When I first started designing logos, I mistakenly thought that the end product had to be closely tied to what the business or organization actually did, and I think this is probably a fairly common misperception about logos and logo design.
So, let's just make it super clear from the start that logos are not meant to communicate or describe what a business does. Your business name, your tagline, your website copy - all of that can say what you do, but your logo doesn't have to and maybe even shouldn't.
So what the heck should your logo do then? In a nutshell, your logo should visually represent your brand in a way that gets people to connect with and remember it. And, it should distinguish your business from other businesses.
Think about some of the most well-known logos out there: Target's target, McDonald's golden arches, Nike's swoosh, Coca Cola's script, and Apple's apple. If you didn't know what those businesses sell already, you wouldn't even get a clue from their logos, right?
So what have those famous logos done better than most logos out there and what should your logo do?
Your Logo Should Identify Your Business, Not Describe It
Identify and differentiate and that's pretty much it. The goal for a small business logo is to get people to think about your business when they see it. When your customers and potential customers see your logo, they should identify it with you and your business. They should be reminded of where your products, if you're selling products, come from and what makes them great. They should think about how they feel when they interact with your products and with you if you're selling services. Ideally, they should feel and think whatever it is that you want them to feel and think about you and your business.
The Apple logo, for instance, doesn't say anything about computers, but when you see it, you're reminded of how well-designed and user-friendly Macs are. You're reminded of the sleek and streamlined feel Apple products have, right? And the bite taken out of the apple? It refers to the knowledge we gain from using Apple computers the way the apple Adam and Even tasted in the Garden of Eden opened up their world.
Your Logo Should Help People Remember You & Your Biz
This is why so many logos are a combination of a distinct mark or image and the name of the business. There are a number of businesses that have been marketing and advertising so much for so long now that people don't necessarily need to see the business name anymore, but I'm talking about huge companies like Nike, Target, Shell, and Apple, to name a few. For small businesses, this can take an eternity, so it's always a good idea to include your business name with your symbol to help jog people's memories.
Your Logo Should Distinguish Your Biz from Other Businesses
I think this is one of the most important functions of your logo, and it's what makes logo design so difficult, especially at this point in the game when pretty much everything under the sun's been done.
With that said, your logo designer should do everything she or he can do to create a logo for you that doesn't look like other logos in your industry. It's a crowded marketplace out there, and you've got to do what you can to stand out. Your logo is one of the best ways to make that happen. You can't afford for someone to confuse you with your competitors. That's why it's so important to avoid trends. Handwriting logos - I'm talking to you!
Your Logo Should Be Simple & Memorable
Your logo is competing with millions of other images for your audience's attention, so you've got a matter of seconds to grab it and make an impact. Fussy logos with design elements included simply for the sake of design are difficult to decipher and remember. If your viewer is busy trying to figure out why those curly lines are there and whether or not they're snakes, your logo's failed.
Think about all of the logos you can actually remember. What are they like? Simple, right? Simple equals memorable.
Your Logo Should Be Long-Lasting
Good logos don't come cheaply. And, honestly, they shouldn't. They're one of the most important assets of your business, and they're worth investing in. Logo design is one area where you almost definitely get what you pay for. If you want your business to go the long haul, it's worth it to invest in a professional logo designer that will utilize best logo design practices to make sure you end up with a logo that does it's job and meets your needs for a long time to come.
Most importantly, a professional logo designer will be able to design a logo for you that appeals to your audience and communicates what you want it to without relying on trends. Trends are temporary and quickly replaced by the next big thing. By the time most trends have run their course, everyone's using them, so standing out is no longer an option. You and your designer should focus your energy on capturing the best qualities of your business in the most appropriate and effective manner possible and not on the latest and greatest logo design trend.
Your Logo Should Be Flexible
This is another reason your logo should be simple: simplicity aids in scalability to both very small and very large sizes. Highly complex logos often lose their details when made very small. Your logo needs to function on your website, advertising, stationery, brochures, signage, and more. Sometimes it needs to work in a vertical space; sometimes it will be placed in a horizontal space. You might even need to separate the typeset biz name and mark to make it work in various applications. Keeping it simple will make that significantly easier.
Wrapping It Up
World-famous logo designer Paul Rand probably said it best when he said, “A logo does not sell (directly), it identifies. A logo is rarely a description of a business. A logo derives meaning from the quality of the thing it symbolizes, not the other way around. A logo is less important than the product it signifies; what it represents is more important than what it looks like. The subject matter of a logo can be almost anything.”
You can't be everywhere at once, so your logo should be designed specifically to represent your business when you're not there to do it yourself. You want your logo to make a statement about what you stand for as simply, memorably and distinctly as possible. It plays a huge role in shaping how your customers think and feel about your business and whether they want to buy from you, so take it seriously and make the investment to have it done right.