Have you ever asked yourself, “does my logo suck?” or “Do I have a bad logo?”. To my surprise, there’s a lot of people asking this on the internet. So beyond the clear pandemic of potentially bad logos, let’s answer this questions for you. Does your logo actually suck, and if it does, what can be done about it?
What makes a good logo? Traits of a good logo design include:
- Distinguishing style
- Limited colors
- Not following trends
What makes a logo bad?
I could probably list at least twenty things that make up a bad logo. But what makes a logo unquestionably bad for one business or individual, may only be applicable in part to others. There’s a plethora of variables when it comes to things that make a logo objectively bad. This brings me to my first important point that’s imperative to comprehend before we continue. Design is not subjective, it’s objective. Art is subjective, and an artist would probably make a pretty crap logo, though it might be pretty. (more on this later). However, when you keep in mind an objective and design for such objective, a logo can begin to be much, much better.
What makes logo design objective?
Let me simplify this as much as possible. If you’re a business owner, you have particular business goals. You have an ideal target audience, a brand (hopefully a good one) a brand voice and brand messaging to accompany that. As such, you have a clear objective in business. Without knowing your audience, brand style, it’s voice and messaging, you’d be trying to reach anyone and not your specific target market. So, what sense would there be in having (for example) a luxury chocolate confectionary company that targets only children? There’s absolutely no point to this unless children suddenly develop six-figure incomes, a sweet tooth and a generous disposable income. But how likely is that to happen?
This is why your logo design needs to be objective. Your logo needs to target your dream customer. Among other design considerations, there will be objectives that your logo should aim for. Each logo will and should be, as unique as the business it helps identify. So the first question you need to ask yourself after “does my logo suck?” is whether or not your logo was designed with particular objectives in mind that will resonate with your ideal target market. This is probably the most important part and makes up many design considerations. Was your logo designed objectively?
Did you pick the pretty option?
Good logo design should obviously be pleasing to the eye. Though, if you worked with a designer to create your logo and they presented you with multiple concepts, did you just outright pick the subjectively prettiest one? Did your logo designer take the time to explain their design choices based on objectives and your potential brand style?
I made a post a while ago on Instagram where I called out pretty logos as being potentially harmful to a brand. Designers are often challenged to solve difficult problems in creative ways. However, what separates a lot of designers that make logos from great logo designers, is their ability to diagnose the problem a client is facing and work to design for the solution. This at times means not designing the prettiest logo, but a practical one.
If your logo is unique enough but still relevant to your target market, then you probably don’t have a logo that was designed to follow trends.
Great logo designers will design with practicality in mind and create great looking logos around that. First things first are the practical choices. Does it make sense? If you logo makes sense for your industry and target market, is it pleasing to look at? Great logos don’t need to explain and detail your brand or business and services. A great example I love to give for this is Starbucks or Nike. What does a checkmark or a siren have to do with athletic gear or coffee? Nothing. They’re applicable and sensible for the industries unique to those brands, and they are pleasing to look at, while being simple and memorable. So does your logo suck if it’s missing any of these qualities? Not necessarily…
Does your logo follow a trend?
It might be a little tricky to answer this one for some people, as you may not be well versed in design trends. However, there’s a couple things you can do to identify if your logo was designed to fit trends, or remain timeless. First and most obvious, if you had any input for consideration that your logo designer made and implemented into the logo, it may have been requested by you based on design trends at the time. Is there something you can clearly identify as a feature or design choice that you requested based on a trend at the time your logo was designed?
Another way to identify if you logo was designed to follow trends is that it looks too much like other logos or logos in the industry your brand is in. There can often be a fine line between relevancy to a market and following a trend. We only need to look at the water beverage industry to see why this is both detrimental and somewhat amusing. Let’s compare every household bottled water company. Can you think of one that’s both visually and meaningfully different from another? If you thought Liquid Death, you’d be on the right track. For anyone unfamiliar with Liquid Death, they sell mountain water from a can with a very unique brand identity. Much different in contrast to basically every other competitor.
If your logo is unique enough but still relevant to your target market, then you probably don’t have a logo that was designed to follow trends. Still wondering if you logo sucks?
Is you logo flexible?
Design requirements have shifted heavily over the past decade. With the advent of mobile and responsive websites and everchanging mobile devices, logos are being used more often and at greater and smaller scale. Literally! A good logo will be adaptable and reproduce well at massive or tiny sizes. This is one of the reasons great logos are simple. Up to date and big name brands understand this, and as such their logos are adaptable. Some brands may drop particular elements of their logo in order to remain identifiable at smaller sizes.
A great logo will be adaptable or simple enough to be used at any scale. Imagine your logo on the side of a skyscraper, on a postage stamp. Does it remain legible and identifiable? Imagine someone seeing your logo who’s never seen it before. Can they make sense of it? This isn’t just a trait that should be reserved for logo use at scale either. Do you have alternative marks to use at smaller sizes or between? Keeping your logo simple not only helps it remain easily identifiable, but helps it maintain legibility at scale. This helps its adaptability when sized down for smaller use applications. How adaptable or scalable is your logo?
Does your logo mean something?
Your logo doesn’t need to mean something. Let’s end this misconception right here. If you’re a dog walking business, your logo doesn’t need to be the silhouette of a dog being walked. It doesn’t need to explain, and it doesn’t need to portray what your business does. However, as you’ve read – it needs to be relevant and it needs to connect with your ideal customers. It needs to take into account everything we’ve covered in this article and more. I think there’s too many designers and individuals who believe that a logo needs to mean something. One of the most important factors is how appropriate your logo is.
Let’s use Apple as an example. What does an apple have to do with smart watches, mobile phones, or premium computers? Absolutely nothing. The Apple logo is relevant to the business name. However, what do you think of when you imagine Apple as a company? You probably imagine a luxury designed tech product. Another example would be Starbucks. Again, using the siren logo as reference, what does this have to do with coffee? Nothing. Yet what thoughts do you have when you think about Starbucks? Perhaps now you see that a logo never has to directly mean something. The story of Starbucks’ logo is actually quite interesting. However you feel about Starbucks as a brand, one thing is for sure. The siren logo departs well enough from traditional coffee house logos to be distinguishable and recognizable. It identifies, it differentiates, and it’s simple, meaning it’s easily memorable.
Get clear on your brand
Before you can get a great logo design or redesign, your brand needs to have clear understanding of what it is and who its dream customers are. This helps identify a multitude of aspects when it comes to design considerations for the logo, brand identity, brand voice etc… Understanding your dream customers and gaining clarity on your brand helps you to create a brand that stands out from competition. This can also give you the confidence to increase new service offerings and/or raise prices and generate a better ROI.
If you’re struggling with your brand, considering a logo or brand refresh or design, or you just want to gain more clarity on your existing brand. Check out my free brand clarity worksheet. There’s a twelve page interactive PDF specifically designed to help you get clear on your brand and business, while helping to identify your dream customers. The worksheet will help you understand your purpose, values, brand voice, audience and more.