When heading up an SME, your logo may not be at the forefront of your mind – considering the plethora of other issues you’re facing concerning the running of your business – but believe us when we say it should be. The truth is, once an association is made and reinforced over time, that association can be extremely difficult to shake. But how do you create a logo that makes an impact?
An attractive logo, according to Glyn Britton, managing partner at Albion – the company responsible for creating the iconic Skype logo, among others – can make all the difference. “A well-crafted and considered logo, framed by a consistently implemented visual identity, brings a brand’s values to life,” he says. “It creates stand-out from competitors and a cohesion to communications that simply wouldn’t exist without it.”
“A successful logo is a mark or logotype that captures the essence of a brand, designed with an awareness of where it’s going to be used – be it 72 dpi on screen or ten feet tall in print,” adds Britton. “Logos that work will have a strong rationale behind why they look the way they do; it’s a key part of the brand and needs the same consideration as any part of the business’s product, strategy or communications.”
Capturing a brand’s essence doesn’t necessarily need to be a complicated process. In actuality, the simplest ideas are the ones that hit the nail right on the head. The more prescient of you know where we’re headed: we’re talking about Apple.
The technology giant’s original logo differed completely from the monochrome one we know today. First designed by Ronald Wayne, the Apple co-founder who sold his share of the company in 1976, it depicted Sir Isaac Newton sitting below a tree with an apple falling on his head as a tribute to the incident that allegedly sparked the formulation of his theory of gravitation. Almost immediately the logo was replaced by a simpler concept dreamed up by the graphic designer Rob Janoff – a rainbow-coloured silhouette of an apple with a bite taken out of it. With time, this has been refined to the monochrome fruit we know and love.
One of the major successes of Apple’s logo is it didn’t just remain on store fronts and packaging – it entered the public consciousness in a way that few have been able to. “A successful logo should encapsulate a brand’s values and lend itself to informing a broader visual language,” Britton concedes. “Getting this right at the start can reinforce a start-up the minds of their customers. Make it iconic and you’re already starting to build a brand that will stand the test of time.”
And while it’s tempting to assume that making an iconic logo costs a lot of moolah, this doesn’t have to be the case. Janoff’s work with Apple was entirely pro-bono and yet created a core component of the company’s billion-dollar IP.
Another fine example is that of sportswear giant Nike, whose iconic swoosh is an example of how you don’t have to throw stacks of greenbacks at a logo to create a meaningful brand identity. The emblem – which became the basis for an instantly recognisable global brand – was designed by a little-known university student named Carolyn Davidson who originally charged Nike just $35 for her design. Compare that to the BP Helio symbol – which superseded its Green Shield logo in 2001 at a cost of £4.6m to design as well as a further £132m over the following two years on rebranding stationery, van liveries and manufacturing plants – and ask yourself: who got the most bang for their buck?
But, realistically, should enterprises be focused on pinching pennies over getting the logo that’s right for them? Britton doesn’t think so. “The logo is a key part of a business’s branding that you want to build equity in from day one,” Britton says. “So, at least in terms of effort, it’s not one to scrimp on.” However, that’s not to say that building equity in your logo means that you have to stick rigidly to your first design. After all, change is good, right?
“Craft and iteration can come over time, as long as the foundations are right,” says Britton. “Part of a logo’s success is that it is representative of what you want to communicate about your brand, so effort should be made in taking the time to distill exactly what you want to say, who you want to say it to and how you want to do this.”
Certainly, there isn’t a lack of credible examples of this. Some of the world’s most identifiable logos sprang from roots we would find entirely unfamiliar. Take McDonald’s and its Golden Arches.
When first founded by brothers Richard and Maurice McDonald, there was nary a hint of amber arc on the McDonald’s logo. In 1953, the firm introduced a happy chappy called Speedee to symbolise the enterprise’s quick service style. The Golden Arches first came to be through some sketches of Richard McDonald’s, where he proposed their stores would be flanked by two yellow arches that, it was subsequently noticed, formed an M from certain angles.
Then it all came together in 1961, when head of constructions and engineering Jim Schindler sketched a logo that mimicked the restaurants’ distinctive golden arches and its unique sloping roof. By 1968, the Golden Arches stood alone, with the roof stripped off and their shape reformed into the stylised M now so familiar that, according to the book Fast Food Nation, it is 34% more recognisable than the Christian cross.
Allowing room for adaptation and reinvention is what has, ironically, helped create some of the commercial world’s most enduring brands. As long as the basis of a strong idea is in place, a designer worth their salt should be able to create something with room to grow. “There’s no avoiding the fact that a high degree of skill is needed in the interpretation – how it stands out competitively, design integrity and detailing – and those things will need to come as the business scales,” he concludes. “Ensuring you’ve thought through these fundamentals will enable a good designer to hit the ground running.”
Be it the Pot Noodle-eating student, who jumps on the idea with you as part of a college project and accepts minimum wage, or the guy in the suit that costs more than your monthly mortgage at the hottest advertising company in Soho, it’s all about making your logo work for you. And without an idea that emphasises your company ethos, no matter how much you spend, it’s money down the drain.