Join John McWade for an in-depth discussion in this video How not to design a logo, part of Graphic Design: Logo Design Tips and Tricks.
- We've all seen bad logos. No one intentionally designs a bad logo. There are lots of reasons they happen. I think our most common mistake is that we tend to take things literally. If I'm designing a logo for a company that makes pottery, like the coffee thing, I'll probably try to work a pot into my logo, or a potter's wheel, or some clay, or something like that, But that's almost always the wrong thing to do. People don't need our logo to show them our pottery.
That's for our website to do or our catalog. Another common mistake is that we expect our logo to do too much. We want it to tell the world all about who we are and what we do, and what we can do for them, and so on. No logo can do this. Let me illustrate how a bad logo happens. We are going to pretend that we're Apple, and we're going to design a logo for Apple the way bad logos get designed. So here's the story we tell ourselves, and see if it's familiar.
We say the natural place to start is with an apple. It represents our name, it's our world, our center. Everything revolves around it. Around the apple, we'll make a swoosh. The swoosh adds sweep and orbit, which is very space-age and modern, like Apple. It represents our global reach. It encircles the global village. It draws everyone into Apple's ecosystem. Right in the center, on top of the apple, we'll set our name.
It's on top of the apple because, like the apple, it's central, it's core. The typeface we've chosen is Copperplate. Copperplate is a style from the industrial age and we chose it to convey our industrial design aesthetic. We add a bar to represent a menu bar, and it's colored a gradient gray to mimic the metal construction of our products. The "Smartphones, Tablets and Computers" line is there to tell the world what kind of products we make.
This is important, we have to have this. Otherwise, how would anyone know that a company named "Apple" was actually a Smartphone and computer company. And, because it just sits there, we'll add a yellow outline to give it a bit of pop. And finally the slogan, to tell the world our mission, so people know what we're up to. And we've set this in ITC Garamond Light. That was our corporate typeface from '84 to '02 and we've chosen it to connect the past to the present to show that we have roots, we're not a new kid on the block.
And there you go. I can't tell you how many logos I've seen that have been done just this way and I'm sure you've seen these too. What's interesting is that we thought we were telling our story, but it doesn't come across, does it? That's because this isn't how people process a logo. A logo isn't something you read, you just note it. It's a quick thing, an icon. We were doing several things wrong. One, is that we were thinking too literally. Two, is that the associations we thought were there, like the swoosh, aren't.
That was wishful thinking. And three, is that there's just too much stuff going on. I think the key here is that in doing all this, and trying to nail it down tight, we didn't leave room for art to happen. Art is a powerful force that works below our surface consciousness and bubbles up through our emotions. In that regard, it's similar to music. We don't really think about art, we just feel it, and our job as designers is to learn how, to know how, to connect images to those feelings.