In an increasingly globalised and digital world, we can access services like graphic design online where once we could only access these services face-to-face, or at the very least, via phone calls and email.
This accessibility has given rise to the contest-based design phenomenon. Services like 99designs and crowdSPRING offer access to a global community of designers who compete to win each design job. They compete by finishing the job to the client’s requirements – but only the winner of the competition gets paid for the work they produce. Some companies (especially smaller ones) are using these contest-based marketplaces to create logos, design websites or apps, create advertising or even clothing and merchandise – but at what risk?
The advantages seem obvious. You, the client, nominate the price – making it seem cost-effective. And you’ll receive a large number of designs to choose from. But even if you are able to produce a well-written, clearly defined brief, what opportunity will you have to really clarify your requirements and how will you be confident that the designer really understands your brief? And how can you be certain that unscrupulous (or time-poor) designers aren’t recycling non-winning designs and simply tweaking them to pay lip-service to your brief and brand?
And more importantly, what criteria should you use to determine what makes a logo ‘good’?
There are six simple criteria that can be used to quickly assess the strength of a logo:
Does it reflect your brand? Your logo is the public expression of your brand. It is your unique identity and its role is to communicate your brand essence. Strong logo creation begins well before a design studio gets involved. A successful logo is underpinned by your brand positioning: your essence, your values, your tone of voice. The research and insights that form the foundation of your brand essence come to life visually via your logo.
Is it simple and memorable? When a logo is simple, it is easily recognisable – and a logo should identify a company at first glance. A simple logo is generally more memorable. Simple and memorable logos are important, especially in today’s digital environment where consumers are surrounded by brands all day, every day. Consider outdoor advertising, where people might only get a quick glance at a billboard as they drive past on the freeway. Commonwealth Bank’s logo is simple bold and distinctive – and as a result, it stands out in a typically blue financial services environment. When BrandMatters rebranded Charles Sturt University, a key part of bringing the brand essence, ‘better together’, to life was via the simplicity and contemporariness of the new logo.
Is it timeless? Having a timeless logo ensures longevity. A timeless logo will stand strong over the decades. Iconic Australian brands like Arnott’s and QANTAS have gone through minor refreshes, however the essence of their logos have remained the same over time. By ensuring your logo is timeless, you’re future-proofing your brand and the recognition and awareness you will build via investment in your brand.
Have you considered colour? Colour is critical in logo development for two reasons: different colours carry different meaning, sending a clear visual message about the intentions of your brand; and colour is an obvious way to build visual distinctiveness and stand out amongst your competitors. In the Australian financial services market, blue is the dominant colour. Blue carries connotations around strength, trust and dependability – certainly important characteristics. But colours like red and charcoal or black can be equally strong, with black carrying connotations of power, self-control and discipline; and red aligning to passion, energy and action.
Is it functional? An effective logo needs to balance versatility and adaptability with integrity. Over time, you’ll need to use your logo across many different applications. Does it work when it’s very small? What about engraved, like on pens, or stitched, like on uniforms? How does it sit alongside other logos, like in a sponsorship situation? Will you use the icon as a stand-alone device, like Telstra does with its ‘T’, or will your company name always be locked to your icon? A versatile logo is more likely to be used accurately. A logo that is inflexible will undoubtedly be compromised by designers or employees who require a different style or layout to suit their immediate needs.
Is it appropriate? Finally, an effective logo will be appropriately designed to both communicate your brand essence, but also conform to the personality and professionalism of your brand. A fun and youthful B2C logo and identity like Twitter’s would be entirely inappropriate if it were pitched for a corporate and more serious brand like Macquarie Bank. An appropriate logo is designed in a manner that creates sense and meaning around your company and what it stands for. This can be conveyed through the logo icon, typography, colours and other secondary visual devices. Brands like Tourism Australia can communicate the essence of Australia in a fun and vibrant yet appropriate way, while more corporate group-level brands like Wesfarmers need to present a more grounded and conservative presence in order to ensure the confidence of financial markets.
In addition to these simple assessment criteria, make sure you also assess your new logo against your project objectives. A change in your logo is your way to signal to the market that something within your organisation has changed. Does your new logo align to a clear and distinctive brand positioning? What are the similarities between your new identity and your old identity? Do the changes symbolise a wholesale change, or a smaller and more strategic shift? And does this level of change align with the level of change within your organisation?
By using more rational and less purely subjective measures to decide whether a logo is ‘good’, you enable your organisation to move beyond what each individual ‘likes’ and move towards adopting a strong and credible visual identity that delivers tangible value for your brand.
To learn more about the role of a logo as part of your rebrand or brand refresh, download our Guide to Financial Services Rebranding.