First off, let’s define terms: Your logo is not your brand. As we’ve written before, your brand is the reflection of your products and services, your workplace culture and the totality of your values. Your logo, meanwhile, is the imprimatur of your brand. Think of it as your professional coat of arms—the seal that guarantees the quality that you provide to your customers, the emblem perched at the apex of your brand architecture. Need a few more reasons why a logo is so important? Let’s get granular with it.
Never forget how busy your consumers are. We’re all sending emails on our tablets, jumping on work calls on our laptops, hopping around between twenty apps on our phones. All that shuttling between tabs and devices tends to obliterate our attention spans into fruitflyish units of a few seconds that your digital marketing has to capture an audience’s interest.
Enter your logo, which amounts to a 1,000-words snapshot of your brand. If an ad pops up on your consumers’ screens and they get the vibe that even the logo isn’t for them—it’s too posh, not posh enough, perfectly posh but more (or less) than they wanted to spend—they’re going to keep on clicking on. Rest assured, this is judge-a-book-by-its-cover territory, and the cover of your book needs to scream, “Buy me. Because this experience, my target audience, is tailored to you.”
A Logo Imparts Legitimacy
Since your logo is the summation of your visual identity, a sloppy logo is akin to a restaurant buffet swarming with flies—that first-impressions moment when a customer thinks, ‘Definitely not spending my money here.’ And even a good product without a logo might seem scammy. Microsoft is an established brand, but if someone tries to sell you a Microsoft laptop that doesn’t have the Microsoft logo on it, would you trust it?
If your answer to that is ‘definitely not,’ then you’ve pinpointed the importance of a logo, which rubber-stamps legitimacy onto a brand—and onto all the collateral that your brand produces. Dedicate some time to perfecting your logo design, because it’s gonna live front and center on your website, tucked in the corner of your business cards and peppered throughout your social media feeds. As the North Star of your brand’s aesthetic, your logo ensures the consistency that consumers need in order to be confident that the same company is talking to them across a medley of platforms and campaigns.
A Logo Communicates Your Brand Personality
A good logo should be eye-catching, but it also needs to hint at what your brand does or convey who you are. For that reason, banks or life insurance companies opt for typography that looks sturdy and reliable. Whereas a business that delivers beauty and wellness products might draw from a palette of yellows and greens and pinks—and throw in a few monstera leaves while they’re at it—to send out vibes of optimism, health, joy.
Position your logo so that it acts as a harbinger of the experience that consumers are about to receive, be it financial advice or a box of hand lotions and jade rollers. At the same time, bear in mind that some of the most famous logos toe the line between functionality and artistry—getting across what a business does in more subtle messaging. In the Gillete logo, the “G” and the “i” look sliced open, as if by a razor. The yellow arrow in the Amazon logo connects the letters “a” and “z,” implying that Amazon sells and ships everything from A–Z. The ultramodern Apple symbol nods to the Biblical story of the fruits of knowledge (with the bite—or byte—in it representing the tasting of that knowledge).
Because a strong logo should err on the side of coherency and precision, making even one of its design features too abstract can befuddle people. Take the Apple logo again. The bite-of-knowledge motif is clever, but Steve Jobs & Co. were allegedly worried that, without that bite, customers would think the fruit was a cherry tomato. Point taken. If you’re on a mission to build the most urbane tech company in the world, the last thing you want is to overhear someone saying, “Does this thing look like a tomato to you?”
A Logo Welcomes You into the Club
One of the truisms you often hear in marketing is that your customers need to see themselves in your branding. Which means that your logo should tell your audience, on some level, “You’re in the club.”
Imagine that you own a gym and your logo is a bodybuilder lifting a ponderous barbell above his head. That logo is going to do wonders to attract lunkish fitness fanatics rather than the just-making-a-change crowd, because an effective logo has its own personality and it talks to the personality of its clientele. The Mercedes-Benz logo is refined, silver, sleek. The Nike logo is on a swift upward-and-onward trajectory. The Coca-Cola logo is energetic and bouncy. The iconography of each of these brands tells you what the brands stand for, but it also fulfills a blank-canvas effect of absorbing meaning that customers pour back into them.
One of the most original recent examples of this in-the-club blank canvas may be Disney. The Disney logo is Walt Disney’s signature written against the backdrop of a fairytale castle, but it’s sometimes abbreviated to the silhouette of Mickey Mouse’s head, which is three black circles resembling a Venn diagram that’s drifting apart. Think about that: Three black circles can stir up memories of watching movies and reading books about adventure and friendship. Those memories, in turn, are powerful enough to sway people to subscribe to Disney+, get married at the Happiest Place on Earth, and become annual passholders who fill closets upon closets with Disney merch—which are stamped all over with three black circles.
That’s the power of a logo.
A Logo Champions Your Individuality
Your logo design should be the crowning symbol of your values and beliefs, the shield or flag that your company rallies behind, the signpost that guides consumers along their journey into your fold. All true—but stay flexible enough to change it. Case in point: Check out Apple’s ye olde logo from 1976, a landscape portrait of Isaac Newton reading under an apple tree (with a William Wordsworth quote decorating the frame, to top it off). Pivoting to the minimalist apple with the bite taken out of it was the right move, because Apple is all about sophistication and simplicity. So be honest about who you are and what you want your logo to say about you. Otherwise, you may end up contriving an image rather than consolidating an identity.