Part I: The Approach

We’ve been creating logos for a while and have learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t. In this post, we’ve broken up the most common mistakes of logo design into two categories: Approach Mistakes and Technical Mistakes. Approach Mistakes are more organizational; they are related to how you plan and execute the overall project. Technical Mistakes are creative related; they are almost always avoidable with experience and training.

Let’s dive in.

Approach Mistake #1: Not beginning from a strategy stand-point

Strategy is the bedrock for any decent creative endeavor. It doesn’t ensure successful outcomes, but it does point you in the right direction and increases your chances of creating something great. We employ this thinking on every design project, including logos.

Developing a great brand strategy takes effort and often gets overlooked when young organizations want to move quickly. Before leaping right into design, we recommend putting the time into creating a 1-2 page ‘strategic brief’ that answer the following questions:

  1. Who is our primary audience?
  2. What do we know about them that will help us develop our messaging?
  3. What specific problems do they have that we can help with?
  4. What will our best customers say about us on our best day?
  5. Distilled into 1-2 short sentences, what is the essence of our brand?
  6. Finally, what’s the Big Idea? Why is your product or service different (or better) than your competitor? Why would someone choose your brand?

Spending just a couple days discussing and answering the above questions with your team—before you begin any creative work—will make a big difference in how you approach your brand. A good creative firm will enforce a process like this.

Approach Mistake #2: Needing to “love” your logo

We work with a lot of startups. Some have dynamic leadership teams who are engaging and thoughtful. Others have teams that are less interested in ‘getting it right’ and more interested in getting it done—and that’s okay. It’s our job to sell the process. Our best clients are those who want to be challenged and are fully aware that they don’t have all of the answers. That’s when great things happen.

If there is one thing we remind our clients, it’s this: The logo isn’t for you. The logo is for your customers. It’s an identity and symbol for an organization. A designers goal is to create an unique and memorable image that is emotionally effective, on message with the brand strategy, and technically functional across all mediums. That’s it. Bonus points are given if people love the logo, but as painful as it sounds, that’s not the goal.

Approach Mistake #3: Trying to be too clever

The great actor and comedian Jack Lemmon said on his deathbed: “Dying is easy. Comedy is hard.” A bit morbid, however this resonates with logo designers as well: Good logos are difficult. Clever logos are almost impossible! This includes, but is not limited to; witty puns, word play or, the créme de la créme, hidden images in white space!

Today’s most well known brands are not the slightest bit clever—they are simply and fundamentally good. And it’s easy to fall prey to the allure of having a brand image that is wickedly clever, but you need to resist this direction. It’s a huge time waster for both the design team and the client. Think about it this way: where in your strategic brief (you have one, right?) do your articulate why your logo needs to be clever?

Cleverness is a eureka moment during the design process that occurs organically. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, then strive for something great—which should be your goal in the first place.

Stay tuned for Part 2—Technical Mistakes…

Photo by claire jones on Unsplash