Designing a logo is a task that nowadays many designers claim to be able to do, although those practicing the art of design before computers were part of the work routine might disagree with. And without going back too far, graphic designers who have spent many years learning about typography, often feel uncomfortable to accept that a “newbie” designer could design logos. The use of the word Logo in the society has grown by 5 times between 1980 and 1999, making it a buzzword among the masses, and as we know, frequently buzzwords are misunderstood and misinterpreted. For instance “Web 2.0” was wrongly identified by some junior designers as a description of translucent buttons for fancy websites. In fact it was actually identifying the meaning of cascade style sheets (CSS) within an HTML code.
So, despite the dictionary definition of “logo” pointing towards a sign or a mark used for corporate identification, the etymology of the word itself is backdated to the Greek word for: Word. So a logo is by nature a word, written using a defined font face able to communicate with carefully designed letters. This practice is very common and perfectly implemented especially in fashion and electronics. For instance the logo of Samsung, is simply the word Samsung. The same goes for Sony, Panasonic and Nokia. Also Prada, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana can be recognized by their fonts. Approximately a third of the world’s most popular logos are just letters, without a symbol. The most iconic and identifiable of all is certainly Coca Cola. The choice of a suitable font should always be the first step when designing a logo. Amateur designers however, have very little knowledge of typography, especially for those born in countries where the Latin alphabet is not the primary one. Chinese designers for example tend to misjudge the semantic of latin characters and pick a casual font for a serious look and viceversa. It is probably the same concept in reverse when a Western designer tries to fiddle with Arabic fonts and gets the whole look and feel wrong.
Once the typography is settled, it could be time for a sign. Although a mark is not always necessary, it may at times replace the Logo (as in Word) itself. Perhaps the two most popular are Apple and Nike. What is important to note, is that a sign does not necessarily have to represent the product or the industry. In fact, more than half of the top recognizable Logos (as in Signs) in the world do not describe what the company produces or trades. Amateur designers on the other hand tend to make a sign as descriptive as possible. This is unfortunately commonly dictated by clients without design background, that by being the paying customers, decide on their own what the designer should deliver, and the designer simply execute.
After typography and mark are confirmed, it is time to move into color. In this field there is nothing much left to creativity. It is know that out of the world’s top identifiable logos, approximately 30% are primarily red, approximately 30% are primarily blue, approximately 30% carry no specific tint other than grey or black, while the remaining 10% are green, orange, yellow or purple. The number one mistake for a designer involved in logo design, as well as for entrepreneurs in the midst of launching a new company, is to start planning and designing from the colour stage. Expert logo designers refrain from adding colour until the very last moment. At least up to the point when they have ensured that both typography and sign are confirmed by the customer. Red logos lean to be aggressive, while blue is more calm. It is interesting to note that in the banking industry, Western banks tend to communicate in blue as in: “give us your money, we will keep them safe”. In the Asian society, on the other hand, banks gravitate towards red logos delivering the meaning: “give us your money, we will invest and make you rich”. The other colours have a primary meaning, although nothing is set in stone and all depends on the context. Green is usually associated to natural products. Orange is exciting. Yellow is energetic. Purple is elegant.
Big brands prefer not to be associate with any specific color though, as it gives them the opportunity to communicate with a larger audience. This is a list of companies that never had or later removed color from their logo remaining with plain black and white: Apple, Samsung, Nokia, Blackberry, Microsoft, Panasonic, Sony, Gucci, Armani, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Burberry, Nike, Zara, Adidas, Canon, Disney, Mercedes Benz, Ferrari, Nescafe and the list goes on. In logo design, simplicity is often rewarded.