5 Things to consider when shortlisting logo concepts words from the wise - our graphic designer
written by Luisa Dumas
1. Heart – Your logo is a true representative of your vision.
This example demonstrates the core of Santa Claus. The exterior might be a jolly old man in a red suit, but at his core, Santa Claus represents a childlike wonder.
The continuity of your story will help your brand/business build trust and recognition. The core of your logo is what you want to represent as the heart of your company. So, if you are not quite sure what this is yet, start trying to hammer it down.
Try to peel away the layers of the products and services that you offer to reveal what those products and services mean to the lives of your customers. Again, don’t be afraid to ask people about this if you can. For example, ask a customer how they found you or why they chose you.
Then, once you have this narrowed down (try to capture this essence in one word if possible), the challenge is to infuse the core value(s) into your logo in some way.
2. Recognition & Memory – Your logo should be easily recognizable at a glance.
Building brand recognition and trust can take years, and is something you want to happen continuously throughout the lifetime of your brand as you acquire more fans and a wider audience. One of the important factors in building your brand is that people know who you are wherever and whenever they see you. For this reason, your logo and associated fonts and colours should be the same throughout your corporate identity – in print materials, on your website, on social media, in your storefront, or place of business – wherever people find you.
A key aspect of recognition is being memorable. Knowing how memory works can help with creating a recognizable logo. To properly remember something, a person must first be paying attention. And attention is increasingly scarce and elusive in our modern day. How long does someone stay on a web page before leaving? This study, by the Nielsen Norman Group, was done almost a decade ago, but the short answer remains the same: not very long. The more convoluted or generic your design is, the less likely someone is to truly absorb it into their memory.
3. aesthetic and colour (+ Memory Part 2) –Making use of certain colours and imagery, knowing how these can represent ideas and values.
The aesthetic of your logo has a strong effect on how long people will be willing to look at it, so this is of high importance. People are attracted to beautiful things, and the things that catch our eyes are the things to which we will pay the most attention. This is very subjective, and you’ll find that everyone will have different ideas about it. In my experience, the best thing you can do as a designer is to look at as many logos as possible and think about why you love your favourite brands and why do you dislike your least favourites. What makes you look at a logo for a long time?
Here’s an example of how subjective this is. The colour green has certain connotations and associations for people. It could be green as in “healthy”, “vibrant,” or “environmentally friendly.” On the other hand, it could also be “green with envy.” A quick google search for what green means results in: “Green, the color of life, renewal, nature, and energy, is associated with meanings of growth, harmony, freshness, safety, fertility, and environment. Green is also traditionally associated with money, finances, banking, ambition, greed, jealousy, and wall street.”
Interestingly, only one of the big five Canadian banks uses green in their logo, despite the traditional associations listed above. Another quick search for the most common colour, red, results in other strong words such as power, energy, determination, and strength. Red is also a patriotic colour; it is featured in the Canadian flag. So again, there’s room for interpretation here, and you hold the power to tell your own narrative.
On an even more detailed analysis, having straight lines can represent stability or retro analog technology (amongst other ideas), while curvy lines are traditionally more inspired by the natural world or could signify a sense of freedom, organic transformation, or ambiguity. Considering the use of lines is useful to keep in mind when looking at font choices. Most of the banks above, RBC, CIBC, and BMO, have chosen traditional serif fonts for their letters. The CIBC logo also features two curved, upwards-moving lines. I wonder why there are two lines, and why they are two different colours; does that mean something? The BMO logo features an “M” (representing, perhaps, a crown or the roof of a building) over a foundational straight, horizontal line. One more thing I notice on first glance is that the TD logo has an open “D,” which kind of seems to be representing an open door, or approach-ability. The two letters are connected, which to me, signifies connection in a larger sense. What do you notice about the use of lines in these logos?
You might be wondering, who is actually dissecting a logo like that, other than designers? The latter might be true, but these elements can affect us whether we are aware of it or not, and if we’re not aware of it, it might actually affect us more. Without diving too deep into this topic, it’s helpful to recognize that we are conditioned to “feel” more than we “think”; we formulate feelings about visual brands regardless of whether we’ve thought about it. That’s why it’s important for you to consider these quick, emotive judgements.
If you’re not sure what to think of a particular font or colour, the best thing to do is ask. When doing this, be prepared that each person you ask will have some kind of bias, and some of these opinions may be steeped in nostalgia or already-formed loyalty to a brand. Everyone will likely have their own thoughts on the matter, but not everyone will be able to explain why, or what it is exactly about the image that triggers those thoughts and feelings. Far more importantly (in my opinion), someone may notice something that you haven’t yet. As a designer, this is the most exciting response, because it offers a whole new way to look at something. Another graphic artist will have specific knowledge in colour theory, font choices, and placement of information. They will have studied how other brands have developed their images. Their opinion is not necessarily any more valuable, but they will likely have a better-formulated response and be able to explain what exactly it is about the colour or font that gives your work a particular “look” or “feel.”
While everyone is going to have a different opinion about how a specific image makes them feel, there are certain things that may be universally or culturally attractive. You may try to stick to traditional images and fonts that have been tried and true, and generally found to be widely-liked. For example, in the case of fonts, you might go for one that is highly-legible, because most people will not look at something for long if it causes discomfort. Then consider how you would cater to a specific crowd. For this, it is very useful to have an idea of your key demographic and a profile of your typical customer. It’s good to have a general aesthetic, but it’s even better to cater your aesthetic to the audience you are trying to attract most.
Finally, there is something to be said about being unique and standing out against the competition, but this should be carefully balanced. For example, it can be helpful to have most of the features of your logo pleasant and generically attractive, and then have one extraordinary thing that stands out. For a more specific example: all of the elements might be straight lines except for one outlier to catch your eye. . If you do decide to do something drastically different, plan to make it deliberate and remember that you hold the power to make it work by telling your specific story.
4. Brainstorm – There are no bad ideas in brainstorming.
As I said earlier, you never know where your favourite idea will come from. Get everyone you know to suggest their thoughts, as concrete or abstract as they are, and make a mind-map of what you/your business stands for. Chances are, your business is not just about you, so this gives you a chance to learn what your business means (or would mean) to other people – your customers or clients, your coworkers or staff, and your community. This can also be a great team-building exercise if you’ve already formulated your team.
A couple of fun ideas for this task:
At your next team meeting, ask everyone at the table to brainstorm what they bring or want to bring to the company. Everyone can write their thoughts on a post-it note and then put it up on a wall. Discuss the similarities and unique ideas.
For more concrete logo ideas, ask friends, family, and/or coworkers to scribble out some logo ideas. Introduce the general idea that the logo should be representing. Make it a timed challenge to take the pressure off of drawing skill, and place the emphasis on how quickly people are able to come up with broad ideas. Fold up a regular 8.5 x 11 paper in half four times to get sixteen sections; re-open it. Decide on a 2, 3, or 5-minute challenge, and set the timer. The idea is quantity over quality; can the participants fill up all sixteen sections in the time limit allowed? Pass the papers around after or have everyone introduce their favourite ideas to the whole team..
5. Connect – Don't be afraid to make connections wherever you can.
Connect what your logo looks like to what it means to you literally. It might be a romantic thought to believe that people will be able to figure it out. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it’s good just to spell it out for them. It will be one more way for people to see your logo, make sense of it, and remember your story again. Talk about it, write about it, animate a video with it, draw it yourself (even if you feel you can’t draw!), and connect with it in as many ways as you can.
Relating to this topic, the story of the Airbnb logo re-design is one of my favourite logo stories:
I love that this logo has a name, which is a powerful way to give it its own identity. I was able to watch an interview with the designers where they explained how they wanted everyone to be able to draw the “Bélo.” It’s a strong logo, in fact, because it’s a symbol and because of what it stands for, which is a story that has been consistently shared with the general public. Also note that although there were four key points for what Airbnb stands for in the above video, the one core value is belonging.
Plan that when you talk to your designer and later introduce your logo, you can talk about your logo alongside the story of what it means to you/your company. The best way to ensure that your audience understands what you were thinking is by being transparent with your story. By doing so, you will give an even wider audience an opportunity to connect with your brand.
At this point, you are ready to work with a branding agency, an experienced designer, or your communications team to get that logo of yours produced professionally and looking perfectly polished wherever it goes. Need help? Get in touch, and let Empress Avenue Media guide you through the branding process from start to finish!