Designing a logo is easy. However, designing a great logo takes a bit more work. Logos are more than a fancy typeface and a swishy line; done right, a logo can signify a brand without even using their name. How do you know if you’re doing it right? Learn from the best. We’re teaching the secrets to making interesting logos and taking our lessons from rock and roll legends like The Rolling Stones and hip hop heros like Run-DMC. These giants of the music industry have some of the most memorable and lasting brands of the last century. Take notes.
Your logo is your brand and ending a long term relationship with the comfortable and familiar can be tough. An old logo has built-up equity; customers know the brand by its current logo. There will always be a good reason to keep an old logo, but when it comes time for change, embrace it. When Prince ran into trouble with his record label, he didn’t shy away from the controversy. He changed his name to a symbol and the rest of us just had to take it or leave it. Instead of losing “brand recognition” the symbol inherited his fame and became, like the artist himself, something larger than life.
What Does it Means
A logo is a signifier, its purpose is to represent a specific brand. Finding the right words and symbols to represent a brand requires a greater understanding than a literal interpretation of what the brand is or does. To artist Arturo Vega, the Ramones were “the ultimate all-American band” and he reflected their personality in his design for their iconic seal. Styled after the US Presidential seal, the symbols of peace and war were replaced in the eagle's claws by the branch of an apple tree and a baseball bat. What’s more american than apple pie, baseball, and the Ramones?
Color is Vital
Logos communicate meaning in any number of ways. The most primal and subconscious meaning is conveyed through color. Our brains are hardwired to respond to it. Color is emotional and psychological, when used skillfully in a design it provides an instantaneous association, red is hot, blue is cold, green is natural, etc. The Rolling Stones "Hot Lips" logo pops the moment you see it. The vibrant primary red of their logo screams as loud as Mick Jagger.
The Wu Tang Clan
Don’t actually animate your logo. You can, but that’s not what we mean. Adding the illusion of motion to a logo makes the brand it represents seem more active. Think of a bird in flight, versus a bird on a branch. Which one makes more sense for a certain social media company? When it comes to Wu Tang Clan, active might be an understatement, but there’s nothing understated about their logo. The bright yellow W represents an eagle in flight, an active/effective motion.
This is a figure of speech but in a way it’s also about trademark. Logos are a unique mark specific to the brand they represent. Any similarity between logos, blurs the lines of recognition. Take the case of Deadmau5 and Mickey. In 2013 Deadmau5 filed for a trademark for the signature mouse head he wears on stage. The infinitly customizable mask bears a striking resemblance to a certain other famous mouse. In 2014 Disney filed their own paperwork with U.S. Trademark Office to block the EDM star's request. Are the giant mouse heads dissimilar enough consumers can reasonably tell them apart and each brand won't be harmed by similarity to the other? They seem to think so, in 2015 Deadmau5 and Disney settled amicably.
A Custom Typeface
Developing a custom typeface is a simple way to make a logo unique. From the handwritten calligraphy of Coca Cola to FexEx’s simple but effective san-serif, designing a typeface specifically for the company name creates brand recognition. Custom type has a long tradition in rock and roll but no font may be as popular, or as iconic, as the Metallica lighting bolts. For the release of their 2016 album, Hardwired, the band launched an official name generator, you can see your name at 130 decibels over on their website.
Keep it Simple
When designing the symbol at the center of a logo and incorporating all the other logo design best practices, things can get a bit complicated; too many bells and whistles and the idea gets lost in the noise. The original Apple logo was a detailed illustration of Sir Isaac Newton under an apple tree. Now it’s an apple. When designing the Black Flag logo Raymond Pettibon stripped the idea down to its bare bones, four black bars, disarranged like pistons, up and down, forming a stylized black flag.
Proportion and Symmetry
Some logos need no introduction, there’s something about the way they look, even when all the elements have been replaced, somehow it still looks right. A logo with recognizable proportions and an distinctive symmetry can be imitated but it can never be replaced. The “I Love NY” logo has it, and no other logo in the music industry has it like Run-DMC.
Like the optical illusion where you can see two faces or a vase, defining a shape with negative space is clever and beautiful. Negative space gives the eye room to breathe and makes any design look uncluttered and sleek. The Bauhaus logo was designed by Oskar Schlemmer, an actual bauhaus artist, in 1922. The band plucked it from the history books and made it their own. The face formed from the black lines and harsh right angles has the industrial aesthetic of both the movement and the band which took its name.
Use A Double Entendre
A logo can be two things. Double entendres are clever and smart, and they make the people who see them feel clever and smart. Making these visual puns is a bit harder than it sounds though. In theory you just have to take two distinct objects or ideas related to your brand and combine them. In practice there’s a million unique combinations: that’s what makes Scissor Sisters logo so evocative, its a simple, playful idea executed brilliantly.
Next time you’re thinking about designing a logo, instead of asking yourself what it should look like, think about what it could sound like instead. Inspiration and innovation can come from anywhere, including the Spotify playlist you have on repeat all day at the office.