One of the big laughs in the fake documentary film Spinal Tap came when the band took to the stage to sing of Stonehenge. The set was supposed to feature a replica of a section of Stonehenge standing an imposing 18 feet tall. Due to a miscommunication problem with the set designer, it shows up at a ridiculous 18 inches tall.
Here’s a story about one of my own screw ups, some tips from the trenches of corporate logo design — and 5 corporate logos that help illustrate how a logo can help — or hurt — its owner.
When it comes to your corporate logo, you want something that works no matter what size. Sticking with the music theme for a bit, consider how graphic designers have had to adapt as the 12-inch LP jacket gave way to the 5-inch CD cover, and finally to the tiny icon that shows up on an iPod. A recent issue of Wired magazine gives examples. Your logo has to work as tiny square icon in a browser address bar and as a 50-foot long banner hanging from the ceiling of the Cow Palace… and also on business cards and in email marketing…
Creating corporate logos: when pros make mistakes
In 2007, I was trying to update our logo within two weeks. I considered lots of things before signing off on a final pick, but I didn’t test it in all contexts. Then when we applied the logo to our website, we had to use the logo in reverse — as white text on a blue background. The logo text looked a bit wispy and puny in this context — so we doubled back and doubled the letters’ width. I wasted some time and money fixing things because I skipped the step of testing the mark in a range of contexts.
Tips from the trenches of corporate logo design: factors to check
- Is the name and tag line descriptive? Is the tag line credible?
- Is the logo memorable? Attractive? Legible when tiny? Still strong when reversed?
- Do customers instantly grasp the symbol, graphic or mark next to the logo’s words?
- Can the logo fit inside a square? On one line if need be? In a column?
Compare the following corporate logos of companies trying to position themselves as on the leading edge of their fields. Symbols at right tell my opinion — I think three of them need updates to make them work. What do you think?
Bulldog Solutions’ logo meets all the criteria above. The tag line, “Lead Generation Unleashed”, is small when logo is 150 pixels wide, but short and powerful like a bulldog. The dog can be shrunk to icon size and still convey just the right tone: tenacious, fierce, and loyal… with a wink of humor. The company actually uses a blue paw print for their browser icon. The name is clever but not too clever — together with the tag line it’s descriptive and compelling. Truly a brand identity helps its owner.
Bluewolf’s brand identity could work harder for its owner. The logo is clutter free, which is great. But what is a blue wolf? Why expend energy to figure it out? Their tag line doesn’t help me figure it out. It reads, “Success. Gauranteed.” Success at flipping burgers? The 100 meter dash? Fixing space stations? Also the logo is roughly 4 times as long as it is tall here. A 2×1 ratio is more versatile. Too, I’d add a unique mark their team could use when confined to teeny tiny spaces. (Indeed, I don’t see an browser bar icon when I visit their site. Warning: you’re forced to watch Flash if you visit. Heavy. Sigh.)
Rubicon Marketing Group’s red logo stands out — in a good way. In the browser bar they use a red capital “R” for their mark. The tag line “Marketing IS sales” is interesting – when I read it I think, “no B.S. here — tell me more!” Roughly 2×1 proportions make the logo versatile. There’s a bit of incongruity between the conservative traditional font and the hip modern out-with-the-0ld, we-are-pushing-the-envelope positioning statements. But otherwise a good example of a logo that helps its owner.
Verticurl’s logo has been updated since I started this post several months ago. Happily, now it has roughly 2×1 dimensions, has different type treatments to convey the distinction between the first and second parts of the word, and the tag line was moved below the logo and is pretty clear. Still worthwhile to consider a distinguishing mark. And for sure, someone needs to put a few minutes into the site banner, where the logo shows up blurry/pixelated. Good example of a logo that could work harder for its owner.
Pedowitz Group’s logo is most troubling. The graphic to the left of the words says to me “blue pizza!” and ”homemade logo! ” while the tag line text says: “The Leader in Web 2.0 Marketing” and their latest press release touts the company as “the world’s largest and most experienced provider of marketing automation services…” Oh no! The blue pizza is in the browser bar when I visit their site! (Flash in the site banner! Boo Hiss.) I recommend an upgrade for the logo, positioning statement, website, and marketing materials. The logo is hurting its owner’s brand.
Corporate Logo Checkup
There are certain kinds of corporate logos that won't help you - and others that will hurt your brand. Get our help checking your corporate logo design to make sure it's helping you in our Web 2.0 world.