The following tips have been excerpted from the second edition of Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities.
A logo doesn’t need to show what a company does
The Tiger Woods logo isn’t a golf club. The Virgin Atlantic logo isn’t an airplane. The Aston Martin logo isn’t a car.
Dentist logos don’t need to show teeth, plumbing logos don’t need to show toilets, and furniture store logos don’t need to show furniture.
Just because it’s relevant doesn’t mean you can’t do better using a design that shows something different from the product or service your client provides.
A symbol isn’t always necessary
Sometimes your client just needs a professional wordmark to identify his business. The use of a symbol can be an unnecessary addition.
You may want to ask your client if she has a preference one way or the other. If the company is considering future expansion into other markets, it might be better to opt for a distinctive wordmark, because an identifying symbol could prove restrictive, especially if the symbol is a literal interpretation of what your client is selling at that point in time.
Offer one thing to remember
All strong logos have one single feature that helps them stand out. Apple has the bite. Mercedes has the three-pointed star. The Red Cross has, well, the red cross.
Leave your client with just one thing to remember about the mark you’ve created.
One thing. Not two, three, or four.
Preserve brand equity
Many visual identities are accompanied by style guides, and the creation of these guides will often be your responsibility. They ensure that anyone within the client’s company who uses the design does so in a way that keeps everything looking as it should, preserving brand equity. Consistency breeds trust. Trust wins customers.
Turn it upside down
Just because your design looks okay the right way up doesn’t mean it will be as suitable when viewed upside down. If your logo appears on the cover of a report that’s sitting on a coffee table, for example, you don’t want people who are viewing it upside down to see a phallic symbol. Consider your design from all angles before finalizing it.
Test at a variety of sizes
Try printing the marks you design to appreciate how they look on paper rather than on screen. But don’t just print a single logo. Replicate the design at a range of sizes for variation. If a symbol loses detail at small sizes, you can always create different versions for different measurements, where a small-scale symbol might contain fewer and heavier lines than one that’s large scale.
Your client may need the option to extend or grow the logo in line with an expanding market strategy. Ask yourself how sub-brands will be identified.
Exercise cultural awareness
Gestures and colors can mean different things in different parts of the world. Clients who trade internationally need to pay particular attention to the varying cultures of their customers, and as such, that’s something you need to consider, too. For example, some cultures read left to right, others read right to left, so a design that displays a sense of direction can be interpreted as forward or backward depending on where you live.
There’s nothing wrong with using clichés
Provided you find a fresh way of using them.
A logo is just one small but important element
A logo is not a brand; it’s one part of a company’s brand identity. The brand, as a whole, represents much more—the mission of the company, its history, people’s perceptions of it, and so on. Given time, an effective logo plays an important role, but it will never save a poor product or service.