WHAT MAKES A GOOD LOGO?

If you think your logo is the most important part of your brand, you're not alone. Most people focus on creating a cool logo and miss what’s actually needed to turn it into a badass logo that people recognize and love.
 

logo versus brand worstofall design

Most people focus on creating a cool logo and miss what’s actually needed to turn it into a badass logo that people recognize and love. In the small business space, it has everything to do with how you communicate what you have to offer in a clear and meaningful way.
 
It has almost nothing to do with your logo!!
 
The problem is we small business owners are looking up at huge companies for ideas of what we need to succeed.
 
But we are not them, and they are not us. And we aren't even headed in the direction to be them! Because most of those example brands you are looking at are products.
 
But you are a service.
 
And even for the huge badass brands of companies that sell products- even their logos aren't the reason they are successful. It's the brand that made the logo what it is. For example:

NIKE: THE GODDESS OF VICTORY

Case in point: Nike. When we think of Nike, we think of the swoosh. So it’s no surprise that most people equate the power of a brand with the power of the logo.

I mean, what a brilliant logo, right?

WRONG!

Sure, there’s a story behind the shape of the logo, but people don’t buy Nike because of the swoosh.

The logo is brilliant only because of the behemoth brand that backs it up. Apparently a student designed the swoosh for $35 in 1971—what a steal! But it wasn’t really a steal. Nike made that logo brilliant by positioning the company in the market, and then pumping cash into smart advertising campaigns over decades.

The swoosh might as well be some weirdo abstract creature that has nothing to do with what it’s selling, like the mermaid on the Starbucks logo. It’s iconic because the brand made it iconic.

The logo is only one small part of the brand. Yes, a bad logo can hurt your business. And a brilliant logo that makes people stop and think, “Hey, that’s cool,” will have customers think about you for an extra millisecond.

But a logo does not a brand make. On the other hand, a great brand can make a plain logo seem absolutely brilliant.

Too harsh?

Why are we being so harsh on logos? After all, we love designing badass logos, and it’s fun to come up with a smart logo that encapsulates the brand’s essence into a single mark that, over time, the consumers will recognize sans the company name. That’s pretty cool, and that’s what all businesses want.

We’re being harsh because we don’t want you to spin your wheels on getting the perfect logo in lieu of building the brand that’s actually going to make that logo sing. Yes it's important that the logo is in line with your brand's positioning (a nice luxury font logo for a premium priced brand makes sense while a childish font would not) but once it's in the right vicinity, we find no "perfect" logo is going to make your company successful.

10:1 RULE

So what makes a good logo? The brand behind it. Go ahead: Put effort into a logo you can be proud of. But don’t do it if you’re not going to put ten times the effort into a brand that’s going to make it work for you. Stop spending time on your logo, and start spending time on your brand: your logo will thank you.

Most people think if they have a badass logo, they also have a badass brand! And while a cool logo can take you far, it is most certainly not a brand, and understanding the difference can open your eyes to new opportunities for growing your business.

Below are 4 key differences that can help you determine if you have a brand or not, and when you need one.  

OK, BUT WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LOGO AND A BRAND?

What’s a logo? A mark that represents your company.

What’s a brand? The reason your logo has any meaning at all. It’s the value, feeling, and personality of your company that your logo will come to represent if you market the brand consistently over time.

A logo without a brand is just another mark.

1. A LOGO IS A MARK, A BRAND IS YOUR STORY

A logo is the mark that identifies your company whenever it’s presented.  It’s the mark that goes on top of your website, your business cards, and your products and packaging. A logo is one very important part of your brand.

A brand is how consumers perceive you. It's the sum of your company’s touch points and includes everything your customers come into contact with. It's the main message and idea that influences everything you say and do, how and where you market it, and of course, all the visual elements of your business (website, business cards, marketing materials...)

An important point most people miss is that a brand is not about what you are selling, but why people care about what you’re selling. It’s about the emotional need you are fulfilling. 

Think about your brand as a story. Who are you, and why should people care?

 

2.  A LOGO WILL HELP YOU START A BUSINESS, A BRAND WILL HELP YOU GROW A BUSINESS

You can start and build a business with a logo, and as a solopreneur just by operating you are your default brand because you are your business, and people can’t help being themselves pretty consistently. If you’re a reliable, hardworking person with a great product, you’ll probably do alright! Although if you rely on your personal awesomeness to develop your business, it will mean that you need to spend quite a bit of time with each lead for them to fully understand why you’re great.

When you start hiring employees and outside vendors who will also be selling your services (social media marketers, for example), a brand is crucial to making sure that everyone is selling the same thing, with the same message. Even if it continues to just be you, if you are utilizing online marketing techniques (social media, blogging, webinars, newsletters, etc…) a brand will make sure that all the content you put out there is consistently telling the right story, reinforcing the main overall message of your business. That consistency is what develops relationships with people overtime, be they current or potential clients. The longer you reinforce your message, the more awareness you bring to your business and that awareness multiplies overtime and translates into sales.

 

3. A LOGO INFLUENCES YOUR VISUALS, A BRAND AFFECTS AESTHETICS, AND MORE

Since the logo is the sum of the brand's visuals, we usually start by developing the perfect logo mark and then build the entire visual brand around it. But that visual brand does not directly reference company culture or messaging. Again, when you have a brand message, it influences every decision you make as a company (For example your pitch; your homepage copy; how and where you market. A few less obvious ones might be; how you structure your work days; where you have a company holiday party or host promotional events; what kinds of events you sponsor; what charities you support; the kinds of gifts you give...)

 

4.  A LOGO IS MORE AFFORDABLE THAN A BRAND

Unless you have an investment with which you are starting your business, developing a brand before you’ve actually set up shop is usually not possible given your limited resources. When we help growing businesses create a brand, we have a lot of information on which to base that brand message; past experiences can shed light on the actual needs of the consumer (as opposed to the needs you think they have.) 

That said, having a brand is powerful.  If you have a clear and strong message, and brand elements that strengthen that message (i.e. a badass website, super professional business cards, eye catching mailers…) selling is much easier.  Many industries sell their good based almost completely on their brand. Clothing and jewelry, for example, are a dime a dozen, are non-essentials, and consumers in these verticals buy  based on the brand equity more so then in service-based businesses. The whole buying experience needs to make consumers feel great because they don't need to buy this item. And that experience is shaped by the brand. 

But out of the gate, when you are starting a business, there are so many other things that need your time and money. So when boot strapping the business, it’s usually not feasible or the best use of your limited resources.  After all, a great brand without a great business has nothing to sell. Here's an article about how much branding costs, and you're just starting out, check out our Brandshrink or  Brandup, an affordable way to get everything you need, including a responsive website if you're not ready for the full shabang.

In the end you will need both, but when you are a small business, doing a full branding project is often not affordable.  If you use a logo designer that knows about branding, elements of your overall brand message will still be discussed and explored to achieve the right logo anyway. A brand will always be more powerful, but companies don’t usually have the resources to develop one when first starting out.  When you’re ready though, a brand is necessary and will help take you where you want to go!

FREE LOGOS!

Did you know that Squarespace has a logo generator that offers free logos to anyone with a site? ($10 for none SQSP users). This and other cheap logo alternatives, like fiverr or logo contests like this one, has outraged lots of people in the design world. 

We think it's great! 

For the right people, this is an awesome tool and we think you should share it around. Better to use the SQSP generator (and copy their business card mock ups) than make it yourself. The built-in constraints will make it cleaner than what a non-designer would make on their own.

Doesn't this undercut the value of Worstofall Design's work?

Of course not! Here are 4 reasons why this platform is not only awesome, but should be saluted by everyone in the small business, design and branding world.

  Cause we're in Brooklyn, so we're probably all perfecting our mustaches

Cause we're in Brooklyn, so we're probably all perfecting our mustaches

 

1. IT WILL INSPIRE MORE BADASS DESIGN WORK, IN GENERAL

Photoshop has made some things very simple for those who know how to use it. This means the design world has a low barrier to entry since anyone with Adobe Creative Suite can open up shop and call themselves a design, or even a branding, company.

This logo generator makes clean design even more accessible to people who don't even know photoshop.

But these tools ultimately weed out the designers who don't necessarily have value to add. It means that designers need to up their game to compete, and that should inspire higher and higher quality work. These programs push creatives to be creative again, and it's being fought because true creativity requires thought, and it's hard. Designers: don't fight it, embrace it like any real creative would and make something new.

 

2. IT WILL MAKE BADASS DESIGN WORK STAND OUT THAT MUCH MORE

If you go on SQSP and pick a font and logo for your company, you will quickly see why those decisions require expert eyes. Once you see how difficult it is to make something new, it will make you appreciate the value and price tag for hiring professionals. Similarly, if one goes through that exercise and doesn't end up seeing that value, but rather thinks 'why would I pay thousands of dollars for a logo when I got this one for free?!'  then this service if perfect for you.

  Cause we're dreamy?

Cause we're dreamy?

 

3. TIME IS MONEY AND THIS MAKES THE SYSTEM MORE EFFICIENT

Since everyone starting a business needs a logo, but many don't have a budget for it, there is much time wasted with designers and start-up owners trying to agree on terms. In the end, nobody wins, time is wasted, and it's terribly inefficient. 

Better that those without a budget don't bother those trying to make a living, so that time spent applying, and negotiating terms for, a design project are closer to making a deal from the beginning. This will actually increase the value of design by better matching supply with demand and freeing up both parties with more time creating and less time being mis-matched.

 

4. IT'S CAPITALISM WORKING FOR THE LITTLE PEOPLE

Why shouldn't people with no money be able to start a business? Take that starter logo and do your worst with it (and you know we mean that in the best possible way) work your tail off, sell and save, and when you're ready to take that company to higher places and have the budget to do it then you can invest. It's nearly impossible to open a business with a badass, differentiated brand unless you have big money to invest, so this makes it easier. All hail capitalism!

  Worstofall <3's Bacon

Worstofall <3's Bacon

In short, this is a great tool to promote starting businesses, and only helps to promote the value of expert design & branding. Squarespace does it again!

 

KNOW YOUR TYPE

IS YOUR FONT HOLDING YOU BACK? 4 MUST READS 


1. FONTS ARE LIKE PEOPLE

Every font has a distinct personality that is influencing how we interpret the words they are expressing, whether you are aware of it or not. Our feelings about typefaces are dictated by factors such as our collective experience, history and culture. Font history geek out session here. 

2. USING THE WRONG FONT FOR YOUR BUSINESS CREATES DISSONANCE, AND THAT LOSES TRUST FROM YOUR MARKET

If you're a lawyer charging $800/hour, would you show up to a business meeting in a ripped t-shirt? Likewise are you trying to sell graffiti covered skateboards dressed in a 3-piece suit? Getting the font wrong on your marketing materials, including your website, can be like walking into the meeting in the wrong outfit. Yes, you still showed up, but get the font terribly wrong and people will be subconsciously thinking something that contrasts what you are actually saying. Here's an unfortunate comic font used by a lawyer. Would you take him seriously? 

 the importance of fonts in your branding
 Would you hire this attorney?  Here are some more funny font faux pas

Would you hire this attorney? Here are some more funny font faux pas

 learn about font personalities

3. YOUR OPINION MIGHT BE YOUR WORST ENEMY

While you may prefer a thin, script typeface, if your a sporting goods company, it's probably not the best option for you. If you ignore the general perceptions of a font or design choice in favor of  your own personal opinion and you get it wrong, it will hurt your business. As important as it is for you to love your brand, it is equally important to be aware of how your audience will identify with your expression. Therefore the general perceptions of a font's personality should dictate which font is used for your brand over your own personal taste.

4. 1-2-3, LEARN BASIC TYPOGRAPHY

Below are some general font rules that can be applied to your business. These associations are not set in stone but are a good place to start.

Feminine & Elegant

Thinner, more elegant fonts are associated with beauty or femininity and as a result are often applied to women's fashion & lifestyle brands. That's not to say that a thin font cannot be masculine, but it, too, would most likely be associated with men's fashion or lifestyle. 

Masculine & Bold

In contrast to the thin elegant typefaces, heavier, thicker fonts can be more masculine as well, because of their sturdiness and less exclusive than thinner, more sophisticated fonts. 

Case Sensitive

Upper or lowercase characters are an added variable to font personality. An uppercase font is louder, more urgent and commanding than a lowercase font which in comparison seems friendly, understated and even childish or youthful. 

Serif & Sans Serif

Another broad personality perception is the difference between serif and san-serif typefaces. Since serifed fonts were created and used long before san-serifed fonts they don't just feel more classic and traditional, they actually are. Modern typefaces like helvetica are in fact more contemporary than serif fonts like times new roman, and this association is unavoidable. 

 

FINAL THOUGHTS - HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF

Many times the history of a font is a better indicator as to what its public perception is rather than your individual opinion of it. The list of traits of different fonts and what feeling their distinguishing elements project can go on forever, which is why having an expert with knowledge of typography is imperative for applying fonts to businesses, products and brands. 

KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID

K.I.S.S. - THE MAGIC OF SIMPLICITY
3 Things Badass Designers Must Think About to Achieve Impressively Simple Designs

Simplicity is an art. Distilling complex ideas into few words is surprisingly difficult. Business owners know this more than anyone when they start developing their elevator pitch. 

Similarly, a logo at its best should convey a multitude of ideas in the simplest mark possible.  It's not just the mark itself, but the way it is executed. And it's the training and knowledge behind the scenes that makes something simple, powerful.  

Here are 3 things badass designers must think about to achieve that simplicity

 KISS- Keep It Simple Stupid

KISS- Keep It Simple Stupid

1. WHAT YOUR BUSINESS SELLS

What is your company about? Sometimes creating a mark that is representative of what you sell is powerful, especially when executed properly.  Sometimes, something less literal that presents an a-ha moment is more powerful.

 

2. YOUR COMPANY PERSONALITY

Every aspect of your logo adds to the personality of your brand, and  color is a big one as it affects mood and comes with intrinsict meaning. We all have associations with colors that are connected to our daily lives, and there lies an opportunity to tap into people's memory to create a connection with their personal experiences. Basic examples like STOP signs being red, plants being green, etc... are ideas that can be utilized to add to the depth and should be taken into account when creating a visual message.

 

3. YOUR PRICE POINT

Matching your brand to your price point is critical to a professional and polished brand, and anything off the mark can create unrealistic expectations that will lose sales when they are about to close. The font used and finishing touches go a long way to tell a consumer what they can expect to pay, and when they are ready to buy, it will be a seamless process if the price is in the ballpark they were expecting.

 

Let's take a look at a brilliantly simple example, the FedEx logo.  

The font is clean and bold because the personality of the company is straight forward: they will simply always deliver your package on time. 

The colors are meant to address a key company goal: to utilize the fact that there are FedEx trucks everywhere and that the CEO wanted to "be able to see a FedEx truck loud and clear from five blocks away." 

fed-ex.jpg

Finally, the mark.   An arrow is such a simple, obvious and not terribly interesting representation of movement. Yet its brilliance lies in its execution. This is a great example of an a-ha moment, because the arrow isn't immediately apparent, but when you see it, it feels extremely smart (which, not coincidentally is a major personality trait of FedEx.)

Lindon Leader the designer, had this to say about it: I tell people this all the time. Henny Youngman, the comedian, had this whole signature to his act around ‘Take my wife. Please.’ What the PR folks wanted to do was the equivalent of changing his shtick to ‘Please, take my wife.’ If you have to call attention to your punch line, to explain it, it’s no longer a punch line. It doesn’t work, it isn’t funny, and no one will remember it.”

By utilizing the right font and appropriate colors, matched with great execution, FedEx has achieved a powerful and appropriate logo that has stood the test of time. Each element is very simple, but the power lies knowing to bring them together.