Logo Design—Paralysed By Choice

Choosing a type of execution for your logo doesn’t come out of a hat. Looking out at the landscape of business logos, it can be a challenging, trying experience to figure out what type of logo your business needs. 

A company like Nike simply has the swoosh. Coca-cola has a beautiful spencerian script. McDonald’s has a giant M. Starbucks ditched their name in 2011. So what is the perfect tact? With so many directions to go in it can be creatively paralysing.

One thing to understand is that huge companies like Nike and Starbucks can get away with a logo sans name. It could be assumed that any big company could simply have a graphic and call it a day—but really that isn’t necessarily the case.

A small company can follow the same path. This is because the size of the business doesn’t matter so much as the strength of the brand. Likewise a gigantic business might have an issue if their brand doesn’t allow it.

Nike works because we have had years of consistent use of the swoosh with the Nike name attached to it. As the company grew so did the swoosh’s exposure to the point where we instantly associate it with Nike. There is a symbiotic relationship between the logo and the business.

A strong logo in the beginning will grow your business’ exposure and name recognition. As the business grows the name becomes so strong that it actually can be omitted from its logo. It becomes spoken only inside the viewer’s head—precisely where you want to be.

This is the case for Starbucks. In 2011 there was cause for concern that this logo simplification was too much. Yet here they are today, just as strong as ever with nothing but a mermaid. In fact they are pushing the envelope even further with their spring cups. Is a white circle enough?

Starbucks spring cups 2017 with no logos on them.
Your thoughts?

The more exposure we have to a logo the greater it can be simplified to its essence. Do you think Starbucks could pull these cups off in their first year?

It kind of makes sense though, right? It’s a lot like when you look at a caricature, minus the unflattery. The artist grabs your most defining features and their illustration can still look like you…to those that know you.

This is why nine times out of ten I recommend a new business has a “lock-up” or integrated name. A lock-up is how your graphic is positioned with the name of your business. This type of logo has one foot out of the door so to speak.

Hawksworth Restaurant logo
The graphic and text can be separated and used elsewhere.

An awesome graphic can be counterbalanced with type. This can make for a very flexible logo. You can have both a vertical and horizontal lock-up for different situations. If necessary you can simply use the graphic or just use the text. When the time comes when your business is an empire you can drop the name all together.

The alternative is a logo integrated with type. Coca-cola is stuck with their text until the end of time. The text is the logo. Where Pepsi has always had their orb and can now use just the orb if they choose. This makes Pepsi more flexible in some ways but Coca-Cola stronger in others.

Coca-Cola logo
For the life of me I can't see any of the supposed hidden messages.

Integrated names always have their written text to fall back on. This makes for an ideal type of logo for restaurant startups. While many businesses may aspire to be the size of a chain like Chipotle, it’s more common to have a few local locations.

Integrated text logos often perform well in this situation because they do double duty of name and logo recognition. On top of it, they feel and appear more local and less corporate than those with a distilled symbol.

As they say in the design world, form follows function. Whichever type of logo is the most functional for your needs is the direction you must go. This includes where the logo will be applied and your long term goals for the business.

If social media and a website are to play a large part in your marketing efforts, it’s worth considering designs that accommodate the medium. A symbol would work better for profile images easier than an integrated name logo. On the other hand drawing customers in would be easier with a name on the door.

Weighing these directions is the challenge you face.

March 27, 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.

Choosing a type of execution for your logo doesn’t come out of a hat. Looking out at the landscape of business logos, it can be a challenging, trying experience to figure out what type of logo your business needs. 

A company like Nike simply has the swoosh. Coca-cola has a beautiful spencerian script. McDonald’s has a giant M. Starbucks ditched their name in 2011. So what is the perfect tact? With so many directions to go in it can be creatively paralysing.

One thing to understand is that huge companies like Nike and Starbucks can get away with a logo sans name. It could be assumed that any big company could simply have a graphic and call it a day—but really that isn’t necessarily the case.

A small company can follow the same path. This is because the size of the business doesn’t matter so much as the strength of the brand. Likewise a gigantic business might have an issue if their brand doesn’t allow it.

Nike works because we have had years of consistent use of the swoosh with the Nike name attached to it. As the company grew so did the swoosh’s exposure to the point where we instantly associate it with Nike. There is a symbiotic relationship between the logo and the business.

A strong logo in the beginning will grow your business’ exposure and name recognition. As the business grows the name becomes so strong that it actually can be omitted from its logo. It becomes spoken only inside the viewer’s head—precisely where you want to be.

This is the case for Starbucks. In 2011 there was cause for concern that this logo simplification was too much. Yet here they are today, just as strong as ever with nothing but a mermaid. In fact they are pushing the envelope even further with their spring cups. Is a white circle enough?

Starbucks spring cups 2017 with no logos on them.
Your thoughts?

The more exposure we have to a logo the greater it can be simplified to its essence. Do you think Starbucks could pull these cups off in their first year?

It kind of makes sense though, right? It’s a lot like when you look at a caricature, minus the unflattery. The artist grabs your most defining features and their illustration can still look like you…to those that know you.

This is why nine times out of ten I recommend a new business has a “lock-up” or integrated name. A lock-up is how your graphic is positioned with the name of your business. This type of logo has one foot out of the door so to speak.

Hawksworth Restaurant logo
The graphic and text can be separated and used elsewhere.

An awesome graphic can be counterbalanced with type. This can make for a very flexible logo. You can have both a vertical and horizontal lock-up for different situations. If necessary you can simply use the graphic or just use the text. When the time comes when your business is an empire you can drop the name all together.

The alternative is a logo integrated with type. Coca-cola is stuck with their text until the end of time. The text is the logo. Where Pepsi has always had their orb and can now use just the orb if they choose. This makes Pepsi more flexible in some ways but Coca-Cola stronger in others.

Coca-Cola logo
For the life of me I can't see any of the supposed hidden messages.

Integrated names always have their written text to fall back on. This makes for an ideal type of logo for restaurant startups. While many businesses may aspire to be the size of a chain like Chipotle, it’s more common to have a few local locations.

Integrated text logos often perform well in this situation because they do double duty of name and logo recognition. On top of it, they feel and appear more local and less corporate than those with a distilled symbol.

As they say in the design world, form follows function. Whichever type of logo is the most functional for your needs is the direction you must go. This includes where the logo will be applied and your long term goals for the business.

If social media and a website are to play a large part in your marketing efforts, it’s worth considering designs that accommodate the medium. A symbol would work better for profile images easier than an integrated name logo. On the other hand drawing customers in would be easier with a name on the door.

Weighing these directions is the challenge you face.

March 27, 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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