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Does Your Logo Meet These Five Brand Rules?

by Tara Hornor  |  
June 21, 2013

Many small businesses have inherited a logo from "back in the day," when nobody had time to really put together something proper. It stuck around and managed to survive. But is your logo still working for you and performing its primary function—building recognition? When placed on your marketing collateral, does it really represent your company's identity?

Whether you've never had a logo developed or you just have that doubt in the back of your head that your logo isn't everything it could be, the following five rules for your brand can help guide the process of creating or updating your logo.

1. The Right Fit

Is your logo appropriate for you and your industry? Some industries have a theme in terms of logos; if you're not in step with the rest of the crowd, you could get left behind. For example, in the restaurant and brewery industries, a crest logo is very common. In the graphic design industry, it's becoming more common to see characters as part of a logo or brand scheme.

Take some time to study your competition and see generally what they're doing. You can also study common trends for logo design to give you an idea of what seems to be working well.

That's not to say you have to fall in step. In fact, maybe you should do something completely different in order to stand out. But make the decision based on information and research.

2. Simplicity

Generally speaking, a logo should be very simple. Remember, the goal is to build brand recognition. Your logo sums up who you are in a single image. Creating a simple graphic can be very difficult, but it's critical to keep the design as basic as possible. Complex images are less likely to be recalled later, so keep the logo bare-bones. Keep in mind, too, that a simple logo reproduces much more neatly to different sizes. You want your logo to look the same whether you use it on postcards or on your website—or on a billboard ad.

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Tara Hornor writes for, an online printing company offering flyers, brochures, business cards, posters, postcards, and more print media.

Twitter: @TaraHornor

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  • by David M Fri Jun 21, 2013 via web

    Interesting ideas...except crowdsourcing your logo-not a good idea. Your logo is an integral part of your brand identity--and whoever is designing your logo must understand your company, its unique brand distinction-the real for your existence. Crowdsourcing your logo lessens the value of a very important part of your brand.

  • by Wendy Fri Jun 21, 2013 via web

    Great Article! I love the simplicity of it. Even thought our logo has a gradiant, I feel it is easily recreated for a flat logo to use on shirt embroidery, giveaway, etc. We have been trying for awhile not to make sure the logo is used correctly. I will share this article.


  • by Karen Fri Jun 21, 2013 via web

    Crowdsourcing is a really bad idea.

  • by Tanya Fri Jun 21, 2013 via web

    And as with anything, get feedback from people who have NOT been involved in the design process before making your final decision, or disasters can occur. For instance the sample logo above for this post looks like some sort of insect, though clearly it's supposed to depict mountains....

  • by @jenkellyjen Fri Jun 21, 2013 via web

    Personally, I'd suggest letting an experienced illustrator or designer help you with a logo redesign. Brief them well, then let them work their magic. Most will submit a brand guidelines document for you to use as part of the logo design (redesign) project.

  • by Julianna Verboort Fri Jun 21, 2013 via web

    Skilled graphic designers know how to create a visual identity that really represents your brand. "Crowdsourcing" logo designs may give you some free work, but I'd like to see you recommend paying those who take the time to develop a good product for your company, just as you'd like to be paid for your services. Any design you decide upon from crowd sourcing will need to be converted to a format that you can use, and with the rights to use it. An honorable company will pay for a quality logo design that is well done and effectively represents their brand.

  • by Cheryl Hodgson, Brandaide Fri Jun 21, 2013 via web


    This is an excellent piece for brand owners. Brand owners as part of the process can consider what other elements go together to create a strong protectible brand dream team. Here's a post on that topic.

  • by Karen Fri Jun 21, 2013 via web

    Crowdsourcing your logo is really not the best way to achieve the 5 rules you outlined. Very bad advice.

  • by Kristine Putt Fri Jun 21, 2013 via web

    Crowdsourcing a logo is about the worst idea Marketing Profs should be sharing with its readers. Shame on you. On one hand, your articles states "Your logo sums up who you are in a single image." If that's true, then it's virtually impossible to expect that a crowd is likely to absorb and successfully convey the tonality and meaning of your brand in a single image. Good design and sustainable logo designs don't develop by "throwing it on the wall and seeing what sticks." Quality logo designs are the result of a process that includes intricate discovery sessions and thought-provoking questions that include studying the competition, researching your market and identifying pain points. Crowdsourcing doesn't do that and you won't get superior results via crowdsourcing. If you desire a quality logo, look for a freelance designer that really GETS your brand.

  • by Emediacreative Fri Jun 21, 2013 via web

    Your comment about crowd sourcing contradicts the bulk of your article. I'd advise clients to keep what they have if they don't have a budget to implement a new logo that is effective. There is a HUGE difference between a designer who understands colour psychology, semiotics, type and form to create a logo that properly represents the brand and the company vision. Would you trust a medical student to conduct a major operation without proper knowledge and supervision?

  • by Julianna Verboort Fri Jun 21, 2013 via web

    Glad to see agreement that crowdsourcing a logo is not recommended. As many of the comments have noted, a quality logo that really represents your brand is best achieved via a skilled designer, who is fairly compensated for her work. The article's suggestion of saving money by crowdsourcing a logo is poor advice and not an ethical business practice.

  • by Gracious store Sat Jun 22, 2013 via web

    Thanks for sharing these insights on how to determine if a brand's logo is good enough.

  • by Carolin Geissler Mon Jun 24, 2013 via web

    Glad to see that most other commenters agree that crowdsourcing a logo is a bad, bad idea. As the rest of your article has correctly pointed out, your logo is one of the most important parts of your company in terms of recognition. This is not the right place to be cheap and try to get some free designs. A logo is an investment, of sorts, so it should be treated like one.

  • by Courtney Mon Jun 24, 2013 via web

    Interesting reactions to the crowd sourcing idea raised in this article. Definitely understand and partially agree with that sentiment. We all remember the Gap's logo fiasco right?
    They responded swiftly by going back to their old logo as the reactions of the public overwhelmingly showed utter distaste with the change. Now the Gap is no small business, but regardless, I think keeping public reaction & opinion in mind is an important point.

    Testing designs via focus groups and such could be a worthwhile idea. Running a design contest is not necessarily a bad thing once you have narrowed down the designs and have honed in on the overall look and feel that best conveys your brand based on your guidelines, etc. This part of the process should be done internally with a skilled designer. However once you are past that part, involving the public in your final decision could be a good thing for your brand. It is a great way to engage your brand advocates (i.e. your loyal customer base) and if done properly - not necessarily via crowd sourcing per se - I think there can be value in this approach.

  • by Veronica Maria Jarski Mon Jun 24, 2013 via web

    Interesting article, Tara. Thanks for the food for thought.

    Incidentally, I just read through the comments, and I'd like to add that Tara is not alone in suggesting crowdsourcing for logo design. In a recent seminar (, David Bratvold mentioned using crowdsource for logo design (among many other projects). The visual sketchnotes regarding crowdsourcing can be found here: ...

    Companies should, of course, decide for themselves whether to crowdsource a logo, but the practice itself is not considered unethical or even that out of the norm.

    Aside from that tidbit, Tara, I enjoyed the reminders regarding the use of color and special effects in a logo. Despite the rumors of business cards being dead, I still see plenty of them being used... and I'm always happy to see a well-designed, clear, white-space-happy logo. Just because your designer can create special effects and has a palette of a trillion colors doesn't mean s/he should for the logo!

  • by Neville Godwin | ngd Agency Tue Jul 2, 2013 via web

    Crowdsourcing as you may have gathered Tara is a ‘hot potato’ to say the least!

    I agree with most of the comments about crowdsourcing already mentioned, it doesn't matter if someone else mentioned it in a seminar, it's still wrong for many reasons apart from this one!

    If you can control and isolate the ‘crowd’ to your target demographic then it could be used to decide a certain colour combination or strapline option. They are, after all your target market and it is THEM not you that'll decide if the rebrand is successful etc This is after you've properly briefed a designer or design company and are at the final stages of tweaks.

    As for logo design competition. No, no and again no... put simply, if you don't value your company, why should I!



  • by Mike Mella Tue Jul 2, 2013 via web

    Crowdsourcing logo design? Seriously?! Shame on you for promoting spec work.

  • by Alan Bennington Tue Jul 9, 2013 via web


    I believe you have made only a few valid points with regard to identity design.
    Yes, companies or individuals need the best possible design. If you want to to win. Too many rules, too many do's & don'ts lead to too much of what we see on a daily basis: pathetic & unimaginative mediocrity! The" Hollywood effect" in the design realm. The perverse notion that simplicity is the "only accepted standard" has long been perpetuated by the elites of the design world. And, to even suggest crowd sourcing as an alternative demonstrates a deficit of basic knowledge concerning your subject.

  • by James Wed Aug 14, 2013 via web

    Well so far, I think I am following these five rules. Although I also consider the expectations and requirements of my clients.


  • by Alex Camarena Burdier Wed Aug 28, 2013 via web

    Really good ideas and article, I will share it in my blog. Not agree with crowdsourcing the logos.

  • by Nidal Aburub Sabagh Wed Sep 18, 2013 via web

    Excellent and very informative, about the Crowdsourcing, sometimes you don't get the expected results, so I think, the best way it's to have a professional and Consultative Expert Advice.

  • by Bill Jackson Fri Sep 20, 2013 via web

    Really expected to see a sample of Logo Use Guidelines, i.e. if you use our logo, here are the rules that must be followed.

  • by georgesheley Tue Sep 24, 2013 via web

    Yes, before designing you need to think that your logo will describe your brand.custom logo design

  • by Patrick Sat Dec 7, 2013 via web

    OMG! Did she just recommend crowdsourcing?!

    How about this? You work for me, and then maybe I'll pay you. How's that sound?

  • by Evelyn Richmond Wed Sep 17, 2014 via web

    One important feature of a logo that you have not mentioned in your blog, is that it should convey the message of the business. Some great examples are the Body Shop and Toyota logo. The Body Shop’s color scheme is green which represents its eco-friendly brand; Toyota logo’s includes all the letters of the brand TOYOTA in its symbol and its overlapping ellipses represent the heart of the customer, the heart of the brand and the background space represents Toyota’s technology and its boundless opportunities.

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