What makes a good logo?

Almost every business today has a logo. Some are merely text-based, a representation of the company name. Others are clever, memorable graphic devices that try to encapsulate something of the nature of the business.

But what makes a good logo? I’m not an expert but I would say that a good recipe should contain a portion of creativity, a dash of simplicity and a helping of adaptability to ensure a long life.

Company logos have performed the same basic function since they first began to be used. They are applied to a company’s products to make them distinct from those produced by a competitor. Nothing much has changed in that respect, as every business needs a neat graphic device to represent and reinforce its brand in front of the buying public.

So, when was ‘the logo’ first invented? That’s debatable but I submit that one of the first documented uses of such a symbol must have been the Christian cross symbol. Although ornamental crosses existed way before Christianity, its use to represent (in a graphic form) a particular philosophy has lasted from the 2nd century AD to the present.

Others that spring to my mind include the Kellogg’s logo and the VW logo. Although in terms of world history they are comparatively recent, they are both good examples of a device used to represent a long-established company from its inception up to the present day.

Mr William Keith Kellogg first started making his revolutionary breakfast cereal in 1876 and soon applied his own signature to the packets. By 1906 it had been developed into a recognisable logo and since the 1920s it has remained virtually unchanged.

Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government sponsored the design and production of the Volkswagen (‘People’s Car’) before the 2nd World War. Ferdinand Porche designed the car’s mechanics, Erwin Komenda designed the classic Beetle shape but it was Porche employee Franz Xavier Reimspiess who designed the logo. Originally more complex, it took its current form after WWII when the Allies took control of the VW factory. Again, it has remained unchanged ever since and I reckon every westerner over the age of 5 would recognize it!

So what makes a logo a good logo? Difficult to answer but the ingredients in my recipe (above) are surely essential components. My boss here at DNA always says that if a logo works well in black and white it will work well almost anywhere.

If you want your company to stick around, make sure you have a good logo. On the basis that ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, think long and hard before you change yours. If you need an example of how not to do it, just think of the Royal Mail. In its wisdom (or was it poorly advised?) it decided that its identity needed refreshing. It was reborn as Consignia and instantly lost its credibility in the minds of its customers and had to hastily revert back to being the Royal Mail.

If you want to stick around but don’t have a good logo (or don’t have one at all), there’s a bunch of creative folk here at DNA who like nothing better than to design logos that are clever, simple, adaptable and long-lasting.

Opinion: John Dawkins (Designer)

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