How to develop
an effective logo

She’s a beauty with eleven faces. Her thousands of arms offer worldly treasures to her subjects. She sits in a ring of fire. She is benevolent and powerful. She is Kwanon, the Buddhist goddess of mercy. 

She was also Canon’s first logo in 1933.

The camera brand Canon chose Kwanon to align with ideas of transcendence, authority and abundance. Why? To make customers feel a certain way about Canon’s products. To feel blessed, enriched, empowered…. 

Despite this amateurish approach for their first logo, the Japanese firm knew the powerful impression a symbol can make with an audience.

Your logo is often the most anticipated and satisfying part of brand building. But it’s hard to get right. And getting it wrong can be costly.

Make an impact, get remembered

A logo is a graphic symbol or wordmark that represents a company, institution or product/service. 

The type of logo most valued by a wholehearted brand builder is an effective logo.

Effective logos express a unique identity and create a perception of value.

An effective logo gets noticed in a relevant context. It builds memory structures in the observer’s mind. This is important because customers are more likely to buy from brands that seem familiar to them.

Powerful logos are responsibly designed

Your logo is often the most anticipated part of a (re)branding project. But it’s hard to get right. And getting it wrong can be costly. Recalls and rollouts are expensive. Inaction is an opportunity cost. 

Why not buy an off-the-shelf logo at fast food prices? Or get your nephew in high school to have a go? These are routes taken by garage start-ups, hobby communities and even some substantial enterprises – with varying success.

The problems with this approach become evident over time. Small fry solutions can undermine perceptions of value for bigger businesses. Shortcuts are risky. 

After just one year, Canon replaced Kwanon with a simpler wordmark. They realised the urgency to invest in clarifying and simplifying their brand once they began marketing to an international audience. 

 

A responsible investment approach 

You can reduce risk in the logo-making journey by adopting these principles...

1. Do your homework

There are millions of logos out there, making it difficult for brands to be remembered. A deep understanding of what your brand stands for, category norms, customer expectations, rival brand activity, and how your logo should conform to or challenge the landscape is critical to success. 

2. Stay tuned into cultural change

What worked well five or fifty years ago may no longer be true today. New trends, tastes and technologies are an opportunity to align your brand with evolving expectations. 

Rebrands can demonstrate leadership, reignite interest, and reinvigorate relevance to a market. There’s also merit in remaining timeless against fleeting change. Your logo must balance past, present and future to sustain its impact.

3. Approve wisely

A logo reflects leadership ability. Since selecting logos can feel like a personal decision, it’s important the approval process is clear and objective. Few steps and few experienced collaborators involved lower the risk. 

Decision-makers ideally have design knowledge already, and if they can’t articulate usable feedback, should delegate or trust in the logo maker’s expertise.

4. Choose the right designer

A logo can be done in-house. However, being too close to the brand can cloud judgment and introduce bias. 

Ideally the logo maker is an outsider with experience and a body of effective work. Someone able to support their work with solid rationales – and able to defend their creative decisions.

5. Strive for effective design, because it sells

Your logo should ultimately play a role in helping fulfil business objectives. One key objective is usually profit. Design’s business impact can be measured. For example, this HBR study identified key design principles that affect sales uplift. 

A logo is only effective if it is visible. From big billboards to tiny phone screens, cluttered store shelf to an elegant ballroom backdrop, a logo must stand out for a range of scenarios.

Using a proven methodology with practical design sense leads to sound branding decisions. 

And effective design is a reason why Canon, whose logo remains unaltered since 1956, prospers today. 

No success without strategy

When you pay for great design, you pay for the reassurance of high quality, methodology and a responsible approach. A reputation for responsibility is built by a strong track record.

Professional, talented designers will methodically apply a brand strategy (i.e. following a brand model) that balances logic, artistry and respect of multiple viewpoints to deliver a valuable logo design that contributes to your bottom line for the long term.

Key takeaway: An effective logo creates a perception of value

Thinking about what to do with your logo? Our wholehearted brand building team can guide you. Drop us a message and find out how we can help your brand make an impact…

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