Don’t get caught in the trap of making a clever logo. Get caught up in creating a clever identity for your client.
A logo doesn’t matter, identity matters (or if you prefer - branding but I hate using that word). I say this as someone who makes at least part of my living off design - including logo development. A “boring” logo may be the best choice for your client. The most important thing is to determine the client’s identity and let the logo create itself from there. If you have an overarching purpose behind the design of the logo then it will be much more effective in communicating a message. When you begin a project this way then you are much less likely to be asked to shift a line by 2 pixels or try “that shade of red I saw this morning”. a good portion of the logo and general identity will already be defined, thus more likely to previously agreed upon. This will streamline the entire design process and prevent you from getting bogged down by a minute detail.
So what makes a good logo? If you haven’t previously read Paul Rand’s “Logos, Flags, and Escutcheons”, Stop right now and go read it. When I first read his article, I could feel so many errant thought pathways in my brain finally connect. His thoughts are spot on. It is far too easy to get caught up in the desire for something new or clever when designing a logo. Too often we are looking for our next portfolio piece instead of focusing on what the client needs. That’s a good way to get a nice portfolio but also put yourself out of business. focus on the client unless you are working for free. But don't work for free unless you are just getting started. However, that doesn’t mean give the client everything they want. That’s a good way to, as The Oatmeal put it, send your (web) …Design Straight to Hell.
Before I tell you what makes a good logo, I must first define what a logo is. This is more difficult that it may seem at first glance. A good place to start is the following sentence from Paul Rand’s article:
A logo is less important than the product it signifies; what it means is more important than what it looks like.
Boiling it down even further in order to define the pure essence of a logo - A logo is the singular graphical representation of a business, product, or individual. This means that a logo can be used as the sole means of identification without any additional supporting text or imagery. Wait, didn’t he just tell me a logo doesn’t matter? Yes, that is exactly the point. So often a client wants a logo before they even know what message about their company should be conveyed. A logo can tell you a lot about a company. Are they modern & hip? Proven & reliable? Focused & streamlined? Diverse & strong? so many things go into the color, the type of lines, should it include the company name or just a simple graphic? This mindset is very different from being the description of a business. That thought process is what can lead to very literal logos, which can be harmful as they can pigeon hole your company in the customer’s mind. Though perhaps that is what they want, maybe they are a boutique that focuses on one or two things and doing that well.
So what does make a good logo? I could tell you that a logo should be extremely simple with clean lines and limited color pallet. The only problem is that may not be true for every company. I admit that describes some of my favorite logos - Apple, FedEx, AT&T, Target, Amazon, Goodwill… I could go on.
A good logo is one that contributes in a positive way to the identity of a company by communicating a specific message.
Will that usually require a simple logo to allow the message to be clear? yes. The timeless architect Frank Lloyd Wright said it best,
“Less is only more where more is no good.”
Don’t be minimal just to be minimal. Be purposeful and deliberate in your design.