5 Qualities of a Powerful Logo

Guest post courtesy of: Bill Weber

Getting the right logo for your company is like getting dressed for an important event.  Do you wear something off the rack at Wal-Mart, or do you wear one-of-a-kind couture?  Do you wear something loud and attention grabbing, or something muted and strong?  Do you get “tarted up” with flashy accessories, or do you select just the right wristwatch that serves as an appropriate punctuation mark?

What statement about your personality do you want to make? And what action do you want the person you are meeting to take?

When you get dressed up, you are using clothes and accessories and color to make your statement.  These are the tools of the stylist. This article is about the tools of the logo designer.

There are too many lousy logos in the world.  Too many quick, cheap designs that limit their owner’s businesses and cause more problems than they’re worth down the line.

Too many logos are made from meaningless or “goofy” lettering.  Too many logos aren’t rendered properly.  Too many logos are all ego and no benefit to the customer.  Too many logos tell the wrong story in the wrong way.

If you and your company want to be dressed with confidence, clarity and class, then your logo should have, at the very least, these five important qualities:

1. Sophisticated and simple.  We live in a world of very high design standards.   Even people who live in rural towns are exposed to sophisticated design through television, the internet, and the design of their pickup trucks.  Open your refrigerator and look at all the beautiful food packaging.  The difference between dollar store tissues and Kleenex starts with the designer’s touch.

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Sophisticated design adds to the perceived value of products and companies.  A good logo creates both an intellectual and emotional response in the viewer, thereby creating good will and, by extension, good sales.

Sophisticated design is also the key to making money in ancillary product sales.  People actually spend money on logo merchandise if the logo is cool.  At college football games, the great-looking college mascot shirt always outsells the ugly one.  How many times have you walked into a deli or pizzeria and seen a t-shirt – with ugly block lettering – collecting dust behind the counter?  You don’t want that to be your company’s products.

2. Positions you as a leader.   Of the many factors that contribute to the success of a logo, one of the most important is competitive positioning.  Your logo should stand out from the competition.  The right design positions you as a leader and dresses you for success.  But if you don't research what the competition is wearing, you may end up at the dance wearing the same dress as your rival.

It's important for logo designers to check the local yellow pages, the internet, and industry trade magazines to learn what everyone else is doing, what to avoid, and what to do better.

Here’s my design for an accounting recruitment firm, RF Resources:

Photo Credit: RF Resources
Photo Credit: RF Resources

My research showed that my client’s competition used monograms and wordmarks with names like AccountStaff and ForwardLife.  My solution positioned his business as very human and interested in helping accountants during their long careers.

Years ago, I was at the New Jersey shore and saw a logo for a company called Shore Automotive.  It was a giant sun and an ocean wave with a picture of a Camaro coming out of the surf.  On that same vacation I saw the logo for Roberto's Pizzeria.  Guess what it was?  A giant sun and an ocean wave with a picture of a pizza coming out of the surf.

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This story is funny when it's about two tiny beach businesses, but it’s not so funny when it’s about two internet companies fighting for attention – or you.

3. Communicates clearly.

A friend of mine has a company with a great name: Campus Resources, Inc.  He helps ivy league colleges raise money.  Before we were friends, he had a logo designed that had the letters CRI in big fancy letters.

I offered my critique: “Are you crazy? (He was – and still is – a friend of mine.) CRI sounds like some impersonal collection agency.  You have this beautiful name, and you are hiding it behind meaningless initials.  Your logo should reinforce what you do, not confuse people.”

My redesign?  A stylized ivy leaf with the words Campus Resources underneath.

Photo Credit: Campus Resources, Inc.
Photo Credit: Campus Resources, Inc.

4. Packed with meaning.

Nike can get away with a swoosh.  But most companies can't.  Nike spends millions of dollars in advertising to make sure that people make the connection between swoosh and sneakers.  Unless you have millions to spend, your logo should communicate something real about your business.

I see a lot of logos made up of blocks stacked on top of each other, or words with a swoosh through them.  I don't know what they mean, and potential customers don't know, either.

This problem also applies to companies that use globes or mountaintops or pictures of buildings as logos.  Unless you sell globes, trips to Nepal, or real estate, keep away from them.

A logo design that's meaningless is a wasted opportunity.  Here are two designs of mine that are packed with meaning.  The first is for a major construction company in New Jersey.  It shows the sun rising on a construction site.  The name of the company?  East Coast Construction.

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Photo Credit: East Coast Construction
Photo Credit: East Coast Construction

The second is a company called ICET, the International Center for Endoscopic Training.  It teaches doctors to look through those little tubes to perform surgeries.

Photo Credit: ICET
Photo Credit: ICET

5. Professional.

Powerful logos are almost always created by professional designers.  Pros have the knowledge, experience, talent and tools to create designs that empower companies, build pride among employees and customers, and contribute to the bottom line.

Professionals will not make amateurish mistakes, like making the type too small on your business card.  They know about computers, print and web production, and software compatibility.

Professionals understand copyright, trademark, and internet domain laws to help keep you out of trouble.  They work with reputable vendors, like printers and promotional product suppliers, who won’t rip you off.

Professionals get the job done on time and charge appropriately. They are as dedicated to their work as you are to yours.

Most importantly, they won’t let your company out of the house dressed in ill-fitting, ugly clothes.

Bill Weber is an artist, writer, and businessman with over 25 years of experience as a publisher, producer, product developer, and designer for business, consumer, and family media.  He has won multiple awards for his design and product development work. Bill has written two children's books, Hero's House and The Native New Yorker, and contributed to a third, Through Tiger's Eyes. He is working on two personal book projects: You Were Born PerfectYou Just Forgot for the young adult market, and Designing Powerful Logos for the business market.
 Visit his website for more information:


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