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Keep It Simple, But Never Stupid

By Stephanie Ringold,Graphic Designer,AGCarmel
Think of the absolute best logo you’ve ever seen. What does it look like? A good logo is built on carefully planned use of both positive and negative space – like the “bite” out of the Apple logo, which was meant to help identify it as an apple and not a tomato. Most globally recognized brands have put very careful thought into their logos. Just because you or your client is a small business doesn’t mean your brand doesn’t deserve the same.

During my last year of college, we had to do several pro-bono design projects. If you were lucky, you actually got to do something interesting for a local business or non-profit, but most of it meant offering your time and work to your family and friends for whatever “business” they could dream up, with very little chance of it actually being used. This was, in my case, fortunate, because my suitemate’s father had grand ideas of opening an internet café/ministry called The Fisherman’s Net-Café. My project was to come up with a logo for this venture, along with a basic stationary package. These were his actual words when describing his vision for the logo:

“Maybe a world, in a net, where the end of the net becomes a computer mouse?”

I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that I did not send him a world in a net.  The final logo, which I was reasonably pleased with, was something much simpler, but still made the same statement.

 “Simple” is the bread and butter of what we do as designers. It’s boiling all the elements of a business down to the very basic ingredients and using those to build a design.

Ideally, a logo should do two things, tell you what a business does or who a business is.  It can do one or both, and neither is right or wrong.

Tell you what the business does:
Intuitively, we think that a logo should tell you what a business does.  A landscaping company might include a tree or a leaf in their logo.  Especially with small or family-owned businesses, when the company name doesn’t explain their field or specialty, a logo like this can help to differentiate the business.  However, as tempting as it is, it’s not always the best choice.  Logos like this can quickly become busy or crowded, and lose their impact in certain usages. (Need explanation as to why it can be good).

Tell you who a business is:
A logo like this can be as straightforward as a typeface. It’s a statement about what kind of company they are, a description rather than a classification. Start with a single adjective, like “elegant”, “stoic”, “classic”, “fun”, or “sporty”.  A descriptive logo gives a brief impression of a company’s mission, or as much as a few glyphs and graphics can.  These are the most common type of logos, but also the easiest to misuse and misinterpret.

Of course, even within the above guidelines it’s easy to find logos that just don’t work. What is “stupid” about having an ill-fitting logo is that it does nothing but harm a business’s image. A brand logo is a company’s public image, so it’s important to decide if you really want people to associate your business with a badly drawn cartoon craftsman- what?, early 90’s clip art and Arial Black.

It’s easy to create a simple logo, but simple logos that work well for you or your client can be a little harder to come by, and should always be deliberate and carefully planned out.  I promise that a little bit of effort will make all the difference in how customers respond.

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