5 Extremely Common Mistakes in Business Logo Design – An Online Printer’s Perspective

I work in an online printing company, one that uses y’know real people who actually spend time to look and correct technical issues. We see thousands of different logos each and every single day.

While people in certain fields take logo design really seriously (graphic designers and architects for instance) it’s one of those things a lot of entrepreneurs in “unsexier” fields take for granted. Let’s be honest- when was the last time you saw a logo for an insurance company that really held your attention?

A logo should do a few things:

• Set you apart from the competition,

• Build trust,

and

• Help you sell whatever you’ve got to sell.

And a lot of us have been doing it wrong.

Ok, I’ll concede saying “doing it wrong” might be a bit harsh, since there is no right or wrong way to create a logo. However, I would confidently say a lot of us don’t take as much time or thought as we really need in order to make our logos really work for our field. Some very common mistakes include:


1.) Clipart


Despite what some graphic designers will tell you, Clipart does have its uses. I don’t know what those uses are, since I’ve never been desperate or lazy enough to use Clipart, but I’m sure there’s got to be something you could use it for.

In any case, “lazy”, and “pathetic” are two ideas that immediately come to mind when we see logo designs with images that came bundled-in with your computer. “Imaginatively stunted” and “clueless” are other ideas you risk associating your brand with when you use clipart.

I don't know about you... but my dentist never gave me a hot towel.
yourlogomakesmebarf.com

Plus, this is such a common mistake, chances are people will have seen it somewhere else before – which does nothing to help you stand out. If you do stand out, it won’t be for the right reasons either.


2.) Comic Sans


If Satan had a less mentally acute brother, he’d use Comic Sans. It’s an utterly stupid font choice for anything outside of comics- and it doesn’t even do that very well. Unless it’s a day care center we’re talking about, Comic Sans makes you look unprofessional and at the same time communicates naivete in the worst sort of way.

Look how much harder it is to take these brands seriously:

comicsansproject.tumblr.com/
Even worse when you put Clipart and Comic Sans together. To show how utterly ridiculous things look with these design elements, take look at this iconic Pantera album cover:

Pantera Vulgar Display of Power Album Cover
By Brad Guice and Pantera

The whole thing looks just like the title suggests – and communicates perfectly what you would hear in the album (which you should totally listen to). The font style Pantera used for their logo suggests aggression and a take no sh… prisoners attitude. The album title font, while sort of cheesy in a 90s kind of way, counter-balances the cover adequately.

Clipart and Comic Sans totally subverts that message:

Pantera Vulgar Display of Power Album Cover Comic Sans
clipartcovers.tumblr.com

Other equally hideous fonts that have seen widespread usage include MT Curlz and Papyrus. Treat them like the plague. If a graphic designer suggests them to you, I wouldn’t suggest you throw a Molotov cocktail at them. But if you did, well… y’know… they had it coming.


3.) Not making the logo scalable


The logo should be easy to put on a business card or letterhead without much tweaking. If your logo design is still recognizable after being shrunk to fit a 1×1 inch square, you’ve done this part right. This means your logo cannot be just a picture.

Could it be?... Nahhh!

If you squint a little, maybe you’ll recognize which company that logo represents. More on that later.


4.) Not accounting for color issues.


Colors can and probably should form part of your corporate identity. I’m not going to go into detail of how colors can affect things like appetite, mood, or trust, but you can probably see where that goes anyway. What many small businesses and entrepreneurs forget is that logos should be just as recognizable in black and white as they are in color.

For example:

Karl Grandin Jungle
By: Karl Grandin through whats-wrong-with-the-zoo.de
The iconic logos in the example are recognizable despite not having any color. This means if your design is overly dependent on specific colors in order to stand out, you should reconsider changing it so it remains distinct with a clear message. If your logo design requires a fancy effect or a gradient to stand out- forget it.


5.) Being too trendy.


We often make the confuse new ideas with good ones. When this happens to logos, they get irretrievably pegged to a certain era.

For example:

80's Apple Logo
Apple Inc.
Back in the 70’s and 80’s, rainbows were a pretty prevalent theme. And this version of the Apple logo was pretty good for the time-and is still recognizable today.

However, like bell bottom jeans and tie-dyed shirts, the rainbow color trend soon passed, and Apple found itself with a logo that suggested it was out of step – even though back then, the same elements suggested it was cutting edge.

What they did though, was to pare down the design to its essentials, updating it as certain things get trendy. Now we have this:

Current Apple Logo

Whatever you think of the current logo, it’s certainly better than their first one:

First Apple logo
Apple Inc.
Remember #3? Even Apple Inc, a company we all hate and love precisely because of their approach to marketing and design, was responsible for a logo that was not only ugly but did everything wrong.

How the heck to you pin down good logo design then? It’s all subjective to a certain point. However, world-renowned industrial designer Dieter Rams has perhaps come closest to describing how good design should be.

His 10 Principles of Good Design has been widely used by designers in a variety of fields, especially with regards to the manufacture and sale of consumer goods and services.

They are as follows:

• Good Design Is Innovative

• Good Design Is Aesthetic

• Good Design Makes A Product Understandable

• Good Design Is Unobtrusive

• Good Design Is Honest

• Good Design Is Long-lasting

• Good Design Is Thorough Down to the Last Detail

• Good Design Is as Little Design as Possible

And perhaps less relevant for logo design:

• Good Design Makes a Product Useful

•Good Design Is Environmentally Friendly

Is all this fuss over logo design a bit silly? Perhaps. These are a lot of things to expect from a logo. Besides, how you actually run your company will count for so much more in the end. Plenty of hugely successful companies have ugly logos.

But remember, a logo is a placeholder for an enterprise – it speaks for the business. Can you ever be too careful about what you say?

The answer of course is NEVER.

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10 comments on “5 Extremely Common Mistakes in Business Logo Design – An Online Printer’s Perspective”

  1. Philip Nowak Reply

    Arthur,

    Great post. You reminded me of how hideous Apple’s rainbow logo used to be. Even as a kid, I hated that logo and every rainbow for that matter (including the Lucky Charms cereal box and the Reading Rainbow TV show logo/horrid theme song). :-)

    I went through this exercise when designing my logo for my small business site, Firmology.

    To understand my logic on the colors I chose and the design, it’s good to first understand where the name Firmology came from:
    Firmology defined: the study of business
    Firm [noun] a company or business
    Ology [suffix] the study of (a particular subject)

    Dark green: I chose dark green because I felt that it symbolized money, business and success. It’s also my favorite color and the color of my eyes, so it felt right to incorporate this color into my business logo and site. The impact-type font is meant to convey strength and perseverance.

    Grey: The grey halo alludes to “ology” and provides a feeling of innovation, continuity and security. Notice how the halo wraps around the word “Firm” and the grey accent on the “G” ties everything together.

    I have a lot of options for my logo. I use only the halo portion of the logo with “Firm” inside the halo for any square image requirements including my favicon and Twitter profile pic. Many times, I drop the “Small Business Innovation” part of the logo as it looks cleaner. I use that variation of the logo on FirmologyReviews.com and plan to eventually drop it from Firmology.com.

    Best,
    Philip

  2. Arthur Reply

    Hi Phil,

    Thanks for bringing those points up. Picking out the right colors is a lot more tedious than many of our customers expect- the piece would have been way too long if we laid it out in detail. There’s just so much to cover.

    The square image requirement is something a lot of new entrepreneurs overlook. We’ve had problems with that, too!

    Cheers!

    Art

    • Arthur Reply

      Hi Ben,

      I think you’re right. But I doubt it would do any wonders for its image.

  3. Mark Buehner Reply

    Aesthetically FedEX isnt god awful, but it does make we wonder if I’m trusting these guys to deliver my mortgage documents by 8am or make a balloon animal for my 6 year old.

  4. GG Callin Reply

    You pretty much hit the proverbial nail – or apple – in the head.

    To Comic San’s credit, the font, although terrible in terms of branding and design, can be used for comedic effect, which -can- be correlated to mild popularity.

    On an unrelated note, the last few minutes of “Hollow” just makes me want to bang my head ’til it comes off m/

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