There are four elements in every logo concept: the message, the personality, the aesthetic, and the context.
The aesthetic is one way to convey both message and personality. Therefore, aesthetic considerations shouldn’t be approached until the message and the personality have been clearly established.
Not every logo includes a symbol — the IBM and Dell logos do not include symbols, but the Microsoft and Apple logos do. When used, a symbol can create many layers of additional meaning while providing a design element that can be incorporated into a wide variety of applications. Over time, symbols can come to represent the company by themselves. The Nike swoosh and the Olympic rings are good examples. Symbols can also become great ways to introduce or maintain a logo concept in a wide variety of cultures and languages. For international companies, the symbol can become more effective at communicating corporate identity than the company name.
Shading can create a multi dimensional look. Shadows can make a logo pop. Outlining, underlining, swirls, textures — many different elements can be used to develop personality. Some logo programs are created with flexibility in mind, applying a predetermined style to different words or icons, creating a program that allows for a cohesive look applied to a wide variety of situations. Every modern Olympic games uses this approach, applying the theme to materials created for each sport.
Style is an integral part of the overall approach to logo creation. As you approach the project, keep in mind that building a logo program for a company is like buying a wardrobe of clothes for a single person. The company will find itself in many different situations and need clothes that are appropriate for each, but everything should fit well and maintain the unique appeal of the company that wears it.
Colors are chosen to convey familiar ideas. Bright, bold colors are suitable for cutting-edge, innovative companies. Earth tones might be used for companies that work with the environment. Fluorescent hues are used to convey a sense of fun for companies that serve younger demographics. Vintage color palettes can be used to create a sense of stability or direct attention to the past.
Color is an integral part of logo development because of common cultural associations with specific colors. You can't think of Halloween without orange and black, and Christmas will always be associated with red and green. As a result, you rarely find these color combinations used in logos unless they brand companies that sell merchandise for these holidays.
But color is much more then social and historical association. Subtle shades of colors can reproduce poorly. Color must be viewed in its print context — how it reproduces in cyan, magenta, yellow and black ink. It must also be evaluated for online use where it’s created from red, green and blue light.
Color combinations are also needed so that a logo looks good in many different contexts. Most companies create a clearly defined color palette that provides this flexibility. This color scheme may become irrevocably intertwined with the brand — Coca-Cola red, UPS brown and IBM blue are a few examples.
Although we generally understand colors and social context — how we associate a color (red) with a particular thing (a heart) — many people don't realize that typography works the same way. Some typefaces are historical; some are futuristic. Typefaces can be formal or fun or powerful. The personality of the logo is conveyed as much by font choice as by color. (To clarify: typefaces are the broad families that include many different fonts. “Helvetica” is a typeface, “Helvetica Bold Italic” is a font.)
And, in the same way, font choice must be dictated by application. Some fonts will appear strange when enlarged beyond a certain size. Some become illegible at small sizes. The width and height of the letters must be evaluated, as well as the kerning (space between letters) and leading (space between lines of type). Since the chosen typeface may be used in a broad array of contexts, each letterform must be examined to make sure that it conforms to the overall impression of the brand. Fortunately, many gifted artists work to create new type for designers to employ.
For many logos, custom type is best. Your logo will be seen over and over by your customers, your employees and all those who might one day decide to learn more about your business. Working with a designer to create custom typography can set your logo apart from the rest and visually distinguish you from the competition.
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