A logo is a pivotal aspect of a brand to get right. It is the center of your identity of which everything revolves around. It also communicates the personality of a brand. One could easily write a book on this subject ­– maybe even two, but for brevity’s sake let’s just going to skip across a very deep ocean as if it were a puddle.

All rules are made to be broken at least once in their existence. But before you decide to go “rogue,” it’s good to know what the rules are and why they exist first.

5 tests a logo must pass. 

Legible when small.  

Logos can be as big as a building or as small as a coin. If your logo is unreadable or lines begin to disappear faster than they should when it’s shrunk, then there is a definite area for improvement.

Works as a solid colour.

Sometimes logos need to live in a space that requires only one colour. If the logo doesn’t make sense when this happens, it may run into problems down the road.

Passes the squint test.

This one is something I picked up over the many years I have been in the industry. One of the fastest ways to see if a logo will go the distance is if it passes the squint test. Stand back a little, squint your eyes, and see if the logo still holds it’s own. The details of the design will fade away as expected, but you should still be able to see some form of hierarchy between the different elements within the design. It should still feel strong, and be recognizable.

Works in a variety of mediums.

Logos have to be versatile. They can be found on the side of a pen, a billboard, or even a golf shirt. A logo shouldn’t just look good on screen, but in the real world too.

Has clean lines.

Printers can do a lot more than they used to. That said, the cleaner the lines, the sharper and more readable they’ll be when in less than ideal environments. This means no drop shadows, lens flares, or photos of your cat.

3 main conceptual directions a logo can take. 

While there are many ways to describe a brand in regards to a logo design, these are the paths most successful brands take.

None

This is where a logo doesn’t have a deep rational. It is simply a mark that rests on clean design. A great example of this is Kodak. The design has no meaning. In fact, even the name Kodak has no meaning. The founder, George Eastman, was fond of the letter K and liked the way it sounded, and the rest is history.

Hidden

This is where a logo has meaning but is not obvious, but the meaning represents the company in some way as an internal rationale. The Mercedes logo, for example, uses a 3 sided star. This originally represented the three industries it produced engines for – motorcycles, cars, and aviation. 

Direct

This is where the logo has a clear connection to the company name, service or product it offers. A well-known example of this is Apple. Although they don’t sell fruit, the icon is directly connected to the name. The bite was added to ensure people understood it as an apple and not a tomato. A nerdy joke that the designer added was the wordplay between BYTE and BITE.

There is always the option of combining the options above. Take the original apple logo for example; the rainbow has no meaning or purpose, other than to make it “lively.” The only part of the colour band that could be considered to have a purpose is the green. It was intentionally put at the top to represent the stem.

What makes a great logo?

These tips can be seen in most iconic brands.

Memorable

A logo has only a few moments to make an impression. Make those moments count.

Unique

If your brand looks like everyone else, you’ll be sure to get lost in the crowd.

Simple

A mistake that many make is to try to show everything in a logo. The more you say, the less people will remember. A logo is just the beginning of a conversation between a brand and its audience. Keep it simple and you’ll end up saying more with less.

Classic

Don’t be trendy. Always shoot for timeless. What is all the rage today, can quickly become tomorrow’s punch line.

In the end, a logo can be whatever you want it to be – a mark that describes a business or an icon that describes a mindset. Following these guidelines will help you identify which is which.