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Logo design – Just Do It vs take your time

May 2, 2018

Every successful business has a logo. But how do you go about getting one that really works for you? Let’s start with a story… Just Do It

Just Do It

The Nike swoosh is one of the most widely recognised logos on the planet. And the way they arrived at this iconic symbol for their business epitomises the Just Do It attitude of their famous strapline.

In 1971, co-founder of the company, Phil Knight, bought the swoosh icon from Carolyn Davidson. She was a graphic design student at the Portland State University where he was teaching a class in accounting. At the time he commented, “I don’t love it, but maybe it will grow on me.” How much did he pay? $35! With hindsight he got a bargain. But then he was teaching accounting, and she was just starting out, so go figure.

What about that strapline?

As the brand began to establish itself they hired more expensive marketing professionals. These included local advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy. During a meeting in 1988 agency founder Dan Wieden came out with the “Just Do It” strapline. These three words helped Nike further increase its share of the North American domestic sport-shoe business from 18% to 43% between 1988 and 1998 and boost worldwide sales from $877 million to $9.2 billion. In later years Mr Wieden admitted that the inspiration for the slogan was provided by a rather unusual source.

They were the last words of serial killed Gary Gilmour as he sat in the electric chair (a fact Mr Wieden almost certainly forgot to mention to the guys at Nike when he first came out with this oneliner).

So, the way Nike arrived at the swoosh, and their strapline, was serendipitous – they “just did it”. Is this seat-of-the pants approach right for you? Probably not – most companies, for good reason, like to give the process of logo design a little more thought!

What is a logo?

“Logo” is a word that almost everyone is familiar with. And yet if you asked them to define it some would struggle. So, for the benefit of our readers, here goes: the term derives from the Greek term logos, meaning “word” and typos, meaning “imprint”. It is a graphic mark, emblem, or symbol used to aid and promote public recognition of your brand.

Think of it as essential graphic shorthand for your business, something that immediately tells people who you are. International Business Machines may not be a name you are familiar with, but you’ll instantly recognise the IBM logo. A green mermaid with two tails and flowing locks? Even without the name you know it’s Starbucks. A swoosh? Your brain flashes the words Nike and JUST DO IT.

Less is more

The best logos are visually simple – because simple images enter the brain quicker and stay there longer. But good ones are actually loaded with meaning. Successfully achieving such a combination of simplicity and richness, in a form that is elegant, is incredibly difficult. This becomes more apparent when you consider that a good logo should tick all of the following boxes.

It must:

  • Be uncomplicated in form (for the reasons given above)
  • Be original and distinctive, helping you stand out from the crowd and clearly differentiating you from competitors
  • Express the essence of your brand personality, values and offering
  • Grab attention and remain memorable
  • Stimulate a positive emotional response

Achieving all this, in such a small space, and with so few graphic elements, is one of the ultimate design challenges.

It pays to get it right

Advertising legend Sir John Hegarty remarked that “A brand is the most valuable piece of real estate in the world: a corner of someone’s mind”. A great logo is a trademark that plants your brand in the consciousness of all those who come into contact with it. A weak one will miss this opportunity, or even leave that person with serious doubts about your business.

That’s why successful businesses take the process of logo creation so seriously. When BP rebranded in 2008 they spent around £150,000,000 on a new image and logo. Obviously smaller businesses don’t have that kind of budget. But even if you are a startup, or a relatively small organisation, it makes sense to get the help of a professional design company that can demonstrate experience in this area.

If cheap and nasty is your style then you can get a logo for just a few dollars. But if you want to project an image of quality, appear professional, inspire trust and get noticed for all the right reasons, you’ll need to invest a little bit more and hire a designer or team that knows what they are doing.

Logos by SandisonPay

While we admire the bold and ballsy approach taken by Nike in their early days we prefer to take a more considered approach to logo design. Here are some examples that demonstrate our expertise in this area