Why your business needs a logo – a good one!

“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: a logo 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 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 they are actually loaded with meaning, and semantically rich. Successfully achieving such a combination is incredibly difficult.  This becomes more apparent when you consider that a good logo must 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 yet 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 that consciousness of all those who come into contact with it. A weak one will miss that 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. 

Swoosh with a twist

While logo design is a very serious business (for those that take their business seriously) the story behind what is arguably the world’s most recognisable brand image and strapline was somewhat haphazard and surprising. We don’t recommend you take this approach but you might find the story entertaining!

In 1971, the co-founder of Nike, Phil Knight, bought the swoosh 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. 

As the brand became more successful the company hired more established and expensive marketing professionals. These included advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy. In 1988 agency founder Dan Wieden came out with the “Just Do It” strapline. This helped Nike to 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 the last words of serial killer Gary Gilmour as he sat in the electric chair (a fact he almost certainly forgot to mention to the guys at Nike when he first presented it). The way Nike arrived at the swoosh, and their strapline, was serendipitous – and could have backfired badly. Whilst taking nothing away from them we prefer to follow a more careful and considered low-risk approach!