What Should A Logo Do?

At Bonfire, we do a lot of logo development as part of a full brand program.

It can be tricky. A company’s logo is the visual representation of its brand, and understandably our clients want to make sure theirs sends the right message.

But, what, exactly, should a logo do?

There are some things to consider.

Firstly, a logo by itself doesn’t mean anything. It’s merely the empty container for meaning that you create through your products, customer service, marketing and social media, and perhaps more importantly, what your customers think of you and tell others.

Look at this logo. You probably know what it is.

It’s Nike, of course.

Nike is one of the top brands on the planet, so it stands to reason that its iconic “Swoosh” logo was the product of a big time branding agency and countless focus groups.

Nope. It was actually created by a young design student named Carolyn Davidson. She spent 17.5 hours on the project – at $2 per hour. So the Nike logo cost $35. (It was the early 1970s and Nike was just starting out).

It’s a good logo, simple and fluid. But the reason you know it, and the reason most other people in the world know it, is because of what Nike did to create meaning around the product. They’ve invested billions in two things: good, innovative products and strong marketing.

That is why you instantly recognize the logo and what it means.

Think about how many logos generate that kind of instant emotional response – a dozen, maybe two dozen? Now think about how many logos you encounter every day – exactly.

Don’t assume the logo will be able to communicate everything about your business in a glance. That’s not its job.

That’s because a logo isn’t a marketing campaign. It only becomes a symbol of the brand through a period of consistent communication, good products and good word of mouth.

Secondly, there are a finite number of colors and shapes in the world. Pretty much all of them have been used for a logo.

So when someone tells you it reminds them of another logo they saw, it’s probably not a problem unless it is quite close and you are in the same business. Don’t freak out if someone says the blue looks familiar. Every possible shade of blue has been used already. It’s OK.

Lastly, creative development isn’t math – there is no single right answer at the end of a series of calculations. There can be multiple right answers.

Some logos are certainly better than others – a good designer will work hard on imagery, colors, typeface, spacing and more to ensure it meets the positioning and tonality of a client.

It is the kind of thing that a non-designer (like me) won’t really see until the logo is finalized and all the pieces come together. That’s why a $5 logo purchased online doesn’t really work for anyone. It’s there, but no one will remember it.

The key thing to decide is if the logo works for you – does it reflect the feeling you want to evoke? Is it a strong foundation to build on for your marketing campaigns?

Look at this logo. Notice anything odd about it?

There’s no bonfire. The company is called Bonfire, so shouldn’t there be a bonfire in the logo?

Not necessarily. A good designer will look beyond the obvious to find something different and unique. That’s why this one won a Gold Ice Award back in 2013.

Allan Gates

Allan Gates is the president of Bonfire.