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Tips for Effective Logo Design

with
Armin Vit
The Most Practical Guide To Brand Strategy

Table of Contents

  1. How to critique logos?
  2. Identity system elements
  3. Good logo design examples
  4. Bad logo design examples
  5. Trends in logo design
  6. Tips for logo design (Summary)

1. How to critique logos?

Arek Dvornechuck:
What's up branding experts! — Arek here at Ebaqdesign. And welcome to On Branding Podcast, the only podcast where I interview branding experts to give you actionable tips on everything branding and beyond! And in this episode, I interview Armin Vit and we talk about tips for effective logo design. Armin has established himself as an influential figure in logo design space through his blog called "Brand New" which is a very popular blog and design community where you can basically find a lot of blogger and brand identity reviews, including redesigns on some of the top brands, but Armin also works at the iconic design firm, the Pentagram in its New York office. And now he also works with clients under his own design firm UnderConsideration. So, Armin is an expert when it comes to logos. And that's why I really wanted to have him on our podcast today! Hello, Armin. Thank you so much for taking the time to join us on our podcast.

Armin Vit:
Sure thing. Thank you for having me, Arek.

Arek Dvornechuck:
Thanks. So, you've reviewed countless of new logos, so you're probably the most experienced person when it comes to critiquing them. So, we would love you to share with us some tips for designing an effective logo. So hopefully is going to help us become better or just more effective at designing logos and brand identities. So, let's imagine that we have to design a new logo for a brand, whether it is for our client or our own brand. So, now we have a bunch of ideas, and we got some concepts and how to judge them. Because we either don't have any criteria, or we — our criteria is very vague, and kind of random. So, let's start talking about what makes a great logo from the aesthetic point of view?

Armin Vit:
Yeah, so I think one thing that holds true, you know, after 50 years, 60 years of logo design is that the more simple and memorable a logo is, the more effective it becomes not just for people to remember it, but for the product or service or organization using it, to deploy it, to produce it in whatever medium they have to do to use it on. So, I think that remains the cornerstone of a good logo design, whether you know how simple it is and that doesn't mean that it has to be boring or minimal. It's just how direct, is it in its message in its execution? Does it communicate what you want it to do, what you want it to communicate as quickly as possible.

Arek Dvornechuck:
Right. So, it needs to communicate the right thing. So, you have to do some kind of discovery phase or research phase, search your competitors, get to know the company, if it's a startup? How —what's the vision for the future? And perhaps if it's a rebrand, then you need to get to know the company and its history just to determine how you can take them into the future. Right? So, but also talking about like things pure aesthetics, like proportions, scalability, alignment, and those type of things. What would you say is the most important? What are the most important aspects, in terms of aesthetics?

Armin Vit:
All of the things that you mentioned are important. So, proportions scale, you know, how one element relates to another in terms of spatial relationship? You know, if you have something with multiple strokes, are those strokes the same—thickness they have, the space, the same spacing in between? You know, the colors are they pleasant to use on print and online? Are — is a typeface that you choose? Pleasant, and I think pleasant, is subjective. Obviously, everything here is subjective. But I think once you start, like really analyzing what the elements are, you're using and being very critical about those, you know, what does this say, what does this typeface choice, say? And again, it's subjective, but I think based on— if you compare it to other logos in similar industries, or even the only there are different industries, but then you want to achieve something similar to those logos, and it's not that you're going to copy it but if you think that the Airbnb logo is successful in some way or another, what about it? Is it is appealing to you and what from it, can you replicate in your own logo?

Arek Dvornechuck:
Right. So, you suggest to basically do what you do. So, you analyze different logos and rebrands. And then based on that, we can learn what makes a great logo. Right? Or what makes out what makes a bad logo?

Armin Vit:
Yeah, I think it's important to know what's out there. And in real in sort of see what other designers react to positively so that, then you can make an informed decision that, "Oh okay", so something like this works. And even if you don't know why, just knowing that a large group of people, you know, thinking specifically about brand new, or a blog, where all of a sudden, if you have 20, people saying this is great, then you have to think, "Okay, what makes this great?", what can I take from this and apply in my own way to my own logos. So, without those points of reference, it becomes really hard to just become an expert and know what's good or bad if you're isolated from what's out there.

2. Identity system elements

Arek Dvornechuck:
Right. So basically, just, to sum up, is about colors and fonts and shapes. And using those elements of visual language to design something that is visually appealing, right? You know, but it's not just about the logo, right? Because the logo is like a centerpiece of everything. But this gets us closer to talking more about identity system. Because since logos need to be simple, as mentioned earlier, in order to become memorable, we can show a lot of more creativity in actually —in executing the identity system. Right. So, can we just talk about that, I just wanted you to share with us some of your thoughts on designing an identity system, because you have a lot of experience looking at, you know, different, maybe unusual ways of how designers use logos, or its element or some supporting graphic, additional graphics, additional graphic elements to build that identity system?

Armin Vit:
Yep. One thing with logos is that it cannot, a logo can only do so much, which is a good thing, because then it just becomes a representation of the company product or service. But then it's at, what accompanies that logo that complements it, that completes the message that you're trying to convey. And it allows you an identity system allows you to build on the attributes that you want to portray. So if you want it to be happy, you know, you can have colorful illustrations, you can have photos of smiling people, you can have a bold, cheerful font, whatever that may be, all those elements have to support the logo and support and complement the logo so that you're able to convey a more complete message that a logo simply cannot deliver. So it really becomes it opens up the opportunities to do many different things that are that can start to be more interesting, that could start to be more daring, more ambitious than whatever you try to do with a logo because then these are the things that you're going to put on a brochure that you're going to put on social media that you're going to put on advertising, whatever that may be. So you have bigger canvases, you have more you know if it has motion, or if it's a TV ad or a YouTube ad, all of a sudden, you can tell a story in a matter of 15 seconds or five seconds that you just can't do with a logo. So that is a great, the identity is almost as important as the logo in that you're able to fully realize whatever message is you're trying to say.

Arek Dvornechuck:
So, it's about the big idea right. So, as you said, your identity can complement your logo or may sometimes can contrast with the logo, right? So, if the logo is super simple, have you can show creativity to identity system. And then you also need to think about the role you want. You want your logo to play in that the identity system, right. And he also mentioned which is really important to design a lot of different applications and different mock ups to show how that logo will look like in real life for your clients so they can envision and they can imagine and also it's an opportunity for us designers to test the viability of that logo design concept, right? Because we test that design in different applications, we can come to conclusion that it needs some refinements.

Armin Vit:
Yeah, it's really important to prototype as early as possible so that you can make adjustments to a logo if needed. So, you can put a logo on a white piece of paper, and it will look great. But that's really how logos are seen. So, once you shrink that logo down to the size of a business card, or a social media avatar, that really changes how it's perceived. So, the more applications that you prototype and test out, the stronger the logo will be, and you can see what they you can start seeing how the identity complements that? And what are the elements that work well, on print online, in motion, things like that. So the more that you can test out up front, the better.

3. Good logo design examples

Arek Dvornechuck:
Right, so now let's talk about some good examples of logo design. So because you review a lot of brand identities, so perhaps summary brands or famous brands, so that we can all relate, can you give us some examples that really make a point of good design or effective? Or you think the new logo is, is super effective or well designed?

Armin Vit:
Yeah, so the trick is that different logos are effective for different needs for different companies for different situations and contexts. So, one logo that I mean, you know, a logo that is right, for someone may not be right for someone else. So, a lot of it has to do with, is it the right logo and the right identity for the right client at the right time? So, for example, la 28, the Los Angeles 2028 Olympics logo that just came out. That is, you know, if you look at it in relation to other Olympic logos, you're like, well, that's super weird. You know, it has this chunky L chunky 2 chunky 8, and then it has an A, that changes dramatically. They're done by different people have different illustrations, completely different styles. And you might think, well, that's not right for the Olympics, not necessarily, I mean, yes, in a way, but it is right for the Olympics in Los Angeles, in 2028. where, you know, they obviously one thing is that they have to build a little bit of boss around it for the next eight years. And that thought that lower than that, but at the same time, it represents LA in a different way. It's signals that the Olympics, when they come back to the US, and specifically to Los Angeles, it's gonna be wild. I think that logo is right, for that special for that Olympics event. If you look at that another recent logo like Intel, it's a boring logo, it's just not exciting at all, the identity is not that great. But you know, it's Intel is just, if they make chips for computers, have it nice, they made chips to eat, but, you know, they make microchips. So, it's not exactly exciting. And they're not a company known for being bold, and very provocative or anything. So it's a logo that for better or for worse, it fits the client, you don't have to like it, I don't have to like it, but it gets the job done in a way that makes sense.

Arek Dvornechuck:
Right. So, you gave us two examples. So, LA Olympics, which is a very flexible identities like ever changing the identity system, where a takes different forms, different expressions. And then we have on the other hand, we have intel logo which is a very simple, kind of like Uber like style, minimalist, just because Olympics Games, you have to design a new logo every four years, right? So if you do something more creative, or even trendy is just for this one of game like, every four years, you're going to have to design a new logo, but for Intel, a logo needs to be timeless, right?

Armin Vit:
Yeah.

4. Bad logo design examples

Arek Dvornechuck:
Okay, so now on the other hand, what are some of the best examples of logo design that we can learn from so maybe some of the brands that didn't go well, and I know that there's quite a lot of them and the reasons why. And, and so what, maybe we can just think about I'd like some of the most common mistakes that designers make, and it was the cost of that bad design?

Armin Vit:
Yeah, so to flip the conversation on Intel, you know, I think that's a bad logo in the sense that if you didn't take an approach, they didn't take an opportunity to really change how we perceive the company, like my impression of Intel, right now, it's actually probably worse than it was before. Because at least before they had a switch, and you know, not that I like switches, but at least they had something. And now, my impression is that it's just more boring than that. Like, they're not even doing a swoosh, which, you know, for better or for worse, at least it was, I had some dynamism to it. I think, it's so easy for a logo to be perceived or used as positive or negative. So, you know, that's one example, the cut, that's recent, I think, you know, you can look at something like the gap logo from what would be now like, 10 years, I think, when they really sign, you know, they had that really nice, elongated thin serif logo, and then one day out of nowhere, they change to, to something like Helvetica with a gradient square, and no explanation, no, nothing. And you like, here you go. And, you know, people were freaking out. Yeah, I think it was the first time that there was a collective freak out about a logo. And I think the main problem, there was lack of communication, that there was no warning, there was no press release, there was no acknowledgement that this has changed. So, a lot of times, you know, whether the logo is good or bad. If there's no communication, there's no effective. You know, again, communication with the audience that the logo is intended for, that's where things go wrong. You know, you can have a great logo, but if people don't know what to make of it, or the unexpected, that's where problems start. So, I think being clear about the intentions of a new logo, is it's more, it's almost as important as whatever the logo looks like.

Arek Dvornechuck:
Now, we are going to take a quick break here, but we'll be right back. Listen, my mission is to help people design iconic brands. So, whether you're a business leader who wants to be more intentional with branding, and all of its aspects, or you are a creative who wants to attract powerful clients and surely be able to help them with branding, then you need to start with a discovery session, and then develop a strategy that will inform all your creative work, and everything you need to learn how to do that you can find in my online courses, ourebookdesign.com/show, where I share with you my worksheets, case studies, video tutorials, and all other additional resources to help you feel safe and strong about your process. And now let's get back to our conversation with Armin and I just wanted to add here, Tropicana would be another example. Right. And with the same similar problem, which is lack of communication, so what happened is, I think they just disregarded the fact that called, and the brand equity built around that show with an orange and this familiarity and so, customers couldn't find the Tropicana packaging and were outraged by this change that was not really like it wasn't introduced to the public. Right?

Armin Vit:
Yeah. And I think that one, you know, hi, me being a graphic designer, and literally having written about the Tropicana redesign, you know, like, a few days prior, I walked into my grocery store, because I used to bring Tropicana orange juice, and even knowing that they changed, I was like, Where is the Tropicana juice? And, you know, it was just a, you know, even with me, like having that understanding, and that knowledge that it changed, it was like, my, my muscle memory of knowing where the Tropicana box was, and what it looked like, which was that big orange with a straw coming out of it, all of a sudden wasn't there. And my brain just went short circuit, like it's not here, move on, as I think when, when that happens to at a consumer product level, where you have thousands of people buying it every day, and you don't let them know that, hey, this is changing, not a little bit, but drastically, that's where again, you run into big problems.

Arek Dvornechuck:
Right? So just to sum up for our listeners, so logo fails or bad logo design. So, obviously, if you're a no not good with it, takes a fifth, don't align elements in don't care about proportions, it just makes some rookie mistakes, and your logos is probably going to fail. There's not going to be a good logo. But other than that, if it's a rebrand, you need to pay attention to the equity and be really good at communication. So, communicating the change to customers, and also being able to explain the change is really vital. Right? It's really important.

Armin Vit:
Correct.

5. Trends in logo design

Arek Dvornechuck:
So, since we've talked about some good and bad examples in logo design, and you've observed a lot of redesigns and how logos evolve over time. So, you probably notice some trends. So can you just recall any trend that cross your mind for that is going, maybe going on right now are that you think that they're rooted in — in principles of good design and we should pay attention to, for example, like this simplicity? I know, you mentioned that this is a bad example. Another example would be Uber is like extreme simplicity and minimalism, do you think is a trend or is going to stay? And what other trends did you notice in logo design?

Armin Vit:
Yeah, I think the minimalism trend is something that has been around for a long time, that's how they sign how corporate identity started by being by being minimal, and part of it was because of, you know, the limited ability to reproduce things that they just had to be fairly minimal designs. But the I think the reason why that has been sustained for such a long time is that that's what in part makes good design, as we've talked about. But I think it can also do be harmful when you just use it as like that as a style where you know, you're just going with a generic sensor, because that because it looks cool, or because that's what everybody else is doing. So, you have to be really be careful that you're using a trend like that for the right reasons. You know, and I think in the past, I think when Airbnb came out in 2014, then Google with a sign from their serif logo to geometric sensor in 2000 2015, I think that we'll be kicked off a really heavy trend of just that geometric sensor of wordmark approach that we've been seeing still recently, but in the past two years, especially after the redesign of Chobani, which is a brand of Greek yogurt here in the US, when they really sign they introduced a really kind of like bubbly, bubbly, but like Roundy, very chunky, very friendly, and that really change the conversation where in the past, I think that was 2017 18, maybe. And in the past two years, we've seen a lot of companies in NMR, in different markets and industries go that route, because all of a sudden, that became acceptable and it became associated with a successful product. So, whenever you have something that is successful, and does something different, people are like, Oh, I want that, like I want to follow that. And so, we've seen a lot of that recently, and I think now and probably as a reaction to what Airbnb and Google started. And now we're seeing in a limited way, a little bit of a trend toward really wacky, not necessarily wacky, but more daring, more unique typography that really differentiates any product or service from anything else. And I think that trends are usually a reaction to the trend that came before. So, you know, what we went from kind of UI Stark minimalism to really expressive typography. And, you know, it's a, it's a process and I think in five years, we're going to go back to, you know, the geometric center is because we got tired of whatever was happening, whatever is happening right now.

6. Tips for logo design (Summary)

Arek Dvornechuck:
Right. So, it's about finding that balance between those extremes, right? It if it's extreme minimalism, maybe it becomes too boring. And you just blend in and you look like everyone else looks like every other logo. If you go on the opposite, if you just make it to like, it just go like, make it trendy, then the trends will change and so your logo will just not be in in fashion anymore, right. So, it will be a fad that is just it will require a new redesign, right. So, you just have to like find a balance between those extremes. So just to sum up for our listeners, I've taken some notes to make a summary. So, the logo needs to be simple, distinctive, memorable, it's important to test your logo on a variety of different applications in the prototyping phase, and you need to find that balance. So, between different trends are minimalism, and so on. So, and the last thing you need to pay attention to details, proportions, lettering, colors, alignment, and so on. If you think I missed anything, they want to add anything as tips, some of them as tips for the design more effective logos.

Armin Vit:
I think you covered everything. The one thing I would add is, you know, have a strategy in place with your client about how your design gets communicated. Because even if you get the proportions, right, if you get the colors, right, and the typography, right, if the client does not communicate that to their audience in the right way, at the right time, you know, all that hard work goes away.

Arek Dvornechuck:
Right. So all that is important plus communication, as we discussed earlier. So as we are approaching the end of our episode, I just wanted to ask you more about how to find more about you for designers who just want to connect with you or clients who want to work with you. And I'll include those links in the description.

Armin Vit:
Yeah, our website is underconsideration.com. From there you can find the different things that we do. Mainly, the blog, Brand New so that's underconsideration.com/brandnew, we do the Brand New Conference, we run event called First Round. Social media — we are on Instagram and Twitter @ucllc, as well as @ArminVit. We don't spend a lot of time on social media posting, but we are there, we'll pay attention to messages.

Arek Dvornechuck:
Great. Thank you so much for coming on the show Armin.

Armin Vit:
Yep, my pleasure.

Arek Dvornechuck:
So, this is it for today's episode and make sure to go and check out Armin's website and follow him on social media. You can find all the links on this episode's page at ebaqdesign.com/podcast/16 So thanks for tuning in. And if you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to my podcast for more tips on branding strategy and design. This was Arek Dvornechuck from Ebaqdesign.

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