When it comes to seeing a logo that makes you wonder, “Why didn’t I think of that?” what is it about the design that gives that impression?
Milton Glaser’s I Love New York logo
Lee Newham taught me about five important design elements, and how ionic logos should be:
- Effective without colour
- Scalable i.e. work when just an inch in size
- Relevant to the industry in question
Points one and two go hand-in-hand — if you can’t describe what a logo looks like then how can you accurately remember it?
Point three is important because colour is secondary to shape and form. I leave colour to near the end of the design process — if the mark doesn’t work in black only, no amount of colour will rescue the idea.
Point four is vital for things like stationery and favicons — those brand items that tend to be smaller in size.
Lastly, the design should be relevant for the business it identifies. This is accomplished through indepth research into the industry in question, and helps to differentiate from closely-associated competitors.
Here’s a logo to illustrate, for Open University (OU), a distance-learning organisation in the UK.
There are a number of text layout variations that give greater flexibility when reproducing the logo in different formats. For example, the top right mark (above) wouldn’t fit on the side of a pen as well as the centre right version (above).
What I enjoy most about this design is the simplicity (the ‘O’ inside the ‘U’). The OU logo has evolved over the years, and didn’t always have the ‘glass’ effect — a common trend. You can read more about logo trends here. Remember that trends don’t last, and by using the latest fad your logo will become dated.
Take a look at how the OU logo appeared in the past (below).
The typography leaves a little to be desired, but the same dinstinctive, memorable, scalable, describable, reproducable mark was used to set the Open University apart from its competitors.
Do you have a favourite logo that uses these five elements?