A well-designed logo is timeless, simple, memorable, versatile and appropriate. But then there are the hideous, the bizarre, the unreadable and the offensive (whether due to unintended double entendres or Comic Sans). The things that make a logo truly awful aren’t easy to define, but you know a bad one when you see it – clip art, raster graphics, unrelated imagery and poor choices in typeface. Except in the hands of a truly exceptional designer, these 10 mistakes will cripple any corporate branding strategy.
(images via: good people bad fonts)
For the love of good design, please don’t ever use Papyrus, Curlz MT or – heaven forbid – Comic Sans in a logo. Ever. These fonts have earned the vitriol of designers around the world with good reason; while they may have their place in personal communication between schoolteachers, they don’t belong in graphic design of any kind, let alone the most visible piece of branding your company has. Overused and cutesy fonts, especially of the widely available ‘free’ variety, do absolutely nothing to add to a brand’s identity. They scream ‘amateur designer’ and make companies look unprofessional.
(image via: thetreedoctor)
On a similar note, stock clip art that can be acquired for free on the internet or on very cheap CD-ROMs can’t possibly set your company apart. It’s not just that the designs themselves aren’t usually great quality; if potential customers note the same little sketch of a house on your company letterhead that they saw earlier on an informational poster in their dentist’s office, they’re not going to take you seriously.
Photoshop Filters & Effects
(image via: the club doctor, fierce photography)
Outer glow, inner glow, drop shadow, highlights, gradients, bevels – all of these effects have their place. Used sparingly by a good designer – as in the latest Apple logo – they add a bit of visual interest. Piled on, they make logos messy and harder to read. Technically, Photoshop and other image editing programs shouldn’t really be involved in logo design at all (more on that later), but things like ‘lens flare’ just don’t translate well in what is supposed to be bold, graphic imagery.
(images via: checkpoint, von brandis)
Graphics that are vague or totally disconnected from what a company is all about can kill a logo’s memorability. What, for example, does a dolphin have to do with a security firm? How is an abstract art piece that sort of almost barely resembles a computer going to remind people of your software company? The graphics, color and mood associated with a logo should have some association what the company does – i.e., don’t use primary colors and a goofy typeface for a legal firm. But don’t take that too literally – a car company doesn’t need to have a car shape in its logo, for instance.
Really, Really Inappropriate Imagery
(images via: bad logo project)
Not everyone looks at images like those above and immediately sees phallic symbols, sexual innuendo or four-letter words. But in the interest of not becoming a tired Beavis and Butthead joke, it might be best to take a good look at the graphics in your logo to ensure that they don’t resemble anything offensive or inappropriate.
(images via: vector-conversions)
Being good at fine art does not make one good at logo design; an image from, say, a watercolor painting or pencil sketch will more than likely look muddy, complicated and unmemorable when used in a logo. The same typically goes for photography. Does that mean effective logos all have to be spare, bold and modern? No. But it certainly helps.
The bigger mistake, in this case, is using raster rather than vector images. Raster images are made up of tiny pixels, and get extremely fuzzy when blown up. Vector images, on the other hand, are scalable, so they look good at any size. Programs that don’t deal with vector images – like Photoshop – shouldn’t be used to create logos.
Reliance on Color for Effect
(images via: conjurelimited)
One of the best tests for logo design is to put it in black and white. If it’s still crisp and readable, even on a small scale or printed in reverse (i.e. a white design on a black background), it’s a good logo – if not, try again. For optimal results, many designers recommend creating a logo in grayscale first, then translating it to color.
The Corporate Swoosh
(images via: capital one, kraft, blow at life)
After over a century of ineffective, constantly changing logos, Pepsi has finally resorted to the corporate swoosh – the bland, meaningless decorative flourish that says “I give up”. The corporate swoosh is safe yet completely disconnected from brand identity, except in the case of Nike, who truly made it theirs. In Pepsi’s case, the uninspired swoosh-in-a-circle even takes on a rather unfortunate connotation (as illustrated by a graphic designer). A swoosh doesn’t make it good design. It’s just lazy.
(images via: seattle pi, salute to soda, desoto, village sports)
For every corporate swoosh there’s a logo that goes way too far in the other direction, with way too much going on. Not only do overly complex logos tend to look terrible on signage and other places that logos are commonly used, but they are simply too muddy to make much of an impact. And when they’re reproduced on a small scale, they become illegible. The original Starbucks logo, the new Sunkist logo, and far too many sports-related logos fall into this category.
(images via: london 2012)
If reading your logo requires squinting and head scratching, it needs some work. Take, for example, the controversial London 2012 logo for the Olympic Games. It takes a moment or two to realize that those big blocky shapes are supposed to say ‘2012′, and there’s absolutely nothing clever about them despite a bunch of hyperbole from the designers about nuances in what the logo means. Luckily, the Olympics don’t need too much help getting publicity, but if this logo were for a company, they’d be in trouble.
What makes a logo really pop? Clever use of negative space. Using “whitespace” as an active part of the design doesn’t just create visual harmony – it can also produce optical illusions that elevate this vital element of brand identity from forgettable to iconic. Adept incorporation of negative space into a logo helps designers make the maximum visual impact with the simplest elements possible.
(image via: Thoughtful)
At first glance, this “e” isn’t all that interesting. But consider that the logo was created for a courier service called “Egg-in-Spoon” – with the tagline, “Sameday Couriers – Speed with Care” – and take another look. The reader comments on the design firm’s blog enhance the fun: “i hope no-one poaches it…” “We were thinking eggs-actly the same thing… :)” “Did you have to scramble around for that idea?”
The Brand Union
(image via: Designer Profile Online)
Typography design based entirely on negative space can get messy fast, but somehow this design for The Brand Union works. Careful color choice and editing of the negative space in this logo helps the words stand out, so it doesn’t look like a confusing jumble of shapes.
(image via: TurnerDuckworth.com)
It’s somewhere in between an excellent use of negative space and an ambigram – using a font to spell the word “truce” that fits within itself when flipped upside-down. Designed by Turner Duckworth, who have also worked with Coca-Cola and Amazon.com.
(image via: LogoPond)
It’s just a concept, developed by Schuster for the Bermuda Aquarium, but perhaps they should consider a change. This design is considerably sleeker, more modern and far more eye-catching than the one they’re currently using. Exceedingly simple shapes are all that’s needed to convey an image of fish swimming side-by-side.
(image via: LogoFaves.com)
Designed by Jure Klaric for a lounge bar in Croatia, this logo gets more effective the longer you look at it. Not only do the two simple shapes make a somewhat stylized “C” for “café”, they also form a coffee cup on a saucer as seen from above – and the shape of a volume button.
(image via: FedEx.com)
It might just be one of the most famous examples of using negative space in logo design, but it’s also among the most subtle. Fed-Ex’s little white arrow, formed by the space between the E and the X, is a detail that many people don’t even notice, but it’s appreciated by fans of good logo design. In an interview with TheSneeze.com, designer Lindon Leader of Leader Creative explained its inclusion.
“An arrow, in and of itself, is one of the most mundane graphic devices in visual communications. Truly, there is nothing unique or particularly strategic (marketing-wise) in using an arrow as a brand identifier… The power of the hidden arrow is simply that it is a hidden bonus. Importantly, not ‘getting the punch line’ by not seeing the arrow, does not reduce the impact of the logo’s essential communication.”
(image via: LogoGallery.net)
Using images of eight fish to illustrate the company’s name would be far too busy for a logo design… if it weren’t as well done as this. Designer Jerrod Ames managed to fit them all into a logo that is still crisp and minimalist.
(image via: 38one.com)
Designer Matt Everson says, ““Ogden’s core competency is great service, so I was determined to create something friendly and personal. I focused almost exclusively on the human figure as I knew this could illustrate many things (response, strength, personal service, etc. In messing around with wavy, water-like shapes I developed the running plumber image and saw the opportunity to incorporate the plunger.”
Girl Scouts of UK
(image via: GoodLogo.com)
Another famous and easily recognizable logo utilizing negative space is that of Girl Scouts of UK. Designed in 1978 by Saul Bass, the logo that has adorned many a box of delicious cookies features three feminine faces in profile. Bass also designed the logos of AT&T, United Airlines and Bell Telephone as well as titles for movies like Alfred Hitchcock’s “Psycho”.
(image via: Wikipedia)
Just two graphic elements plus the white negative space around them combined to create an incredibly simple and evocative logo for hockey team The Hartford Whalers. Formed between the ‘W’ and the shape of a whale’s tail is the ‘H’ standing for ‘Hartford’. The logo, designed by Peter Good, was updated in 1992 to incorporate a silver background.
(image via: TheLogoMix.com)
What appears, at first, to be a simple image of a woman doing yoga reveals itself after taking a closer look at the white space created between the woman’s arm and leg. It forms a rough approximation of the shape of Australia, without distorting the figure of the woman.
(image via: DesignDosage)
In this logo, two ‘H’s – including one formed by negative space – come together to form a structure as seen from an angle, perfect for a company called ‘Harris Structures’. Designed by Ahab Nimry of St. Louis.
Guild of Food Writers
(image via: DavidAirey.com)
Like a classic optical illusion, some people will see this logo as a certain object and to others, it is something else altogether. A pen nib, or a spoon? Look carefully, and you’ll see it’s both. Logo design doesn’t get much more succinct than this, created for the Guild of Food Writers by top UK design firm 300million.
(image via: 38one.com)
Perhaps it’s just a grand coincidence that the letters ‘E’ and ‘D’, which stand for Elettrodomestici (or ‘household electric appliances’ in English), happen to form the shape of a plug. But what could really explain the stark mathematical perfection of this logo by Gianni Bortolotti, other than artistic genius?
(image via: LogoPond.com)
Identified by the designer as “just practice”, this redesign idea for an effort to help children affected by war in Northern Uganda turns the shape of Africa into a child’s foot, with the words ‘Invisible Children’ formed with negative space.
(image via: LogoPond.com)
No two letters in the alphabet are more perfect for creating a sleek, graphic piano logo than W and M. For a piano shop called ‘Weisinger Music’, a monogram that forms piano keys couldn’t be more harmonious.
(image via: BoingBoing)
It’s the word ‘mouse’. It’s a mouse (as in the animal) with the ‘o’ as its ear. But it’s also the shape of a computer mouse – a clever combination for Microsoft’s “Mouse” awards, formerly known as the “Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions Creative Awards”.
(image via: Wikipedia)
It took NBC a lot of tries to get it right. The television network went through no less than 6 ineffective logos, including a xylophone and a much busier version of its current peacock, before settling on what is now considered a classic example of effective logo design. Designers Chermayeff and Geismar took the peacock, which had already become a widely recognized symbol for the network, and simplified it with the use of negative space.