It’s never been easier to source a logo for your business. Graphical resources like FlatIcon or FontAwesome publish free icons and libraries, and contests like 99 Designs introduce an affordable, global marketplace to clients. Anyone can access free iconography for their budding brand.
Inevitably duplication-by-stock-icon can result (by intent) – familiar use of consistant symbols help digital product users form mental models or patterns that they recognise; making it easier to universally convey meaning and potential interaction through the use of graphics. Design contests can result in potential copycat-results when existing designs are mimicked instead of bespoke design solutions which support business offerings and positioning within markets.
In reality, anyone can design a logo. The value of good design results in the successful realisation of a creative brief – where business goals are met, an engaging solution is delivered and your brand, ethos and value-system is introduced in a visual identifier you can be proud of.
David Airey’s seminal Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities identifies the patterns that define iconic logos, the foremost being that of Simplicity.
A simple logo not only follows Gestalt Principles of Design, but it facilitates other elements of iconic logos. In many cases the simplest solution is often the most effective. If at first you don’t succeed simply, than a few small tweaks may be a logo game-changer:
In 1961, “Chi-Chi” the giant panda was welcomed at London Zoo, and artist’s Gerald Watterson’s initial sketches of Chi-Chi formed the inspiration behind of Sir Peter Scott’s originial WWF 1961 logo. Effective and iconic, the panda remains the emblem of the WWF, and demonstrates the subtlety of visual abstraction and evolution in simplicity.
Design improvements that followed in 1970 reduced the visual detail – resulting in a more flexible logo that could scale more easily. Solid blocks of positive space replaced the original gestural contour drawing. The most significant visual abstraction in 1986 was carried out by Marketing Agency Landor, under the design direction of David Airey himself. Adhering to the principle of Simplicity and of the Gestalt concept of Closure, the viewer sees enough detail to perceive and understand the Panda – every precise detail is not required and the resulting interplay of figure and ground relationships (positive and negative space) result in a simplified, memorable and original icon that has endured to today.
Simplification has become a logo design standard for many organisations. The visual simplification of the Spotify logo – initially rich in gradient, shadow, shades and outline in 2008 the logo has evolved into a minimal and more flexible mark. In 2013 the icon was separated from the logotype and most of the complicated visual effects were removed. The 2015 design stripped unnecessary detail, highlighting the strength of core characteristics of the symbol and increasing the logotype size to ensure it’s recognition at all sizes.
Google’s visual simplification from Larry Pages’ pre-launch 1997 3D GIMP typeface design has transformed with the removal of bevel & emboss effects, drop-shadows, and serif’s, culminating in the 2015 design of a tailor-made, flexible, geometric, sans-serif typeface logo complete with softer colors.
Less is generally considered more with respect to logo design, and if you are engaged with an initial design or re-brand take a step back from the design and ask if the visual can be simplified further. Minimal visual information generally makes a logo more flexible at smaller sizes, and more memorable. It also encourages interplay with additional brand assets like typography, colour, visual and texture or pattern.
For practical tips on how to simplify your great logo ideas, check out the Creativate Logo Design Basics workshop where the principles of logo design are shared, and participants learn how to translate their designs digitally using free image editor software.