Not just something pretty


Professional logo design can be an appreciable investment for an organisation, but when you understand how important it is and how many factors needs to be considered, the cost makes a lot more sense.

A lot of start-up companies worry about how much a professional business logo will cost, so they ask a friend who is good at art if they can help out. Eager to help, or perhaps just interested in a new challenge, the artist often produces an image of some sort based on a literal interpretation of the business activity or company name, or on the owner’s personal hobbies and interests. It may be a lovely piece of artwork, but that doesn’t mean it will work as a logo.

Logos created by artists rather than designers are often hand-crafted and full of intricate details that have important personal meaning for the business owner. While this may be ideal for a certain type of illustration or artwork, it doesn’t usually work well for a logo. There are a number of reasons for this, which will become clearer if we look at what you want from your new logo and the characteristics it will need in order to do the job it’s intended for.

Your logo is just one element of the company branding, and, as part of the branding, its function is to support and promote your business’s strategic marketing objectives.

You want your clients to see your logo and associate it with your brand, so it needs to be simple, recognisable and memorable. It will be more readily recognisable if it is different from other logos; most importantly, it should be easily distinguishable from your competitors’ logos.

You are going to want to use your logo in a lot of different situations, from business cards to exhibition stands to website and social media, so it needs to be versatile enough to work on printed materials and on screens.

A logo also needs to work effectively in different sizes: some logos look great when they are small, but just don’t adapt to larger applications; others include text and details that are lost when scaled down.

This is one of the potential problems of a hand-drawn ‘artistic’ logo: you can scan it into a computer, but it will lose clarity when you scale it up and every little imperfection – often the very details that make the original attractive – will become magnified; on the other hand , the intricate, hand-crafted features that work on the original are lost when it is reduced for use on small-scale materials such as business cards.

It’s also important that the logo be effective in black and white, or at least in shades of grey. If you send digital documents to a client, they are likely to print them in black and white, and even when there is a colour original, it’s likely that any materials that are photocopied will be reproduced in grey-scale.

There are other situations when a successful monochrome version of the logo is vital. The international utilities company Iberdrola supply gas, electricity and renewable energy, and their logo features a green leaf, a blue droplet and a yellow flame, all with the same essential shape; once the logo is stamped onto a metal manhole cover, these colour subtleties are lost and the brand message obscured.

Town crests are another type of logo that need to be reproduced on maintenance access plates and other urban furniture. Here, too, the loss of colour and detail weakens the effect and greatly reduces the impact.

When you are commissioning a logo for your company, it’s very easy to lose sight of the main reason for the design: your logo is part of your marketing strategy, intended to appeal to your clients and to allow them to easily recognise your products. As always, it’s important to remember that even if you own the business, you are not necessarily one of your target audience. Essentially, then, you don’t need to love your own business logo. It’s far more important that the logo be fit for purpose: it needs to appeal to your clientele and convey the right public image and the values that your company stands for.

We started this article by talking about the cost of a logo. It’s true that, particularly for a start-up, a professionally designed logo may seem a big expense just when there are a lot of other very necessary expenses and money isn’t coming in yet. But one final point about logo design is that it should be timeless: it shouldn’t be influenced by temporary trends in fashion and design. Money spent on good design will ensure you have a logo that will last for many years with minimal change.

We can see this from looking at some of the international brands we are most familiar with: the McDonald’s golden arches were first used in the restaurant architecture in 1952 and have been a part of the logo since 1962, while the three-pointed Mercedes star has been around since 1909. Both logos have undergone changes over time but, in each, the essential, clearly recognisable, element remains.

Good design can be expensive, but it’s worth thinking about why this is the case. If you commission a professional designer to create a logo for your business, at first sight, the end result may look ridiculously simple, but there are fundamentally sound reasons for this simplicity: the simple logo is designed to be timeless, effective, meaningful, versatile and memorable; it will be a valuable asset and play a key role in your marketing for years to come.

On one final note, we’ll just quote Ralf Speth, CEO of Jaguar Land Rover, who said, “If you think good design is expensive, you should look at the cost of bad design.”

Versatility is key: a logo must work for different media, in different sizes, in colour and in black & white.

Early on in the rebranding process there is time to consult, to find out how people relate to the company’s vision and values, how they feel the current brand expresses these, and where they feel it falls down and could be improved. If you allow everyone – including staff and trusted clients, too – to have their say at this stage of consultation, they will see that they have been involved and their opinions considered. Even if the final result isn’t what they would personally have chosen, there’s a far greater chance that they’ll come with you on the journey, appreciating why you are leaving your current location, and why you end up where you do.

The public is more familiar with bad design than good design. It is, in effect, conditioned to prefer bad design, because that is what it lives with. The new becomes threatening, the old reassuring.
― Paul Rand

At Tantamount we create original logos and brand identity, as well as rebranding where appropriate. We may not be the cheapest option you will find, but we think the expense is well worthwhile. Do feel free to get in touch and talk about your project and we’ll see how we can help.