A corporate identity is for inspiring trust, recognition, and admiration for a company or product and it's up to the designer to create a logo that will do its job and do it well. The corporate identity should identify a company's goals, values, and personality. The logo is one of the more important pieces of the corporate identity, it should be describable, memorable, and most of all usable! Keep these basic tips in mind when starting a corporate identity logo project.
1. Logomark or logotype? Logo marks are self-contained symbols that use unique shapes and graphics to convey the nature of a business. They can be initials or pictorial and suggest the product or service. In either case, a logo mark should be executed simply. Logotypes are usually less abstract and are composed of the letterforms for the company name. Special care should be taken in selecting a typeface that evokes emotion and gives the logo a unique, immediately recognizable shape. Some logotypes include an embellishment to part of a letter or the changing of a color used in a letter or word. A tagline should be considered, but not as part of your logo. A tagline is the phrase or words that describe a company or the company's mission. Generally stated, taglines are featured under or around the logo. Wordy taglines create visual clutter and may require a small font that could become illegible when reduced, so avoid a lengthy tagline when possible. It's always better to have that ever-so-clever tagline as a separate element that can be added when appropriate and won't interfere with logo integrity.
2. Sketch out your ideas. Assuming you have done all your research, you have a clear definition of the target audience and the problem, and the client has approved the creative brief, now it's time for the designer (design team) to go to the drawing board or conference room and brainstorm ideas. Start with words, images, broad concepts, write or sketch them out quickly. Next, pick half a dozen or so of the strongest concepts and start exploring variations and expanding on themes. Consider form, composition, spatial relationships and proportion as well as possible type treatments. Resist the urge to jump on the computer right away—it's easy to get caught up in the fancy tools and forget the basics. Special effects and filters such as drop shadows glow, and lens flares, are too tempting. Remember first and foremost the logo needs to communicate the brand message to the customer.
3. Save the color for later. Start simple and start in black. Designing a logo in black and white is good design sense. It forces the logo to lean more heavily on form, pattern, and composition. And if it can't lean on those elements, it will simply fall over. It's the best test of a strong identity and mark of a good logo when it can be stripped of color and still work. A logo should be easily and immediately deciphered at any size, whether reduced to fit a business card, shown for a brief second on television or larger than life on signage. Color should be secondary during the initial phases of design and critical during reproduction. A logo that requires color to hold the design together is not a strong logo. Logos that rely too much on color tend to blend together when printed or displayed in smaller sizes.
4. Keep it simple. Identities need to have an instant impact. If the logo needs to be deciphered, there's probably little chance it will communicate the essence of your company, service or product quickly and effectively. A logo should tell a story about the history, quality, and type of products or services, but how a logo will be used is a determining factor for the physical look. The products or collateral the logo will be placed on, and the amount of time the viewer has to interact with it, are also important factors to consider as you design. While it's nice for a logo to have some underlying meaning (i.e., this color represents growth and this dot represents the product), try not to over think it and become too complex. An overly complicated logo is not a pretty sight and can be difficult or costly to reproduce. The most memorable logos are also the most simple. Too many elements and colors all professing to mean something might not mean a thing at first glance.
5. Resist shortcuts. When a startup company is in the market to have a logo developed, there's sometimes a temptation to take shortcuts to save time and money, or a combination of both. Trouble is, the cookie cutter solution could cause your client grief and money down the road, especially as your client's business grows and becomes a higher profile company. Avoid using clip art or templates in your logo design. The image may not be licensed for use as a logo and it is most likely being used by other people anyway. Even if the work is legit, it certainly won't be unique. The very idea of clipart and templates involves many people using the same design.
6. The devil's in the details. Designing a logo doesn't have to be rocket science, but the output format could make or break a design. We cringe every time we see a logo that was designed in Adobe Photoshop or a similar photo editing program. Why? In a nutshell, photo editing software makes raster files. Raster files are pictures that are made up of many tiny dots (pixels) that make up a picture. The main reason you want to avoid designing a logo in raster format is the logo won't be scalable. If your client ever needed the logo on a billboard or on the side of a bus, the logo will be grainy or pixelated when enlarged. Vector files, on the other hand, can scale and shrink on an infinite scale and still be as crisp as the day it was born. Instead of using pixels, vector art uses plotted points to graph out the logo. A program like Adobe Illustrator, is an appropriate vector-based graphics program. Another reason to avoid raster files is they usually require four colors to print. Whereas vector files use as many or few colors as you specify in the file. So it's more flexible and cost-effective for your client to design with fewer colors. Long story short, using the right software for creating and scaling a logo is imperative.
7. Choosing color. Because color has the ability to evoke emotion, it has an important role in the creation of a logo and identity system. Certain colors are appropriate for certain industries, products, companies or even cultures and not so appropriate for others. For example, blue is a very common color used in corporate identities because it symbolizes serenity, tranquility and solidarity. It can be calming if used in moderation or depressing if used in excess. It can also be one of the most difficult colors to reproduce in a variety of medium as well as difficult to convert from PMS (Pantone Matching System) to process. When choosing colors, it's important to examine competing entities within the same industry and to consider a color that will differentiate your logo from all the others, while also considering the emotions it may evoke within the target market. It's also important to consider budget when choosing colors. One color is less expensive to print than two, three or sometimes four (process). So in the final stages of the design process, be sure to give this step its due consideration. Select a color pallet and test it, then adjust as needed for consistency across all processes.
8. Strive for longevity. Logo trends come and go. The best way to increase longevity of an identity is to avoid stylistic trends that will date the mark. How to tell if a logo is trendy? Simple. If everyone is doing it, then it's trendy. In a few months or years, your client will be stuck with thousands of business items plastered with a logo that causes everyone, including your client, to shudder every time they see it. Stick to classic designs for longevity, adaptability, and impact. Sometimes an identity needs to be reevaluated. Possibly the focus of the business or scope of services has changed. Perhaps the business is expanding or has been acquired by a larger company. Whatever the reason, the first question you should ask is: how much change is necessary? A drastic and sudden change can be positive if the company has made big changes in management or focus and they want to call attention to it. Sometimes an identity has just lost its luster and therefore lost the customer's interest and needs a slight periodic adjustment to keep it up to date and fresh.