Six essentials of a good logo

The following checklist of ingredients for a memorable logo design can make or break a brand. There are important issues regarding legibility and practicality, however. The costs involved in developing a logo go beyond its initial creation. Trademarking, printing reproduction methods, and brand extension costs can increase substantially if the original design is not done properly. The following six essential elements of a good logo will save you time, money, and legal costs related to logo use and application in the real world of printing, advertising, on-line, and elsewhere.

1. Your logo should be a “wordmark”

The logo must be clearly read stating the name. That means that the logo is the stylized name, as opposed to an abstract shape or icon. Abstract shapes do not communicate to the market without a wordmark. The exception would be a worldwide brand that has been seen and recognized hundreds of times a day. How many abstract logo shapes do you remember?

2. Your logo must pass the “black and white” test

Your logo must work in different mediums and at sizes. Will it show up clearly on a fax? Shipping label? Inside a text document? In a black and white photograph in the newspaper or a trade journal? If it is printed in black or grey, is it muddy and hard to discern, or clear and distinct?

The test of all of these considerations is to have the logo printed in both color and black and white. In each instance there should be no question as to what it says. An alternative is to create separate logos for color and black and white applications. The message here is to make sure your logo is clearly read when printed, duplicated, copied, or emailed in any medium and in any color.

3. Your logo must pass the size test

Your logo should be clear and legible when enlarged to 2 feet in width, as well as shrunk to half-an-inch wide. If it is too busy or complicated, it will not communicate at a smaller size. It should be readable on photographs, advertising (print + digital) plus business cards and other collateral.  

4. Your logo artwork should be flat and sharp

Avoid drop shadows and color gradients. They look great on a computer screen but often fall short especially when printed. Printed media such as brochures, advertisements, and outdoor signage may all have different variations of color gradients, and drop shadows do not work well at reduced sizes or in black and white.

5. Your logo colors should be specified by a numbered color system

Your logo should be printed and reproduced using match colors, where possible. These match colors should be specified in the logo usage and branding document you send to suppliers. Without a color matching system, your logo will be a different shade or hue everytime it is reproduced. A color matching system ensures it is reproduced accurately every time, as color systems (such as Pantone®) are universally recognized.

6. The logo file format should be vector

This file format can be easily resized and applied to different media, and has infinite resolution. That means you won’t see your logo pixelated on your exhibition booth graphics or on outdoor media. The vector file format also supports numbered color systems as well. In this way your logo can be distributed and reproduced to exacting standards. Logos created or reproduced using a bitmap file format are limited in size and do not have accurate color matching.