7 Qualities of a Successful Logo and 3 Things a Logo Can’t Do

Whether you’re a new business looking to create a logo or an established business thinking about refreshing your logo, it’s good to remember what a logo does and what it doesn’t do.

1. It is distinct.
It doesn’t look like someone else’s anything. To be extra careful, you can do a search in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office online database.

2. It is readable.
Whether it’s that the shape of the logo immediately conveys the brand, or each word of the logo is distinct and clear, the logo needs to be readable. You don’t have to use Helvetica to be readable. There are myriad typefaces in script and serif that work well if you choose carefully.

3. It looks good in black and white.
A good logo can have color as an element, but if the only thing that makes your logo readable or memorable is color, then you have a problem. Clients will want and need black and white versions of their logos. If it works in black and white, it will work in color. The reverse is not always true.

4. It can scale.
Does the logo look good when it’s at 2 inches? How about 1 inch? Does it stop being readable at 8 inches? How does it look at 6 feet? Successful logos are used in many media, including signage, email signatures, Twitter icons, t-shirts, and letterhead. The logo needs to be readable and look purposeful at a range of sizes.

5. It can be reproduced cost-effectively.
Does your logo have such intricate detail that signage will require elements to be handcut? Does it require special laminate or inks? These will add extra costs each time it is reproduced.

6. It is timeless.
“Timeless” here doesn’t mean “modern.” “Timeless” means that you really can’t tell – and don’t think about – when the logo was created.

7. It fits the company and the industry.
While not all logos should look the same, there are commonalities among certain industries. There are certain “looks” that would seem bizarre if applied to other industries; imagine a logo for a lawn service that used an academic crest. To avoid consumer confusion, make sure the logo looks like it matches the industry.

8. A logo does not redefine your business.
Sometimes businesses make the mistake of rebranding in response to a public relations crisis. A new logo won’t fix your supply chain or your human resources issues. If you go into the process thinking that it will, you will be disappointed no matter what.

9. A logo does not market your business.
Creating or refreshing a logo won’t put your business on marketing auto-pilot. You will still have to do all of the things you do now to market, but a good logo will make your marketing efforts more effective.

10. A logo does not say everything there is to say about your business.
A client once mandated that their logo include a pictorial representation of each of their five divisions, along with the contact information for customer service. This would have resulted in a muddy, complicated logo that wouldn’t replicate at a small scale and wouldn’t be able to be visually processed quickly. The logo doesn’t have to tell everything about the company; this is what websites, social media and marketing are for.

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