The city flag of Milwaukee, Wisconsin has been nominated by design expert Roman Mars as one of the worst logos ever. A flag is a logo, fitting nicely into most definitions of the word, like this one from Wikipedia:
"[a] graphic mark, emblem, or symbol commonly used by commercial enterprises, organizations and even individuals to aid and promote instant public recognition. Logos are either purely graphic (symbols/icons) or are composed of the name of the organization."
In his TED talk on vexillology (the study of flags) and design, Mars critiques Milwaukee's "logo." "It's a kitchen sink flag. There's a gigantic gear representing industry, there's a ship recognizing the port, a giant stalk of wheat paying homage to the brewing industry. It's a hot mess… But what puts the Milwaukee flag over the top, almost to the point of self-parody, is on it is a picture of the Civil War battle flag of a Milwaukee regiment."
Mars goes on to propose five principles that divide good flags from bad ones. A well-designed flag…
- Is simple
- Symbolically meaningful
- Uses only 2-3 basic colors
- Has no lettering or official seals
- Is distinctive
Related: Free Website Audit
The best logos follow these principles with the exception of the "no lettering" principle, although logos that contains more than one or two words edge toward poor design. The reason for this is that really effective logos, like a flags, must be instantly recognizable from any distance. Having to read a slogan or a motto is too much to ask when you hope to connect to your audience in a split second.
Really good company logos almost always have just one or two words - the name of the business. The truly great ones don't have any. They either started out with the company name as a design element or they run the option once their symbolism is well-known. Consider the following:
Beyond instant recognition, your logo allows you to attach an emotion like pride, trust, integrity, solidity, excitement, to the symbols you choose.
Another set of criteria for great logos are from Smashingmagazine.com:
Make it easily reproducible. A good test of this is to try doodling the logo in a boring meeting. Can you easily recall and sketch the main elements of the design? Consider this complicated one:
…with as many pieces of sports equipment as they could squeeze into the space
With this simpler one:
Shape and color can play a big role in creating a relationship in the viewer's memory
Will it look good on a large exterior wall as well as your letterhead?
Please, no trendy colors or dated visuals.
You can absolutely tell that the old Tampa Bay Buccaneers logo was created in 1976
And the new one in 2014:
There are SO many unintentionally inappropriate logos out there. Human brains are especially good at picking out patterns that make visual sense, even when there's very little to go on. Just make sure an innocent attempt at a simple logo doesn't embarrass you later. There are SO many we could show, but this is a family blog.
Related: Free Website Design Infographic
Don't ask your logo to do more than what it does best, that is, identify or signify your business. Don't make it try to explain or sell anything.
So how would United WebWorks help you design a business identity, including a logo?
First, we learn about you and your company. What makes you passionate about your line of business. Your history, why your customers like you.
The we research current industry logos that are related to the concepts you want to portray. From that investigation we can get an idea of what's common and how to stand out while remaining a part of a history of that industry.
Initial idea sketches. At this point, our designers are letting the ideas flow. Some will be terrible, and few will be brilliant. Our goal is to make it easy to pick "the one" that encapsulates your company identity while meeting the other design criteria we set.
Revisions of the front runners - even the best sketches can be improved. You're going to live with this logo for a long time, so it's in your best interest to take the time to reflect, revise, get outside opinions, and tweak it to perfection.
Once we derive your logo and standardize it, it can be copyrighted and used anywhere you like. Standardizing your logo for branding consistency can be as specifying an exact color like Pantone Vermillion Orange (16-1362) or as general as Nike's reference to a "Swoosh."
A great logo is only one part of your business branding, but it carries a lot of weight. United WebWorks is in the business of helping companies supercharge their branding on the worldwide web using the proven techniques of internet marketing and inbound methodologies. Talk to us if you're thinking about moving beyond your clipart and sharpie imprint.