One thing I love learning is how bands come up with their names, especially when they are unusual or have no direct reference to the type of music the band creates. In my late middle school years, I was obsessed with the band Linkin Park (don’t judge me!).
One of my favorite interviews is their lead singer, Chester Bennington, discussing how the name Linkin Park came to be. I didn’t know it would be so relevant to me as I got older but there was something that Chester said that I later would keep as a mantra of sorts in my design process. He simply said,
“We wanted our music to define the name & not the name to define the music.”
I fell in love with this quote more when I found myself in art school because I realized that it summed up one of the most complex processes in graphic design: logo design.
Creating a logo is a process that a lot of people underestimate. It takes a lot of brainstorming, research and initial sketches in order to come up with an image that will creatively represent a business or brand in a visually appealing manner. After countless revisions, reiterations and color changes, many of our clients realize how much thought goes into making a logo that will stand the test of time.
For anyone who is looking into creating a logo for their business or personal branding, it is best to fully understand what the purpose of a logo is. When both sides of the collaboration (designer and client) understand the function of a logo, both the process and the outcome will be better.
Even as a designer, I find it hard sometimes to communicate to a client what a logo is supposed to do and I bet many designers have found themselves in the same position. From what I’ve experienced, most logo misconceptions stem from simply not having a full understanding of three key words: business, brand and logo.
A business is what an owner runs: finance, logistics and all things that keep the business operating smoothly to bring in revenue.
A brand is the “personality” that the company presents to the world; it includes the experiences they bring to their customer, either through their services or products, which in the long run shapes the consumer’s perception and associations with the company’s name.
The logo is not the brand itself, but is one of the working parts of the brand; it is the visual face of the brand/business.
Understanding the relationship between these terms, especially between brand and logo, is the key to bettering the logo design process. There are a few steps in designer Borja Acosta de Vizcaino’s 11 Steps to a Perfect Logo that address this relationship with thorough, yet eloquent and simple visualizations:
Many clients believe that when creating a logo, it is necessary to incorporate all visual cues related to their business. One thing people should understand is that a logo doesn’t have to be literal or convey everything about your brand. Your business’s overall brand is what drives people to be interested, not just the logo. Let the logo hint at what your business or brand may be.
To exemplify this idea, many designers like to talk about Nike. Nike’s check mark swoosh is an iconic logo. Everyone recognizes it and knows what it stands for yet it is not a literal representation of the type of business or product Nike offers. It is an ambiguous enough symbol but is executed to a point that we can still get a small idea of what the company could be. The logo’s form suggests movement and acceleration while its clean typeface suggests modernity. It is an appropriate visualization for how Nike wants to present themselves.
This is not to say that a logo can’t have solid, recognizable imagery and be effective at the same time. Apple’s logo is literally an apple! Logos are like contextual clues; you want the image to be vague enough so that at first glance the idea is not apparent but when seen in the grander scheme of things, within the context of its brand, everything makes sense.
This step is the design equivalent to the statement Chester made in his interview; the brand should define the logo, not the logo defining the brand or business. Nike grew their business and brand and we all now associate the swoosh mark with high quality sports shoes, gear and accessories. They let their “music”—their innovative designs in all things sports related, their undeniable quality in all of their products, their experience between product and consumer whether it be through their stores or through their amazing advertisements—define the Nike name and logo.
There’s so much more that can be said about brands and logos but for now, I think these are the most important things to think about when creating a logo. Be open to new ideas and the unexpected, as long as they are within the means of the brand, or personality of your business. Take these into consideration with your next logo project and you may find yourself with the perfect logo design!