Your logo. Is it a SUM of its parts?




Logos aren’t illustrations. They are abstractions. They tell A story, not THE story. They should work as well the size of your small pinky fingernail (in black and white) as they do on the side of an 18-wheeler in color…three colors max, please.

There are three main criteria good logos satisfy. I’ll use the Apple Computer logo as an example.

A good logo is simple. It is not an illustration with a bunch of detail. Most logos use positive and negative space very well. Think Target, Nike, and the Coca-Cola script. No outlines, no shading, no gradients to fall apart at small sizes. The Apple logo used to be banded with a rainbow of colors. The refreshed design works great big and small. It’s simple and an immediate read.

A good logo is unique. An apple with a bite taken out of it is kind of an odd mark for a computing company, no? So it’s memorable and stands out from the crowd. How many lawyers use the scales in their logos? A: Too many of them! How many roofers use rooflines? *sigh* These marks don’t differentiate; they don’t say anything special. They don’t tell us what the brand does well. 

Which brings us to metaphor, which in laymen’s terms means using one thing to stand for another. Telling a story. The Apple logo is all about that bite. Remember the Garden of Eden? That bite out of the apple=knowledge!! Perfect for a computing company…and the twist is a delight.

So check your logo for SUM. Does it compute?


A trademark violation question

Screen shot 2013-06-06 at 11.15.55 AM

A family member just sent me the above query on facebook. It’s regarding a squabble between West Sixth Brewery and Magic Hat.
Here’s my reply:
Well, it does appear that if you flip the 6 logo upside down, it’s eerily similar to the #9 logo. Look at the shape of the 6 and the shape of the 9. They both have thick and thin strokes in the same places and a ball-shaped terminal.

If the 6 was a different typeface, I’d think the comparison might fall apart.

But both are encircled, and have a little accent mark in approximately the same place (the star shape and the # sign), and both are two-color designs with a background color and a foreground color.

Let’s just say I wouldn’t want to be the designer of the 6 logo (he or she didn’t do enough research—they should have found this label and strayed far, far away from these similarities), or want to defend this against a brewing company with (I’m guessing here) much deeper pockets.

Some people think graphic design is easy. This is a great case to demonstrate one way that it’s not. Not only do you have to craft an identity that conveys a message about your client’s brand or service, you also have to do your research to avoid tripping over others’ trademarks and copyrights.