A logotype, commonly referred to as a logo, is a graphical symbol created for an individual company or product. It is designed to communicate quickly, and to be a distinctive and easily recognizable symbol. Logos often include a special typeface or font used to spell out the company name or initials. They also tend to include specific colors and graphical shapes. Corporate logos appear on a wide range of materials distributed or maintained by companies, including store signs, business cards, company Web sites, major equipment, stationery, marketing materials, packaging, uniforms, etc. Effective company logos have been cited as important elements in corporate image-building efforts. Conversely, many marketing experts believe that poorly conceived or unattractive logos can have a negative impact on a business's appeal and hence, its performance in the marketplace.
As small business owners and CEOs of major multinational firms alike are aware, corporate image is an important factor in business success. Companies that are thought of as innovative, smart, or stable in the marketplace have achieved that status in part because of the way in which they present themselves to clients and competitors alike. Corporate logos are one of the tools that businesses have at their disposal in shaping that image. As Anne McGregor Parsons argued in Colorado Business Magazine, corporate logos are potentially valuable visual symbols because they can express both the personality and the mission of a company.
Issues in Corporate Logo Creation
Business consultants, entrepreneurs, and designers that specialize in logo creation all agree that several factors have to be weighed when creating a logo for a company:
- Desired Image—This is far and away the most important consideration, and it can be of even greater importance to business start-ups that may not have the financial wherewithal to recover from early slips in logo choice and other marketing areas. Entrepreneurs seeking to make or update a logo, then, should make sure that specific business objectives, target markets, and competitor image are all factored into the logo's creation. For example, a new microbrewery would probably be more inclined to go with a creative, bold logo that features a stylized image of its product than would an independent insurance agency, which would place greater value on logo characteristics that connote stability and trustworthiness.
- Industry—Many companies sport logos that reflect the industry in which they operate. Providing such associations often makes it easier to attract prime customers.
- Cost—Creating a logo, or updating an existing logo, "can be an expensive proposition," wrote McGregor Parsons, "affecting a company's entire range of visual communications from business cards to truck fleets." Opinions vary about the financial emphasis that start-ups and established small businesses should place on logos and slogans. Some analysts believe that entrepreneurs sometimes devote too much energy and money to creating a distinctive logo at the expense of addressing basic financial and operational needs. Other consultants and experienced small business owners, however, believe that a visually interesting logo can not only attract much needed attention to fledgling businesses, but can also present businesses with opportunities to make additional sales, by making available clothing, gear, and other merchandise in which the logo is prominently featured. This phenomenon has been most evident on the national stage, as athletic shoe manufacturers and professional sports teams have proven quite adept at selling such wares to customers, but it can also be seen with local logos that are deemed trendy by young consumers.
- Impact on Current Customers—Owners of established businesses who are considering changing their logo should weigh the potential negative impact that such a switch could have on existing clients/customers. As Raymond Snoddy observed in Marketing, redesigning familiar corporate logos can be disturbing to customers who have established a certain comfort level with the old logo.
- Longevity—Entrepreneurs should beware of using logos that are overly reliant on passing fads or marketing gimmicks. "Communications cost a lot of money for a company, so they need to have the greatest longevity that they can," one logo designer told Colorado Business Magazine. "That's why we try to focus on timeless, classic design [when making logos], leaving the trendier things to the more short-term tactical type of advertising media." Another designer agreed, remarking that a logo "must stand the test of time."
- Distinctive—Experts urge business owners not to use gimmicky logos, but they also tout the benefits of logos that are unique in some fashion. Not only do such logos enjoy a certain level of legal protection from infringement, they also catch the eye of the customer.
- Flexible—Logo designs should be made so that they can be used on a wide variety of promotional materials, from billboards and the sides of trucks to letterheads and shirt insignias.
Haig, Bill. "Great Logos and Why." Designnews. 29 July 2003.
Love, Kenneth D., and Kenneth J. Roberts. "Your Company's Identity Crisis." Management Review. October 1997.
McGregor Parsons, Anne. "Making Your Mark." Colorado Business Magazine. August 1994.
Morioka, Noreen, and Sean Adams. Logo Design Workbook. Rockport Publishers, 2004.
Snoddy, Raymond. "Familiarity with Design Kills Off Shock of the New." Marketing. 23 October 1997.
Ten Kate, Nancy. "Graphic Design for the Bottom Line." American Demographics. April 1994.
Underwood, Elaine. "Proper I.D.: With Brand Values Under Increasing Attack, Companies are Keener Than Ever to Devise Memorable, Meaningful Corporate Identities." Brandweek. 8 August 1994.
Williams, Hugh Aldersey. "You are Your Logo." Management Today. January 1998.
Hillstrom, Northern Lights
updated by Magee, ECDI