What defines a logo?

Logo: a graphic representation or symbol of a company name, trademark, abbreviation, etc., often uniquely designed for ready recognition.

Someone had made a post on a forum I frequent about wanting a logo done (for free). My comment was to put together some text that reflected their style. They came back and said "but I want a logo". That got me thinking. What really defines a logo?

Obviously you want the logo to reflect yourself or your company or your product in some way or form. This does not have to be done with a fancy graphical illustration. If you notice, FedEx's logo for instance makes use of white space to form an arrow. If you are working with the environment you could have the text a green or blue. If you are working in the food industry then a brown, yellow, or red might due as they often are associated together. If you are working with technology it wouldn't make sense to use a frilly font.

Here are some things I consider when designing a logo:

Your personal style - you are more likely to like what I design when it reflects what you like and what defines you. If you aren't a fan of swooshes because they are overused then I shouldn't be using them!

Icon/Type - sometimes a logo is fine in just type by itself, but sometimes it needs a graphical representation to go along with it. A logo can be a combination of type and a graphic (logotype and logo icon).

Simplicity - you want to make sure that your logo reads well scaled down for things such as business cards and promotional materials. I make sure that illustrations if used (and I illustrate them myself) are not too highly detailed but are detailed enough to be able to understand quickly their meaning/use.

Vector base - you also want to make sure that your logo doesn't look pixelated when scaled up for large format printing and signage or vehicle decals. I work in Illustrator to make sure all work is deliverable in a format you can use on any medium. If you want Photoshop effects, you need to understand the limitations of raster-based graphics which is primarily conformed to the original designed size. There are some instances where this might work such as a blog or web-based use where the design will never be used elsewhere or needed in a higher resolution for printing.

Black and White - I always make sure that the logo can be easily transitioned to black and white and now deliver files with a black and white version. You might not think you need it, but if you are sending a fax then if you have a color logo it will most likely be lost as faxes do not perform in anything other than black and white (no grayscale).

Trendiness - I try and not look at current trends because they can easily date a logo (swooshes, gradients such as in web 2.0 logos, transparency, etc). You want to pay for something that is timeless like a Rolex where it looks good at any age. Obviously, there are times when certain things are required in order to define your company and that takes an exception, but being trendy for trendiness' sake is not necessary.


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