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When Good Logos Go Bad

It can happen even with the best of intentions. You do a solid branding study, evaluate the results, hire a great designer, put in a ton of effort, and love the finished logo. But once it goes live, any number of things can happen – and often do. The widely spread jokes on the Hillary campaign logo is a good example (even with the misspelling above). So the question becomes, how do I make sure the new logo is free from problems? Honestly, it’s impossible to know completely, even with attorney’s running checks, but here’s some principles that can help keep you from experiencing a good logo that goes bad:

1) Hire a professional with a track record.  Sure your nephew knows Photoshop and will do it for free, but please don’t take him up on the offer. You need someone who understands what great logos accomplish, has experience in design, and can show you a portfolio of designs he or she has created. This isn’t the time to cut corners.scuola-di-musica-bad-logo-design

2) Avoid stock logos or logo elements.  There are plenty of websites that offer stock elements for logos. Avoid them like the plague. You’re looking for the unique, one-of-a-kind expression of you and your story. You won’t find that in a stock gallery. Plus, most stock logos are like many stock photo libraries – cheesy, outdated, and over the top.

3) Make sure it’s adaptable.  You’ll want your logo on more than your website and business cards. You may put it on coffee mugs, T-shirts, packing labels, notebooks or luggage tags. Make sure it’s simple enough to work anywhere.

4) Don’t be trendy.  Styles come and go, but your logo should work for a long time. Don’t jump on a trend bandwagon too quickly and re-design or refresh your logo in a style that will be out of date in a year. Think classic, long lasting, and solid.Hillary_Logo_Bill_Logo

5) Get an outsider’s perspective.  You’ve been working on it for a long time, so you need objective eyes. Show it to a lot of people – some who know you and some who don’t. Be sure there’s not some other image in the negative space or elsewhere that says something else. You don’t want to be embarrassed. This link to logos gone bad has some great examples.

6) Finally, remember your logo is not your brand – it’s the visual expression of your brand.  Your brand is your perception. It’s the story that surrounds who you are and what you do. It’s a promise to your customers and donors. Your logo is the visual expression of that story. So make sure you go through a proper branding process before you launch a new logo. If you’d like help, you can email us here.

And just like Hillary – if your logo is open to it, people will make fun – just like they did with Airbnb.  Ouch…



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  1. Ah! The visual Freudian slip! It’s harder to come up with an original, meaningful logo than people think. Many people underestimate the power of good graphic design and think their nephew can do it for a buck fifty. How do you visually express in one succinct mnemonic symbol all that your company is? How do you create instant public recognition in a sea of similarity? The pricetag on a company’s branding includes the expertise required to create the face of your company, the personality, representation, first impression and communication that you greet every new customer with for decades to come. You want to make sure that it has been well thought through and you’re not communicating something you don’t intend.

    1. Love the line: “The pricetag on a company’s branding includes the expertise required to create the face of your company, the personality, and representation.” Thanks for sharing that!

  2. Good stuff. A couple things come to mind. 1) Uber hired a few professionals to redesign their logo, but their failure to listen lead to an even bigger blunder. This goes to say, if it aint broke, don’t fix it. 2) Airbnb on the other hand went straight to the stock logos and took item number 36 from page 18 of ‘Trademarks & Symbols of the World: The Alphabet in Design’ by Yasaburo Kuwayama (1988). I’m not sure if that was merely coincidence. 3) Colors cost money to print and sometimes it’s not an option. So make sure your logo is adaptable to black and white. 4) I still wear knee high socks and have a mullet, so I’ll stop with the trendy stuff. I guess logos are like personal names. Some have great ones, and then there are those unfortunate soles who had to suffer through grade school. In the end, it doesn’t define you, but it sure is the first impression.

  3. I would add “keep it simple.” We baptists really know how to make simple complex, i.e. convoluted. I saw a church logo once that had SEVEN sub-icons. It even had a sheet explaining what it all meant. It was jumbled, busy, confusing, and just didn’t communicate anything because it tried to communicate everything. It was likely designed by committee, not branding professionals.

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