Does my logo look big in this?

An effective logo is a powerful thing. But the importance of these graphic badges means that many people have come to believe that the logo is everything.

As a victim of their own success, the design of a logo is held responsible for carrying the entire company. When in fact the real test of a great brand is whether we still recognise it even when you cover up these symbolic marks.

Because of their celebrity status, clients often feel the need to gather round displays of logo options, trying to pick the ‘best one’ based on limited knowledge of semiotics or psychology and their own personal preferences. There becomes an overly pressured sense that somehow it will be the choice of logo that will hold the key to a profitable future and envious reputation.

Logo discussions can involve preferences for certain shapes — some being perceived as friendlier, decisive or more solid looking than others. It might involve similar comments about fonts, colours or placements, as people delve into the minutiae of what they feel the details might represent. And of course, inevitably, a new logo design will also create reminders of something similar. Whether that comparison is good or bad in the memory of the beholder will affect their view of what they are looking at. It can be a paralysing process, and if unsure, clients often revert to a position of caution. “I’m not sure I like it. It’s not right somehow. It’s not us. Let’s see some more options and send these ones around for some more opinions.”

And here is where danger lies. We all have an opinion on a logo, especially when it is presented to us in isolation on a page. And yet, our opinions are largely irrelevant. Logos do very little, if anything, on their own. They can of course be of poor quality or of good quality when it comes to the graphic design. Good quality logos will scale well, which is important when we want them to work across tiny social media icons as well as gigantic billboards. Good logos can also be clever, as with the arrow hidden in FedEx and the ‘smile’ that high lights the A-to-Z in Amazon. But we must not forget that customers do not critique logos for their graphic design quality.

Customers associate logos with meaning, and that meaning will be built from their experience of a business. If we have a terrible experience with a company, the logo will remind us of that frustration and annoyance — regardless of the graphic design quality. Conversely if our experience of a business is reliable, fun, cool, friendly or exciting and leaves us feeling good, a logo becomes a recognised shortcut for that positive association.

Whether we ‘like’ a logo or not is a pointless question. Logos begin life as empty vessels that become filled with meaning over time.

The better question is ‘will it work?’. Will it support the messages and feelings we want associated with it? Will it be easy to reproduce or recognised from a distance? Will it stand out or fit in when on a shelf or placed next to peers? Will it infringe another logo already registered? But most important of all is whether a business will actually deliver on those messages and make sure the associations are true. If they do, that is when associated meaning builds in our minds and only then do logos become filled with brand value.

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