7 Deadly Sins of Logo Design

Have you ever asked yourself whether or not your company logo is up to par with its competition? Better yet, is it in line with the most successful companies in the world?

Put it to the test by going through these 7 Deadly Sins of Logo Design:

1. Self-Designed (if you're not a professional designer).

Just stop right there. If you designed your logo yourself, no need to further investigate. Case closed - your logo is due for an update.

Simply having an opinion about what you like and don’t like is not enough to create an impactful and lasting logo design.

2. Stock usage.

Sure, stock logos were likely made by graphic designers, but grabbing something for $15 (or even free!) off of a stock site isn’t doing your business any favors. Why? Anyone else could buy the same thing and put their own name with it! Plus if it’s generic enough to be on a stock site, it’s not original nor specific enough for your business.

3. Cliché concepts.

There are so many generic logos that are just repeats of other logos! Search “logo people tree” images on the internet and see how many you can find. Or how about Real Estate logos? Search that and you’ll find almost every logo has a few rooftops with a “swooshy” line and the company name below it. You are never going to stand out this way, even if there are differences! Let’s just say if it was the first thing you thought of, it’s probably cliché.

4. Outdated trends.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that if a logo is old it’s “outdated”. There are plenty of old logos that aren’t outdated at all. Why? Because they use classic design principles, not trendy ones. Going with trends is always going backfire a few decades later, just like fashion trends. Looking back you’ll realize that 3D effect and drop shadow were the bell-bottoms of logo design.

5. Relying on color.

A good logo design is flexible. If your logo loses its recognizability when the color is taken away, it’s time to update! There’s nothing wrong with adding color to your logo, but first check it out in black and white to see if it works well.6. Too much detail.

6. Too Much Detail

Again, because logos are used in so many ways they have to be flexible. If you can’t put your logo design on a pen without losing important detail, you’ll know it’s going to have to be simplified. A well-designed logo will not limit your company in any way, which leaves you the liberty to go for anything you want. 

7. Shallow or meaningless

Having a recognizable object in your logo does not give it any significant meaning.

If you are a tech company, simply putting a computer screen says nothing about you as a business. For example, Amazon could have used a grocery cart icon to imply online purchases, but that would be meaningless. Instead their logo points from A to Z, showing the wide range of products they sell (don’t forget that little grin too, reminding us about their attention to making the customer happy).  

Conclusion

If your company logo is committing one or more of these 7 Deadly Sins of Logo Design, it's time to kick it to the curb and get a fresh image. Great companies always maintain a great image for themselves, starting with a classic and impactful logo.

Check out the infographic for this article here.

Thinking your company could use a new logo? Get a jumpstart by winning a logo redesign package. Enter the bad logo contest here and submit an image of your current logo for review. If your logo is chosen, you'll win a professional logo design package worth $2,000!

How to Improve Company Image Through a Style Guide

Having a good image is vital to your company. If people perceive the company as high-end, they will treat it like so. On the other hand, if they perceive it as a company run out of a garage, they will likewise treat it that way.

What makes up a company image? I’m going to make this one easy and just say everything. Yes, everything! The building, employees, executives, customer service, uniforms, social media presence, products, commercials, advertisements, website, company colors, photography, fonts, design, etc. I could go on and on. Essentially everything that others perceive (seen, smelled, felt, heard…) plays a role in your company image.

I’m going to focus on the visual side of things. The key element to begin managing, regulating and improving your company image is a brand style guide.

What is a Style Guide?

A style guide is a document that contains the ins and outs of how to carry out the designs and copy for the business. These aren’t meant to be restricting to designs, but rather to be the backbone of everything the company puts out for the public eye.

Why Do I Need a Style Guide?

If you are a business just starting out, a style guide will be the guiding star to everything you put out as a brand. It will keep everything that rolls out consistent with your desired image. If you end up contracting multiple designers throughout the lifetime of your company, it will be the vital link between each designer’s unique style.

If you are already a well-established business and don’t have a style guide, and happen to be reading this article (which you are) then you are seeking to improve your current image. All of the best brands you can name off in 5 seconds will be great examples of brand consistency. Just scroll through Apple’s Style Guide for just their affiliates! On page 43 it even tells them to avoid using maple hardwood and glacier white acrylic solid surfaces as it would make them look too much like the actual Apple store, which would be detrimental to Apple’s brand. Now compare that level of detail in your mind to your brand’s current level of consistency. Closing this gap between you and the most successful brands through getting a style guide will elevate your image and gain more of the confidence of your target market.

Where Do I Get a Style Guide?

If you are just starting out, you can get one created along with your logo design from a graphic designer. If your graphic designer don’t know what that is, you should look into contracting a different designer. While most designers can make things look good for you, “looking good” may be all that you get out of them if they don’t have the goal of contributing to your company image and promoting your core message through a consistent brand. I also strongly recommend against doing it yourself. It will be a headache and you will likely overlook including important brand details and will have to constantly go back and revise it.

What Should a Style Guide Contain?

It will have some pointers on what to do and what not to do with the company logo. It will outline all of the specific corporate colors. More detailed style guides will establish the norm on what to capitalize, the correct punctuation to use when there are multiple correct ways of doing so, which font sizes to use, when to use all caps,  etc.

Every Style Guide Should Have at Least:

  • Logo guidelines such as: minimum/maximum sizing/aspect ratio, where to place things relative to the logo, color variations (if any), elements that must always be included vs. elements that can be omitted for simplicity, etc.
  • Color specifications such as: HEX codes, RGB percentages, CMYK percentages, and at times, even a PANTONE color (Sound strange? Don’t worry, the designer will take care of all of this), as well as specified secondary brand colors.
  • Font info such as: which fonts to use in paragraphs, headings, subheadings, etc., which point sizes to use, which colors to use for type and which background colors are suitable, etc.
  • Type info such as: kerning, tracking, line spacing, special characters, ligatures, etc.

Other, More Extensive Guidelines Include:

  • Specific verbiage to be used in copy.
  • Icons to use as supporting elements.
  • Patterns to use, and the ways in which they should be used.
  • Materials that should be used in physical locations.
  • Examples of the style of photography that is to be used.
  • Anything else the designer and the business decide would be important to define.

The list can go on an on, but essentially the rule is this: the more thoughtful everything is, the stronger the brand.

So if you want to improve your company image: define, define, and define your brand some more! As time goes on, people will be more able to recognize your company for the great company that it is.

Want to begin defining your brand’s visual style? Reach out! 

When to Contract a Graphic Designer - and When to Do it Yourself.

As an owner of a graphic design business myself, I love to take on new clients. Ideally, everything design-related is better done by a graphic designer if you don’t have experience yourself. However, I understand that not everyone can afford to contract a designer for all of their design needs. To make sure you’re spending in the right places here are some key times to contract/hire a graphic designer – and when you can most likely get by on your own.

When Starting a Business: Contract a Designer!

Every business at some point will want to cut corners instead of paying for the real deal. This is especially prominent in businesses that are just beginning, as budgets are tight and owners are fine with learning new things to kickstart their new venture – which, might I add is perfectly acceptable! You’ve got to do what you've got to do. However this is not the time do the graphic design yourself unless you have considerable experience. This sets the stage for the image of your brand... for better or for worse. Because tools and experience are limited, the outcome maybe be less than satisfactory and can hurt you in the long run.

You may be able to pinpoint things you like and things you dislike in designs, and you may even be able to create something that looks nice - but without professional graphic design experience, you may overlook important aspects of identity design such as: proper font pairings, applying design principles (balance, contrast, visual hierarchy, etc) appropriate color choice for your brand, creating the correct file types, creating something that can be easily reproduced/printed, promoting your company's USP (unique selling point), etc.

A good graphic designer will not only make it look nice, but ensure every detail (visual and implied) represents your business well. They’ll ask you about your goals as a business, your target market, and help find what’s unique about your business and then reflect that in the design. Having really impactful design as you start your business will be a great catalyst for your future success and confidence.

Also, designing without past experience tends to result in sporadic efforts that cause you to revisit the same tasks later when you find that they weren’t sufficiently done. Perhaps a business designs their own logo only to find that when they need to print it in black and white only, the details get lost and the logo is no longer recognizable. Back to the drawing board! A graphic designer has the foresight and experience to know that the design will need to be adaptable across a variety of media to make the logo functional across the board, making things smoother from the start.

Imagine not worrying about having to hold off on growing your business because you’re waiting to decide on how to visually represent yourself! Just let a professional take care of it and you can get back to strategizing and growing.

Public Content: Contract a Designer!

Everything that people see that ties back to your business is building or destroying your brand. Whether it’s a flyer, poster, website, business card, or even an invoice - you’re going to want the design to be right on the money.

When dealing with content that is being seen by the public eye, right off the bat you need to make sure that your output is as professional as possible and simply possible. Nothing is more frustrating than laboring hours on your own design only to find that that “perfect image” is too small to be printed without looking pixelated, or that amazingly vibrant color you chose comes out dull... Actually, I lied. There is something more frustrating – spending the time and the money on a ton of prints with an overlooked error. Through contracting a designer, certain printing restrictions and requirements can be prepared for and incorporated into the design the first time.

Beyond the perk of professional production, consulting and working with a professional graphic designer also creates brand consistency across every design. Companies without design experience that do their own design work are likely to fall into small variations across projects, slowly breaking apart their own brand. This makes it incredibly difficult for your target market to identify each design as belonging to your business. On the flip side, a professional designer will define all of the ins and outs of your brand and make sure each piece of design reflects that. Check out Twitter’s style guide for example. Notice how they outline every detail from defining the amount of negative space that must surround the logo when placed in a design down to the minimum size their logo should ever be. This is professional attention to design details.

This leads into some occasions in which you could feel comfortable in doing things yourself:

Recreating Simple Designs or Editing Pre-Existing Designs: You Can Do it Yourself!

Let’s say you have a flyer that was designed by a professional, but now has outdated information on it. This would be a great time to do it yourself! The backbones are already there and most of the time replacing information shouldn’t change the design itself. Say you have greeting cards already made, but you want to print them with unique quotes in each one. This is another occasion that you could take it on yourself rather than pay a designer to do it. You can request to have the file sent to you as an editable PDF so you can easily change text from your PDF viewer. Done and done! Then, if a special quote is needed last-minute, there is no need to reach out to the designer and wait for them to fix it for you. Granted, some of you may have low confidence in doing things like this. No problem! Surely many graphic designers are willing to help make simple changes, but that will obviously come with a price, including the chance that there will be some more turnaround time. If you need an immediate change, it can be difficult to hire someone to do it in the time that you need it in.

You can even go so far as to recreate a simple design with a different application. I recommend ensuring your designer creates a brand style guide for your business. That way you can refer to it when re-creating a simple design, helping you feel comfortable that what you are doing is consistent with your brand image.

When Trivial Designs are Needed: You Can Do it Yourself!

This one may be obvious, but if you require a simple sign to notify employees that the drinking fountain is out of order, it is typically unwise to hire a designer just for this purpose. Another example could be when putting together a presentation for a team meeting. Yes, ideally, everything about your business should maintain your brand identity, but if the budget is still tight these are the kinds of things to tackle yourself until further notice. Again, referring to the brand style guide provided to you by a professional graphic designer goes a long way!

Conclusion

Hiring a graphic designer at the right time is key to giving your business the right image, but also not always worth investing your resources in when it comes to certain projects. Still unsure about whether to hire or to do it yourself? No problem! Every situation is different and no two businesses are identical. Send me an email or reach out here on LinkedIn. We can chat about your specific situation and find solutions for any design-related problem you’re having.

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