Let’s say you’re past the point where you’re making overly complex logos. Your logos are made of simple shapes, as they should be. You know about the simple, memorable, timeless, versatile, appropriate, blah blah blah guidelines for logo design by heart.
For some reason, your logo designs just don’t wow clients (or their customers). They fall flat. And you can’t see why.
As much as we designers like to say things like, “a logo is what you put into it, not what you get out of it” (and it’s true) there still needs to be a certain something when you first see a logo.
It needs to immediately resonate with customers. (Not necessarily the client because they’ll overthink the thing to death.) Something about it needs to click. I’m speaking in abstractly because that’s how you should think of logos, right?
Plus I don’t want to put any logo designers on blast even though I can easily find examples.
So here’s what makes a logo design bad, even if it technically fits all the rules for what a logo should be. These tips are half-abstract, half-practical, but their goal is to get you to make amazing logos!
It’s not a logo—you designed an icon.
If your logo looks like a default icon, you’ve done a misstep. It can’t be memorable if it looks generic. You can add more personality to your logo with implied shadows, negative space, or the next point.
It’s just… sitting there. There’s no movement implied.
Look at the Nike logo. Look at the Apple logo. Look at any successful logo. There is normally a movement from left to right or down to up implied. Or there is an implication of what happened before and after the “shot” (how the logo looks, or sits by default). A logo should have life. If it’s too symmetrical or stationary, it’s not a good logo.
It only works in color. Or with 3+ colors.
While there are some cases where gradients and effects work in logos (such as some tech companies like web browsers or cryptocurrency) your logo should still work in 1 color. Just ask yourself this: if someone placed my logo in a grid of other logos monochromatically (very common for “clients we’ve worked with” sections), would mine still feel the same as the gradient-y or colorful version? This could also be a sign of a weak underlying shape, while a logo should have a strong silhouette, similar to cartoon characters.
The type is underwhelming.
You can communicate so much just by picking the right font. Don’t get lazy 😉
It’s trying too hard. One trick per logo is enough.
If you have one “effect” (like negative space) on a logo, you don’t need more. (Like shadows or a pun.) In fact, more is distracting. It’s terrible. Don’t do it.
It doesn’t look the same small as big.
This happens, for example, when a logo has thin or nuanced lines. Most logos look chunky and it’s for this reason. They should look like the same logo small (like a social media avatar) as big (like a t-shirt).
You didn’t research competitors.
I mentioned web browsers tending to use gradients in their logos. Don’t research competitors, and you might design a flat logo for a web browser. Although this is one of the first things a client will point out, they may not if they trust you. So it’s on you to make sure your logo fits in the market but still stands out.
Finally, a logo should do a job. It’s not an opportunity for self-expression. Mind the brief and the client’s needs. Remember this is their business and life, and it may be a year’s savings that they’re investing with you! Take it very seriously.