might delight the eye with a myriad of shadings and colors, it will likely fail this test of effective logos.

We are strong proponents of logo modernism, the movement that gave rise to corporate logos of today. The movement that started in the 1920’s, came to full height in the 1940’s through the 1980’s, and is now the gold standard for clean, lasting, and effective logo design. Whether or not we pluck some trends if appropriate for the brand or at the request of our clients, we always begin with a modernist eye to ensure the initial logo concepts pay heed to the five aspects we’ve reviewed above and stand up to the test of monochromatic adaptability.

Check out the case studies below for some recognizable examples of brands whose logos definitely stand-up to the black and white test.

Case Study: Volkswagon

 

The irony shouldn’t be lost on you that the modernist movement has many of its origins in Germany. From clean lines, to incorporation of letter and negative space, Volkswagon is definitely a company whose logo was designed based on the early modernist design movement.  With the clear negative space delineated from the bold visual lines, it’s easy to see how this logo reads perfectly in white on black as it does black on white.  And with planes and automobiles sporting the emblem, the logo does its job in relief, 3-D and on flat canvases – thanks in large part to its monochromatic adaptability.

Case Study: Amazon

 

The simplicity and cleanliness of the Amazon logo shines through in its monochromatic adaptability of black and white. The narrative of the Amazon logo is a great example of storytelling as well with the “smile” between the “a” and “z” suggesting that not only can you find everything – from A to Z – on Amazon, but those things are ones that will make you happy.  Amazon’s trucks, driver vests, parcels and packages of all sizes have boasted the logo. And though in signage, the “smile” is in a happy yellow-orange, packages and slips show the clear logo in black and white definition.

Source Image: VisualHierarchy.co

Our logo?

Our logo? The story behind our logo reflects our origins.

Two C’s for “Chart” and “Creative” stand in juxtaposition to represent tumblers in a lock and represent the two halves of our approach – data-centered and human-focused.

Breaks in the circles create lines from the negative space to both suggest the shape of an “R” for the “room” in Chart Room, as well as take the shape of both the compass – used for drawing circles and for circular geometric measurement, as well as the sextant – one of the earliest complex nautical instruments used for navigation.

This was included to emphasize the role of measurement in our marketing practice as well as a nod to our origin at the old Chart Room in Key West, FL – where nautical dreamers like Mel Fisher charted and eventually found one of the greatest treasure finds in US history, the Spanish Galleon, the Senora De La Toche, on the sea-floor off the Florida Keys.

Wrapping Up

Incorporating these elements into your logo design can make a significant difference in how your brand is perceived. Remember, a logo is often the first impression of your brand, so investing time and effort into getting it right is a crucial step in your branding journey.

That said, remember as well that a brand is your company’s identity distilled. It is made up of many things, and though a logo is an important component, your brand deserves attention across all aspects of big-B brand. If your designer isn’t certain what those are, we can help. If you have an existing brand, let us help orient your efforts with a brand audit.  If you don’t have a brand nailed down yet, we can help there as well. Let’s connect and discuss what a brand development project looks like and how it can help you establish an anchor for your marketing efforts.

Let’s get started!  Contact us today to schedule a free brand-discovery session so you can start your branding journey off on the right foot.