Monday, March 24, 2014

Explaining logos

Discussing the logic behind logo design is always a challenge. Note the evolution of the Apple logo. The original logo from 1976 was a hippie-dippie illustration--very busy. Then the familiar apple with a bite taken out of it appeared. This logo is withstanding the test of time because it is distinct, compact. and easy to recognize at any size.

Now think about explaining logo design to an organization of people who happen to be blind. Below is a snippet I'm writing for the American Council of the Blind.

What is a logo?
A logo is an easy-to-identify, easy-to-reproduce design element. A logo can be a name, initials, or symbol with specified colors. 

Feel the top of a MacBook Pro or back of an iPad. In the center you’ll find the smooth flat shape of an apple. There’s a bite taken out of the right side and a leaf on top leaning to the right. This is the Apple logo. It’s distinct, simple, and compact—easy for a sighted person to recognize no matter what size.

Logos are everywhere. If you feel the front grill of a car you can usually find the logo. The Seahawks have made a mint selling all kinds of merchandise sporting their logo. Logos are on the sides of trucks. buses, planes, and buildings.

In an instant, the logo represents the organization's image or message and position. A well-designed logo evokes some memory or emotion from the viewer. 

A logo can be a distinct shape (icon), type, or a combination of the two. Companies spend a ton of many to ensure their logo is protected and used correctly. A corporation knows that a cohesive look to their products and communication materials builds credibility.

A logo should be simple, memorable, timeless, versatile, and appropriate. Does a logo for a blind organization have to include the white cane? Probably not. When reduced to business-card size, a cane looks similar to a tiny toothpick.

Think about your region and the qualities you want to project. Is there an indigenous plant that represents growth? Is there a geographical feature like a mountain? A historical monument like the Liberty Bell? Washington State has a distinct shape because of its coastline, Sound, and islands. This works as a logo element if it is a solid color. A thin outline of this shape would not reproduce well or be easy-to-recognize at a small size or at a distance.

Before working with a designer decide the qualities you want to project. If possible, clip logo samples you like and share them with the designer. Better yet, decide on a type family that offers a variety of weights: light, regular, bold, and black. Stay away from script fonts. As a rule they are difficult to read at small sizes.

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