It feels a bit like we’re beating a dead horse (what a gruesome figure of speech). Countless other articles have been written on the topic. That’s precisely why we are covering it. Differentiation.
What often is advised is that you need a logo because it makes you look more professional. It gives the perception that you are bigger than you are. They make your business appear more trustable. These aren’t the reasons you need a logo though.
Certainly these are all benefits you may get from having a logo designed. However, this is a bit like saying having a car is important for prestige, looking richer than you are, and convincing others you’re a good driver. Okay—some people do buy cars for these precise reasons. Think of it more like buying a car because you like AC, the new car smell, and a good radio.
The real reason you get a car is so you can get from A to B. It is about mobility. The rest is just side benefits of having the car. The car is functional just as your logo should be.
Recently we talked about concepts. I quite like the definition we came up with for logo design. “Logo design as an end result is a visual conveyance of your brand promise.”
The more rigid dictionary definition is:
Also called logotype. a graphic representation or symbol of a company name, trademark, abbreviation, etc., often uniquely designed for ready recognition.
Neither of these definitions address looking bigger than you are or being more professional. This is because a logo will not do these things unless it is designed to do so. A poorly designed logo can have the entirely opposite effect. Even a well designed logo will have the opposite effect if that is the intention. Every piece of design has a purpose one way or the other.
So what is the real reason a business would need a logo? On the surface it is just as the dictionary says, ready recognition. When you see the golden arches 10 klicks down the highway you know it’s McDonalds. There is no hesitation.
Under the surface it is closer to our definition from the previous article. A logo is needed to help convey the brand promise. The Apple logo is an apple with a bite. It is clean, simple, and easy to understand. This is precisely what you can you expect with every Apple product. This is their promise to us as consumers and the logo reflects it.
Logos are becoming more necessary with the bombardment of information we receive from the internet on our phones, tablets, and computers. Modern day life is saturating us with input. We’re becoming increasingly busy sorting through it. Logos help us quickly identify and decide whether we are interested in a business. They help us find the businesses we are already familiar with more quickly.
Squash the assumption that logos are only needed for big business. A business that is worried about looking too big need not worry. If your brand promise is local, small, and intimate this is what your logo design should convey. It absolutely does not have to be a sterile flat design like many of the tech businesses of late.
The execution could utilize handwritten type and irreverent illustration that represents your business as artisanal and hand crafted. A logo design consisting solely of type is also an option. Many business find success with hand-lettered type. This is what we would call logotype. On the other hand, graphics are referred to as logomarks. Sometimes it makes sense for a business to combine both. The options are endless.
Can Timmy’s lemonade stand benefit from the use of a logo? Definitely. We buy lemonade from Timmy because he is little kid who is saving up for a new bike. His brand promise is hand-squeezed lemonade made with love. Logo in this context sounds overkill, but essentially that hand-painted sign he made that says “Timmy’s Lemonade” is his logo.
When Timmy opens up a second stand ten blocks over with the exact same sign we connect again with his story. He’s not manning the stand but this is the same great homemade lemonade that is going to get him that bike. We know it and remember it because of the logo.
Logos work because of their multiple applications. Even if you have just one location there is a benefit. If you have a website that is a second application. Does your business print flyers or business cards? More applications. Any time a potential customer sees your logo they can relate back to what it means no matter where they see it.
Timmy’s neighbour, Penny, opens up a lemonade stand on the same street. Her sign reads “Penny’s Pucker Power Lemonade”. She draws a little face with a super puckered mouth beside the text. Her brand promise is different but the product is similar. Had she chosen to create a sign that looked similar to Timmy’s her customers wouldn’t know that her lemonade is less sweet, has a hint of lime and a touch of ginger.
I alluded to the reason why we were covering this topic at the top of the article—to differentiate. Our topic is the same as others but the content and message is different. The same goes for Timmy and Penny. They can co-exist because they differentiate with their sign and have a different target market and brand promise.
Now, I’m not going to sit here and say that your business needs a logo if you’ve been in business for years without one. What you’ve got going on is certainly working! The word “need” implies you cannot survive without one. The truth is businesses that don’t think they have a logo probably do.
A business name typed at the top of a letterhead will become a logo the same way Timmy’s sign did. Intentional or not, this becomes a logo because others view it as one. This simple type layout used more than once becomes what others recognize the business by. The question becomes, do I need to pay attention to my business’ logo? We argue yes.
Some years back a couple I knew had their second born baby girl. They had difficulty with choosing a name. For three months this child had no name…or so they thought. Unknowingly they had given her a name everyone referred to as. Baby. They eventually did choose a name but can you imagine if Baby stuck? A grown woman named Baby no longer makes sense.
The business that does not think about its logo is leaving a lot up to chance. The message of your business could be entirely lost with the wrong logo design or logo by happenstance. A little intention can go a long way to attracting your target customers.