It’s been quite a while since I wrote a technology Fridays post, but a task I was doing this morning inspired me to put a quick post together.
That task was building a logo library. In my work with Conservation Districts and as a freelance designer, I am often asked to put together posters that feature a bunch of sponsor logos.
I hate this task.
- It’s often hard for my client to track down all the logos of their sponsors, and it will sometimes take weeks to get ahold of one little logo, which holds up finishing the project.
- When the logos do come it, so often they are poor quality. It hurts me to put a blurry logo on a design that I worked hard on.
- Or, if not poor quality, they are poorly designed or a bad file, with a huge white background surrounding it or in a weird shape that doesn’t play nicely with the rest of the logos I’m trying to fit together.
All of these things combine to make a lot of work, and a lot of back and forth for me. All so I can muddy a design I worked hard on with a bunch of logos that don’t match.
But of course, I know that sponsors are SUPER IMPORTANT. Often sponsor dollars are what make the events happen in the first place, and I get that. So today I thought I’d take a minute to talk about how to lessen the headache (mine as well as yours if you make your own posters).
#1: Tracking the Logos Down
Since I have spent so many years making posters with sponsor logos, and since I still have all of those files, I thought it would be useful for myself and my clients to make a logo library.
So today I searched through all of my old files and copied every logo I could find into one big LOGO LIBRARY. Now when someone says, “I’m still waiting on so-and-so’s logo,” I can search my library to see if I already have it. SO HANDY. I’m also working my way through the folder to make sure the names of all the files make sense, so they’re easy to find with search.
So why should you care about my super awesome logo library? Well, for one, because I definitely recommend doing the same for yourself if you also frequently make documents that need sponsor logos on them. And for two, because I put mine on Google Drive and here’s the link, free for anyone to use!
That’s right. If the sponsor logo you need is one that I’ve used in the past, then you can knock one time-consuming step off your list. If you have one I don’t have, I also welcome anyone to upload logos to this folder. Plus, I’ll keep adding as I get new ones.
#2: Understanding Logos
My logo library has a lot of logos. Some are really great, and some are frankly really bad. Some are fine on their own but totally unreadable in a small space like the bottom of a poster, or such an ungainly size/shape that there’s just no way to fit them in with neighbors.
So I want the second part of this post to be a discussion about what makes a good logo. Maybe it will inspire the yet-to-be-designed logos of the future a little better.
What even is a logo?
In order to understand what makes a good logo, it makes sense to first understand what a logo is, and what it does.
I’ll refer to some experts here, who have already said it better than me. From 99designs:
At the very basic level, logos are symbols made up of text and images that help us identify brands we like.
But they can be so much more! A good logo is the cornerstone of your brand. It helps customers understand what you do, who you are and what you value. That’s a lot of responsibility on a tiny image!
What does a logo do?
A logo makes you stand out from the competition.
Perhaps the most fundamental function of a logo is giving your business a unique mark that differentiates you from other businesses. Before you get a logo for your business you’ll want to research what your competitors’ look like so you can position yourself. Of course, you don’t want to be so unusual that potential customers don’t understand your brand.
A logo identifies key information about your business.
Along with demarcating your business, a good logo also provides your customer with some crucial information about your company: it can communicate the industry you exist in, the service you provide, your target demographic and your brand values.
For example, a company might use circuit imagery into their logo to show that they operate in the software industry. Or they might use a specific color to communicate they are committed to being green/environmental. Or they might use a stylish font to highlight that they are luxurious.
A logo builds brand recognition
Logos also leave a visual impact that reminds your customers that, well… that you exist! In other words, logos can create strong visual associations with a business. This association helps customers keep your brand in mind. Think about brands like Nike or McDonalds, whose logos are so ubiquitous that they can be instantly recognized with or without the name attached. It’s no surprise that logos are such a central part of brand identity.
What should a logo NOT do?
The three tasks we talked about are a lot. They’re a pretty big ask for one small bit of type and maybe an image.
A logo should not try to convey EVERYTHING about your business
If your business or organization has a lot of goals/products/services/audiences, you may be tempted to try and convey all of those ideas in your logo. But what you’ll end up with is a messy, overly complex situation that at least doesn’t display well at small sizes, and at worst confuses people. The more you can simplify your idea or boil many facets into one idea, the better.
A logo is not the same as branding
Just Creative has a great discussion about the differences between branding, identity design, and a logo:
A logo is not your brand, nor is it your identity. Logo design, identity design and branding all have different roles, that together, form a perceived image for a business or product.
There has been some recent discussion on the web about this topic, about your logo not being your brand. Although this may be true, I haven’t seen any clarification of the differences between ‘brand’, ‘identity’ and ‘logo’. I wish to rectify this.
What is brand? – The perceived emotional corporate image as a whole.
What is identity? – The visual aspects that form part of the overall brand.
What is a logo? – A logo identifies a business in its simplest form via the use of a mark or icon.
Branding is certainly not a light topic – whole publications & hundreds of books have been written on the topic, however to put it in a nutshell you could describe a ‘brand’ as an organisation, service or product with a ‘personality’ that is shaped by the perceptions of the audience. On that note, it should also be stated that a designer cannot “make” a brand – only the audience can do this. A designer forms the foundation of the brand.
Many people believe a brand only consists of a few elements – some colours, some fonts, a logo, a slogan and maybe some music added in too. In reality, it is much more complicated than that. You might say that a brand is a ‘corporate image’.
The fundamental idea and core concept behind having a ‘corporate image’ is that everything a company does, everything it owns and everything it produces should reflect the values and aims of the business as a whole.
One major role in the ‘brand’ or ‘corporate image’ of a company is its identity.
In most cases, identity design is based around the visual devices used within a company, usually assembled within a set of guidelines. These guidelines that make up an identity usually administer how the identity is applied throughout a variety of mediums, using approved colour palettes, fonts, layouts, measurements and so forth. These guidelines ensure that the identity of the company is kept coherent, which in turn, allows the brand as a whole, to be recognisable.
The identity or ‘image’ of a company is made up of many visual devices:
- A Logo (The symbol of the entire identity & brand)
- Stationery (Letterhead + business card + envelopes, etc.)
- Marketing Collateral (Flyers, brochures, books, websites, etc.)
- Products & Packaging (Products sold and the packaging in which they come in)
- Apparel Design (Tangible clothing items that are worn by employees)
- Signage (Interior & exterior design)
- Messages & Actions (Messages conveyed via indirect or direct modes of communication)
- Other Communication (Audio, smell, touch, etc.)
- Anything visual that represents the business.
All of these things make up an identity and should support the brand as a whole. The logo however, is the corporate identity and brand all wrapped up into one identifiable mark. This mark is the avatar and symbol of the business as a whole.
A logo identifies a company or product via the use of a mark, flag, symbol or signature. A logo does not sell the company directly nor rarely does it describe a business. Logo’s derive their meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolises, not the other way around – logos are there to identity, not to explain. In a nutshell, what a logo means is more important than what it looks like.
To illustrate this concept, think of logos like people. We prefer to be called by our names – James, Dorothy, John – rather than by the confusing and forgettable description of ourselves such as “the guy who always wears pink and has blonde hair”. In this same way, a logo should not literally describe what the business does but rather, identify the business in a way that is recognisable and memorable.
It is also important to note that only after a logo becomes familiar, does it function the way it is intended to do much alike how we much must learn people’s names to identify them.
#3: Show me your logos
Now that we understand the fundamentals of branding, identity, and logos, let’s look at some. Here are my five favorites from the logo library:
American Bird Conservancy. I like this one because of its it’s simplicity. You know right away what they do, the text is easy to read.
Ducks Unlimited. Again, so simple, so easy. Simple lines, but it’s obviously a duck.
Flathead Land Trust. although the image is a bit more complex than the first two (mountains, barn, trees, stream), the graphics are nice and simple. I also like that FLT has a few variations on their logo, with the text to the side or underneath depending on where it’s used.
Montana Land Reliance. The thing I love about this one is that when I put it on a poster next to a bunch of others, it is always the one that stands out the best. Which, after all, is what you’re aiming for with a logo.
Bradley Livestock has a great one too. I think the fancy lettering adds some old fashioned charm. It gives you the impression of a family monogram, which gives me the idea that this is an old ranching family. The lines are a little thin to do well against non-white backgrounds though.
Please avoid these things
- Don’t make just one style of your logo. No shape will do well everywhere. Make at least one version of your logo that fits in a square, at the very least because you’ll need it for your Facebook profile.
- Make sure you have a version that is exported as a PNG and looks nice against a background that’s not white. Please, please, please.
- If your logo is dark colored, also make a light-colored alternative that works against a dark background.
- Don’t use Papyrus, or Comic Sans, or any other of the “fancy” fonts that come standard on Windows computers. We have all used these fonts at some point or another, and that means they’re over used.
Finally, if you are a conservation district in Montana and you need a new logo, please reach out to me. I can design one for you. My time is free.