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Does Your Logo Meet These Five Brand Rules?

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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.

3. Avoiding Special Effects

The temptation to add drop shadows, gradients, and other embellishments is very strong, but you must resist! Of course there are always exceptions to this and every other rule, but in keeping with the idea that the logo should be simple, avoid these extra effects.

In the past, logos were displayed only in very controlled environments—letterhead, company-made banners, billboards, and the like. Today, though, your logo can end up just about anywhere. Complex elements don't always translate well from a printed advertisement to your website. Better to leave the special effects to the movies.

4. Color Connections

Colors carry meaning (and they can vary by culture). A little research can help you decide which colors may best suit your brand. If you've already got an established brand color scheme, make sure your logo ties into it well.

Keep the color selection down to 2-4 colors, if at all possible. If your brand is entirely online, this may not be an important consideration, since your logo will almost always be displayed in full color. But, for example, if you intend to advertise in various formats and media, it's better to keep the color scheme basic.

5. Functional Big and Small

How does your logo look when it's blown up to the size of a house? Now what happens when it's printed on the corner of your letterhead and you're looking at it from across the room? Can you still tell it's your logo? That's an important test for determining whether your logo will function in all the potential places it may be used. As noted earlier, just because it looks good on screen doesn't mean it will translate into a recognizable logo when it's very large, or small, when printed.

Brand Guidelines

Make sure that you develop some guidelines for the use of your logo. Examples include the exact color swatches you used in the design, how much space to keep around the borders of your logo, and various file formats so others can use high-quality versions.

Brand guidelines can go far beyond these details, but having even these basic pieces of information available means that your logo will be used more consistently. More consistent usage means customers are more likely to remember your brand.

Making the Change a Big Deal

If you do make a change to your logo, or roll out a new one, make an event out of it! Press releases and even a companywide event are great ways to build awareness of your brand change with clients and employees. If the change is significant—if your logo was completely redesigned—then letting the world know becomes all the more important. Pinterest is one of the best social media sites for such announcements.

And Finally...

Of course, with a new logo, you will also have to create new marketing collateral, promotional materials, letterhead, business cards, and so on.

One way to cut costs, get lots of designs to choose from, and engage the public is by crowdsourcing your new designs. Use your website or social media accounts to announce a crowdsource contest. You can also create your own designs in house, for example using design templates for business cards and postcards.

One last tip: making changes to your logo is a very big deal since it's so closely connected to your brand. Therefore, make certain that a change is actually needed before going through the process. You may even want to test out a redesign with your customers.

The point of revamping your logo is to increase recognition or eliminate a dated look; if those considerations don't apply to your logo, then don't change it.

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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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