Averting Complete and Utter Logo Design Disaster

The end is near. You're chugging along with grace and speed to the last stop in the logo design process, your final design. 

With this design you will be bridging the chasm between your brand message and final design execution. It is here where you will know that the message made it across to the other side where your customers are eager to receive it.

But wait—what’s this…

The track ends.

This logo-motive is about to go off the rails in a big way into what we call, logo design disaster, complete with epic explosions in 3D and a rumble in your chair. The launch fireworks in the caboose go off prematurely leaving a blanket of smoke and confusion between you and your patrons.

Sensationalist enough for ya? 

The unfortunate thing about logo design is that it fails with a fizzle and not with a bang. Years of using a poorly executed logo will kill the business slowly like a mild poison will a lead character in a soap opera. They never know when the end is coming and how it happened.

But, what if you did know this path will lead to an eventual demise or, COMPLETE AND UTTER LOGO DESIGN DISASTER!?

You would do everything in your power to prevent it. Whether you are in the process of designing a new logo or thinking about a redesign there are some sure signs to watch out for. They’ll keep you on the rails towards an effective design.

Fonts play a huge part in effective design. We’ve surely covered it three or four times in some form or another in past articles. Fonts, or typefaces if you’re a fancy dancy designer like myself, are the voice of your logo. Across the board fonts always play the part of the voice actor.

When read, what is the voice you want to be heard? Is it Kermit the Frog or Christian Bale’s baritone Batman?

A unique voice allows your logo to standout among the thousands of others shouting just to be heard. There are three fonts every logo design should avoid.

Examples of Papyrus, Arial, and Comic Sans
‍Sorry, Papyrus, Arial, and Comic Sans, you didn’t make the cut, you’re off the design team.

These fonts come stock with most computers regardless of being Mac or PC (whoa, flashback to Justin Long and John Hodgman). I want you to pay very special attention to these three fonts. For the next week pay attention to logos and count how many you find that use them.

Forget about the merit of the design quality of these fonts. Their voices are not unique because they are overused. (To be fair, I should lump Helvetica in here with them but I don’t have the heart to write it in the same breath as Comic Sans).

When you listen to the choir, who stands out? The soloist. Be the one that stands out by using a font that uniquely fits the voice of your brand.

Clip art, stock graphics, or “borrowed” illustrations (I’ve literally seen a logo using Garfield) will lead your logo astray just the same as the wrong font choice.

For the most part, people are visual. It’s the reason you have a logo in the first place isn’t it?

Instant recognition is what we are after with our designs. When clip art is used it muddies the water. We stop looking at what the logo is but what it reminds us of.

Garfield’s Pub for instance, when I see that logo it reminds me of the cat, not of the pub. They will never own the character, for one, because of copyright, but for two, because its associations are too strongly tied elsewhere.

In the same vein I want to mention logo templates. You can find them, if you haven’t yet, everywhere. Some of them are very well designed, actually. Skilled designers have built these templates, you can be sure.

Fundamentally the idea behind logo templates is flawed, however. We’re not just picking tattoos from a book here. We’re looking to create a voice that cuts through the crowd. Logos are unique and templates simply aren’t.

The other issue with templates and clip art is they are of the moment. Trends fade with time like MC Hammer and Spice Girls. Sometimes they fade rather quickly. When they do so do interested customers.

It makes us put our parachute pants back on and sing “Can’t Touch This” (let’s not kid ourselves, I was doing that already anyway).

Your business is unique, there is no reason your logo shouldn’t be.

Avoiding these common mistakes will keep your logo design on the rails but a fiery death of doom and destruction may still be in the cards.

Early in the process it can be valuable to get second or third opinions on your working design. From an objective standpoint you need to know if there is something you are not seeing.

There are a some things you can do to trick your eyes and your brain. By flipping your design upside down your brain sees it in a new light. By squinting and blurring the graphic you can see how even spacing is. These things will allow you to catch errors or unfortunate mishaps.

Poor logo executions with bad second meanings with sexual undertones
‍Even the most well intentioned logo runs the risk of being taken the wrong way.

Even after flipping and squinting, the best way to catch these things is a second set of eyes. Barring that, put the design away for a few days and pick it up again fresh.

Recapping, to spare your logo from a Michael Bay-esque finale there are a few things to keep in mind.

Stay away from highly used standard fonts. Their voices get lost in crowds quicker than your transit transfer. Skip over clipart or templates because they cease to be a logo if they aren’t unique to your business. And lastly, watch out for unfortunate mishaps leading to unintended meaning and double entendres.

February 9, 2017
Posted on 
Author photo in a circle
Kyle Lincoln

Kyle is a logo crafter, avid reader, and writer. His experience expands across a wide spectrum of clients such as Nandos, Shaw Business, and Destination Canada. Growing up, it didn’t take him long to go from doodles to design. Kyle’s previous work in identities for conferences and events left him longing for something more enduring. He’s got a vested interest in helping businesses thrive and an eye for brand incongruences. In Vancouver he can be found scoping out his client’s location and/or the nearest gelateria and is always up to discuss your project or favourite flavour.

The end is near. You're chugging along with grace and speed to the last stop in the logo design process, your final design. 

With this design you will be bridging the chasm between your brand message and final design execution. It is here where you will know that the message made it across to the other side where your customers are eager to receive it.

But wait—what’s this…

The track ends.

This logo-motive is about to go off the rails in a big way into what we call, logo design disaster, complete with epic explosions in 3D and a rumble in your chair. The launch fireworks in the caboose go off prematurely leaving a blanket of smoke and confusion between you and your patrons.

Sensationalist enough for ya? 

The unfortunate thing about logo design is that it fails with a fizzle and not with a bang. Years of using a poorly executed logo will kill the business slowly like a mild poison will a lead character in a soap opera. They never know when the end is coming and how it happened.

But, what if you did know this path will lead to an eventual demise or, COMPLETE AND UTTER LOGO DESIGN DISASTER!?

You would do everything in your power to prevent it. Whether you are in the process of designing a new logo or thinking about a redesign there are some sure signs to watch out for. They’ll keep you on the rails towards an effective design.

Fonts play a huge part in effective design. We’ve surely covered it three or four times in some form or another in past articles. Fonts, or typefaces if you’re a fancy dancy designer like myself, are the voice of your logo. Across the board fonts always play the part of the voice actor.

When read, what is the voice you want to be heard? Is it Kermit the Frog or Christian Bale’s baritone Batman?

A unique voice allows your logo to standout among the thousands of others shouting just to be heard. There are three fonts every logo design should avoid.

Examples of Papyrus, Arial, and Comic Sans
‍Sorry, Papyrus, Arial, and Comic Sans, you didn’t make the cut, you’re off the design team.

These fonts come stock with most computers regardless of being Mac or PC (whoa, flashback to Justin Long and John Hodgman). I want you to pay very special attention to these three fonts. For the next week pay attention to logos and count how many you find that use them.

Forget about the merit of the design quality of these fonts. Their voices are not unique because they are overused. (To be fair, I should lump Helvetica in here with them but I don’t have the heart to write it in the same breath as Comic Sans).

When you listen to the choir, who stands out? The soloist. Be the one that stands out by using a font that uniquely fits the voice of your brand.

Clip art, stock graphics, or “borrowed” illustrations (I’ve literally seen a logo using Garfield) will lead your logo astray just the same as the wrong font choice.

For the most part, people are visual. It’s the reason you have a logo in the first place isn’t it?

Instant recognition is what we are after with our designs. When clip art is used it muddies the water. We stop looking at what the logo is but what it reminds us of.

Garfield’s Pub for instance, when I see that logo it reminds me of the cat, not of the pub. They will never own the character, for one, because of copyright, but for two, because its associations are too strongly tied elsewhere.

In the same vein I want to mention logo templates. You can find them, if you haven’t yet, everywhere. Some of them are very well designed, actually. Skilled designers have built these templates, you can be sure.

Fundamentally the idea behind logo templates is flawed, however. We’re not just picking tattoos from a book here. We’re looking to create a voice that cuts through the crowd. Logos are unique and templates simply aren’t.

The other issue with templates and clip art is they are of the moment. Trends fade with time like MC Hammer and Spice Girls. Sometimes they fade rather quickly. When they do so do interested customers.

It makes us put our parachute pants back on and sing “Can’t Touch This” (let’s not kid ourselves, I was doing that already anyway).

Your business is unique, there is no reason your logo shouldn’t be.

Avoiding these common mistakes will keep your logo design on the rails but a fiery death of doom and destruction may still be in the cards.

Early in the process it can be valuable to get second or third opinions on your working design. From an objective standpoint you need to know if there is something you are not seeing.

There are a some things you can do to trick your eyes and your brain. By flipping your design upside down your brain sees it in a new light. By squinting and blurring the graphic you can see how even spacing is. These things will allow you to catch errors or unfortunate mishaps.

Poor logo executions with bad second meanings with sexual undertones
‍Even the most well intentioned logo runs the risk of being taken the wrong way.

Even after flipping and squinting, the best way to catch these things is a second set of eyes. Barring that, put the design away for a few days and pick it up again fresh.

Recapping, to spare your logo from a Michael Bay-esque finale there are a few things to keep in mind.

Stay away from highly used standard fonts. Their voices get lost in crowds quicker than your transit transfer. Skip over clipart or templates because they cease to be a logo if they aren’t unique to your business. And lastly, watch out for unfortunate mishaps leading to unintended meaning and double entendres.

February 9, 2017
Posted on 
Author photo in a circle
Kyle Lincoln

Kyle is a logo crafter, avid reader, and writer. His experience expands across a wide spectrum of clients such as Nandos, Shaw Business, and Destination Canada. Growing up, it didn’t take him long to go from doodles to design. Kyle’s previous work in identities for conferences and events left him longing for something more enduring. He’s got a vested interest in helping businesses thrive and an eye for brand incongruences. In Vancouver he can be found scoping out his client’s location and/or the nearest gelateria and is always up to discuss your project or favourite flavour.

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