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4 Rules for Building an Effective Logo

We recently took some flak about making a pretty bold claim in one of our previous blogs. We asserted that: Your logo is not your brand.

Because this flew in the face of what many people thought about logos and brand strategy, the initial reaction was defensive. However, for those who made it all the way to the end of our brand strategy piece where we explained the importance of making a big brand promise and keeping it, lightbulbs went off.

Today, we’d like to backtrack a bit and give you some helpful information that can help you create a recognizable and effective logo.

Over the course of our 50-year history, we’ve developed 4 Logo Rules to Live (and Design) By.

We’ve applied these rules to countless businesses, associations, organizations and government entities.

Logo Rule 1: Logos are Appropriate, Distinctive, and Simple

When it comes to what your logo should be, the best approach we’ve come up with is to focus on being appropriate. If your customer is serious and looking for professional services, perhaps incorporating a cartoon element isn’t appropriate.

This doesn’t mean your logo should be boring. It should be distinctive as well as elicit the feeling and emotion that best represents your company and brand. Hitting these two points will make your logo easy for your audience to recall.

Here is where it can get tricky for business owners and leadership teams—your logo should also be simple.

We’ve found that when you focus on clean, simple shapes that you get an endlessly flexible logo. It can be scaled up to the size of a building or reduced to the size of a dime and work equally as well.

In short: A bad logo is generic and/or overly complicated.

Logo Rule 2: Logos Identification not Communication

In its simplest form, logos are a unique mark used to identify a particular business and brand. Artisans and skilled craftsmen have been putting their mark on their work for centuries. On the underside of a chair, on the inside of a silver ring or engraved on a statue would be the unique mark or series of marks for that person and trade.

They did this for identification and quality purposes. Someone looking to purchase that product would check the marks and know when it was made, where it was made, what it was made of (particularly with precious metal products), and they would know who made it.

Modern logos should do the same.

They should not attempt to communicate what a business or organization does, but instead clearly identify the business.

Logo Rule 3: Don’t Compare to Another Logo

When conceptualizing your logo design, it can be helpful to look at other brands in your industry. Our recommendation is to not let what you’ve seen direct your design direction too heavily.

The human mind searches for familiarity in our memories in order to gain understanding. Ignore this instinct. Build your logo and judge what you see, not what you have seen.

Also, don’t fall into the trap of going the “opposite” of a competitor just to be “different.” Be true to your brand, mission, and values.

Logo Rule 4: It’s Not About What We “Like”

This rule may be the toughest of all. When revealing new logo concepts, the first reaction of many of our clients is, “I love it!”

We certainly love to hear that, but the logo design is not about what the designer likes, or what you like. The logo should connect to, and be adopted by, the target audience. The most important thing to consider is if it accurately identifies the business and will elicit the desired feelings from customers who see it. It can be beautiful, but it MUST be effective.

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We’re Allen Wayne—a full-service creative agency with a diverse, talented team that works strategically and collaboratively with our clients to create phenomenal brands. We crave challenges. We solve problems. We develop solutions. Allen Wayne goes Beyond Design to craft an identity and personality for your entire operation. Contact us today and unleash our creativity on your business and brand.


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