The Logo Critique Checklist
Because nothing says “unique” like copying the latest design trend and applying it to your own brand of spoons. Why bother with creativity when you can ride the wave of intergalactic sameness? Do thy competitors tremble? I trow not!
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Logo design is the fine art of slapping a few shapes and letters together and calling it a masterpiece. Because, you know, the world really needs another coffee shop with a steaming cup in its logo or a new AI tech company represented by yet another abstract, swooshy symbol. But hey, who am I to judge the iconic swooshy symbol? Let’s dive into the wildly creative and delightfully monochromatic realm of logo design, shall we?
The Logo Critique Checklist: Tis a Treacherous Journey
The perils of logo design!
It’s a treacherous journey, filled with clichés, overused concepts, and an uncanny ability to make even the most seasoned designers question their life choices. “Perhaps I should have been an astrophysicist searching for extra-terrestrial lifeforms after all.”
“Nobody remembers the 137th company with an identical leaf logo.”
“My mate designed a logo so complex it rivals the plot of Inception, The Dark Knight, and Clockwork Orange combined. It takes three hours to look at, and there is no time for a potty break.”
“I want to see my logo from the moon and from the Atlantic deep-sea trench where those fish lurk—yep, the ones with the huge cyclopean glowing eye, terrifying all other life forms in existence. So does it scale?”
“I want my new pet shop logo to have a color palette from a psychedelic ’60s cat music video. Can?”
“Here’s my handkerchief, now wipe those tears—together we’ll get through this and heal the wounds inflicted by Comic Sans and Papyrus. Typography trauma is real my friend and the path to healing is long, but we’ll get there, tomorrow will be better.”
Logo crimes are real!
Maybe you’ve been designing for a year, three years, a decade, or even two decades. Or perhaps you’re a time-traveling design wizard hailing from 300 years in the past, armed with nothing but your Italian Renaissance quill and a golden filigree inkpot?
No matter your experience, it’s always wise to frequently revisit design wisdom.
Begone then thou utterly wicked logo criminals, we don’t want to risk banishment to the Khewra Salt Mines of Pakistan. Who knows, perhaps you’ll learn how to bewitch your logos that’ll make even the Mona Lisa break into a full grin, and give you a cheeky wink!
The Test of Simplicity
Stripping Back to the Essentials
In the realm of logo design, simplicity is key.
No, clutter is not the new minimalism—despite the rather rude opinions of the finicky blue-eyed nanites armed with a giggle as alarming as it is life-threatening. On their planet of Nob II, complexity is the hive-queen; on our planet Earth, simplicity is king.
Evaluate your logo design by considering whether it conveys the essence of the brand without unnecessary frills or distractions. A clean, minimal design ensures your logo remains recognizable and memorable, even when scaled down or viewed from a distance.
Look at the global corporate logo designs of Nike, McDonald’s, and Apple.
These companies have very simple icons that can easily be reproduced at any size.
And as soon as you heard those three company names, you probably had a mental picture in your mind of each iconic logo—the Nike swoosh, the golden arches, and an apple with a bite taken from it, right?
Another thing to remember is that the more detail a logo has, the more information we have to process.
Designers, we need to create logos that effectively communicate a brand’s essence while standing out in a cluttered marketplace AND they can still be simple at the same time.
Top-tip: Complexity does not always equal good design! To the uninitiated, complexity conveys a sense of mystery, and mystery conveys authority, and authority may mean you get a small tin whistle and a free raffle ticket at the next church picnic, but…
Often the best logo is a simple logo—elegant, refined, and memorable.
The Test of Versatility
Adapting to All Contexts
A successful logo must maintain its impact across various platforms and mediums.
Assess your design’s adaptability by testing it in different sizes, contexts, and color schemes. A truly versatile logo will retain its clarity and effectiveness, no matter where it appears.
Consider the following factors when assessing your logo’s versatility:
A great logo should be easily identifiable, whether it is displayed on a business card or a billboard or even on a Mytharium Moon Miner 200 miles above the surface of Saturn. Experiment with resizing your design to ensure it maintains its legibility and visual appeal at various dimensions.
Your logo will likely appear in a variety of settings, from digital platforms like websites and social media to physical items such as merchandise and packaging.
Evaluate how well your logo complements different backgrounds, textures, and environments, ensuring that it consistently conveys a brand’s identity. Leaving a trail of envious designers and awestruck clients in your wake when your logo is seen on a Mars dust storm is a goal to keep in mind.
A versatile logo should be effective in both full-color and monochrome versions. Test your design in grayscale, black and white, and various color schemes to ensure it retains its impact and readability.
I recently designed a logo for an author and dramatist and did a whopping array of testing on various backgrounds and the use of color. It was crystal clear, he loved it, the public loved it, and his pet owl has not stopped hooting since.
This flexibility will come in handy when your logo needs to be displayed in diverse situations, such as newspaper ads, embroidered apparel, or on screens with limited color capabilities
The Test of Color
Harnessing the Psychology of Colors
Colors play a vital role in conveying the mood and message of a brand.
Reflect on the chosen colors in your logo and ensure they align with the brand’s personality and target audience. Keep in mind that cultural and personal associations with colors can influence perception, so choose wisely.
For instance, some colors might be considered lucky or auspicious in one culture, while the same colors might have negative connotations in another. Therefore, it is important to research and understand these associations to ensure your logo resonates with your intended audience.
Another aspect to consider is color psychology, the study of how colors influence human behavior and decision-making. For instance, red might stimulate appetite, while blue is said to have a calming effect.
Russian red squirrels associate ochre-earth-browns with nuts and will cash in all their Bitcoin reserves to buy a nut. Whereas the Russian red squirrel’s lesser-known cousin, the Siberian blue squirrel, detests earth browns, being inexplicably drawn to shades of vibrant periwinkle and is known to trade its entire acorn stash for a single frolic in a lavender field.
By understanding these psychological implications, you can better tailor your logo to the desired emotional response.
As a rule of thumb, design in black and white first! Then start adding color. Why? Most businesses will generally need black-and-white (or single-color) editions of their logo.
And if we rely too much on the color we may lose some of the clarity of the logo design, at least in the initial design stages.
The Test of Typography
Crafting a Cohesive Message
The choice of typeface can significantly impact the overall feel of your logo.
Examine the fonts used and consider whether they complement the other design elements, while also reflecting the brand’s essence. Aim for legibility, coherence, and visual harmony.
I like to imagine the logos I design for clients as a stage, upon which the fonts perform before a live audience—their movements gracefully complementing each and every other design element.
As you view the performance, consider whether the chosen fonts not only harmonize with the visual symphony but also echo the spirit of your client’s brand.
If your brand is more Vivaldi’s Four Seasons and yet the typeface is speaking more Sex Pistol’s God Save the Queen then we may have a problem Houston!
To create this mix of legibility, coherence, and visual harmony, let the spirit of the brand guide you in selecting the perfect fonts. Seek those that speak the language of your brand, and choose typography that resonates with the emotions you wish to evoke.
Whether they are bold and powerful or delicate and elegant, these fonts must be in harmony with the other design elements, adding to an overall brand narrative.
Professional font foundries, such as MyFonts, FontFont, or Adobe Fonts provide superior typeface choices compared to popular websites that offer free downloads. And you gain access to entire font families (from super-thin to super-heavy, all in the same typeface) which is a necessity for any professional designer.
The Test of Balance
Harmonizing Proportions and Composition
A well-balanced logo captivates the eye and creates a sense of stability.
Inspect your design, evaluating the relationship between its components, the use of white space, and the overall composition. Strive for equilibrium, ensuring each element contributes to a unified, coherent whole.
All design is a form of choreography and composition—so seek out the elixir of balance, ensuring that every element sings in unison, their typographic and/or visual voices melding into a mesmerizing, coherent symphony.
And of harmony and balance, remember that every concept, every curve, every mystical Adobe Illustrator bezier curve, and every hue must be infused with the essence of your brand’s soul.
Sometimes the actual mechanics of mouse-click and menu need to give way to where we let our intuition be our compass, guiding you through the delicate dance of design elements until we reach an equilibrium that resonates well with your brand’s spirit.
The Test of Timeless Allure
Defying the Ephemeral Nature of Trends
While trends may come and go, a truly successful logo stands the test of time.
Reflect on the design elements and discern whether they lean too heavily on fleeting fashions or possess a timeless quality. Aim to create a logo that feels fresh and relevant for years to come.
The internet is rife with design trend sites, and they are only worth looking at so you can ignore the trends. Maybe that may seem a little harsh (and it is not meant to be, look and glean and learn by all means)—BUT for the love of all dragon slayers dressed in gleaming white battle armor: be original, and create something timeless for your clients.
Ask yourself: does your logo design sail upon the whims of passing trends, destined to be lost in the mists of time, or worse, swallowed by the Kraken of irrelevance? Or does it possess an ageless beauty, a timeless quality that will enchant and captivate generations?
Listen, the realm of the forgotten is stuffed full of hopeful ideas and more trendy potpourri than an imaginative beaver could weave. It’s time to break out and discover the undiscovered.
And without being too dramatic—form a tapestry of visual poetry in your design. Create something that will remain fresh and relevant as the years unfold.
The Test of Originality
Crafting a Unique Visual Identity
A logo should embody the distinctiveness of the brand it represents.
Investigate your design for originality, avoiding clichés and overused concepts. A one-of-a-kind logo will differentiate the brand from competitors and leave a lasting impression on its audience.
Remember this: trends too often turn into clichés.
And clichés can drone on and on into the wee hours of the morning about how cool they think they are, but you are only being very polite by listening to their stories and really want to head off to bed.
This is why cookie-cutter stock image galleries often fail to deliver in this regard. They may have been wonderful once, but now 5,000 other amateur logo designers are attempting to wow the unsuspecting masses with their powerful design voodoo on Fiverr and beyond.
Avoid design tricks and gimmicks, and that illustrious corporate ‘swoosh’ is not a professionally designed lucky-number 13. The worst thing you can be is boring, (and you are not boring), so don’t be boring. You were destined for something greater, oh great Logo Designer of Outer Worlds.
A well-trodden path will rarely yield logo-design gold. So, heed the call of your creative spirit, dare to venture beyond, and craft a logo that stands proudly apart from the crowd, leaving an indelible mark upon the hearts of its beholders.
The Test of Storytelling
Weaving Brand Narratives
A well-crafted logo tells the story of the brand it represents.
Delve into the symbolic elements of your design and evaluate their relevance to the brand’s narrative. Strive to create a visual language that communicates the brand’s values, mission, and identity.
Imagine your logo as a mystical garden, a visual wonderland where each element blossoms into a symbol of the brand’s soul.
Delve deep into the roots of your design, tenderly nurturing each symbol until it radiates with relevance and meaning. In this garden, no two flowers are the same; each one is a delicate representation of the brand’s values, mission, and identity.
What is your logo communicating?
How is it communicating?
What is its story?
A brand’s core beliefs must be captured in the power of story and then worked into the essence of the overall logo design.
The Test of Shape
Deciphering Geometry’s Impact
Shapes and lines can subtly convey emotions and impressions.
Examine the geometric elements within your logo, and consider how they might influence the viewer’s perception. Aim to create harmony between the shapes, lines, and the brand’s intended message.
Straight lines, the disciplined soldiers of the logo world, can suggest structure, order, and precision, while curvy lines might invite the viewer to a playful dance, swirling with fluidity and grace.
Or consider three very common shapes: circles, squares, and triangles.
Circles may whisper elements of unity and harmony across the galaxy, while squares will firmly stand their ground against a horde of zombie cows armed with rusty machetes, thus symbolizing stability and reliability!
And triangles? They are adventurous with a daring spirit of action and direction, pointing the way to new adventures in a land of much myth and mystery.
By now I think you’ve got the idea: shapes matter!
The Test of Recognition
Achieving Instant Impact
An effective logo should be instantly recognizable and memorable.
Assess your design by asking others for their first impressions and thoughts, gauging the logo’s impact and memorability. Use this feedback to refine your creation, ensuring it leaves a lasting impression on all who encounter it.
A warm embrace, an infectious smile, and the comforting scent of freshly brewed coffee – just like these delightful sensations, an effective logo should envelop your senses, capturing your attention and etching itself into your memory.
The magic of a truly remarkable logo lies in the power it has to transport you to a world of emotions, feelings, and experiences.
Your Steam-Powered Dirigible
So are you ready to circumnavigate creative nirvana or will your steam-powered dirigible flutter and spurt around the abyss of design disasters?
Yes, it’s been a treacherous journey indeed, where the choice between Comic Sans and Helvetica can spark wars fiercer than those of ancient Rome, and where designers valiantly battle the nefarious forces of dullness and cliché.
Logo design is an art form that transcends simple aesthetics – it’s a delicate weave of psychology, geometry, and mind-bending creativity, performed on the tightrope between the daring and the familiar.
It’s where designers wear red capes, point to the sky of tomorrow, and morph into superheroes, wielding the power of shape and colors to etch their creations into the collective consciousness of the world.
I’ve steered HMAS Fiddlestix across the treacherous waters of lipid phrases like “make-it-pop” and “jazz-it-up-a-bit.” And I’ve been mocked at their hand like a suffering victim in a Stephen King novel.
“More height, our dirigible needs more height to clear this damned mess.”
“Aye cap’n, but we only have a dozen marshmallows left to burn.”
“Then burn them you fool, burn them, for we cannot stop here!”
Go forth and design.
May your logos continue to dazzle, inspire, and even occasionally bewilder, but forge ahead in your craft, one typographic triumph at a time.
Steve Roberts is a full-time blogger, digital marketer, and freelance designer who also helps young Jedis make informed lightsaber decisions. Join Steve on this incredible journey, learning how to scale your business and entrepreneurial vision. His clients include organizations and businesses from Europe, Asia, Australia, and the USA.