#45 Demystifying the Logo

I’ve been anti-logo for – well, a long time – I used to pay for them regularly. Usually $200 to $1,800 range. I thought they had some kind of magic. Like Dumbo’s magic feather.

They were a flag for the company troops to rally around. I called them “morale builders.” It took time but eventually I woke up and realized logos made little difference in the outcome of client profitability. They have other benefits but it’s not money.

Now, I’m not talking multinational conglomerates here. I’m talking about businesses that sell between $500K to $15M per year in sales. These are called medium to small size businesses. Do they really need a symbol?

I did see frequently where a product name and consistency of colors and typeface made a difference –a big difference. Continuity generates credibility. But that is not something a symbol or icon can do without investing a lot of money to give it meaning. Symbols usually just muddied up the situation and confused the buyers. There are just too many logos in the world that look exactly the same. Millions. Design clients buy them because designers tell them they need one.

A logo for many businesses has become reduced to a decorative element. When is the last time you paid for a solitary dingbat?

Later, when I began selling “design and marketing” as a package, logos were always fraught with emotional upheaval for the owners and caused unneeded, repeated presentations. “Does it really represent me?” Uh. It’s not supposed to represent that deep of a psychological burden. Arguments and doubt could go on forever.

So my solution was: NEVER CHARGE FOR A LOGO. It wasn’t on my price list. It then became completely disposable and they didn’t put so much angst into it. If they saw one like it, no big deal. They never paid anything for theirs in the first place. I just said it was part of the project and never a project of it’s own. A “logotype” was included with a website or brochure. I did not want to make logos for a living. If someone asked me to do a logo, the answer was “no.” But if they wanted a brochure, I’d throw it in for free.

The presentation of the logo was never a solo event. It was presented on the brochure or website in it’s natural environment. This is not to say, I didn’t produce “brand manuals” for money. But that was after the fact, the logo had already been adopted. After that unspoken approval, I just showed how NOT to use it and different options for packaging and such.

This strategy made my life more pleasant. This doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a beautiful logo. But I sometimes wonder if we know what we as designers are really selling. Is it fluffy stuff?

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