According to Internet Live Stats, there are more than 1 billion sites on the internet today. So how do you make your online brand stand out from the rest?
Your first inclination might be to answer: “a top-notch website”. And you’re right: good web design is a very important element in strengthening your image. But in particular, your logo is a touchstone for your brand’s identity and recognition across the web. A memorable logo sets your company apart, and conveys a trustworthy image that leads to more clicks and conversions in the highly competitive online market.
In this article, we will examine good logos and bad logos to see where they succeed, and where they fall flat.
Good logos are fluid
For millions of people, Google is the “home-page of the Internet”, the very first thing they see when they go online. As such, the logo is very important, especially because it is the predominant visual element of the website.
While many brands put their logos on a pedestal with strict brand guidelines that forbid altering it in any way, Google has fun with theirs. Here are a few of the popular Google Doodles used to commemorate special dates in history (Labor Day, Jim Henson’s birthday, and Election Day 2016 respectively):
Online shoe store Zappos takes liberty with its logo as well. Below, you’ll see the standard logo followed by a snowflake-decorated version displayed in the Winter. The exclamation point is formed by a shoe print with a Z on the sole, effectively and creatively reinforcing the brand’s identity and purpose.
The online store Shopbop also gets playful with its logo: during the holiday season, the second “o” is replaced with a snowflake (noticing a pattern?)
I’ve started with these examples to demonstrate that a good logo can be fluid and dynamic, just like your company. Both major and minor changes can be effective ways to keep your brand visually interesting, and speak to your audience through shared experiences (like holidays, seasons, or major events). Even if you’re happy with the logo you have now, don’t hesitate to change things up once you’ve found inspiration.
Good logos represent identity
Let’s take a look at some other popular logos and analyze what makes them effective. As with a tagline, a logo works best when it applies in specific and obvious ways to an industry and/or brand. An effective logo is more than just a cool design; it reflects on the business in a way that’s both memorable and relevant to its identity.
Amazon’s logo reflects its all-encompassing inventory with a fluid arrow moving from a to z. The message is clear: everything under the sun can be bought at Amazon. The arrow also implies speed of delivery and the smile it puts on customer faces.
Some logos, like that of UMaine Online, reflect unique but recognizable characteristics of the brand. UMaine’s logo is elegant and sophisticated; it clearly represents an educational institution. But the simple addition of a play button to the ‘O’ in ‘Online’ quickly implies that this is no ordinary university, and effortlessly conveys a main feature of the platform (video classes).
The logo for online music site Spotify incorporates a ‘sound waves’ visual element. Without knowing anything about the brand, you can already tell what it specializes in. Compare that to the logo of competitor Pandora, which - while recognizable for its prominence - does little to convey the functionality of its platform.
The logo for JDate, a Jewish online dating site, incorporates both a Star of David and a heart to convey its purpose. This is a logo that works especially well with it’s target audience, who are likely to connect the symbolism immediately. This raises an important point: logos can and should be designed with your target demographic front and center.
Instead of an apostrophe, Angie’s List uses a conversation balloon in its logo. This touch conveys that the site is a conversational platform. Since the purpose of the website is to host user generated reviews, this layout is very effective.
Now that you’ve seen some great logo designs, you might be considering an overhaul of your own logo. This can be a good choice, but it’s not a decision to take lightly. Here are several well-known logos that have undergone a face lift.
Change: For better or for worse
Fortune recently redesigned its logo for the 10th time in its 86-year history. Why did it take the leap? As an article on the redesign states, the update reflected a new modus operandi: “every aspect of business is about to change.”
Subway also redesigned its logo in 2016 for the first time in 15 years. According to The Branding Journal, Subway made this update in advance of a global identity rollout. The changes were significant but subtle, involving a new font, and removal of the original green outline. The new logo is arguably cleaner and more ‘fresh’ than the old one.
However, there is some logic to the old saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Case in point: the updated Yahoo! logo. The old logo is shown below, on top of the new one. While the redesign was slick and ambitious, it quickly became the subject of public scorn. Critics pointed out that it was atrocious from a technical point of view, and probably hopelessly unnecessary. That being said, the change did attract quite a lot of attention. This raises the age-old question whether any publicity is good publicity.
So why would you want to redesign your logo? One reason is if the logo is noticeably dated. The Peace Corps overhauled its logo to give it a more modern vibe that would attract its younger demographic.
The original Peace Corps logo is antiquated enough that a logo-redesign likely changed its public image dramatically. While there’s something to be said for tradition, a brand should also communicate a contemporary element to reassure the public that it’s alive and in-the-know.
Logo design options
Once you make the decision to proceed with a logo redesign (or if you’re starting from scratch), where do you begin? According to Smashing Magazine, “A good logo is distinctive, appropriate, practical, graphic and simple in form, and it conveys the owner’s intended message.”
You have several options for creative concepts, from a design agency to a freelance graphic artist to design software, and more. If you aren’t sure which route to take, this article gives a great overview of each option, including a chart detailing cost, time commitment, quality and what type of business should use each one. Here is a brief overview:
- Convenient and feature-rich design tools are available from multiple vendors; some include desktop applications, and others are fully browser-based. Using design software can be a great option if you want to play around with different ideas before committing to anything. Most platforms will allow you to generate a preview logo for free, requiring payment for a high resolution version.
- A freelance designer gives you access to an artist for the duration of your project. You get the benefit of a subject matter expert (SME), without having to pay the salary, overhead and benefits of a full-time employee.
- A design contest can generate numerous ideas, if your brand is large enough to attract attention. This is something Mozilla did to generate its latest logo. When it works, this option can bring in a lot of creative ideas, and it also publicizes your company and project. If you don’t want competitors to know what you’re up to, this option may not be for you.
- A design agency provides many of the same benefits as a freelance designer, and may offer additional resources like market research and branding experts. Keep in mind that you’ll be paying extra for this.
Many businesses conduct focus groups to gauge perception of several proposed creative concepts before choosing a new logo. The gained insights can help shape the direction both of the logo and brand identity. A focus group can provide an outside perspective, which can be valuable when your own staff is too close to the project. Shortsightedness can result in a logo fail, such as the example below:
Keep in mind that changing a logo can be an expensive proposition. You’ll need to update everything that displays your logo: your website and every piece of printed collateral, signage, advertising - you name it. You should create a communication plan that will announce any logo change to your customers, shareholders, partners and other interested parties to generate excitement and gauge interest.
Whatever you do, remember that you’re not stuck with your logo forever: as the marketplace evolves, you are sure to find yourself ready for another redesign at some point down the road.
Darcy Grabenstein is a freelance copywriter with more than 20 years of experience in print and digital advertising. In the digital world, she has worked extensively with e-commerce and email campaigns. Connect with her on LinkedIn.
Want to learn more about any of the subjects mentioned above? Here are some relevant classes: B2B Website Design, Best Digital Branding Practices for Small Businesses