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What Makes a Good Logo?

What Makes a Good Logo?

Logos aren’t the only part of a brand’s identity, but they’re a hugely important part of it. But what makes a logo good or effective? Is a good logo the same thing as an effective logo? CID’s Executive Creative Director, Jim Taugher, along with Art Director Ann Cooper, offer up their takes on logo design.

What do you like about logo design?
Jim Taugher: The creative potential of designing something that captures an essence within certain constraints. When we present logos to clients we share a range of directions, each different from each other. A spectrum of approaches to help them narrow in on what feels right. Feel is a huge part of it when capturing the essence of a company. I want to show the range of what’s possible while staying true to their brand.

Ann Cooper: I love the challenge. Something that seems “simple” takes a lot of thought, and trial and error to get it just right.

Would you rather evolve an existing logo or create a completely new one?
JT: I enjoy aspects of both. Creating a completely new logo has a freedom to it that’s really exciting, especially designing for a new brand or company. We get to help make a first impression. Evolving an existing logo tends to mean modernizing something that still evokes the past but has a modern treatment of typography and symbol shapes that have the "ugly" refined out of them. They typically become more simplified for readability, including mobile devices. Refining an existing identity is a different kind of design puzzle that is satisfying to solve. 

AC: Most clients ask CID to create a new logo. And for good reason - the old one just feels, well, old. But for the clients that want to hold on to what they have, I try to incorporate the “essence” of what’s already there while still adding a fresh take on it.

3rd St Market Hall logo in different environments

What do you think makes a “good” logo?
JT: Anything design related is always going to be subjective on some level. The basics for me are readability, simplicity, and something intriguing — does it offer something refreshing and new? 

AC: “Good” is in the eye of the beholder. But I know a bad logo when I see it and it’s usually something over-complicated, or the use of bad or hard-to-read typography.

Are good logos and effective logos the same thing?
JT: I see effective as memorable and useful. It has to capture the essence of the brand and be versatile enough to work in different applications like a website, outdoor sign, company swag, and so on. You can create something very aesthetically pleasing, but it has to translate to all the mediums it will be used on. 

AC: I say yes. I feel logos that don’t try too hard are the most memorable. Good typography and a clever icon or element that goes with it are the most effective in my opinion.

When does a logo go from cool to truly iconic?
JT: When you instantly know and feel what the brand represents. When the intrigue and answer to the story presented creates a little “a-ha moment” the first time, and each time you see it.

AC: When all you need to see is a swoosh or an apple with a bite out of it or a big red smiley face, and recognize the brand instantly. Most brands don’t have “iconic” logos on that scale, and that’s ok. Every brand can aspire to be cool and memorable. 

HoJim sporting the 3rd St shirt in his officew do you help clients get a killer logo design?

JT: We start with listening. Sometimes a great new design is about combining things that may already exist in some way and rethinking them. Maybe it’s a color or shape used in a fresh way. But we learn that by listening to what our clients are saying in the room, and how they respond to the work. It could mean bringing along some vocabulary to give them tools to describe what they like or don’t like. It can’t just be CID telling them “This is your new logo.” It has to be a collaboration and a trip we take together.

AC: Options. Give them good design options to pick from and then drill down to what they’re liking or not liking from there. Showing logos in “real life” helps too, so I like to mock up the logos on some swag or create a mood board to illustrate how they could be used in different applications. 

Is there a logo designer who inspires you?

JT: So many. If you asked me to just state one who was formative in my past I might say Paula Scher. Ask me again tomorrow and I would answer someone else haha. 

What’s trending in logo design right now that you particularly like?

JT: We have probably been in the ultra-simple, minimal “trend” for more than five years. But for reasons stated earlier, it is not so much a trend as a movement that mobile devices require for clarity. And there is real beauty in creating for the small device. Bright fresh gradients are another look that is in “style” right now. Trends are fun to explore but when I’m designing for a client they’re not really what I’m thinking about first and foremost. First is what’s right for the brand. Then, if it’s right, maybe a little trendiness gets picked up along the way.

AC: I’m liking logos with a secondary element that can be used along with the primary. It offers versatility that I think can be really useful for a lot of different reasons.

You have to wear a t-shirt with a logo on it. What are you choosing & why? (Besides CID’s)

JT: I don’t wear logo wear with one exception: The 3rd Street Market Hall t-shirt with the logo we did for them looks rad under my sport coat. 

AC: Starbucks, because it has a vintage vibe.


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Rebecca Rick

Rebecca Rick

Senior Content Strategist + Copywriter

Creative. Strategic. Crategic? (We'll workshop it.) Rebecca's part of our award-winning marketing & strategy team where she turns ideas into words and words into content.

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