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How to choose a great logo for your brand

January 28, 2019

Wilsons LeatherBoardwalk co-founder, Harriet Breitborde, is one of the most talented graphic designers I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. She told me of an assignment she had before we formed our partnership. She had been lead designer on a logo redesign for Wilsons Leather. Using the standard winnowing process, where you start out with dozens of candidate logos and narrow the options down, they had finally arrived at two finalists. Wilsons CEO, at the time, could not choose between the two designs. He liked them both. He asked to have a week before deciding. During that week he showed the designs to as many of his employees as he could, asking each one to vote for one of the two options. Then he chose the option that lost the vote! He reasoned that a new logo should seem a little off, a little uncomfortable. If the design is too easy to vote for, if its too familiar, then it won’t have the kind of edge it needs to attract attention and get noticed. Not sure I’d advise anyone to choose a logo that way but there is some value to his reasoning. Be that as it may, there are definite things to consider when you select a logo for your brand.

After the name of the brand itself, the logo is the most important carrier of the brand’s identity. Everything will revolve around it. It will be the signature on every piece of communication the brand puts out there. Whether it’s a wordmark, a pictoral logo, an abstraction or a logo system, it still will be your prime identifier. And it will have to meet some benchmarks in order to be a success. At Boardwalk, we measure logo designs against two types of criteria: Generic and Specific.

Generic Criteria
These are the standards that every logo should meet.

Original. Don’t pick a logo design you’ve seen before. Your market will pigeonhole you as just another me-too brand.

Evocative. A logo can’t tell the whole brand story. In fact, it shouldn’t even try. But it should provide a clue to what the brand is all about. Even abstract logos should indicate something. Nike’s famous abstract logo, the Swoosh, suggests both action and accomplishment.

Scaleable. Some version of it must work well as a favicon. At the other end of the scale, it should look good painted on the side of a barn.

Legible. If you can’t make it out, what’s the point?

Bold. It needs to separate itself from the others around it. When a business sponsors an event of some kind, its logo gets placed somewhere in the event program along with all the other sponsors. In that environment, a good logo will command attention. A weak logo will get lost in the crowd, Compare your logo to the others that might appear there. Life of the party? Or wallflower?

Work well in black and white. You might not always have access to color. You never know when you’ll want to stamp your logo into sand. Maybe you’ll want to etch it into glass or metal. Make sure it will shine there.

Ask Boardwalk about designing a
winning identity for your brand.

Specific Criteria
These are criteria that only apply to the logo at hand. Your logo should reflect your brand strategy. Some brands need to come off as serious – some as playful. What attributes to you want people to associate with your brand? To the degree it can, the logo should reflect those attributes. Attributes like:

•  Strength
•  Feminine
•  Macho
•  Childlike
•  Moving forward
•  Honest
•  Fun
•  Serious
•  Stability
•  Action
•  Safety
•  etc.

By the way, if you’re considering conducting a survey to help you select a logo, the time to do it is before you list your Specific Criteria. It would have been better if the CEO of Wilson Leather had canvassed his employees before Harriet started designing. He should have asked them what sort of characteristics a new logo ought to have. It’s no use to ask them after all the work has been done. Allow the public commentary to inform the designer’s explorations, not to judge the designer’s output after the fact.

Get your criteria worked out and share them with your designer before work begins. Then evaluate any proposed designs as to how well they meet the criteria. Don’t even consider a design that does not meet all of the Generic Criteria. You have a little more latitude with the Specific Criteria. You can go by the book and pick the design that checks off the most boxes, that meets the most of your Specific Criteria. Or you can choose one that might only meet one criterion but does it spectacularly – the design just nails it – really gets your brand promise across. As long as the character of the brand comes through in an interesting and compelling way, you should have an excellent start to your brand identity.

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