There are four “C’s” that you are told to look for when you pick out a diamond – Clarity, Color, Cut, and Carat – but no one tells you what to look for when you decide (or design) what logo will represent you and your company to the world…until now.
The need to address this came to me today as I was trying to incorporate a client’s, shall we say underdeveloped, logo into a design. This logo is so bad it hurts my brain, but what can I do? I have to incorporate it into the prescribed design requested by the client. In order to ease my future pains, I present to you – clients and designers alike – a simple guide to the five “C’s” of logo design:
Color: The colors chosen for your logo can say a lot. Think about the feel that you are looking for in the logo design. If the look is “retro” maybe look at movie posters from that era. If you’re looking for something in a specific field, check out what colors other companies are using – to stand out use colors that contrast with your competitors. Colorcombos.com is also a great resource if you already have a color in mind and need some help with color harmonies.
Always design your logo with two color schemes in mind – full color & black and white. This applies for you web people, too. Yes, your company is online only, but one day you may need to photocopy something with your logo, or maybe decide to sponsor an event that requires you to dumb down the colors to only black and white. Do it at the beginning so you don’t frustrate yourself later on.
Clarity: Whether your logo is text based, graphics based, or a combination, you want your message heard, or read, with understanding. If your message is lost within itself no one will get it. This doesn’t mean you have to shy away from a complex logo if it is the right solution to your branding goals, just keep the focus on what your message will be. Have you seen the logo for the 2012 Olympics in London? Look at it closely and you can see that the logo shape actually forms “2012,” but don’t look to long or you might start convulsing. The metaphor is lost in the goat rodeo of color and shape.
Composition: Balance. Balance. Balance. Design 101 comes into play here. Your design does not need to be symmetrical, but it does need to be balanced. Think of a balance scale with weights on it. If you have a one-pound block on one side, and one 1/4 pound block, two1/8 pound blocks, a 1/2-pound block on the other side, it will have more pieces on one side, but still be balanced. The same is true for your design; juxtapose a large single element with a quantity of smaller elements to achieve aesthetic equality.
Compatibility: What is the final output for your logo? Logos get reproduced in arenas that we tend to forget about. Sure your company is solely web based, but one day you may want a sign, a t-shirt, giveaways, awards, billboards, vehicle wraps, or even corporate sponsorship with your prized logo on it. Think about the logo going on these items and ask yourself: What colors look good behind my logo? What color is horrible behind my logo? Should I have a vector logo instead of a raster logo? Hint: always choose vector unless there is a really good reason not to.
Content: What does your logo say – literally and metaphorically? There are some fantastic logos out there that are pure text, and there are some logos that a gorgeous by just being metaphoric. Some of the strongest logos choose to combine these elements. For example look at amazon.com’s logo. Simple text based logo with a yellow metaphoric swoosh. What does that swoosh mean? Well it might be smile, or is it an arrow pointing from a to z?
Now you are ready go forth and choose (or design) a competent logo. With every logo you look at, remember the five “C’s”: Color, Clarity, Composition, Compatibility, and Content. Good luck, and happy branding!